Paul Staniland on the deep flaws of the pre-Trump “liberal international order”

Paul Staniland has a great piece over at Lawfare on the need to see post-war Pax Americana for what it has been:

Pushing back against Trump’s foreign policy is an important goal. But moving forward requires a more serious analysis than claiming that the “liberal international order” was the centerpiece of past U.S. foreign-policy successes, and thus should be again. Both claims are flawed. We need to understand the limits of the liberal international order, where it previously failed to deliver benefits, and why it offers little guidance for many contemporary questions.

…. analysts have persuasively argued that these accounts create an “imagined” picture of post-World War II history. Patrick Porter outlines in detail how coercive, violent, and hypocritical U.S. foreign policy has often been. To the extent an international liberal order ever actually existed beyond a small cluster of countries, writes Nick Danforth, it was recent and short-lived. Thomas Meaney and Stephen Wertheim further argue that “critics exaggerate Mr. Trump’s abnormality,” situating him within a long history of the pursuit of American self-interest. Graham Allison—no bomb-throwing radical—has recently written that the order was a “myth” and that credit for the lack of great power war should instead go to nuclear deterrence. Coercion and disregard for both allies and political liberalism have been entirely compatible with the “liberal” order.

internationalcommunityStaniland makes great points throughout the piece, especially when he looks at the so-called liberal international order from the perspective of people in the Middle East and Asia. The same would be true if he were to look at it from Africa. The Continent’s Mobutus, Bongos, and Biyas have always been loyal water-carriers for the “liberal international order”, which existed primarily to advance the interests of the “international community” as seen in the image above. For this reason, keen observers from countries not considered to be part of the “international community” have repeatedly argued that the current U.S. administration merely presents a congruence of American rhetoric and action on the global stage. For better or worse, the mystique is dead. Western Ambassadors can no longer claim the moral high ground to give lectures on democracy, human rights, and good governance while also facilitating corrupt contracts for natural resources and security assistance to dictators.

Read the whole thing here.

Was the Election in Gabon rigged?

Here is a potential answer to this question:

Thanks to the last minute Haut Ogooué results, Mr. Bongo was able to win by a margin of 5,594 votes, securing 49.8% of the vote to Mr. Jean Ping’s 48.2%. Opposition representatives refused to sign papers validating the results.

According to the electoral commission, 99.9% of Haut Ogooué’s population casted their votes at the ballot boxes, which is a slight anomaly to the rest of the country where the average turnout was 59%.

A career diplomat, Ping, who previously served as the chairman of the African Union Commission, disputes the result. “To use one province to impose a coup in the country could have serious consequences for national unity,” Ping said.

Ping, of course, is the same guy who while at the AU Commission (2008-2012) turned a blind eye to instances of election fraud in several African states. It will be interesting to see where he turns to for help.

Meanwhile protesters burned down the Gabonese Parliament yesterday. Authorities then blocked the internet early Thursday.

The Bongo family has ruled Gabon since 1967. Ali Bongo became president in 2009 following the death of his father Omar Bongo who was president for a staggering 42 years.

what ali ben bongo owes gabon

His father ruled Gabon, an oil and timber rich nation of 1.4 million, for 42 years. The elder Bongo passed away this year and was succeeded by his son Ali Ben after a disputed election. Nobody really expected things to turn out otherwise.

That said, one hopes that Ali Ben will feel the need to make things a bit better for the hundreds of thousands of Gabonese who continue to be shut out of the wealth from oil and timber. Gabon is Africa’s fourth largest oil producer and its second largest timber producer. During Omar Bongo’s 42 year presidency most of this money ended up in private bank accounts – the late president was the subject of an investigation involving Citibank, where he held millions of dollars in a private account.

I don’t have much on the younger Bongo. He seems like a non-starter. If we are to believe the BBC the only notable thing he said after being sworn in as president yesterday was that he wants renewal within the Gabonese elite. May be by this he means more social mobility. The VOA quoted him to have said that he plans to end corruption and injustice – one wonders where he was during his father’s failed 42-year presidency (apologies, the WSWS was the only place I could find a history of the guy). I would have wanted to hear him say something about oil and timber and redistribution of Gabon’s national wealth. I mean, how hard can it be to run a nation of 1.4 million? With all that oil wealth Gabon could give Botswana a run for its money.

Ali Ben owes Gabon a lot. His father stole from the country. He now has a chance to make up for it by putting the nation on the path to decency. This is not too much to ask, is it?

Omar Bongo is dead

Omar Bongo, the president of Gabon and Africa’s longest serving ruler has died. Mr. Bongo had intestinal cancer and had gone to Barcelona, Spain for treatment. He took over power in 1967.

The African state of 1.5 million has considerable oil reserves, timber and manganese deposits and enjoys a per capita income of a middle income country – at US $14,400 according to the CIA Factbook. But due to a high level of income inequality, hundreds of thousands of Gabonese still live in poverty. Gabon was ranked 116th on the 2007/2008 UNDP Human Development Report. Like most mineral-rich African countries, corruption is endemic in Gabon. For instance, earlier this year anti-corruption activists accused president Bongo of buying French property with proceeds from corruption.

According to the constitution of Gabon, the head of the country’s senate will be the interim president until elections are held within 90 days.