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Is the Maghreb the Black Swan of US diplomacy?

by Abdelilah Bouasria & Mohamed Abdouh Kabir

North Africa regained, in the last year, a new visibility in American eyes with the ever-increasing threats of violence by Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) that carried out attacks such as the storming, in 2012, of the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, and the hostage crisis at the Algerian Amenas Gas facility in January 2013. “King Hassan is the leader of a great nation at the crossroads of two continents, lying on NATO’s southern flank at the entrance to the Mediterranean. It has deep ties to Africa, Europe, the Middle East, and the whole Islamic world. We therefore discussed not only bilateral relations but a wide range of regional and global issues.” Thus spoke Ronald Reagan, a US president whom we value on both sides of the political spectrum, on May 19, 1982 about Morocco and its king. Jimmy Carter, the soft side of President Reagan, had held on November 14 1978 the following wisdom: “one of the staunch allies and friends of President Sadat who courageously supported him when he made his historic journey to Jerusalem almost exactly 12 months ago was King Hassan of Morocco. It was not an easy thing for him to do. He was castigated and criticized by some because he expressed his friendship and support for that giant step toward peace.” This mediating role has shamefully been silenced by the same Palestinian voices that King Hassan was advocating in a revisionist Goliath-like intellectual “orientalism” but as one Moroccan proverb goes: “You cannot hide the sun with a sieve.”

More recently, Morocco’s police arrested Ali Anouzla because his online news outlet, Lakome, published a story about a video by AQIM, titled “Morocco: Kingdom of Corruption and Despotism”, which allegedly “incites for violence and terrorism” and criticizes Morocco’s king, without charging the Moroccan journalist, who used to be Morocco’s correspondent of Radio SAWA (our American public diplomacy arm in the MENA region), with any crime. However, North Africa continues to be among the keynote orphans of President Obama’s foreign policy.1 Indeed, US President Barack Obama himself has not set foot in Central Africa, let alone the Maghreb, since his transitory stopovers to Egypt and Ghana, during his first year in office, and to Senegal, Tanzania and South Africa for one week in June 2013, in a pretty unsatisfactory move, for the son of an African born immigrant. Furthermore, for more than eight months after the presidential swearing in, there was still no ambassador to the African Union, nor was there a permanent assistant administrator of USAID for Africa. Obama’s secretary of State John Kerry, whose wife Teresa (a graduate of the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg) was born in Mozambique, did not seize the Carpe Diem offered by the African partners-to-be, failing to see, probably under the spell of Middle East-ensnared K street “activists,” the value of pivoting Washington’s strategic focus away from the security quagmires of the Middle East, with its Syrian and Egyptian hot issues. Moroccan King Mohammed VI is set to pay an official visit to Washington this October, first face-to-face meeting between the two heads of state, to meet President Barack Obama to discuss some issues like the future of diplomacy between the two nations, the Sahara issue, counterterrorism and maybe the Ali Anouzla affair.

Arab Maghreb Union

North Africa can potentially become the hub of a new gold rush for the fiscally challenged, financially drained, United States, once the instant experts and Hill charlatans stop acting, diplomatically, as the blind man who fails to recognize the elephant.2 The African hope lies in its very large middle class, of more than 380 million people, constantly looking to consume new products and services which meet global standards. The continent has vast natural resources such as water and land that are exhausted due to natural or artificial reasons. Hence, only 7% of African water supplied to agriculture comes from a source other than natural rain, and with global warming, water seems to be riding a scarcity slope. Furthermore, competitiveness,  —  due to war, politics or just cronyism  —  between national or regional governmental institutions in charge of implementing numerous international conventions, is behind the depletion of North Africa’s resources. Thus, the way out, as we explain in our last section, for Obama’s team, is to select wisely, from the American North African diaspora, those who will “chip in” to the arduous task of creating a new Maghreb, far from both the autocratic lobbies embedded in “couscous diplomacy” and the frantic neocons blinded by the profits generated by a terrorizing theocracy. Indeed, US Assistant Secretary of State Johnnie Carson judiciously stated earlier this year: “It is my firm belief that Africa represents the next global economic frontier” also remarking that American entrepreneurs lack the knowhow to take full advantage of this bonanza.3

It is true, as the grand Nelson Mandela once said, that “Money won’t create success” as much as “the freedom to make it will” but it is correspondingly accurate, as the acerbic Bernard Shaw confessed, that “lack of money is the root of all evil.” We, as Americans from the unprivileged Africa (Maghreb), do not want to become these “universal receivers” of aid, to be remembered only when states fail or when pirates sail. The “cautious” voices in the White House will be quick here to justify the lack of interest, on the part of US foreign officials, in the Maghreb region, through the typical “if it ain’t broke do not fix it” attitude, or by claiming budgetary poverty, and any attempt, by a Bill Gates of foreign policy, at changing this paradigm will be met with resistance. The rationale of this not-so-entrepreneurial understanding of allocation of resources is that the conventional Merchant of Venice reasoning is the fact that using resources will deplete them, a very archaic and not-so-Darwinian way of looking at sustainability. On the contrary, shrewd executives know the value of investing where others do not want to spend because investing where everyone spends makes both prices and fierce competition go up.  It is perhaps timely here to recall when President George Washington, whose legacy we cherish, counseled his adopted grandson never to “let an indigent person ask, without receiving something if you have the means, always recollecting in what light the widow’s mite was viewed.” We, as North African American (NAMS), are not asking the US foreign policy makers, for more resources, but we are demanding different funds, and we are only asking from our secretary of state to step out of the business as usual reflex. One is tempted to ask, as the Cameroonian intellectual Axelle Kabou rightly did regarding Africa, if the Maghreb, far from playing the role of a race hare that allows others to follow it, does not refuse development. Without believing in the immutability of the Maghreb, or of anything for that matter, one should not “hide the sun with a sieve” as one Moroccan proverb goes. The Maghreb should not be branded to Americans as that land where everything shines where the president and the monarch (whomever that may be) married happily ever after.

Africa today has over one billion people, and in 2050, it will represent a quarter of the global workforce to the extent that some analysts, such as Jean-Michel Severino who speaks, in his book The Age of Africa, of a demographic bonus. Not all those profiteers of the African demographic expansion carry good intentions. Hence, when two French citizens were arrested in September 19, 2012 for pedophilia in the Moroccan city of Marrakech, the local police seized in their “business plan” 526 obscene photos and 30 videos featuring gullible children. Moreover, the French philosopher Luc Ferry denounced on a French TV program (Canal +) the involvement of a French “former minister” in a case of pedophilia in Marrakech. Leaving the Parisian gaze aside, the Spanish TV channel Antena 3 had released, in 2006, a report on sex tourism in Morocco, produced by four reporters disguised as tourists, in which a tour guide tells the vice investors in front of a school in Marrakech: “go and pick any schoolgirl you want.”  This buffet hospitality is a trend in many North African cities, where the guardians rush to serve the wolverines meaty hors d’oeuvres, where a woman shoves the “missionaries” of the North her progeny, minors in many cases, to be “shopped” for few euros. Since the United States took on its shoulder the global mission of fighting drugs and human trafficking, which are avenues used by terrorist groups, it should link that issue to its to-do-list in North Africa.

The specter of terrorism is another problem in the Maghreb. Many US tycoons of the private sector warned against a foreign direct investment in Africa, for its potential reversal through capital flight should Al-Qaeda and other villains imperil the security of multinational installations. Meanwhile the terrorist movement of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) is using the Tuareg crisis in Mali and the volatility in Libya to gain a terrain in Mauritania and Niger, our eyes are going Russian on us with a Syrian outsourcing. With the advent of the Syrian genocide, our fear is that North Africa will again become the weakest link in the US-MENA microwaveable strategic alliance.

Substituting the foreign with the local is no better solution either. In fact, since the end of colonialism, nearly all African countries were led by ambition-free elites who wore the garb of their former colonizers without carrying their visionary headgear. Hence, the colonial system was “nationalized” and many Africans simply became state clerks, studying for free for many years, only to become those eternal unemployed graduates who are bitterly and grudgingly unable to fit into their society’s active mosaic, turning ultimately into a first reserve army of saboteurs in their motherland in search for either a migratory solution or a combative resolution, both of which do not advance America’s interests.

Maghrebi Americans are a new breed in our melting pot. They are Americans of North African descent who abhor being lump-summed as Middle Easterners who love Hummus and Hookah. The demands of these “other” Africans can be in  line with the American official line especially when the Middle Eastern imbroglio might become an omen of, and a Segue into, an unjust “furlough” of the Maghreb, signaling Allan Bloom’s “closing of the American mind.” The time has come, for the Oval Office, to do justice to these African-Americans without privilege, by addressing the root causes of Maghreb undesirability among US Mideast mappers to open up American diplomacy to a voting population that refuses to be cornered into picking between surrendering to some Middle Eastern US lobbies, turned into ethnic tribes, or becoming puppets of their native despots who made them settle for an exodus over the entitlement of their comfortable land. By seizing this window of opportunity, the White House should rest assured that its historical bus will not have its wheels come off.

The American repertoire of North African engagement is significantly rich both in times of peace and war. During World War II, the North African Campaign, from 10 June 1940 to 13 May 1943, included operations fought in the Libyan and Egyptian deserts (the Desert War) and in Morocco and Algeria (Operation Torch) as well as Tunisia (Tunisia Campaign). The U.S. Army initiated, in late 1942, a ground offensive against the European Axis in North Africa (Operation TORCH) where more than a million Americans ventured to fight in lands bordering the Mediterranean Sea. The idea, for the Americans, behind attaining French Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia was to rescind Axis forces in North Africa, and to open the Mediterranean to Allied shipping.

King Mohammed V at the ANFA Conference

The Barbary pirates, who sailed as far as Iceland, attacking ports, seizing captives as slaves forcing most nations to pay tribute (which reached 10 percent of the American national budget) to safeguard their merchant shipping from plundering, encountered the United States Navy. In the early years of the 19th century, US President Thomas Jefferson decided, without informing Congress, to put an end to the payment of tribute to the extent that the 1778 Treaty of Amity and Commerce between France and the United States mentioned explicitly the Barbary nations. The First Barbary War (1801-1805) between the US Navy and the Barbary pirates, sponsored by the Arab rulers of Morocco, Algiers, Tunis, and Tripoli, followed. The U.S. won the war with the Barbary States via military action and diplomacy. After the Second Barbary War (1815), under President James Monroe’s term, the U.S. discontinued paying tribute to the Barbary States. Frank Lambert, a historian of the Barbary conflict, rejects any comparison between piracy wars and today’s terrorism: “The Barbary Wars were primarily about trade, not theology,” adding the following remarks: “Rather than being holy wars, they were an extension of America’s War of Independence.”

Would it be cheaper, one would argue in a timely objection of financially nervy America, for the US to bribe Africa’s terrorists rather than confront them in warfare, in the same way in which European nations signed treaties with the Barbary pirates instead of resorting to force? John Adams thought that it was better to pay the tribute since a battle against the pirates would be “too rugged for our people to bear.” Furthermore, brilliant writer Walter Russell Mead labelled the US-North African history as follows: “When Jefferson was inaugurated and refused further payment of tribute, the flag in front of the U.S. Consulate in Tripoli was hacked down, and hostilities commenced. American intentions have been going awry in the Middle East since then.” Should the US then recall Jefferson or Adams (or Adams Light?) in dealing with Africa’s new pirates? Whatever our decision is, it should entail two variables: It should be fast and it should engage Americans of North African descent who do not happen to be on the miserly payroll of their fatigued autocrats.

Tunisia’s first president, Habib Bourguiba, while taking the photograph of American diplomat Hooker A. Doolittle, who was the Consul-general in Tunis from 1941 to 1943, called him “my friend.” Doolittle had done Bourguiba a favor when he visited the French General Juin to ask him, underscoring Bourguiba’s North manifesto, to drop the proceedings against him. And they were. Hence, it is no surprise that Bourguiba would tell, on each of his visits to Washington, Americans about his “great friend Hooker who saved my life.” In these hard times of tumult and fragility, our American presidents needs to regain their tactful grandeur, and while it is genetically judicious to assume that in every American diplomat lies a “Hooker,” it is reasonable to argue that it takes, on the receiving end, a Bourguiba to call our Hooker a “great friend.” A “Grand Maghreb” approach, based on treating the region collectively rather than on the ground of narrow interests, will be America’s winning strategy that will have to rest on military might, human rights and religious tolerance, anti-poverty initiatives, and stepping out of the box. Maghrebi Americans, the ambassadors that will carry it out, are grounded in the past and in the future and will, thus, look first to serve America’s freedom before pleasing the land that turned their back to them.

The American Idol of the French Maghreb

France has always been meddling in North African affairs, and judging from the poor performance of Maghreb countries since their “independence” one can safely say that North Africa needs “new blood.”  The third generation of North Africans in France still suffers from the heinous racism of the old colonizers, at times due to its refusal to assimilate, and the failure to integrate its French citizens of African descent created a communitarian problem for France. Hence, the Maghrebi diaspora in France ends up always either disgruntled with its inability to “become fully French” or recruited by their homeland apparatchik to benefit from its largesse at the price of forgetting about the republique’s bells of liberty and equality. It is then time to revisit our American laissez-faire attitude in Africa, that we often justify with the untimely candid view that the continent is a “French” territory. It is also opportune to understand that our economic gain from pivoting to Africa takes precedence over any obsolete colonial turf wars, especially when North African youth, more desperate than hopeful, are being recruited in Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria, trained in Mali, armed in Libya and posted to Syria to fight a war that is definitely not of their concern.4 In fact, during his two-day visit (April 3rd-4th 2013) to Morocco, the French President François Hollande discussed the emerging security threats in the Sahel and justified his country’s intervention in Mali as preventing “the creation of a safe haven for terrorists in the heart of Africa.” North Africans are gaining importance in their own country, since Mali appointed a minister of Moroccan origin.Azzedine Layachi, an Algerian Professor of Middle East and African Affairs at St. John’s University in New York, told us that he was not surprised that President Obama did not visit the Maghreb since no US president has ever been there for two main reasons: “the Maghreb is still, unfortunately considered a French preserve and a region of primary interest to Western Europe (just like South and Central America are to the US), and American stakes and interests in the Maghreb are not overwhelmingly important,” adding that “the security issues in the Sahel are being addressed through bilateral contacts by way of the State Department (Hillary Clinton visited the region), high AFRICOM officers, and occasionally, Defense Department personnel.” Americans need to understand that the French do not hold the patent of North African politics and economics, and as Ronald Reagan, one of our most respected interventionist-abroad-anti-regulationist-home US presidents5 uttered: “Our whole system of government is based on “We the people,” but if we the people don’t pay attention to what’s going on, we have no right to bellyache or squawk when things go wrong.” Similarly, if (and when) the French turn North Africa into a political dumpster, WE will have no right to lament over missed opportunity. Mokhtar Ghambou, a Moroccan US citizen, previously an Assistant Professor at Yale university and currently a parliamentarian in Morocco, prefers to blame Morocco rather than France for a failed diplomacy: “Moroccan diplomacy hardly thinks about the US think tanks as partners in decision making when it comes to foreign issues. Nor does that diplomacy believe seriously in the strategic role Moroccans abroad could play in this matter.” Dr. Ghambou prefers Moroccan Americans to be recycled by their native land (and he is right to point to that underused segment of society), but many Moroccans prefer to serve the ideals of freedom of a country that welcomed them from rags and propelled them to riches. Silya Mazigh, a 24 years old Moroccan American student of medicine at Virginia Commonwealth University, holds a different opinion: “Definitely I have in the US more chances in succeeding than I do in my native land. I would probably never go there since the mentality back home is completely different, and I honestly don’t think that I can live there and be happy again.” If gender is an important variable in the diaspora’s calculations, class is another crucial one as Samia Errazzouki, a 23 year-old Moroccan American writer and graduate student, argues: “I’ve been surrounded by Moroccan Americans my whole life and their experiences have all varied since some have found success while others have struggled to the point that they went back to Morocco. I come from a working class family and had to make decisions for my future that rested on my shoulders alone, whether that meant picking up extra jobs or taking out five figure loans for school. That’s always a factor that in some ways hinders my potential opportunities, which are directly tied to my ‘success.’” These experiences are valuable for American decision makers working on the North African dossier in the sense that they invite them to involve NAMS in their House of Cards.

African-US détente between bitter roots and sweet fruits

Out of good faith, some voices in the executive realm might warn our president not to appear too biased towards Africa, for fear that the dreadful charge of nepotism (which we, Americans, abhor, to the benefit of sweeter euphemisms such as “recommendations” or “phone calls” or the more upscale “I owe you one”) comes, God Forbid, to rally behind the presidential flag. However, this argument of “Africa for pure Africans” is tantamount to cautioning Irish or Italian Americans not to care about “old Europe” or insisting that our American Jews never utter a word about their Promised Land, a statement in total contradiction with the ideals for which our forefathers fought a bloody civil war. Other voices, like David Ottaway, a Middle East senior scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center, prefer to stay faithful to the duality Middle East/Africa based on a scale of “burning issues”: “Secretary of State Kerry went to eleven countries in Europe and the Middle East. That was already quite a beginning trip for him.  Most of the immediate problems facing the United States right now are in Middle East countries like Syria and Iran plus the Palestinian issue. The threat of terrorism to North African countries from Mali is the only burning African issue right now, but U.S. policy is still in the making on that issue.”While it is important to fill the US foreign policy agenda with “pressing” Near-Eastern issues, such as the Israeli-Palestinian stalemate, the conundrum of Iran, the Syrian secession or the Egyptian debacle (in which the military pharaohs smeared Hassan El Banna, the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, as being a Moroccan-Jew, with the irony that the “liberal anti-Semitism” brings Morocco at the center of Egypt, “mother of the universe”), one needs not turn into oblivion equally important dossiers, from the US perspective, such as AFRICOM, the Trans-Sahara Counter Terrorism Initiative, Immigration, the war against drugs, the new U.S. Global Development Policy, the Feed the Future program, The African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), endorsed under President Clinton, The U.S. Jobs Through Greater Exports to Africa Act that was sponsored by Republican Congressman Chris Smith, chair of the Africa subcommittee of the House of Representatives and Democratic Congressman Bobby Rush, the Global Health Initiative. Africans remain fond of former President Bill Clinton’s honorable battle against AIDS, pushed by his follower, President George Bush, warmheartedly recalling president Obama’s plan for U.S. Africa engagement, during his 2009 tour to Ghana, where he emphasized good governance and fighting corruption. In the Maghreb, the involvement of the US can be through investments and real aid that should be constantly monitored and carefully evaluated (the missing episode in the Aid film) to ensure a just and equitable distribution. The reality on the ground is very bleak in this regard since US direct investments in the Kingdom of Morocco, a “major non-NATO ally” and clearly the friendliest economic environment for US business in the region, pale in comparison to their French counterparts. In fact, former US Ambassador Stuart Eisenstat was one of the actors behind the U.S.-North Africa Economic Partnership that was launched in the late 1990s when he was Under Secretary of State for Economic, Business and Agricultural Affairs under President Clinton’s supervision.

Even when it comes to immediate security “burning issues” for US foreign policy, like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Morocco has played historically a mediating role, as was the case with the late Moroccan King Hassan II who “lobbied” for his country both dead and alive, when he was Morocco’s fundamental behind-the-scenes engineer of the US-Mideast peace process, as former President Bill Clinton recognized in his funeral. In the early eighties, he hosted an Arab summit in Fez where he succeeded, for the first time, to coax all the leaders of the Arab world to agree on a peace plan that tacitly recognized Israel’s right to exist, calling for the creation of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital. Even from his coffin, Hassan II enabled, by a detour of mockeries that only Arab destiny can play, the Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to greet and chat, during his funeral, with the then Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, under much media scrutiny. This mediating role has to be mitigated according to Dr. Azzedine Layachi since “regarding the Israeli-Palestinian problem, the Maghreb never had a leverage per se. King Hassan II did play an important role as facilitator, but not more than that. Also, if the Oslo Accords and their effects are any indication, the role of Morocco in advancing the cause of a resolution (with the interests of the two protagonists in mind) was very limited.” This explains perhaps the timid allusion to Morocco in Shibley Telhami’s Peace Puzzle. Layachi thinks that the current Moroccan king will not do better since “M6 is in no position to play the role his father played and the matrix of the conflict has changed” in the sense that “status-quo is perceived as the US safest alternative.”

We are not advocating here for  American interventionism in the MENA region, but we simply endorse a better engagement in this “forgotten” land by paying a visit to Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Mauritania, but also by not letting Arab Easterners, with their bread-and-butter issues, totally eclipse the Moors of the West. In fact, Belinda Mohammed, a famous Mauritanian/Algerian activist, gave less importance to a visit of US officials than to actual results: “The problem is not the visit. More important are the links between countries, built in equality, from one part and the other, or the establishment of strong relations. We can visit a country and still not care about it.” On the other hand, Abdeslam Maghraoui, a Moroccan American Associate Professor of the Practice of Political Science in the Duke Islamic Studies Center, emphasized the symbolic significance of an African visit: “I think that Secretary Kerry should have in fact started his tour in Tunisia as a the cradle of the “Arab Spring” to send three strong messages: First, the United States salutes peoples who risk their lives to take on authoritarian rulers and seek freedom and dignity. Second, it stands behind the peoples who took that risk by providing aid and political support in moments of difficulty and hesitation. Third, U.S. interests in the MENA region extend beyond the usual strategic allies with oil or borders with Israel to include countries striving for democratic change.”

It is thus important for the US conscience to start greasing the North African squeaky wheel, through sincere and effective diplomacy and security projects, constructed around a US advocacy that is geared towards economic and political integration of the Maghreb, via a tactful and holistic re-invention/re-engineering of the empty signifier of “Maghreb Arab Union” paralyzed by an enduring conflict, a cold casus belli, between Algeria and Morocco. In fact, Mohamed El Mokhtar, a Mauritanian young activist studying in Virginia Tech, depicts US diplomacy in North Africa as “a run with the hare and a hunt with the hounds” in the sense that the US “needs Algeria for several reasons, in particular its war on terrorism and energy security, but it considers Morocco a more solid traditional ally.” He sees that “a stopover in North Africa by President Obama and/or Secretary Kerry could have sent a strong signal” in terms of “the importance that the US attaches to this geostrategic region, overstretching Africa and the Middle East.” It is not a Nostradamus acrobatic prediction to think that if (and maybe when) Hillary Clinton becomes the first first lady of the US, Morocco will be on her tour agenda, but as North Africans, waiting is not among our most coveted hobbies.

The Maghreb: a new US pivot?

The recent argument regarding a pivoting (rebalancing) of US security policy from the trans-Atlantic to the Asia-Pacific might be recycled in the case of North Africa and the Mediterranean, with a geopolitical reshaping around the Maghreb-US relationship. This shift fits the narrative, in the United States, that we are in an “Asian Century” (due to the economic rise of China) with a peripheral role for “old Europe” whose project of unification is on a weakening slope mainly when US security policy is oriented to containment of China and combating terrorism. The fact that China is expanding in Africa, and there is no fear factor attached to that, may ultimately enlighten the US foreign policy makers that the Asian Pivot might take place in Africa. This recommendation, of a military and a diplomatic shift of US security policy towards North Africa, does not mean asking for a biased bilateral bond with any Maghreb country at the expense of other countries. In fact, Washington should expand its military bases in the Maghreb, conducting joint-military exercises with Morocco, Tunisia, Libya and Algeria, in total respect of the sovereignty of the host countries, and ought to vouch for a just and fair resolution to the conflicts of the region, somewhere between engagement and containment.

Part of the problem with this stagnating business-as-usual approach is the overemphasis on Great Powers at the expense of butterfly actors viewed as “backward” or not important enough for our backyard. Whether we tackle this equation with energy variables, the Arab Spring, China, Israel, or even Iran, we cannot come to the recommendation of Washington’s disengagement in the Maghreb. Left to their own survival, an abandoning posture that we do not accept for our pets or vulnerable citizens, African countries will be forced to come up with ways of allocating their resources to solving this equation in ways that are not necessarily “hale and hearty” for our long-term interests. Maghreb Summits, a “dead man walking” in the present, should be taken urgently to the American ER chamber to be resuscitated into a “decent proposal.” Bradley Bosserman, a Foreign Policy Analyst and Director of the MENA Initiative at the NDN and the New Policy Institute in Washington DC, agrees that “ever since the democratic uprisings in North Africa began, the US has been forced to re-engage, but has been in a largely reactionary posture.” The reason for this languor, according to Bosserman, and the fears of “many members of Congress regarding American involvement in the Maghreb” revolve around “security concerns in the aftermath of the Benghazi attacks that are real” and “apprehension about supporting governments who have yet to fully embrace democratic norms.”

Twisting North African “arms”

The military buildup taking place in North Africa has been the emblem of the region for the last thirty years, being sporadically tamed at moments, like during the Soviet Union collapse and the Algerian civil war when the flux of ammunitions diminished considerably before waxing again. France, Russia and other western powers benefited heftily from this spending bonanza and at times created conditions to stimulate the military spending, like when they “forgave” Algeria for its debt in 2006 (almost 3 billion dollars) in return for military shopping that has impacted negatively North African countries in terms of economic growth and investment in human capital.In Libya, Kaddafi acquired arms hysterically and distributed them, like a saint’s blessings, to the guests of his “great republic.” Indeed, in Kaddafi’s court, as comedian Sasha Cohen lampooned, sotto voce, in The Dictator, one needed just to scream the word “revolution,” pledging to overthrow a friend or a foe, to get a weighty share of weaponry. Libyans of today definitely do not live out of bread alone, as we were reminded by the blowing up of Tripoli’s Abu Slim police station on Thursday, April 4th 2013, by an armed group which tied up seven policemen and stole three rifles. In fact, many other incidents point to security challenges and acts of sabotage that affect the oil and gas pipelines in Libya.6 The New Tunisia cares more about getting its tourist industry back on track than asserting its military supremacy, even if their heart rate rises often when their “neighboring militias” in Libya flaunt their arms. This by no means points to the wind of freedom sailing in Tunisian coasts, as Director Mohamed Hedi Belgueyed and actress Sabrine Klibi came to discover, when they were arrested, on March 10th 2013, on slander charges, one week after they released the YouTube satirical music video Boulicia Kleb (Police are dogs) made by Tunisian rapper Weld El 15.

The United States of North Africa

One of the hurdles facing US involvement in North Africa is regional rivalries manifested in the race between the “brother-enemies” as mentioned by Mauritanian US-based student Mohamed El Mokhtar: “Although Morocco remains, by all means, a reliable traditional American ally, Algeria has, nevertheless, gradually regained a more preeminent place in US decision-making circles in the last 10 years or so. Indeed, security energy policies and US war on terrorism are the driving force behind this new strategic alliance.” Bradley Bosserman shares, in a different context, this view:AFRICOM isn’t moving to the Maghreb, or anywhere else in Africa, any time in the foreseeable future. The Pentagon just concluded a big study earlier this year in which they looked into relocating the headquarters and they have decided to keep it in Stuttgart. DOD believes that remaining collocated with EUROCOM makes the most sense, allowing them to share resources, personnel, support infrastructure, and maximize collaboration. Even if the Pentagon did want to move the headquarters onto the African continent and could find the money to do it, it’s far from clear where it would go. Morocco has come up as a possible location — given the relatively stable and cooperative government along with its strategic location. However, disagreements regarding the ongoing conflict in Western Sahara and Morocco’s recent decision to cancel bilateral military exercises cast significant doubt on a feasibility of any potential AFRICOM basing scheme there (our emphasis).

Dr. Zidane Zeraoui, professor and Dean of the research chair of “Regionalization and International cooperation” at the Technological University of Monterrey in Mexico, points to the necessity of union for the Maghreb states: “It is very difficult for the Maghreb is to first resolve its internal conflicts like the Western Sahara, and to negotiate with the European Union for a better business deal. I do not think that the interest of the Maghreb is to turn to the U.S. when it has a huge market across the Mediterranean. However, if these countries negotiate as a bloc, they could have better conditions opposed to the EU.”

The purpose of this article is to illuminate a part of Africa that has been, for quite some time now, darkened first by Middle Easterners and then by their dependent American experts who prefer, perhaps understandably, to dance only when, and where, the drum beats. Our rationale is that if North Africa continues to be “orientalized,” the African pot that we are all idly watching—because the cooking is too small for us to care—might be boiling under our feet only to awaken us, once too late, to an unpleasant Volcanic Safari.

“Obama-care” and Shaolin diplomacy

A national security “burning issue” for the US in Africa, to which many policy experts seem to be oblivious, is the encroaching presence of its rivals, Russia and China. China, now Africa’s third largest business partner, saw in this promising continent a presence of opportunities rather than a lack of urgent security glitches. With no colonial file or litmus test, China is cleared to invest in a land that has been largely ignored by Western companies in order to have below-market price direct access to natural resources. In fact, the flamboyant advent of China in Africa requires us to re-evaluate our Africa policy, loosening the grip on our unilateral “friends with benefits” methodology. It is our duty, as Americans, not to leave the playing field empty so that other players come along and make it home. It is our obligation, as well, not to let Africa decompose, under pressure, into an oblivious demise, like the lack of decorum with which we “smoked” our U.N. Ambassador, our “iron lady,” Susan Rice, whom we failed but to discard, despite her reputable solid African experience. If the American foreign policy psyche continues to be haunted, when it comes to African Affairs, by what we call the Susan Rice Syndrome, we might end up giving primacy to partisan politics over national interest, and then we should not be surprised if our most senior men/women of Africa utter: “Africans are our next-door neighbors, and you can actually see Africa from my window in Maine.” If the White House leaves African matters in the hands of home-grown advisers who think “humbly” that watching Sex and the City 2 is a good indicator for one’s expertise in the MENA region, or in those of Americans of North African origin, who are still blindly allegiant to the autocrats back home that keep their dice rolling, soon it will wake up to a new armed conflict in the Sahara region, and only then will our “Hummus experts” classify it as a burning issue. The figures are good witnesses to that: in April 2007, Algiers and Moscow were negotiating to acquire military arsenal of a magnitude of 7 billion dollars, which was considered by some strategy experts as the biggest military deal that post-soviet Russia entered. Too bad for our military salesmen! Political correctness put aside, neither the US Government nor the African governments are “prepared” to fully fathom the Chinese expansion in Africa.

The Shaolin diplomacy in Africa is not a one way ticket to paradise, since the Chinese presence also negatively alters the socio-economic fabric of Africa, from the destruction and displacement of local producers, due to Chinese dumping of low standard goods, to the idling of local labor because of the presence of Chinese cheaply competitive labor. After all, corporate responsibility and managerial ethics might be lost in the Chinese translation.

If France is not as keen as the United States in stabilizing Africa, for reasons that are way above the pay range of this article’s writers, the US and China, on the contrary, need a stable Africa and hence should work together to achieve that goal, not being afraid, as superpowers, to decenter a daunting phantom that has been sadly raping “these shackled Africans.” Our success in this “deconstruction” depends on the creativity of the minds that craft our foreign policy, and we want to be clairvoyant enough (and first) to see in Africa the potential of becoming the center of a new geopolitical border. In other words, instead of saying: “resources should be allocated wisely, and Africa is not that important,” our “experts” should go unconventional and ask how to benefit from the African miracle that they will make happen.
North Africa needs her “Big Brother”.

The framework of the Ghana speech remains the contour of the Obama administration’s engagement with Africa. In fact, the latter kept Bush’s Africa foreign policy intact, albeit minor shuffles here and there, and one might even argue that “President Hussein Obama” was very adamant about being the least African president of the last living US presidents. Didn’t he “summon”, in March 2013, at the White House, President Ernest Bai Koroma of Sierra Leone, President Macky Sall of Senegal, President Joyce Banda of Malawi, and Prime Minister José Maria Pereira Neves of Cape Verde, for an exceptional meeting? The President met with “these four” because “they exemplify the progress that we’re seeing in Africa” in the sense that “all of them have had to deal with some extraordinary challenges.” Is the White House sending African despots a strong signal that accountability and good governance are prerequisites to earn our “golden” alliance? The only common denominator between countries like Liberia, Senegal, Malawi, and Cape Verde, is the scoreboard of the Millennium Challenge Corporation, which landed them in the White House as representatives of the African continent. The Maghreb is nowhere to be found in the White House meeting, despite the fact that Morocco and Tunisia are “well performing” actors according to the Millennium classification.

We do not urge a “hands-off” policy of go-it-alone Africans, simply because while the new Carthaginians are gracefully dancing their Ubuntu to the beats of drums, they need mature cheerleaders to accompany the beat, and a US “non-doctrine” would not make the clapping tune any stouter. Let us remember how American leadership was crucial in resolving a mounting tension between Morocco and Spain over the Perejil Island in 2002. It is not a matter of “Africa, my continent, right or wrong” but rather it is a choice between three options: real independence with protectionism at its extreme, autonomy under US guidance, or complete dependence to a superpower. A middle solution seems more African to us, but it is up to Africans themselves to gamble, freely and democratically, their chance. And timing is of essence, as the late famous African writer, Chinua Achebe, whispered: “People say that if you find water rising up to your ankle, that’s the time to do something about it, not when it’s around your neck.” The reality on the North African ground is almost around our necks, and we are the only ones to blame if water runs loose.
Shaking hands with the enemy.

There are other “native” voices that reject the concept of a US official visit to North Africa, not because it is not a “burning issue,” as some of their American or Mashriqi experts often argue, but because the visit will be used as a seal of endorsement by the corrupt regimes in place. In fact, the Algerian journalist Ziad Salah thinks that US officials should not visit the region in general, and Algeria in particular, “because such a visit could be interpreted as giving international legitimacy to the current head of state, especially in a pre-election period” adding: “we do not want the current U.S. government to fall into this trap, mainly because the succession of Bouteflika is open and not yet settled.” On the same page, Abdelhak Serhane, a respected Moroccan writer, exiled in Canada, wrote a beautiful and daring letter to the French president Francois Hollande, asking him not to visit Morocco: “Do not give in to the veneration of luxury (offered by Morocco) and do not spend your holidays and year-end celebrations in Marrakech” adding: “Do not accept any generous gifts from our leaders, for if you do so, you would have compromised yourself with a regime that knows how to deal with the jokers of all edges, right and left.” Describing Moroccan leaders as “experts in the art of polishing the window,” Dr. Serhane stressed how these frontrunners “do not speak to foreigners except in the language of gifts, failing to show such generosity to their people” warning the French President: “Every penny that you agree to take from our leaders symbolizes taking the sweat, suffering and blood of Moroccans.” (Our translation)7

The boycott argument, we argue, has some validity, and can range from cutting aid to imposing sanctions, hopefully according to the country’s performance on the goodness index and not according to its friend or foe predisposition, but is based on the ontological premise that we, natives, control our matters, when in fact foreign powers continue to lead gracefully the ball in the most nationalistic of our facades. A simple example is the fact that the duty-free section in Morocco’s Casablanca airport does not accept Moroccan currency, an oddity that taints the over-nationalistic rhetoric of some zealots. Furthermore, the boycott argument would have to attach an interpretive framework to the visits, by North African autocrats, to the US.

The Black Swan of US Foreign Policy

Africa is in need of bridging its gap with the US, not as slothful fishermen begging for aid, but rather as semi-equal (since equality is currently a farfetched dream) political and economic partners, like Turkey or Latin America. In fact, President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry succeeded in getting the prime ministers of Turkey and Israel to talk to each other, and to resume diplomatic relations, after the flotilla incident8, and consequently US diplomacy regained its “three point shooting” skill by convincing, pragmatically, two major players in the Middle East, to put aside their differences. In the ever shifting grounds of the Middle East, the US needs to regain its Red Bull to revive strategic partnerships with its African counterparts, who are still, perhaps because of their obsession with immediate survival, dependently beholden to their European, and mainly French, colonial “masters,” for whom they lay bare their goodies, in the exchange of obsolete peanuts, that they do not even get to fully enjoy, making of this former colonizer, to quote, or misquote, the wise Mark Twain, “another Civilized Power, with its banner of peace in one hand and its loot basket and its butcher knife in the other.”9As Americans, it is our duty to pass our allegiance to the screener of the US constitution, not throwing it to mercenaries who, while providing diplomatic lip service, fund and arm gangs whose extremist heinous ideologies will come to haunt us in the future. Our responsibility is not to leave North Africa to the same imperialist machine that made of it what it is today, an underdeveloped agonizing nation with “diet revolutions.” What America can really do for us, Maghrebi Americans, is helping us to bridge our two homes, a kind of “Americophony” similar to Francophone institutions, minus the colonial undertone, that the famous Algerian Kateb Yacine considered “a neocolonial political machine, which only perpetuates our alienation, but the usage of French language does not mean that one is an agent of a foreign power.”10 In the Africa of today, an American disengagement would mean fragile tribal micro-states that depend completely on one empire or another. A wise, but tough and probably not very nationalistic, lesson for America in the Maghreb is to understand that the United States of Africa is a Utopia that Africans have neither the time nor the vision to dream about. Africans should not have to pick between either colonization or decolonization, since an isthmus between the two, a shady grey area, will just do fine.  If one re-reads Mark Twain, with North Africa in mind, the conclusions made back then, to the Adam family, one could easily picture Mark going African:

She was rotten to the heart. Lust of conquest had long ago done its work; trampling upon the helpless abroad had taught her, by a natural process, to endure with apathy the like at home; multitudes who had applauded the crushing of other people’s liberties, lived to suffer for their mistake in their own persons. The government was irrevocably in the hands of the prodigiously rich and their hangers-on; the suffrage has become a mere machine, which they used as they chose. There was no principle but commercialism, no patriotism but of the pocket.11

The Maghreb is what it is because the Americans are not what they should be. Even the Malian Prime Minister Cheikh Modibo Diarra, who asked in a visit to Morocco on 6 July 2012, “Morocco, the king, the government and the people, to use the faith that the international community has in them to help Mali regain its sovereignty by all possible means,” confessed that the situation in the Sahel affects not only Mali but the whole of Africa.12 No wonder then why a Mali appointed a minister of Moroccan origin. The sub-region is in disarray, but chaos theory and fuzzy logic teach us to tone down our fear of the unstructured. The term “Black Swan” comes from the old presumption that “all swans must be white” simply because that is how it was often reported. The black swan became a reference, in philosophy, of the improbable, and the limit of the argument “all swans are white” comes from the restrictions of the observer’s experience. In his book, Black Swan, the famous Mathematician and Philosopher Nassim Taleb showed boldly how life events depend on their observer since what may be a surprise for a turkey is not the case for its butcher, hence the goal should be to “avoid being the turkey” by detecting zones of vulnerability to turn “the Black Swans white.”13

The renowned French Algerian philosopher Jacques Derrida, a “little black and very Arab Jew” (his words), wrote, in his early days, to a friend about his incubating deconstructive posture: “I’m no good for anything, except taking the world apart and putting it together again.” This was a prelude to a wisdom, that he will unravel, about how every structure (and US foreign policy is one) is sustained through acts of exclusion, with the barred always lurking beneath the apparent tides. “American policymakers,” maintains Bosserman, “should pivot away from viewing the region through exclusively a military and counter-terror lens, instead framing the opportunities in terms of shared prosperity, building on the gains on the “Arab Spring” and using economic statecraft as a the leading edge of a renewed engagement strategy.”

The US cannot fail in this Impossible Mission, because our face, and word (kalima), are at stake here as Peter W. Rodman, who was United States Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs, wrote in the Middle East Quarterly in 1996: “Perhaps Algiers will again ignore American advice, as it did last year, when its presidential election succeeded despite all the hand-wringing in Washington. The saving grace of American policy may once again lie in its ineffectuality.” Similarly, the Mauritanian student Mohamed El Mokhtar eloquently praises a united Maghreb: “Just like the EU would have preferred a more integrated market, on its southern Mediterranean flank, to trade with, the US would also have wanted a more united group of partners in the Maghreb region to conduct business with.” However, for El Mokhtar to secure this alliance, some bottlenecks need to be addressed: “it is more the continuous animosity between the two major states (Morocco and Algeria) of the Maghreb that complicates US policy than a real lack of will from the US part, and to further complicate matters for the US, there is another additional, albeit minor, hurdle in the way of strengthening ties with the Maghreb as a united strategic allied block.14 The current cold relationships between Morocco and Mauritania (another US ally very much needed now in meeting security challenges in the Sahel) could not have come at a worse time for the US.” The failure of the Maghreb in creating a common market has cost the region dearly in transport, energy, agribusiness and finance. Trade between North African countries is only 1.3% of their foreign exchange, which is the lowest regional rate in the world. The Maghreb showed little enthusiasm for the Barcelona Process and even less so with its inheritor, the Union for the Mediterranean. Can it show more zest with a Washington process?

Business as Usual

Realistic (or pessimistic) voices within the State Department are eager to continue “business as usual”, by saying, like Dr. Azzedine Layachi, that “the Maghreb has never played an important role in Middle East affairs and it is not likely to start doing that in the near future” and that the region “has its own issues and itself needs “facilitators” to help resolve the Sahara stalemate and bring the regional states together for a serious discussion on regional integration and regional security.” Optimist voices should not ask what our country can do for Africa, but rather what Americans of North African origin, a “black swan” that needs to be recognized and used by the Oval Office, can do for America. If we are to renew our paradigm of foreign policy, we cannot let the argument of “things were not done this way” push us into a prefabricated posture, a canned diplomacy that blinds our eyes to the numerous openings that a lateral innovative foreign policy offers. If Obama does not visit the Maghreb ,keeping the US virginity in this territory, there will be a “first time,” and if/when Hillary Clinton successfully runs, she will not only be the first female president of the US, but also the first US president in office that visits North Africa. Eventually, the Black Swan’s curse will be lifted, probably to the disappointment of many Eastern Arabists lest they ride the new wave and flip-flop towards the North.The Maghreb is “second-best” because it represents, in part, a failure of diplomacy, a closing of the American diplomatic mind, in the sense that the Maghreb is convicted of Middle Eastern belonging without being guilty of it. It is also “second-best” because it represents deviations from certain classical values that the US holds dear in the field of external affairs: Economic interests, security, Iran, Israel, and European legacy. Pivots, when they happen, can all too often reflect patterns of ethnic and economic lobbies, favoritism, or utter randomness. Dr. Zeraoui makes  this point:

The Maghreb has never had the same strategic importance for the United States as the Middle East did for the following reasons: The Middle East has two-thirds of the world’s oil reserves; during the Cold War the Soviet Union forced, through its proximity, the U.S. to compete in the Middle East; the presence of Israel, the main U.S. ally, imposed greater attention to Middle-Eastern events; the presence of Iran and its foreign policy activism as well as its support for radical groups, like Hezbollah and Hamas, and its search for hegemony in the Middle East, imply greater American presence like in the Bush presidency. Finally, the Maghreb is viewed more as an area of interest of Europe than of the US, as demonstrated in the Libyan war, where France and Britain were more active than the US. In contrast, in the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan, it was the United States that took the initiative. (our emphasis)

All the above-cited factors coincide in the case of North Africa, if a Bill Gates or Donald Trump can see their potential. First, gas and oil abound in Algeria and Libya, which has the largest oil reserves in Africa. There are more than eleven oil companies active in the Libyan upstream sector, including six from Asia and two from Europe, but the American private sector needs to tap into the oil business of Libya, and maybe it is wise to involve Maghrebi Americans in the process, without legally discriminating against them through the clearance process. According to the 2011 BP Statistical Energy Survey, Algeria had, in 2010, 0.88% of oil reserves. The Algerian oil and gas sector is still unexplored since all foreign operators must work in partnership with Sonatrach, Algeria’s public company ranked First in Africa. Second, the cold war mentality should not govern anymore our geostrategic positioning since the Soviet Union was replaced by China and terrorism, and both are, quite frankly, Africa-friendly. Third, Israel and its interests can better be served by a US engagement in the Maghreb. In fact, Dr. Bruce Maddy-Weitzman, a Marcia Israel Senior Fellow in Maghreb Studies at the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies in Tel Aviv University, extrapolates the converging potential of Israeli-Maghreb interests: “The renewal of Islamist violence in Algeria under the rebranded “al-Qaida of the Islamic Maghreb” further deepens the overlapping of Algerian, Western and Israeli interests in the security field and the possibilities for cooperation.”15 Fourth, the US could learn from Iran’s foreign policy in Africa where “geography was no longer seen as a defining factor underpinning the establishment of relations with other countries and regions.”16 Finally, the US had an ambiguous relationship with colonial powers in Africa. During that period, the US tussled with its own national priorities and U.S. officials followed a “middle path” between “premature independence” and “old-style colonialism.” As the cold war evolved, those arguing that national security interests demanded backing of European allies held the upper hand over those who claimed that ideological impulses promoting African independence were morally right and strategically winning to create a stronger alliance of free people against communism. For those voices, on American soil, raising the issue of affirmative action and reparations for slaves let it be known that the “other Africa” had also its share in the tragedy, and it would be unfair for Maghrebi Americans to become Africans without privilege.

When two Moroccans, Hamed and Guylance, were abducted from the port of Mogador in the year 1736 by a Portuguese Cruiser, they did not know they would end in a plantation by the name of Lieddewen, about one hundred and fifty miles from Charles Town in South Carolina, with black slaves for almost fifteen years. Furthermore, there was even a royal prince of Morocco who was enslaved in America in the 1770s and captured by pirates in Tangier to end up sold in Georgia. Unwitting in English, the prince lived and worked for years as a slave. His name was Abdul Rahman, and he lived in Savannah, Georgia before he was sold to John Western in Bolivar, Tennessee. The latter treated him kindly and permitted the governess of his children to teach him, and even married him to a mulatto girl with whom he had eight children. Years later, he wrote a letter to the emperor of Morocco asking him to secure his release, which the emperor did. John Quincy Adams, the US president, wrote in his memoirs in May 1828: “Abdul Rahman is a Moor, otherwise called Prince of Ibrahim, who has been, forty years, a slave in this country. He wrote two or three years since to the Emperor of Morocco, in Arabic, in consequence of which the Emperor expressed a wish to our Consul that he might be emancipated and sent home. His owner, residing at Natchez, Miss., offered to emancipate him on condition that he should be sent home by the United States, which we accordingly determined to do. He has now come on from Natchez with his wife and met Mr. Clay at Baltimore.”17

President George Washington once said when he seized command of the army in 1775: “Let no one go hungry away. If any of this kind of people should be in want of corn, supply their necessities, provided it does not encourage them in idleness.” So far, Africa (not so much its North) has been receiving more than our “corny” help, and it has not become less idle ever since. The reason for this “spring break” is that results of investments in human capital like education, science, and research and development, which have the potential of operating a breakthrough in society, are reaped in the medium or long term, and this “delay” is of very little interest to foreign and local investors and of bureaucracies. Those who monopolize the discourse about Africa and line up statistics and lobbying contortions to sell North Africa as the next “dragon” contradict the rhetoric of many historians, sociologists and political scientists, who know that the African bubble is no more than a classic scenario, like when the integrated coasts of Senegal and Gambia, in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, joined global trade and experienced a strong growth only to fall into a decaying state shortly after. Mis-branding Africa, by fooling the merchants or the fundraisers that are interested in giving the continent a boost, is nothing more than a set of tricksters showing only the radiant face, on the basis of three or four socio-economic indicators, like youth, consumer loans or demographic expansion. The latter could be a leverage of growth, but could also, under bad management where market predators and thugs become the mainstream backbone of the economy, produce competition for resources, leading to wars.

In order to facilitate strategic alliances, strengthen local military capabilities and benefit from the emerging market opportunities offered by North Africa, the United States needs to find an accountable, perceptive and transparent partner, both homegrown and offshored. In our view, Christian, Muslim, and Jewish Maghrebi Americans, who are cleared by our President to make sure that they are neither pimping moles on the alluring payroll of some resilient autocrats nor agents provocateurs who are staffers of some global adversaries, seem to be well qualified to handle this convoluted mission. In contrast with India or China, North Africa makes little use of the talents within its relatively large diaspora in the United States. These “white Africans” have an untapped potential that is not used by the land of the free, the home of the brave. They could be, instead of remittance bagmen, a buffer zone when the US is going through “rough times” with one of these autocratic regimes that speak to it in a tongue that only these unprivileged African Americans can decipher.

If we are ready to listen to our Ben Bernankes in saving our domestic institutions that are “too big to fail,” we should be ready to ignore the conventional voices that convince us of the undesirability of North Africa for our accountants on the premise that they “are too small to matter.” We should, rather, listen to our inner voice that keeps telling us that size does not matter. North Africa might currently be, in the eyes of US foreign policy craftsmen, second best after the Middle East (should it?) but let us hope that it does not remain the second worst.18 The US foreign policy has to clean up its chores, and as Anna Eleanor Roosevelt, the longest serving First Lady of the United States during Franklin D. Roosevelt’s four terms in office nicknamed the “First Lady of the World” by President Harry S. Truman, wisely acknowledged: “There are practical little things in housekeeping which no man really understands.” North Africa is, indeed, that little thing in the American house, and we have expressed, in this article, certainly not in the skin of a lobbyist, only a certain way of keeping that line.End.



1. Mohammed Abdouh Kabir and Abdelilah Bouasria, “North Africa, the Obama administration’s policy orphan?” Haaretz, 18 March 2013

5. Ronald Reagan used heavy interventionism abroad, covertly, not for preemptive action but more for regime change without boots on the ground. Yet, domestically, he was harshly against big government.

9. Mark Twain, Collected Tales, Sketches, Speeches, & Essays 1891-1910 (New York: The Library of America, 1992), p.13.

11. The Devil’s Race-Track: Mark Twain’s Great Dark Writings, Edited by John Tuckey, University of California Press: 1966

13. The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable, Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Random House Trade Paperbacks, Second edition (May 11, 2010)

14. Voices that tried to transcend the Moroccan Algerian “enmity” were often silenced. Hence, when the Moroccan socialist politician Mehdi Ben Barka called upon Moroccan soldiers to refuse to fight against Algeria in the 1963 Sand War, he was sentenced to death in absentia, for conspiracy and attempt to kill the king.

16. Mahjoub Zweiri, “Iran and North Africa: Between honeymoon and confrontation”, IPRIS Maghreb Review, April 2010

18. See Dolly Parton’s country song:

I know you’ve tried to love me and I’d hope you would in time
I know that when you’re holding me it’s her that’s on your mind
Now I know you can’t get over her but I love you nonless
But it makes no difference what I’d do I’m only second best
Only second best…
I love you even though I know I’m only second best

American Diplomacy is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to American Diplomacy.

Abdelilah Bouasria
Abdelilah Bouasria

Dr. Abdelilah Bouasria is an adjunct lecturer of Middle East politics at American University in Washington DC and the author of Master and Disciple (Author house: 2007) and Mamlakat al Qaht (Nadacom: 2006) and several other articles. He received his PhD in political science from American University in Washington DC and his Masters in international relations from Sussex University in the UK, and his from McGill University in Canada. He speaks six languages and is working on a book on Sufism in Morocco.

Mohamed Abdouh Kabir
Mohamed Abdouh Kabir

Mohamed Abdouh Kabir is a published foreign policy expert who received his Masters in national security from the Elliott School at George Washington University in Washington DC.


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