International Affairs: What Stories We Are Ignoring (and Shouldn’t Be)


Charles J. Brown (aka Charlie Brown), former chief at Citizens for Global Solutions, has a new foreign policy blog titled Undiplomatic.
It’s cool, and I like this post, “Five to Watch,” which highlights five international stories of significance getting no play in the American press.
— Steve Clemons


21 comments on “International Affairs: What Stories We Are Ignoring (and Shouldn’t Be)

  1. rich says:

    Why pay attention? I dunno. Maybe because they discovered more oil in Mauritania a mere three months ago?
    Petronas, partners strike oil, gas in Mauritania
    Wednesday May 7, 2008
    KUALA LUMPUR: Petroliam Nasional Bhd and its partners have found oil and gas in the Banda field, off Mauritania, according to Australia’s ROC Oil Co Ltd, which is involved in the operations.
    In a statement to the Australian Stock Exchange, ROC Oil said on Wednesday its unit Roc Oil (Mauritania) Co and the partners had discovered the oil at the Banda NW ST-1 sidetrack well. The Banda field is in about 300 metres of water.
    Mann sentenced for E Guinea plot
    Monday, 7 July 2008
    Simon Mann’s defence lawyer had argued he was “a pawn” in the plot
    Former British soldier Simon Mann has been sentenced to 34 years and four months in jail by an Equatorial Guinea court for his role in a 2004 coup plot.
    The verdict followed Mann’s trial in the capital Malabo last month in which he admitted conspiring to oust President Teodoro Obiang Nguema.
    Guinea Bissau ‘foils coup plot’
    Friday, 8 August 2008
    The alleged coup was planned to take place on Thursday, the army said
    Guinea Bissau says it has foiled an attempt by the head of the country’s navy to overthrow President Joao Bernardo Vieira.
    An army spokesman said Rear Admiral Americo Bubo Na Tchuto was arrested after telephoning senior officers to ask for help in ousting Mr Vieira.
    The alleged coup comes amid political turmoil in Guinea Bissau.
    The president has dissolved parliament, a month after one of the three main parties quit the unity government.
    Senegal, Gambia and Guinea Bissau join vast new oil economies
    By Kofi Akosah-Sarpong
    23-02-04 As the West African sub-region oil and gas potential opens up due to advanced technology, three West African countries-Senegal, Gambia and Guinea Bissau are joining regional states in the vast new oil economies currently brewing in the Gulf of Guinea.
    Republic of Congo’s President Denis Sassou-Nguesso expressed high hopes about the increasing discovery of vast new oil reserves off the Gulf of Guinea and its implications to bring prosperity to the whole of West Africa when he said, “Our nation is working hard to attract joint investments by oil firms as part of our overall plan for development.”
    Until recently Africa’s three countries, Nigeria, Gabon and Angola, were tapping Africa’s wealth.
    “Now the whole region from the Bight of Biafra in Nigeria to the Cabinda enclave in Angola is being viewed as a vast pool of oil,” a United States official has said, as his country shift its energy focus to the Gulf of Guinea oil boom.
    So why should DonBacon (FakinBacon?) pay attention?
    Since the Great Game is on in West Africa, there’s no way the US will be left out of the action. Instability and repeated coup attempts will creat blowback sooner or later. Keeping an eye on our own intel activities now, will prevent higher costs to our national security later. Finally, Nigeria’s unbelievably poor human rights record, which centers around oil companies, labor unions, and an outright lack of legal and environmental protection of local and indigenous residents, are already being repeated in other countries.
    With minimial effort to raise standards, these incendiary patterns, and their inevitable consequences, can be avoided. Far be it from the American foreign policy community to get that much right.
    It’s no coincidence the American media just doesn’t seem to want to cover it.


  2. WigWag says:

    Russia invades Georgia. That’s bad!
    Here’s an important story that the Washington Note hasn’t covered yet. Russian tanks have invaded the Republic of Georgia.
    The US and EU are in no position to complain. Their policy of recognizing Kosovo in violation of international law and their consideration of allowing Georgia to join Nato are one of many proximate causes of this crisis.
    This is important. I hope Steve Clemons will cover it.


  3. Mr.Murder says:

    Face it, France is being blamed for gednocide thast resulted from our interference in a sovereign’s politics.
    We want this as hedge to keeping our own from facing war crimes for Iraq. Those leaders see the Hamdan precedent. This is just getting out now because the two items are correlated.


  4. Francesco Femia says:

    The five issues ARE important to Americans. Why? Short answer is: interdependence. America took the plunge in the Spanish-American war. There is no going back. Long answer:
    1. Bolivia: a rise in separatist sentiments and instability will have repercussions throughout the Northwestern part of the South American continent, initially, and then throughout the entire region. Any such repercussions will impact the United States considerably. The U.S. is very much involved in the South American continent, and the South American continent is very much involved with the U.S. This matters. Alot.
    2. Rwanda-France: First, the issue is about genocide. Anytime there is a significant piece of news concerning genocide in the world, Americans should be concerned. Genocide is not only an affront to the international world order and democracy (not to mention humanity), but it is also an affront to America. In this particular case, we have a situation where a pro-US Rwandan government is accusing the French of complicity in that genocide. This is a dramatic charge against a key Western, democratic ally, and Americans should be aware of it.
    3. Mauritania: Easy. Democracy ENDED in Mauritania. Whenever democracy is unsuccessful somewhere in the world, Americans should be aware of it.
    4. Iraq. The non-passage of the provincial elections bill could result in a reversal of what seemed to be a positive trend of stability in Iraq. This is a flash point to watch. This will affect Americans.
    5. Pakistan. I don’t think I even need to go into why the Pakistan situation is important to Americans.
    In all, every one of these issues should have been widely reported in the U.S. news. They weren’t. Thanks to Charlie for bringing them to our attention.


  5. Paul Norheim says:

    Regarding oil, West-Africa will become the next “Middle East”.
    You better be prepared for the coming mess.


  6. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Keep your eye on the ball, folks.
    Over a million murdered.
    By us.


  7. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Hmm. I can’t get excited by any of this. Seems to me until Bush and Cheney are prosecuted, convicted, and swung from a gallows, (and we get our country back), all of this is just irrelevant horseshit.
    What time are we going to have to worry about African genocides when we’re so busy committing our own in the Middle East?


  8. Paul Norheim says:

    Don Bacon,
    you have explicitly advocated the current practice where the
    media, the American people and “serious people” should focus
    on the issues they are actually focusing on: “Iran, Afghanistan
    and other truly significant current issues.”
    The media have always focused on a handful of “truly significant
    issues” while the US government as well as the CIA frequently
    have been busy in those distant, “insignificant” corners of the
    world you`re asking us to ignore.
    Which items have I refused to address specifically? Mauritania?
    Bolivia? Or perhaps I “have failed to explain why Rwanda’s
    president’s charges against France are significant”?
    I believed I answered that one already :”I do not currently
    consider the frequent accusations between Kigali and Paris as
    something “significant to Americans” – if you really wanted my 2
    cents on that issue.” (see above)
    Do you want me to address this more specifically? I would
    guess that those in the US government who happen to be
    familiar with this stuff advice the WH to wisely stay out of this
    Paris-Kigali fight. But whether you regard the “Great Lakes”
    region of Eastern Africa (around the Victoria Lake) to be
    significant or not, France and America is obviously fighting for
    dominance in an old geopolitical struggle between the French
    and the English speaking world. Kenya and Uganda has ties to
    the UK, going back to colonial times. Rwanda and Burundi were
    under Belgian dominance, and France saw Rwanda as significant
    enough to pour in money and support to the Rwandese
    government pre 1994.
    Now the Chinese are established in Rwanda, as well as in plenty
    of other “insignificant” African and South American countries,
    and the US embassy in Kigali is heavily barricaded. This may not
    be important in your eyes. But in the coming struggle for oil in
    Africa, getting or keeping “friends” in the region may be
    important for the Americans, as well as the Chinese and the
    French in their struggle for influence.
    Your arrogant defense of ignorance, and suggestion of a “limit
    to what serious Americans should be concerned with”, is simply
    foolish. I have no nice or polite way to say this.


  9. Don Bacon says:

    Your concocted “backstory” would be interesting and significant if true, but that is not in the news item, which consists of democracy in action in Bolivia, a narco-state with a poor economy.
    These items, which you refuse to address specifically, even in your no-more-comment-comments, have nothing to do with the CIA.


  10. Paul Norheim says:

    According to Don Bacon, the American people should not be
    bothered with these “distractions”. In the meanwhile, the
    American government and the CIA have always been busy in
    those distant, “insignificant” corners of the world.


  11. David says:

    These absolutely are important stories. The backstory on the situation for Evo Morales almost assuredly involves US meddling in Bolivian affairs for the same reasons we were complicit in the short-lived coup of Hugo Chavez. We never did and never will tolerate actual independence and self-determination in the Americas south of the Rio Grande and the Straits of Florida. It is anathema to US business interests, eupemestically called vital national interests, and I suppose given the nature of our business/national interests, it is vital. Just don’t confuse it with a sense of justice, fair play, or respect for other people’s right of self-determination if that self-determination ever runs counter to what we decree to be the proper model for nations and international relations.


  12. Paul Norheim says:

    You`ve summed up your defense of American arrogance and the
    virtues of ignorance, and I have no further comments.


  13. Don Bacon says:

    I have no problem with curiosity, but calling these situations significant items which should be reported in the US press at a critical time in the history of the country, with two unwinnable wars going on, a worsening I/P situation and the domestic economy tanking, among other problems, is a distraction. Their “getting no play in the US press” is a good thing, IMHO.
    You have failed to explain why Rwanda’s president’s charges against France are significant.
    As for the problems between Rwanda and Uganda, I don’t know of anyone (besides you) who cares. We have plenty of our own problems to deal with and we don’t need more. I would certainly be against any US military involvement, if that’s what you have in mind. Why don’t you go back down there and help whomever you think needs help? You take pride in your previous visit to Rwanda, why not return and pitch in?
    Sorry to disappoint, but there is a limit to what serious Americans should be concerned with, and these items don’t make the cut, by a long shot. Did you read the “significant” news items on Bolivia, Rwanda and Mauritania? Steve’s having some fun with us.


  14. JamesL says:

    I have read many good posts by Don Bacon–well worded, incisive, compassionate, and certainly far beyond any America-centric perspective. The posts above bearing Don Bacon’s name have nothing in common with the tenor or content of what Don Bacon has written before. Either we have two real Don Bacons, one fake Don Bacon trolling away, or Don had quite a change of mind in the past 36 hours. Time for the fly rod.


  15. Paul Norheim says:

    Don Bacon,
    Convenient indeed. You said in your original post that you
    considered Bolivia, Rwanda and Mauritania as matters of “a pin
    [dropping] anywhere”.
    I picked one of your examples, Rwanda, just to illustrate that
    you`re wrong in celebrating ignorance and arrogance, since I
    conveniently happen to know more about Rwanda, than
    Mauritania or Bolivia – and some of the undeniable regional
    consequences of what`s happening in that tiny country.
    I think your last post rather is a convenient excuse for not
    responding to my arguments.
    Unfortunately, I am still as ignorant as you regarding the
    consequences of the coup d`etat in Mauritania. But curiosity
    doesn`t hurt, does it? So why don`t we both try to find out
    more about that?
    I do not currently consider the frequent accusations between
    Kigali and Paris as something “significant to Americans” – if you
    really wanted my 2 cents on that issue.


  16. Don Bacon says:

    A convenient shift by you there, from Mauritania to Rwanda and other countries. Okay, let’s take Rwanda. Why is it significant to Americans that French officials have been accused by the Rwandan president, who may be guilty of a serious crime himself, of complicity in the 1994 genocide, which I’m sure they will deny? All your huffing and puffing, and arrogant European superiority, have absolutely nothing to do with the present issue. Why are these charges significant to Americans at a time when the US needs France on Iran, Afghanistan and other truly significant current issues, and not on something that might, might have happened fourteen years ago?


  17. Paul Norheim says:

    Don Bacon,
    by coincidence, I`ve spent 4 1/2 months in one of those
    countries, Rwanda, 7 years ago. In 1994 there was a genocide
    there: 800 000 tutsis massacred. There is still a constant
    danger of such massacres of tutsis or hutus, in Rwanda, but
    especially in neighboring Burundi.
    “A pin” dropping anywhere? It depends on your perspective,
    distance and values. Your former president Bill Clinton certainly
    don`t see it this way. He, as well as Madeleine Albright and UN
    boss Kofi Annan consider their hesitance in recognizing that
    this was a genocide (thus avoiding action) as one of their major
    mistakes during the Clinton years.
    Besides that, Rwanda was one of the countries significantly
    contributing to the war in Congo some years ago (and their
    involvement was directly related to circumstances connected to
    the genocide. As far as I remember, seven African countries
    were involved in that war – among them Uganda, Zimbabwe and
    Rwanda. Millions died in that war during the late 90`s and the
    beginning of this decade. It may be seen (as some of the less
    ignorant commentators did at the time) as an African pendant
    to the first World War in Europe, at the beginning of the last
    century. As far as I know, the issues that got Rwanda into the
    war in Congo are not solved yet (perpetrators in the genocide
    hiding in the eastern part of Congo, and in addition the country
    is not exactly on friendly terms with another “pin” in the
    neighborhood: Uganda.
    Ever heard about all this? Does it sound like the distant sound
    of a pin dropping somewhere? Perhaps for you. Not for me.
    Does this make me particularly arrogant?
    But perhaps the only interesting countries for you in Africa are
    Nigeria, Angola, Chad and Sudan, because of their oil?
    Or Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Djibouti, because of their
    relative geopolitical importance in the “Global War on Terror”?
    Or perhaps you are proudly ignorant of those countries as well?


  18. Don Bacon says:

    No, arrogance at its worst is to feign a superior worldly interest whenever a pin drops anywhere, as you do. Perhaps you will care to tell us exactly why the average person anywhere in the world should care one whit about Mauritania, for example, or even more why it should be considered “significant?”


  19. Paul Norheim says:

    “Okay with Iraq and Pakistan, but who cares what happens in
    Bolivia, Mauritania and Rwanda, and who even knows where they
    are are? The combined population of the latter three countries is
    less than that of Greater Mexico City, with considerably less
    economic activity I’m sure. Some “significance.””
    Don Bacon, as a European, I admire and love many aspects of
    America, but your comment above express US arrogance at its
    worst. It`s also a surprisingly cynical celebration of stupidity and
    ignorance – if it was not intended as a clumsy effort to write an
    ironic comment.


  20. Don Bacon says:

    Okay with Iraq and Pakistan, but who cares what happens in Bolivia, Mauritania and Rwanda, and who even knows where they are are? The combined population of the latter three countries is less than that of Greater Mexico City, with considerably less economic activity I’m sure. Some “significance.”


  21. JohnH says:

    Three of the “five to watch” can be found by paging over to the news at
    Plus you learn that the BTC pipeline got blasted in eastern Turkey. BTC carries Caspian oil and gas to the West. It is the second longest pipeline in the world and an inviting target for mischief, whether from state sposored terrorists or independent groups.
    The explosion is further proof of the gigantic energy insecurity stemming from the industrialized world’s oil supply lines being extended to the remotest corners of the globe.
    Iraq showed the futility of putting a barrel of a gun to an oil supplier’s head and expecting it to produce barrels of oil. Iran has shown the futility of bombing America’s way to energy security. And a few more blasts along remote, high capacity pipelines may show the futility of all those special ops bases parachuted into remote locations to protect the West’s oil.
    The official sages inside the beltway have determined that this is definitely not news fit to be broadcast to nervous Americans in an election year, or any other time for that matter. Better let a future administration suffer the consequences when the brown matter hits the fan.


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