A fourth-year university student will spend two years in a Kenyan Prison for posting on social media forceful insults commentary on a security bill strongly opposed by members of parliament, signed into law by President Uhuru Kenyatta then suspended by the law courts. Kenya is slowly but steadily sliding into brutal intolerant rule with US support due to their partnership in the war against terror.
The USA has used two narratives in managing and interacting with former adversaries at war. Direct engagement and war by agency. The first is a continuing success while the second is the best example of absolute failure. Why we are applying the second in Somalia and Kenya is just unfathomable.
The first occurred after the Second World War. Germany, Japan and latter North Korea were adversaries who were defeated, disarmed then literally occupied. Their defense was taken over by the USA and its NATO allies, they were given massive civilian aid and have done very well by themselves and by ourselves ever since. That arrangement continuous to this day, no one complains or questions it, we still have bases in Japan, Germany and Korea. Direct rules works and direct engagement improves relationships immensely – there are no German, Japanese or Korean terrorist baying for American blood. We never trained a new army in Germany or Japan otherwise we would still be fighting a war in Europe. The Germans and Japanese found a new line of business, just imagine if we never allowed any Iraqi near a weapon again!
The second narrative developed after the Vietnam War, the American public became war wary, the army became a volunteer force and any thought of permanent occupation of former adversaries became politically hot. The era of war by proxy had arrived.
Whereas this War agency arrangement served politicians well at home, it has created many enemies for the US abroad.Osama bin Laden was part of our proxy warriors in the war against the soviets. The Islamic jihad originated from oppressive regimes in the Arab world, the rulers were brutal against their citizens, provided they appeared to be on our side externally. They did not need to answer to their citizens.
People overseas tend to have long memories while being short on forgiveness. Egypt, Yemen, Somalia, Iraq, Libya and Algeria to name just a few countries, are some of the countries where for a long time we supported oppressive regimes that brutalized their citizens provided they appeared to serve our short term interests while they bred hate internally which was directed at the U.S. , we were so much in bed with some of theses regimes that the Arab spring got us by surprise!
To survive the brutal regimes who served us our proxies, their citizenry turned to faith, fundamental faith. Jihad kind of faith, now we’re have little jihads shouting “death to America” without understanding why. To ensure that our homeland is safe and we have more friendly neighborhoods overseas, the U.S. Need to appreciate that diversity is the natural thing and that although we cannot make all the world in our own image, we can work with various people without necessarily agreeing with then all the time. We do it with China, we can do it with Iran, and now Cuba hence trying to probe up oppressive regimes just to have a “friend” in a neighborhood is counter productive.
Kennedy’s America was not like that, that America supported Justice and the rule of law. Just like communism was used as a bogeyman to support oppressive regimes, terrorism and the Patriots Acts are being used to probe oppressive regimes that will create unwanted and unjustified ill feelings to the U.S. In the long run.
Kenya is a case in point, granted the U.S. Listened to the wrong advice and seemed to side with the loosing side during the last elections, but it has over corrected and is partnering with the security forces in the “fight against terror”. There is just one small problem. Political scores are being settled with American resources, the rights of Kenyans are being violated in the name of the fight. Anger will start being directed towards the U.S. War by proxy or Agency is not a long term productive narrative. One thing President Obama can do is to ensure that the US policy of war by proxy or agency is eliminated. This may be hard because it’s against the democratic liberal opinions but that is what Presidents are elected for, making hard decisions. If you don’t want war, then prepare for war! Proxy or Agency wars will ensure continuous breeding of American energies by brutal regimes we have no control over. President Uhuru is turning out to be that kind of proxy.
The right to hold and express an opinion should not earn anyone a two year jail term, not from our partner government. Public servants in free democracies are held in bad light every day, that is par for the course, that is what public servants particularly elected officials sign for. The Kenya government has just imprisoned a University student for two years because he forcefully expressed an opinion on Facebook, I will not say a word about the rumored extrajudicial police killings – what is the US investing in? American Diplomacy is business diplomacy, having proxies that breed unearned hate directed at us from their citizens is not good business diplomacy.