Merchant of Death
Money, Guns, Planes, and the Man Who Makes War Possible

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Can the West Save Africa, and Should It?
There is a thought-provoking op-ed in today's Washington Post on the role of Western aid in "saving" Africa. The author, William Easterly, makes several good points, although I do not share the premise that Africa is not slowly self-destructing. It is valuable to remember the millions of people who are making a difference for good on the continent, and to think about redirecting aid in ways that really matter and make a bigger difference. The rock star and super model tours may have some short-term value, but do little over time to help anyone. It is certainly true that "Economic development in Africa will depend, as it has elsewhere and throughout the history of the modern world, on the success of private - sector entrepreneurs, social entrepreneurs and African political reformers. It will not depend on the activities of patronizing, bureaucratic, unaccountable and poorly informed outsiders."

But the assessment that all we need to do is focus on the good people, I think, is flawed. The avian flu is now moving through northern Nigeria and is likely to spread in an area where there is little infrastructure or education-necessary ingredients to keep the outbreak from becoming a full-blown epidemic. This requires outside help. The HIV/AIDS pandemic, malaria and tubuculosis will not abate in our life times. That being said, from my years in development work and then working around development work, it is clear that there is often a glut of the type of worker described above.

Can private sector entrepreneurs, social entrepreneurs and political reformers work on these issues without outside help and support? Can the rule of law, such as turning Charles Taylor and Hassan Habre over to courts, happen without international assistance? The record so far indicates there is neither the political will nor the strength of incipient civil society to handle any of these questions alone. On the other hand, outside aid has done little over time except enrich and empower some of the worst elements in Africa. There is a balance in there somewhere that would be more beneficial to all. Finding it is the hard part.
Is Rumsfeld's Optimism on North Africa Warranted?
The Administrtation is Still Oblivious on Taylor
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