Vested Interest

Vested Interest

With one month to go, President Obama admonished Kenyans to hold a peaceful election. Obama wasn’t just preaching the word. Critical U.S. policy is predicated on a successful Kenyan election outcome.

There was nothing surprising in Obama’s one-month-to-go pep talk. But as I listened to it, I realized it was powered by the deep behind-the-scenes U.S. African foreign policy that has driven so much of African history in the last few years.

The routing of al-Qaeda, the pacification of Somalia, the fugitive chase of the LRA, the massaging of Rwanda hegemony, the less successful use-and-throw-away Uganda geopolitics, the deep skies of drone assassinations – it’s all a remarkable mosaic of clever and intricate U.S. policy.

And Kenya is the linchpin.

Unfortunately, the policy is driven overwhelmingly by Obama’s hunt of terrorists. That’s a fine thing to do, don’t misunderstand me, but developmental imperatives seem to get attention only when the greater objective of wiping out the terrorist prevails.

So that the “war on poverty” is far subservient to the “war on terror.” This is short-term strategy.

Kenya is fundamental to this policy. America rebuilt Kenya’s military and notably the product looks mighty good. Compared, for example, to Mali or Nigeria or Afghanistan, the Kenyan military forged enough independence and local celebrity identity that it functions better than anyone could have imagined only five years ago.

And there seems to be no dichotomy between the military and civilian authorities, as in Pakistan, for example, or Egypt. America has created a fighting arm in Kenya that is totally beholding to its brain.

That’s good, yes. And from Obama’s point of view, more importantly, it’s been effective.

Now comes the election, the ultimate validation of a non-revolutionary society, of a stable politic based on “strong institutions” and “just government.”

No country in the world today can achieve what America did in 2000: institutions so strong they prevailed even while being irrational. That’s what happened when the Supreme Court effectively – with no precedent or authority whatever – wound down the mechanisms of challenge and handed victory almost willy nilly to the man who had lost.

And the defeated graciously walked away to become a billionaire.

That standard is unattainable by any but America. But Kenya can come near enough to validate the policy that sustains that potential. If it doesn’t, Obama policy in Africa will in a blink no longer be validated. If Kenya unhinges itself by Bronx Cheering the very institution on which Obama policy is founded, then everything the U.S. has done in Africa is lost.

Somali could tear apart, again. Militias in the jungles of The Congo would rearm and reform. The Arab Spring could become Arab Hell. Terrorism would be reborn.

It sounds like an exaggeration.