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Grand Rapids Acton Institute praises National Security Advisor John Bolton on African Economic Plan, ignores increased US Military presence

December 20, 2018

Last week, US National Security Advisor John Bolton presented the new US strategy for Africa. Bolton’s plan for Africa wasn’t exactly a new strategy, but merely a simple modification of what US policy has been towards Africa for decades.

The Grand Rapids Right Wing Think Tank, known as the Acton Institute, had their own particular take on Bolton’s plan for Africa. Acton, which has been an apologist for neo-liberal capitalism, praised Bolton’s economic plan for Africa. Bolton announced his plan at another far right think tank, the Heritage Foundation.

The Heritage Foundation, which has been one of the leading far right think tanks since the late 1970s, was the perfect place for Bolton to present his plan for Africa. 

The Acton Institute put together this short video of Bolton’s plan, so as to take advantage of pushing their own agenda of neo-liberal capitalism.

The edited video of Bolton’s comments, were followed by the comments of Acton supporter Joel Salatin, who was criticizing US aid to Africa, since that aid creates dependency. Salatin, a self-proclaimed climate denier, fails to provide any real historical context for US aid to Africa or how African nations have become dependent on the Western world.

Salatin and the Acton Institute were promoting their “poverty cure” philosophy in this brief video and the post about Bolton’s African plan that was posted on their blog on Tuesday

The problem with Salatin and Acton’s assessment of US aid creating dependency for African nations is that it completely ignores the history of the European/Euro-American slave trade, European and US colonialism in Africa and the more recent history of US backed dictatorships in various African countries, where US economic interests always took priority over the African people.

One great source that deals with much of this history is the ground-breaking book written by Pan African scholar Walter Rodney in 1972, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa. Rodney’s analysis makes it clear that after centuries of capitalist plunder from Europe and the US, Africa became dependent because dependency is what both Europe and the US wanted for African.

For Salatin and the Acton Institute to talk about African dependency is disingenuous. African people did not chose dependency, it was imposed on them by the very economic system that the Acton Institute so zealously endorses…….capitalism.

Ignoring US Militarism in Africa

In addition to cheerleading Bolton’s African economic plan, the Acton Institute failed to even mention the massive US military presence on the African continent.

The Black Alliance for Peace had a strong counter analysis to what the Acton Institute had to say. In a statement they released on Tuesday, the Black Alliance for Peace said:  

U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton announcing a “Prosper Africa” initiative was no departure from U.S. foreign policy toward Africa. He simultaneously threatened China and Russia, while heaping scorn upon African nations. Our siblings in African nations struggle to overcome the destruction caused by European colonization, as well as the American interventions exemplified by the destruction of Libya, the destabilization of Somalia, and the fomenting of conflict in the Great Lakes region of Africa.

Bolton’s bluster against Chinese and Russian influence in Africa was borne of panic and was full of bald-faced lies. He made no mention of the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), which has put most African nations under the military control of the United States. But even so, the United States lags behind China, which is investing in African infrastructure and forgiving debt demanded by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Bolton charged China and Russia have predatory designs in Africa, but it is Europe and the United States that have committed the greatest thefts ever since the 19th-century scramble for the continent kicked off at the Berlin Conference of 1884-85.

Bolton warned African nations to ally themselves to the United States or risk the threat of intervention or the end of foreign aid. He lied about Russia and China, projecting onto them the wrongdoing that the United States has committed across the globe. In calling them “corrupt,” he exposed the United States’ own corrupt intention onto its rivals for economic and military power.

Black Agenda Report has a similar assessment of Bolton’s African plan:

Bolton didn’t mention in his statement that U.S. strategy for Africa which centers military recolonization would be a continuation of the U.S. policies of the last few decades and in particularly during the Obama administration that saw the expansion of the U.S. military presence by 1,900 %.

It is clear that the Trump “strategy” offers nothing substantially different. The policy continues to be more guns, more bases and more subversion.

Both the Black Alliance for Peace and Black Agenda Report make it clear that US policy towards Africa, which has been consistent for decades is a two pronged policy of imposing neo-liberal capitalism on the continent and maintaining massive US military presence. This two-pronged approach is by definition an imperialist policy, a policy that the Acton Institute ultimately promotes.

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