Today, when Barack Obama was sworn in, the 43rd president of the United States, George W. Bush, officially became the subject of history. And while most contemporary commentators lament the Bush years as largely squandered ones, both in the international and domestic arena, it might be worthwhile to take a closer look. There is one policy field that has attracted virtually no attention at all, although it might be one of George W. Bushs most impressive achievements: The United States' Africa policy.
George W. Bush deserves credit for the United States' return to Africa, a continent that has largely been neglected by his predecessor Bill Clinton. Once the US pulled out of the ill-fated United Nations intervention in Somalia, Clinton signed the Presidential Decision Directive 25 (PDD 25) that led to the United States total retreat from Africa. In PDD 25 Clinton ordered that the United States would only intervene in Africa when the national interest of the US would be at stake. It was against this backdrop that the US stood idly by when a genocide in Rwanda unfolded and crises from Liberia to the Congo called for international action. Clinton's 1998 response to the bombing of the US embassies in Dar-es-Salaam and Nairobi provided a case study in proportional responses. The missiles he fired on alleged al-Qaeda training camps in the Sudan and Afghanistan did little to deter al-Qaeda and only underlined his unwillingness to engage seriously in African affairs.
With George W. Bush the picture could hardly be more different: a regular guest in Africa, he has elevated development assistance to Africa to a serious foreign policy field. Indeed, due to Bush's Africa policy, development now complements the other two d's: diplomacy and defence. Under his leadership development assistance has more than doubled from a marginal 10 billion to more than 22 billion. And his anti-AIDS programmes have fostered progress in countering the disease, indeed they are ideal types of how bureaucratic hurdles can be bypassed to make development assistance more effective. Like it or not: In Africa President Bush saved thousands of lives.
And finally he established the first regional command for Africa: AFRICOM. The Pentagon no longer deals with Africa within the inappropriate structures of EUCOM, but has a single command focusing on Africa, helping African governments in training African militaries to enable it to bring what has once been termed as African solutions to the African continent. Moreover, AFRICOM has a unique structure with a State Department official being second in charge and a huge focus on development assistance. In fact, President Bush is the first American President who actually formulated a strategic approach to Africa. He should be applauded for that achievement.