Chris Blattman

From the Mzee to the Mad Dog: Museveni on Qaddafi

Qaddafi has conducted an independent foreign policy and, of course, also independent internal policies. I am not able to understand the position of Western countries, which appear to resent independent-minded leaders and seem to prefer puppets. Puppets are not good for any country.

Most of the countries that have transitioned from Third World to First World status since 1945 have had independent-minded leaders: South Korea (Park Chung-hee), Singapore (Lee Kuan Yew), China People’s Republic (Mao Tse Tung, Chou Enlai, Deng Xiaoping, Marshal Yang Shangkun, Li Peng, Jiang Zemin, Hu Jintao), Malaysia (Dr. Mahthir Mohamad), Brazil (Luis Inacio Lula da Silva), Iran (the Ayatollahs Khomeini and Khamenei), etc. Between World War I and World War II, the Soviet Union transitioned into an industrial country, propelled by the dictatorial but independent-minded Joseph Stalin. In Africa, we have also benefited from a number of independent-minded leaders: Colonel Nasser of Egypt, Mwalimu Nyerere of Tanzania, Samora Machel of Mozambique, and others. That is how southern Africa was liberated. That is how we got rid of Idi Amin. The stopping of genocide in Rwanda and the overthrow of Mobutu Sese-Seko in the Democratic Republic of the Congo were as a result of efforts of independent-minded African leaders.

Qaddafi, whatever his faults, is a true nationalist. I prefer nationalists to puppets of foreign interests. Where have the puppets caused the transformation of countries? I need some assistance with information on this from those who are familiar with puppetry.

…if the Libyan opposition groups are patriots, they should fight their war by themselves and conduct their affairs by themselves. After all, they easily captured so much equipment from the Libyan Army, why do they need foreign military support? I only had 27 rifles. To be puppets is not good.

That is Ugandan President Museveni writing in Foreign Policy. Notwithstanding the praise above, he comes out clearly against Qaddafi. Worth reading for a thoughtful and distinctly non-Western view of the leader. I have a deep fondness for Museveni the intellectual, even if we often disagree.

Most of his points are good ones, but Museveni characteristically puts the gains from long term stability and development ahead of the pains of oppression. The lesson he has drawn from his own experience: Independence, conflict and struggle are the revolutionary path to nationhood, and tight-fisted autocratic control the first step to democracy.

One point on which we agree: if external support provides rebels with a speedy victory, expect a disordered and disunited regime to take Qaddafi’s place. The one virtue of a long internal struggle is that it can force victors to build a base of support from which to rule effectively and peaceably.

Where we disagree: this path brings at least as many divisive tyrants to leadership as it does benevolent autocrats. I am hopeful that there are less bloody and risky paths to stable nationhood.

Also, Uganda’s story does not yet have a happy ending. Museveni will write the last chapter and it is still unclear whether it will be a peaceful one. He is far from Qaddafi’s megalomania, though he’s showing worrying signs of vainglory and dynasticism. Let us hope Uganda’s transition goes more smoothly.

2 Responses

  1. Hi Chris,

    Isn’t M7 a little contradictory in faulting Qaddafi for arming Idi Amin but backing him for supporting his war against “criminal dictatorships” while at the same time berating the Lybian rebels for relying on external support.

    Uganda has always been oil importer (notwithstanding the new found oil), so its a little ironic, if not silly that he sees one of Qaddafi’s positives as having raised the price of oil.

    When he makes some good points, like external country priorities being externally set, and the double standards in western intervention, the authoritative tone he adopts, naturally raises a feeling of opposition in the reader (at least for me), as you can’t help but feel he’s trying to jam them down your throat, not to mention they are self-serving.

    I am surprised you have deep fondness for him as an intellectual as some of his points are muddled and contradictory. An interesting read though, and thanks for putting it up, otherwise I might not have come across it….

    1. One can still be fond.

      I thought the same thing about the Libyan support for the NRA, but in fairness there’s a difference between a few hundred rifles and a no-fly zone. At the same time, I’m pretty sure he would have been thrilled to get some air support in Luwero, and he certainly didn’t mind an army full of Rwandans, so his argument is not a terribly consistent one.

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