Monday, March 5, 2012

Keeping TaBs on Southern Africa

I've been reading up on a few sub-Saharan Africa conflicts of the last 50 years.  It's easy to get lost in the alphabet soup of rebel groups.  Most recently I've been working to remember which is which between the MPLA, FNLA and, UNITA (I'll work on the actual acronyms next) in Angola.  For now I treat them as thoughts rather than actual words, much the same way as when I read, or at least tried to read Ringworld (or pretty much anything Larry Niven wrote).  Reading about the relationship between the US and South Africa in the 70's and 80's has been a fascinating, if not disappointing experience.

Seemingly unrelated to the history of South Africa and its neighbors, the unexpected delight of a TaB cola sent me on a separate, web-hunt.   I was pleased to discover that not only was it a Coca-Cola product, but it was a sugar and calorie free pop that tastes much better than Diet Coke, or as they call it elsewhere, Coke Lite.  The tie-in to this discussion is the fact that TaB is only available in a few countries, including the Southern African Customs Union countries, which includes many of the same players as my sub-Saharan Africa conflict reading, namely South Africa and what is now Namibia. 
The real "lesson" out of this, however, is the fact that there is a Southern African Customs Union. Now, despite the SACU's success in acquiring a tasty no-calorie pop, they have not realized a successful long-term trade agreement with the US.  Jumping to yet one more seemingly unrelated lily-pad, thinking of relations between South Africa and the US made me think of one of the hot button issues of today - Syria.  Specifically an article in  If you've been following the situation at all, you've probably been frustrated if not perplexed by the inaction of Russia and China.  Bringing South Africa back in to the discussion, you absolutely must read this article.

One of the interesting lines in the article refers to the foreign policy of developing democractic countries as having "a strong preference for softer tools of international intervention: what they call constructive engagement".  To bring this full circle, "constructive engagement" is the exact same term used by the Reagan Administration over its relationship with South Africa during the end of Apartheid.  Of course, the Reagan Administrations use of the term "constructive" doesn't seem to mean the same thing.

I doubt I'll ever write a post that makes so many jumps between unrelated topics, but sometimes, no matter how illogical the progression, it's worth it to get everything out.

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