President Clinton’s liberal cosmopolitan narrative revolved around global citizenship, interdependence, free trade, and liberal democratic values. Clinton saw Africa as part of a shrinking and increasingly interconnected world in which, as Immanuel Kant noted, whatever happened anywhere is felt everywhere (Reiss, 2000, 134). In the words of Bill Clinton, “we share a common future on this planet of ours, which is getting smaller and smaller and smaller” (Edwards and Valenzano III, 2007, 313). Clinton saw Africa as part of a closely connected world, with the continent’s destiny closely tied to the U.S.’s future. U.S. policymakers could not afford to ignore Africa, not just because of what Richard Falk calls the “ethos of responsibility and solidarity,” which suggests that Americans have a moral commitment to Africans, but also because there are a number of “African bads” that could be exported to the U.S. (Falk, 1996, 491). The African “bads” outlined by Clinton in various speeches to Africans included poverty, malnutrition, disease, illiteracy, unemployment, terrible conflicts, proliferation of weapons, drug trafficking, and environmental degradation (Clinton, 1998f, 496; 1998d, 434). Of these, Clinton’s narrative suggested that Africa would export diseases, drugs, weapons, conflicts and illiteracy to the U.S. if U.S. policymakers continued to ignore the continent. The Clinton administration thought that constructing Africa as a threat to U.S. national security rather than as an opportunity for the U.S. would encourage a skeptical and disinterested Congress, the policy establishment in Washington, and key members of the Republican Party to support funding requests for Africa-related initiatives. The narrative of Africa as a threat to the U.S.’s long-term interests was the underlying theme of press releases and speeches prior to and during Clinton’s six-country tour of Africa in March 1998.
In the Clintonian cosmopolitan world, human beings inhabit a moral community with equal rights and values that go beyond the “parochial world of the sovereign state” (Linklater, 1998). This worldview allowed Clinton, in his first actual engagement with Africa in 1993, to transform the Bush administration’s intervention in Somalia into a broader policy of nation-building. This cosmopolitan-inspired intervention would backfire and force the Clinton administration to review the entire operation six months later, in October 1993, when eighteen Marines were killed and their bodies dragged through the streets of Mogadishu. The reversal of the policy not-withstanding, President Clinton would have found it difficult—given that he assumed office clearly aware that the Washington establishment had always considered U.S.-Africa relations peripheral foreign policy concerns—to justify the shift away from the half-hearted intervention ordered by his predecessor toward the more ambitious nation-building project without looking at the Somali issue through a cosmopolitan lens.
The simultaneous bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania on August 7, 1998, in which an estimated 257 people were killed and about 4 thousand wounded, allowed Clinton to emphasize the second and third elements of his liberal cosmopolitan orientation. In his first official broadcast to Americans on the issue, he used a cosmopolitan argument, claiming that “these acts of terrorist violence are inhumane”; and he dispatched the U.S. military to East Africa to bring the culprits to justice. In the words of Elliot and Cheeseman (2002), “Cosmopolitan militaries—or what Mary Kaldor calls cosmopolitan troops—are now expected to risk their lives not just, or even, for their co-nationals but for humanity as a whole.” As part of the effort to make cosmopolitan military services available to Africans, President Clinton’s first response to the bombings was to order both the Kenyan and the Tanzanian governments to refrain from removing any metal from the bombing sites; he followed up by sending teams of investigators from the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to the capitals of both states. As then foreign minister of Tanzania, Jakaye Kikwete, told the BBC World Service program, Witness, “President Clinton immediately telephoned me after the bombings to say that he was trying to reach President Mkapa to tell him that he is sending the FBI people to help in the investigation. Their humble request was that [we should] let nobody remove any of the metal objects around the place . . . [and] some of the metal pieces left on the ground helped in the investigation.”3
Like most cosmopolitans who subscribe to the notion that military intervention can be a useful tool for achieving global human good, President Clinton did not hesitate to use cosmopolitan logic to justify his ordering of cruise missile attacks on the Al Shifa pharmaceutical plant in Sudan. He drew on Kant’s argument that if a certain use to which freedom is put is itself a hindrance to freedom in accordance with universal law, any coercion which is used against it will be a hindrance to the hindrance of freedom, and will thus be consonant with freedom in accordance with universal laws—that is, it will be right.” Clinton justified the bombing of the factory by linking it to the production of elements for chemical weapons for al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden, the man accused of masterminding both attacks (Reiss, 2006, 134; Cloud, 2006).
In typical cosmopolitan style, on October 15, 1999 the Clinton administration pushed the Security Council to adopt Resolution 1267, which imposed sanctions such as freezing of assets, an arms embargo, and a travel ban on the Taliban for supporting the work of al-Qaeda (Nesi, 2006).4 African governments were then pressured to enact domestic legislation to give effect to Resolution 1267 (Plessis, 2007). The actions of the Clinton administration evidence cosmopolitan ideals inasmuch as cosmopolitans expect states to use international law, especially international humanitarian and human rights laws, laws of warfare and other international instruments such as sanctions, to make possible intervention “in the internal affairs of each state in order to protect certain basic rights” anywhere in the world (Archibugi, 1995, 430).
Contemporary cosmopolitans have embedded democracy promotion in their cosmopolitan agendas (Franceschet, 2000). Cosmopolitans prefer democracy above all other systems of government and strive to promote it because they believe that democracy promotes internal stability, gives human rights to everyone everywhere in the world, encourages foreign investment, and gives a greater chance of co-existing peacefully to states that adopt it. With these ideas in mind, President Clinton claimed he went to Africa for the first time to “nurture democracy, knowing it is never perfect or complete” (1998a: 420). He argued that adoption of the democratic form of governance across the African continent will give Africans “greater access to [American] markets” and promote “private investment.” Offering to build a new U.S.-Africa partnership with a strong democratic foundation, President Clinton took his cue from Kwame Nkrumah’s argument that “the habit of democracy must be to encircle the Earth. Let us together resolve to complete the circle of democracy” (1998a, 421).”Now is the time, Clinton proclaimed, to complete the circle of history to help Africa fulfill its promise not only as a land of rich beauty, but as a land of rich opportunity for its entire people (1998h, 496; AllAfrica.com, April 3, 1998).
President Clinton did not have to position himself as a cosmopolitan to promote democracy as it can be argued that he was only following a long American presidential tradition of considering the U.S. the vanguard of liberal democracy in the world. Yet the connection he drew between democracy and a universal moral and ethical commitment, together with his call to Africans to join Americans in deepening democracy on both continents, reflects a distinctive worldview. He appealed to Americans and Africans to “face the future together” because doing so would make the future “better for Africa and better for America” (Clinton, 1998h). Unlike past U.S. presidents, he did not suggest that U.S. democracy is a finished article (even if he might think this is the case) or that the U.S. does not need to learn from other countries’ democratic experiences. Rather, he claimed the U.S. needed to find new “partners to deepen the meaning of democracy in America, in Africa, and throughout the world” (1998a, 420). In other words, he did not join the long list of leaders who have made a habit of going to Africa to lecture Africans on the virtues of democratic practices in their states.
Most cosmopolitans have become widely known for their stands on humanitarianism and pacific settlement of disputes. President Clinton showed his Kantian cosmopolitan orientation by urging African partners to “live in peace” and by offering a new collaboration with Africa on the basis of peace (Clinton, 1998a). Like most cosmopolitans, who build on the idea of Kant’s perpetual peace to find ways of managing and resolving conflicts, President Clinton offered a number of options for the U.S. to help build peace in Africa. Though he recognized that peace would not occur “overnight,” he believed that making Africa a zone of peace was possible if the U.S. government and its counterparts in Africa persevered, because “perseverance creates its own reward” (Clinton, 1998g, 1998b).
Like most cosmopolitans, President Clinton sought to remove political interference and restrictions on movement of economic goods and services because he thought that a world without tariffs and other restrictions on foreign trade would be a better one. Building on cosmopolitans’ strong belief in free trade, President Clinton argued in Botswana that Africa’s resources and its 30 percent return on investment offered great opportunities to Americans. At the same time, he believed that America’s big market would enable Africans to produce and sell more goods if barriers to trade were removed. In typical cosmopolitanism fashion, President Clinton felt that strong trade links were good for everyone, everywhere. His free trade stand is based on the idea that a world free of mercantilist practices would enable every state and individual to attain a higher standard of living while simultaneously minimizing the incidence of war between states. For cosmopolitans, most states co-exist peacefully with their major trading partners. Drawing on these ideas, Clinton argued passionately during a state visit to Uganda that “everyone deserves the right to prosper so that all of our children can have decent lives and get a decent education and build a decent future” (Clinton, 1998g). He claimed that the right to prosper is likely to happen if most African states agree to remove barriers to trade.
The cosmopolitan position taken by President Clinton guided his administration to develop “two clear policy goals:
integrating Africa into the global economy through pro-motion of democracy, economic growth and development, and conflict resolution; and combating transnational security threats, including terror-ism, crime, narcotics, weapons proliferation, environ-mental degradation, and diseases” (Rice, 2000; Taylor, 2010, 24).
The twin policy goals led in May 2000 to the introduction of AGOA, which provided legal backing for:
- • Removing all existing quotas for textile and apparel products from sub-Saharan African countries to the U.S. market;
- • Extending duty/quota-free access to the U.S. market for sub-Saharan apparel made from yarns and fabrics not available in the U.S.;
- • Extending duty/quota-free treatment for apparel made in Africa from U.S. yarn and fabric and for knit- to-shape sweaters made in Africa from cashmere and some merino wools, as well as apparel produced in Africa from silk, velvet, linen and other fabrics not produced in commercial quantities in the U.S.;
- • Extending, within an eight-year period, duty-free and quota-free access to the U.S. market for up to U.S.$3.5 billion for apparel made in Africa with African or regional fabric and yarn.
The entry into force of AGOA on May 18, 2000, together with Washington’s traditional democracy promotion in Africa through the State Department, USAID, U.S.-based NGOs, and multilateral financial institutions such as the World Bank, enabled the Clinton administration to establish modest economic and political relationships with many states in Africa. But these dealings “represent[ed] low-cost and low-risk” relationships (Rothchild, 2001, 205–206). The low-cost and low-risk engagements were set to continue until the tragic attacks of September 11, 2001.