U.S. Push for Political Stability in Africa

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This is a partial transcript of The Big Story With John Gibson, July 8, 2003, that has been edited for clarity. Click here to order the complete transcript.

JOHN GIBSON, HOST: Cynics in the audience will tell you that the president's trip to Africa is all about oil, but African democracy and security also play major roles in U.S. foreign policy.

Gregory Copley is president of the International Strategic Studies Association (search), and that is today's big question: why has Africa become a White House priority? Mr. Copley.

GREGORY COPLEY, INTL STRATEGIC STUDIES ASSN.: Well, there are many reasons, but Africa is becoming very, very important. West Africa, in particular, oil is part of it. There is oil coming on stream now from Mauritania (search) in the north down to Angola (search) in vast proportions. This is going to dramatically transform the opportunities available in West Africa for the development of the economies and the lives of people, and that has to be managed in a stable political situation. That's not going to occur unless there's some peace and unless we can stop the crises in Rwanda (search) and Liberia (search) and so on. Oil is part of it, and the U.S. will get a share of that. But the U.S. also needs to participate in helping the stable development of the region.

GIBSON: You know, Mr. Copley, I'm not arguing the president shouldn't be there or shouldn't be doing this, but on the other hand, this is a region that seems to have had endemic chaos for as long as anybody can remember. And if President Bush goes there and lends his influence and credibility to the idea that maybe it can be stabilized and it's not, how does that help him?

COPLEY: Well, maybe we should look at the Middle East. The U.S. keeps lending its credibility and stature to that and it's still not resolved. In fact, the resolution of the problems in West Africa is a lot easier than that in the Middle East. And, in fact, if the U.S. hadn't been drawn into the Kuwait war in 1990-1991, then the Liberian problem would have been resolved there and then. As it turned out, Nigeria had to go in and resolve that problem and did so very well, until the U.N. took over and messed it all up and led us to this present problem we have today. The U.S. can go into Liberia very, very economically in terms of manpower and commitment and time and show that they are prepared to put more than rhetoric and money into resolving Africa's problem.

They can go in there and actually work with the African peacekeeping forces. They can resolve this Liberian situation in a very, very short space of time with probably no more than 2,200 men and a Marine expeditionary unit. They will demonstrate that they care and are committed to resolving the problem. You solve the Liberian problem, you start to stabilize West Africa, the economic growth begins there very, very dramatically. And it's already started. Countries like the Gambia are getting oil and minerals exports on line. This is going to become the Singapore of West Africa. We're going to see, these are the new lion economies of the world. This is going to dramatically benefit Western Europe and the United States.

GIBSON: All right, Mr. Copley, there's one other thing. As you well know, we had a heck of a time in the run-up to the Iraq war with the French constantly sticking their thumb in our eye. Is this a way for George Bush, still smarting from his French experience to go into those Francophone African countries and stick it to the French again?

COPLEY: I think that might be a by-product. Frankly, the Franco- American competition in Africa has been under way for over a decade in very serious terms. And part of the problem in Cote D'Ivoire (search) next to Liberia, has been the fact that President Gbagbo (search) there wanted to transfer the allegiances of the Cote D'Ivoire to the United States and out of the French zone. As a result, the French were very, very angry and I believe have been strongly behind a lot of the unrest, which has continued there and spilled over into Liberia and interplayed with Liberia and other regional crises.

GIBSON: Greg Copley, the International Strategic Studies Association, Mr. Copley, as always, thanks very much. Good to talk to you.

COPLEY: Thank you, John.

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