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Today's things: turning Chinese in Africa; footballer for president; Turkey calls bullshit; peace thr
January 24 · Issue #19 · View online
5 NatSec Things
Today’s things: turning Chinese in Africa; footballer for president; Turkey calls bullshit; peace through superior pedophiles; a ‘dumb’ deal done.

Turning Chinese: let's put Beijing in charge of Africa
Because what Africa needs is more Chinese. And it’s going to get it, because Beijing has figured out that while the US is busy doing all the counter-terror things, China can clean up in the economic department. Which they’ve done quite handily. 
Worth reading the piece since it runs counter to the Cold War Redux narrative of most US defense wonks, that China’s just using the continent to further its own military aims. 
Which isn’t wrong, but where the article gets derailed is in singing the praises of all things Beijing in Africa. Because while a lot of nations have been happy to take their money, the end result’s been problematic at best. 
The Chinese take a long view on a level the West can never understand, but they can be terribly myopic in terms of building for the long term. That means once they’ve got what they want from a particular country, that’s it. And then they’ll move on.
What China does better than the Americans is soft power. Because while the US struggles to feed the hungry, the Chinese are busy building those same hungry people a railway. Which they do in conjunction with local business actors, and the result? Profit. 
And in the end, if China wants to beat the US at anything, itt’s having more money than the Americans. Africa’s one way they’re making that possible. And any country you do business with will probably be cool with whatever your military may want to do in the future. 
Liberia passes to Weah, but can the former striker score again? Liberia passes to Weah, but can the former striker score again?
Liberia’s a tiny country with a special relationship to the United States that has been…fraught…at best. A massive civil war and an Ebola epidemic over the last couple of years has meant that transfers of power have been iffy. And now that Ellen Sirleaf’s stepping down, for the first time in decades, Liberian power has transferred peacefully. 
From a security perspective, Liberia means precisely jack shit. As a model for a peaceful, democratic transition to a new president? Might be something countries with larger, more robust economies should observe. 
The new guy, George Weah, made a name for himself playing football. 
That’s soccer, ‘murcans. 
There’s more than a few doubts whether he can handle the rigors of statehood as well as he made his way around the pitch. This election had more than a few charges of corruption leveled at it, so he’s already starting behind the curve. 
Add to that, the foreign aid the country relies on may be going away for good. 
The UN Mission In Liberia (UNMIL) is due to shut down for good in a few months. There’s no indication that the country is suddenly going to tip over on its way to a new day of democracy, but any nation in this part of the world that undergoes a lot of change quickly always makes the watchers a little edgy. 
US to Turkey - don't stay long. Turkey: how's Afghanistan going?
Graduate level trolling from Turkey’s Erdogan here. Because the Americans want the Turks to wrap it up as quickly as possible against the Kurds in Afrin, Syria. 
So Ankara’s asking (rightly), “Hey pot…knock it off with the advice to us kettles, yeah?”
It’s one of the least attractive vestiges of manifest destiny that the US reserves the right to do whatever the hell it wants with its military. But is disinclined to extend that same courtesy to anyone else. Particularly, as is true in this case, its NATO ally (Turkey) is picking a fight with a non-NATO one (the Kurds).
As a sovereign nation, Turkey has the right to do exactly what it’s doing in dealing with the Kurdish issue in Syria. Because the Syrian regime’s done such a bang up job of keeping that border stable until now, Turkey would rather not have a group it considers to be a terrorist organization setting up a bastion right across the metaphorical street. 
I’m not saying Turkey’s doing the right thing: I’m no Erdogan apologist. 
What I am saying that the US can be pragmatic at obscene levels (see the next story) when it wants to be. And can get awfully high and mighty the rest of the time. 
You could spell national security without pedophile, but why?
Because the general raping that kid today on Thursday night might be the guy who helps you run the Taliban out of town on Saturday morning, the Department of Defense doesn’t want to take away his money. Which he of course is totes going to spend on supplies for his men. And not buying himself another tea boy or two. 
If you’re thinking, “Damn, I haven’t thrown up in my mouth recently,” do yourself a solid and get you some reading done on bacha bazi, which is the practice of keeping young boys around for the raping. 
That’s not an exaggeration, it’s a fact, and while not all Afghans do it, enough do that the US values as partners in security that some Americans have lost their jobs when they responded like humans would. 
Namely kicking the shit out of at least one commander who’d kept a boy chained to a bed. Because while righteous indignation works in a press release, it’s not the kind of thing the US expects from its service members downrange. Since pragmatism, for the win. 
The US has made a long-standing habit of partnering with less-than-savory actors over the years. Usually it’s just garden variety dictators who like thumbscrews and car batteries. Other times, it’s situations like these where American personnel have witnessed reprehensible things. 
Maybe it’s time to hit the pedophiles where it hurts: their wallets. 
58 refugees headed to US in 'dumb' deal
Remember that time that Trump tried to pick a fight with Australia over Obama’s deal to do a refugee swap? Send some Central American asylum seekers Down Under in exchange for a few dozen folks from other countries to come to the US? That’s on track, and closing fast. 
This matters because the ones coming here from Papua New Guinea are all coming from countries where people want to leave because they’re tired of getting shot at and blown up. So to some extent they’re all fleeing places that the Americans are at least indirectly responsible for how shitty things have gotten. Which makes their arrival in the US at this point in time more fun than usual. 
Because while we want to point to Trump and say, “That’s not America,” the fact is that he got elected by people who agree with him. And agree with him on things like immigrants coming in from less-than-fun countries. The 58 refugees en route to the US will get no press, and hopefully they’ll get some relief in a country that’s forgotten that at one time a lot of us were the tired, the poor, the wretched refuse yearning to breathe free.
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