Somewhere The Onion (a satirical news magazine) has a headline that says something like, "Area Asshole Gets his own Blog."
And sometimes, I feel like I'm that asshole. If only I weren't so pessimistic about the latest developments in the Great Lakes! If only I weren't so skeptical of the region's leaders, and believed they actually had their own people's best interests at heart! If only I felt that the new administration was really going to make a difference! If only it weren't staffed by so many former Clintonites! If only I didn't feel the Clintonites had made such a hash of it the first time around! If only I believed in the power of Hollywood stars to change the calculus of nation states! If only I believed that a few, inexpensive measures would make all the difference!
Instead, I'm always carping about this or that, worrying about the-other-thing, questioning motives, remembering some awkward bit of history, and generally sulking around like the skunk at the picnic.
So it's nice, every once in a while, to remember I'm not alone.* Howard French, former NYT bureau chief in Africa, chronicled the rise of Kabila and the disastrous Clinton policy of those years. He has an editorial in the Huffington Post about what Obama may mean for Africa, and like me, he retains a bad taste in his mouth from the last Democratic administration:
There is a powerful argument to be made that this disaster [the wars in the Congo], along with the Rwandan genocide that preceded it, is Bill Clinton's most important foreign policy legacy, and an Obama policy toward Africa run by many of the same people and carrying forward Clinton era thinking would be a sign of disdain for the continent and its problems.
The Congo's apocalyptic dissolution began in earnest when Washington gave Rwanda the green light to invade the country, setting off a free for all that sucked in many of the Congo's neighbors.
*And of course, I'm not. While the policy debate in Washington is being led by cheerleaders, the real scholars of the region--and you know who you are--are much less doe-eyed, much more weighed down by the deep intractability of the problems, and much less hopeful about Obama's capacity or political will to bring change to the region.