In their continued quest to give everyone a raging stress-ulcer, the Trump transition team has already demanded the names of everyone who worked on climate change programs under President Obama as well as “gender-related” programs the State Department implemented, mostly under Hillary Clinton’s leadership, to aid women around the world. Now their list of Africa-related questions is freaking everyone out yet again, because it suggests the Trump administration wants to cut back on humanitarian efforts there.
It’s becoming obvious that the Trump administration is going to be defined by a mixture of global isolationism and an aggressive slashing of the social safety net into a zillion tiny ribbons. The New York Times reports that the “Africa-related questions” sent by Trump’s team to the State Department are predictably both terrifying and uniquely focused on squeezing more money from the continent:
A four-page list of Africa-related questions from the transition staff has been making the rounds at the State Department and Pentagon, alarming longtime Africa specialists who say the framing and the tone of the questions suggest an American retreat from development and humanitarian goals, while at the same time trying to push forward business opportunities across the continent.
“How does U.S. business compete with other nations in Africa? Are we losing out to the Chinese?” asks one of the first questions in the unclassified document provided to The New York Times.
That is quickly followed with queries about humanitarian assistance money. “With so much corruption in Africa, how much of our funding is stolen? Why should we spend these funds on Africa when we are suffering here in the U.S.?”
The questions, according to experts the Times spoke to, seem to reflect a belief that the U.S. is squandering tons of money on foreign aid that would be better spent here at home. But foreign aid constitutes less than one percent of the federal budget, most of it on infrastructure development and funding to fight HIV/AIDS. It’s a good thing. It’s a tiny fraction of what we spend on, say, defense (54 percent of the federal budget).
The questions from the Trump team also sound like they’re not sure what we’re doing over there trying to fight terrorism, per the newspaper:
On terrorism, the document asks why the United States is even bothering to fight the Boko Haram insurgency in Nigeria, why all of the schoolgirls kidnapped by the group have not been rescued and whether Al Qaeda operatives from Africa are living in the United States. And it questions the effectiveness of one of the more significant counterterrorism efforts on the continent.
“We’ve been fighting al-Shabaab for a decade, why haven’t we won?” poses one question, referring to the terrorist group based in Somalia that was behind the Westgate mall attacks in Kenya in 2013.
Most of Donald Trump’s tweets about Africa—the best window we have into his funhouse of a mind—indicate that he thinks it is, its entirety, a dangerous and scary place ridden with crime and Ebola that the U.S. should leave to rot.
Like so many other things, it’s not a surprising attitude coming from a sheltered billionaire daddy’s boy from Queens, but it’s dangerous and cruelly indifferent coming from our next president.