Africa Notes: If the Cold War is Over in Africa, Will the United States Still Care? - May 1989
May 30, 1989
In C.P. Cavafy's poem, "Waiting for the Barbarians," the townspeople find their leaders in a state of great unease over rumors of a barbarian invasion. As time passes and it becomes clear that the invaders are not coming, the people return home in deep and despondent thought, asking "What will became of us without barbarians? They were a kind of solution."
Africa specialists may see Moscow's new flexibility in Africa and the rest of the Third World as a vindication of their insistence that communism (Afro- or otherwise) has never been particularly relevant to the African condition; that the dominant ideology on the continent, even in countries where Marxism was embraced with varying degrees of conviction in the 1960s and 1970s, is a pragmatic African nationalism; and that Africa is not about to be "won" or "lost" by anybody. But if the Soviets are truly not coming, what will Africa mean to those in the U.S. policy community who saw the continent primarily as part of a Cold War global chessboard?