MADRID – President Barack Obama’s much discussed Cairo speech represented not only the demise of George W. Bush’s ideological drive to reconstruct the Muslim world through a democratic revolution; it marked the end of American liberalism’s quest to remake the world in its own image.
Instead, Obama’s administration is guided by a relativist political realism that assumes respect for cultural and religious distinctions. His secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, underscored this tendency during her first visit to China, where her unmistakeable message was that order and stability take priority over liberty and human rights.
But what about Africa, the forgotten continent that has been conspicuously absent from Obama’s hectic agenda? There, both the resilience of the local political culture and strategic imperatives are converging to define the limits of the West’s capacity to impose its values.
A fortnight before Obama’s Cairo speech, a delegation of the United Nations Security Council visited four African countries to express concern about the resurgence of unconstitutional change on the continent. Africa does indeed present a gloomy picture, with countries virtually crumbling to dust as a result of autocracy and stagnation.