Still Pissed Off About the Hawley-Smoot Tariff

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

The Almost-Daily Mauritania Briefing

You know, for an undemocratic military junta, so far they're not doing too poorly.

America has already softened its language condemning the coup. The African Union, which immediately suspended Mauritania's membership, sent envoys who reported that they are "reassured."

"'We were reassured because there is a consensus on the reasons, even the necessity, for change,' said Nigerian Foreign Minister Oluyemi Adeniji, who led the AU delegation."

Well, both the reasons and the necessity were always rather clear-cut, I thought, the only issue was whether a military take-over was the way to do it. But consider that, because Taya was out of the country at the time of the coup, no blood has been shed (that I've seen reported). The reports suggest the population is happy about things -- everyone except the old president, in fact.

"The impression that we've had since our arrival is that there is peace everywhere," Adeniji told reporters. "All the people we met with indicated they agreed with the change. And we think it would be simpler to take the transitional process toward democracy."

As some may have thought it was." Well, you can't blame us, Nouri. This kind of thing does not usually end well. If I'm hopeful that the new head honcho will be good for the country, it's the naive optimist in me. But hey, we can still hope.

Defense of Taya

As Nouri notes in another post, initial worldwide reaction to the coup was decidedly negative. That's probably not because everyone loves Taya. It's widely accepted he's a tough authoritarian who viciously cracked down on dissidents. His is the only country in the world with an open slave trade. And yet, in a region where people don't expect much better out of their government, the simple fact is that his willingness to play ball on some issues (Iraq, Israel) suggested he was better than many other alternatives.

It's the same phenomenon in Saudi Arabia. The magical kingdom has more than its fair share of objectionable problems, including anti-Americanism taught to young kids in public schools, their sometimes ambiguous stance on terrorism, voting and other rights (or lack thereof) for women, and their legal system.

In other words, Taya wasn't perfect, but since America can't invade every un-democratic country in the world simultaneously, it's best to stick with an acceptable-for-now guy until something better comes along. When something else comes along, in the manner that it came, it's natural to be skeptical that it will be something better. So far, the new guys have said all the right things - democratic elections within two years, no one in the ruling junta is eligible for election, making diplomatic contact with the AU, Senegal, and perhaps others. And most importantly, as far as we know, no bloodshed. No terrified populace, no dragging dissidents from their homes at night, never to be seen again. If -- and I stress that it's a huge if -- they can walk it like they talk it, then great things are about to happen in Mauritania.