President Trump’s dismissal of nations and continents peopled by those who don’t share his skin tone is frightening. Equally disturbing is his ignorance of history, his inability to think strategically, and his incomprehensible approach to international relations. Nowhere is this more apparent than in his assessment of Africa.
Before last week, most Africans viewed American democracy as sacrosanct. With the president’s profane words and evident disdain for people of color, he has squandered decades of diplomatic efforts in Africa which have resulted in partnerships beneficial to both its countries and ours.
The strategic importance of Africa cannot be underestimated. The continent is so vital to our interests that, over a decade ago, the Defense Department established the U.S. Africa Command. Its sole mission is to help build defense capabilities and security in the region in cooperation with a multitude of partner nations. Many of them, both in sub-Saharan Africa and the continent’s Horn, have worked with the U.S. in combating terrorist organizations. Their willingness to stand beside American troops is based on mutual trust and respect. President Trump not only jeopardized that good will, he cleared a path toward friendlier relations between African nations and one of our chief international rivals.
Last year, the Chinese government established its first overseas military base in Djibouti, ostensibly to be used for logistical support of China’s anti-piracy and humanitarian missions along the coasts of Somalia and Yemen. They claim it is not related to its increased buildup in arms, nor its desire for Chinese forces to operate at great distances from its mainland. The base in Djibouti will positively impact the country’s social and economic development and, in China’s words, help maintain peace and stability throughout the region; a role formerly assumed by the U.S.
Had President Trump been thinking strategically, he might have been aware of China’s growing economic and military presence in Africa and other parts of the world as a potential threat to American influence, interests, and security.
The Chinese government - nor any government for that matter, including our own - is not altruistic. Just as colonists did in Africa for centuries, modern colonizers like China, Russia, the United States and, yes, the former colonial powers of Europe see value in having access to Africa’s rich natural resources and foodstuffs, not to mention its vast expanses of open land. Africa truly is the last frontier. By closing our doors and defaming its people, we lose friends and isolate ourselves further from the rest of the world.
China’s affinity for s---holes doesn’t end there. Beijing is now the largest trading partner of El Salvador, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Guatemala, and Peru. These nations, as well as those of Africa, will benefit from China’s booming demand for global food. Who would you feed first, your friends or those who have a scathing view of your country?
China has also loaned these countries $30 billion. No-strings-attached. And they’re investing another $30 billion to help Haiti rebuild its infrastructure. Haiti, a s---hole island with a deep-water port, strategically located on America’s doorstep. And a great place for the Chinese to locate their next foreign military installation.
The Chinese government is providing economic aid and infrastructure in countries that once relied upon the U.S. for help. They are nation-building at a time when our leaders hold that concept in contempt. Their efforts are paying off. In a recently released Gallup survey, China bested the U.S. with a global approval rating among 134 countries of 31 percent. The U.S. stands at a rating of 30 percent. Russia is not far behind at 27 percent.
The poll noted that the reputation of the United States was highest in Africa, where it stands at 51 percent. Still, that’s the lowest rating our country has ever gotten. The poll was taken before our president yet again exposed his true colors for all the world to see.
President Trump is a zebra too old to change his stripes. That he is a racist is without question. Disturbing as this may be, more unsettling are the consequences of his misguided words and actions. Dysregulated speech extends well beyond our shores and the president’s vaunted wall. It is the true threat our nation faces at home and abroad.
Blair Bess is a Los Angeles-based television writer, producer, and columnist. He edits the online blog Soaggragated.com, and can be reached at BBess.firstname.lastname@example.org.