AFRICOM: Considering the Practical Realities

By Theodore T. Hodge

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
November 27, 2007


A man meets a beautiful, attractive woman. He offers her a drink and they begin to make small talk. From one thing to another, the man asks the woman boldly, “How much money would you accept to go to bed with me, a thousand, five thousand or ten thousand dollars? Let’s just cut to the chase. What’s your asking price?”

The woman, obviously flabbergasted, takes a moment to recover from what she has just heard. And she simply asks, “What”?

The man repeats what he said and makes it clear he’s serious. He even wants to know if she thinks the offer is too low because he’s willing to raise it, if necessary.

The woman, slowly recovering from the initial shock asks him, “Why are you offering me money to go to bed, do you think I’m a prostitute”? The man ignores the question and repeats his desire to go to with her at whatever price she calls. “Would you take fifty thousand dollars or even a hundred thousand dollars… just say so. But I must go to bed with you”

The woman keeps refusing the man’s offer on the grounds that she is not a prostitute. But her suitor does not budge, he keeps offering more. Finally, he makes her an offer she cannot refuse. He offers to give her a cold million bucks for the affair. He finally gets her ear. “Would you actually pay me a million dollars for one night of sex”, she asks?

With some understanding of how the money is to be delivered, she agrees. What does that make her? She will not go to bed for a hundred grand, but for a million bucks, the price is right. Is she a prostitute? Obviously, she doesn’t think so. The reality is she may not be a cheap prostitute, but a prostitute she is.

Yes, it’s an old joke not usually told around the family dinner table, you heard it before. But what does that have to do with the AFRICOM debate, you wonder? Everything.

I have read many a debate and they all miss the point here. The question here should be: “What’s in it for us?” And if the deal is right, let’s sign it and cut the _____, you fill in the blank.

Many of those opposed to this deal offer brilliant reasons why we ought to reject it. There are those who give us intellectual lessons and try to sell their personal philosophical and ideological leanings. They give us historical lessons in the derivations of the Cold War and the Non-aligned Movement. Some of them go as far back as giving us lessons in colonialism, imperialism and other similar academic and historical debates. They remind of us of the North-South divide and East-West relations. All that is nice, but…

Some of them consider themselves strict nationalists. They are naïve or disingenuous; in some cases they are plainly deceptive. They talk about independence but forget about the other side of the coin: Interdependence. Interdependence among nations and the world’s people is a practical reality of our times. If you don’t believe it, just read any paper today and ask yourself, “Who’s involved in helping Liberia get back on her feet”, the same people we are trying to reject. Have we forgotten the fable of Humpty Dumpy? He fell, and all the king’s men and all the king’s horses could not put Humpty Dumpy together… Liberia is in that predicament --- we have fallen and can’t get up on our own.

Liberia (or Africa) is like a beautiful bride attracting all the handsome suitors. The Chinese come knocking as do the Brits, Germans, Japanese, Italians, Spaniards and our good old friends (and enemies), the Americans. One of them is going to get the bride and it might as well be the American, even the ugly American, as long as the deal is right.

There are those who are arguing from the perspective of preserving their own status. We know Liberia’s problems over the past two decades stem from the struggles among those aspiring to consolidate power for themselves; those people who have these huge ambitions for political and social power see the idea of globalization and other such ideas as an impediment or even a threat. Their solution is to keep others away while the country remains isolated; they will enjoy the benefits of isolating our people.

But if we look past the intellectuals and academics as well as the wannabes and those who do have a selfish political stake in this matter, what is left? We need to approach this issue from the perspective of practical reality. We ought to put ourselves in the shoes of the common person in Kakata, Voinjima, or Greenville. What does it mean to him? What does it mean to the farmer who wants to have good roads to bring goods to market? What does it mean for the citizen who simply wants to travel from Harper to Monrovia without spending a week on bad roads? Will this project help in any way?

I don’t know what AFRICOM will do to improve road conditions in Liberia. Is the United States willing to improve our roads for us to host this project? How about a major airport or seaport? Does anyone remember how and why Roberts International Airport was built? Will they build a few clinics here and there? Will they build a few schools? Could they build a water plant to provide safe drinking water? In other words, the intellectual or academic reasons to reject this project seem a bit selfish, given where most of us are while making these various arguments. We either live in the United States, Europe or in the cities of Africa (in our case, Monrovia) while we try to deny our countrymen the same basic amenities we take for granted. That just strikes me as insensitive and insincere.

The question should not be whether we are prostitutes; we are, albeit in a nice sort of way. We should be concerned about those folks in the country to whom this project could have the most immediate benefits, not our ideological preferences. If we don’t get this deal the girl next door will and as far as I’m concerned, she’s the ugly broad.

© 2007 by The Perspective

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