All right, who’s first: Africa or the Islamic world?

Tom’s recent post about enaging China on building Africa is a must read. I already commented over at this blog.

The Gap is essentially composed of the African and Islamic states in the world. However, the challenges we face in those theaters are remarkable different. In Africa, we’re essentially building from weak foundations across the board. A difficult job, but a combination of Chinese money and American will can go a long way. In the Islamic world, however, we face intelligent, organized, and modern foes with not just allies, but actual compatriots among the Left.

To me, this implies that we should focus on constructive engagement with Africa , and destructive disengagement with the Islamic world. That is, the flow of labor and capital should increase between the world economy and sub-Saharan Africa, while American and her allies should focus on destabilizing the system of the Islamic belt and otherwise walling ourselves off. This may be “civilizational apartheid,” but it should not serve to increase the positions of either the current regimes or the worst of their opponents.

6 thoughts on “All right, who’s first: Africa or the Islamic world?”

  1. There is hope that certain Islamic countries in the Gap, which do not self-identify as Islamic (the Kurds, Persians in the future (?), etc.) may be detached from the broader uma… but we have to be realistic, too.

  2. The Kurds are trying to de-gapify. I wish them well.

    As far as Iran…I always here how Persians want to be democratic and love America. I am not so sure. My views are clouded by the Persian relatives and contact I have.

  3. At the lunch we had with Tom here in DC, he made the argument that Asia had already chosen, whether it knew it or not, and that choice was Africa. He also forcefully argued against giving Bin Laden what he wanted; civilizational apartheid, and instead focus on reconnecting the Middle East further than he could disconnect it.

  4. nykrindc,

    Asia has chosen Africa before the Islamic world? Or something else? (Sorry for being dense!)


    The Persians I come across strike me as similar to Ukrainians… concerned about their country, but not necessarily pro- or anti-American. (Of course, my sample is not representative…)

  5. I believe Tom said, Asia has already chosen Africa, over the Middle East and Central Asia. He did not specify on Muslim v. Christian Africa, particularly as he spoke to some extent on how Muslims in other parts of the world had been able to adapt to globalization and its rulesets and his belief that it would be the same in Africa.

  6. Africa absolutely and the way that I propose to increase those flows is by building Brazilian style ethanol plants in any part of Africa that produces sugar cane.

    Sugar cane to ethanol and electricity is a much better deal for the countries involved because the nature of the product means that it cannot be produced by a small group of foreigners who pay off whichever bunch of kleptocrats run the country who then keep the money restricted to their relatives and the thugs that they need to keep themselves in power.

    Instead, sugar cane production requires roads be built and maintained so that the cane can be delivered to the processing plants soon enough after harvesting that the sugar does not change into less useful form. Since Brazilian plants burn the bagasse from the crushed sugar cane to generate electricity and distill ethanol, they need a functioning electric grid in order to sell the electricity they produce. Once people have electricity they will stay in their air conditioned houses and watch TV. If the electricity goes off, they will come out of their houses, talk to their neighbors about what a bunch of jackasses and thieves the government is and they will riot. The government will find it is less trouble to keep the electricity working.

    The government needs to provide enough security for farmers to raise the sugar cane and deliver it to the plant without all of their revenue being stolen.

    The whole process of producing ethanol from sugar cane requires more from a government than collecting money for allowing foreigners to drill and pump oil from the ground. Sugar to alcohol requires that the government be at least minimally competent and steal only in moderation.

    It also allows a country to grow its economy using locally produced ethanol instead of imported petroleum products. Even if the revenue from all the ethanol that is exported gets stolen by the ruling politicians, that will go a long way towards moving the country out of its Gap status.

  7. I'd make Africa a priority if their troubles threw off maniacs who blew up American buildings. Since the Islamic countries are the ones who've been exporting their troubles I want to start with them. “Containment” doesn't look like a viable option to me given how interconnected the modern world is. So we need to put an end to the “Death to America” crowd before they can get their hands on desktop biosynthesizers, something only a few decades away.

  8. Karl,

    I agree — containment would be a bad strategy with regards to the Islamic Gap. Some form of rollback is necessary. The same is true of the African Gap.

    One can destructively roll back, by stressing a hostile system, or constructively roll back, by integrating that system with yours. I support stressing the Islamic Gap while integrating the African Gap.

    A short- and medium- term consequence of integration is that it increases the other system's potential threat to you. Whatever problems we have in Africa, though, we do not face motivated, coherent, educated enemies willing to kill themselves. We do have that problem in the Islamic Gap, however.

    Think of it this way: Aside from easily screened issues such as HIV/AIDS, I would not be afraid of a million additional African immigrants to the United States. A million additional Arab immigrants would be a serious security threat.


    An excellent idea. As you describe, ethanol is a politically easy way to help shrink the gap. I'm for it.

    Corn-based ethanol is not a final solution, but hopefully will increase the infrastructure of gas stations that sell E85, cars that can run on it, etc.

  9. One problem with any approach: overgeneralization.

    Ethanol production can help boost African economies. . . where they have enough water and arable land to spare.

    Taking on large numbers of African immigrants could reduce the burden on their nations. . . as long as the country's HIV infection rate isn't so high as to produce labor shortages.

    Civilizational apartheid may be necessary. . . where the locals aren't already trying to connect to the outer world in a positive way.

    Beatdowns may be necessary. . . unless carefully targeted aid or neglect can accomplish more (“So sorry, Ahmed! We were so busy blocking your weapons shipments, we totally forgot to block those ultra-cheap satellite dishes, laptops and dvds from entering your country. How DO those get so affordable, I wonder?”)

  10. Michael,

    The concern about overgeneralization is a good one.

    In this case I do not think it is warranted, however.

    The African-ethanol proposal is a mechanism to build up infrastructure by focusing on export. Much of Africa ha swater and arable land, and is agricultural — it is not all jungle and desert.

    My comment on African immigrants was merely making the point that it is far easier to screen Africans for the contagion of HIV than to screen Muslims for the contagion of inclination for terrorism.

    Your comment re: civilizational apartheid is itself overgeneralized. Of course many locals attempt to connect in a positive way. The question is the negative feedback that content flows generate for us. The European experience is demonstrating that de facto open border policy with Arab states is much mroe troublesome than, say, our de facto open border policy with Catholic states.

    Not sure what is meant wrt “beatdowns”

  11. “The African-ethanol proposal is a mechanism to build up infrastructure by focusing on export. Much of Africa ha swater and arable land, and is agricultural — it is not all jungle and desert.” True. More than anything, I was pointing out that this idea could be used by some countries, but not by others. Ditto large-scale migrations of HIV-free Africans, which I realize was an illustration; it's actually a decent idea in its own right within limits.

    To address what you were trying to illustrate with that analogy, you're right about it being hard to filter potential terrorists. What bothers me is the impression I get sometimes, rightly or wrongly, that people are equating 'difficult' with 'impossible' or at least 'too hard' on this subject. I agree that with finite resources, priorities have to be set, but setting them by how easy something is overlooks how important some things can be because they're hard. The very hostility that makes filtering individual Arabs so hard makes it all the more important to try to use connectivity to reduce (or at least prevent the increase) of hatred against us in the region much of our fuel comes from. We can't do as much for the Middle East as for Africa, but what we can do for them is going to be more important to do for a while to come.

    This ties into your comment about civilizational apartheid. Yes, “positive good, negative bad” is an over-generalization I hope I didn't come across as giving. But so is the reverse. Remember, modern history in this region is glutted with negative feedback loops, also known as 'cycles of vengeance'. There's only two ways I know of to break them: sever connections (as I mentioned, not much of an option until we cease to be dependent on their oil), or inject positive feedback into into the loop AS APPROPRIATE until we can get a positive feedback loop started.

    'beatdowns' is just an off-the-cuff slang term used in the place of various forms of negative feedback.

    Oolong tea isn't doing the trick, I need coffee. . .

  12. Asia chooses Africa for replication of its globalization forms because it's an easier target than more complex Middle East.

    As Asia moves up the demographic chain, it must move commensurately fast–and historically faster than we–up the production chain.

    Asia goes to the Middle East and gets confused. China and India go to Africa and they recognize an overall environment they can work well within.

    Simple as that, really.

    And Asia has–indeed–already chosen, IMO.

  13. Agreed.

    Good point on the “confus[ing]” political environment of the Middle East, too. The problems of Africa — underdevelopment, poverty, etc — are traditionally endemic in much of Asia. This is different from Middle East, which is largely modernized with 20th century ideologies and forms from Europe.

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