After one year in office, the Obama administration's foreign policy has been defined by an odd role reversal. The rogues gallery of the world, from Burma to North Korea to Iran to Russia to China, have been largely embraced by the White House and State Department --while relations with key democratic allies, like Great Britain and the liberated Eastern Bloc, are increasingly strained.
Enter Zimbabwe, an Africa dystopia of the most sinister variety. Robert Mugabe, dictator of the once wildly prosperous nation, has a rap sheet that would make even the most dyed-in-the-wool tyrant blush. His 30 year reign has been marked by terror, theft, bankruptcy, and genocide, driving what was once Africa's most promising young economy into total financial ruin. In 2008, despite widespread intimidation and vote rigging, Mugabe's ZANU-PF party lost Zimbabwe's national election to the Movement for Democratic Change. Unsurprisingly, he refused to budge from office, ultimately settling for an awkward power-sharing compromise brokered by South Africa.
But power in Zimbabwe isn't to be shared with anyone, much less a reform minded "enemy of the state" like the MDC. Mugabe has continued on with his destructive economic policies (like his seizure of privately owned, productive farms), while demanding foreign aid and readmission into international organizations like the Commonwealth of Nations and International Monetary Fund. Many of the world's democracies have been prudent enough to tell Zimbabwe to take a hike. Unfortunately, the Obama administration isn't one of them.
To wit, Voice of America reports:
United States Ambassador to Zimbabwe Charles Ray has said that Washington would not oppose the restoration of Zimbabwe’s voting rights in the International Monetary Fund.
Observers said the statement by Ray, reported by the state-controlled Herald newspaper based on a brief interview after Ray met with Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara, represented a significant milestone in the restoration of normal US-Zimbabwean bilateral relations.
Right as the Mugabe regime finally looked as if it wouldn't come back up for another breath, the Obama administration throws it a lifeline. Is it a surprise to anyone that the people of Zimbabwe, dying (literally) for good governance and sound economic management, are treated exactly like the democratic revolutionaries in Iran? Is it a surprise that protestors, desperate for some sort of leadership from the United States, are ignored in hopes that murderous regimes will be inspired by smart power and the radiant glow of hope and change? Add Zimbabwe to the long list of nations that Obama has, plainly, gotten wrong.