- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 2, 2001

In volume one of "Democracy in America," Alexis de Tocqueville wrote: "I will never admit that men constitute a social body simply because they obey the same head and the same laws. Society can exist only when a great number of men consider a great number of things under the same aspect, when they hold the same opinions upon many subjects, and when the same occurrences suggest the same thoughts and impressions in their minds."

Some three decades later, Tocqueville would have witnessed the bloody documentation of his insight at Fort Sumter, at Gettysburg and on other Civil War battlefields. Slavery and abolitionism had transformed a social body that Tocqueville had once admired into an anarchy in which Americans no longer held "the same opinions upon many subjects." Now the same occurrences suggested different and, tragically, uncompromisable "thoughts and impressions in their minds."

In other words, for a society to be at peace with itself there must be a minimal set of values that a population reveres and is determined to protect against those who would subvert or overturn those values. There are certain values that are beyond compromise.

It may seem like a long stretch to say that I thought of Tocqueville when I read that Moammar Gadhafi, Libya´s long-lived dictator, had undertaken to create a "United States of Africa" out of the continent´s 53 countries. But there it was in Mr. Gadhafi´s own newspaper, As-Shams, that 35 African nations, according to the National Post, have ratified a treaty calling for such a continental federation, an Africa without borders. If one more African state ratifies the treaty, then it is on the table of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) for action next July. Mr. Gadhafi hopes to create an African equivalent of the European Union or the League of Arab States

Admirable as it may sound on paper, there is little if any chance that Mr. Gadhafi´s ambitions will ever be realized, certainly in his own lifetime, even if he were to pay out all of Libya´s annual oil revenues of $10 billion to win the support of Africa´s many rulers. He has already spent his petrodollars on so-called foreign aid programs and has even been paying the dues to the OAU on behalf of 10 of Africa´s poorer states.

Ever hopeful, Mr. Gadhafi ignores the lessons of history African history. Despite billions, perhaps trillions of dollars, pounds, francs, liras, D-marks, rubles in foreign aid, despite international bank loans, food shipments, technical and military assistance and what not there is, to be charitable, very little after five decades to show for this enormous investment.

What there is to show for Western aid and an end to European colonialism are civil wars as in Sierra Leone, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, the Biafra blood-letting in the late 1960s which took 1 million lives, genocide in Rwanda-Burundi, the civil war in ex-Belgian Congo. The 18-year civil war in Sudan between the Arab-led government and the Christian-animist south has claimed 2 million lives and driven some 4 million southern Sudanese from their homes. Then there were the piratical leaders like Sekou Toure, Boukassa, Mengistu, Idi Amin and other genocidists. There were the so-called African charismatics, so beloved of Western Marxists, like Nkrumah and Nyerere, whose "ujamaa" socialism virtually destroyed Tanzania´s agriculture . And now there is the HIV-AIDS pandemic in sub-Saharan Africa, which afflicts 25 million Africans and which in the year 2000 alone killed 2.4 million Africans. And then there´s the horrible drought which afflicts Africa and makes Africa´s primitive agriculture almost impossible.

The Nigerian historian, J.U.J. Asiegbu, put his finger on Africa´s problem. In his book, "Nigeria and Its British Invaders," he praised the British colonialists for their "self-discipline and other remarkable ideals of public duty and responsibility as now remain, unfortunately, yet to be learned and emulated by the succeeding generations of indigenous African leaders."

What Africa needs and South Africa may in time provide the model for the rest of sub-Saharan Africa to learn is how to create civil societies where, as John Gray defined it, "autonomous institutions, protected by the rule of law, within which individuals and communities possessing divergent values and beliefs may coexist in peace."

Mr. Gadhafi wants to create a pan-African parliament, a central bank, a single continental currency and a "Court of Justice." And by what basic law will the "Court of Justice" administer justice Islam´s "shariya," so beloved by the Afghan terrorists, or the Code Napoleon, the unwritten British or the written American constitutions, or, perhaps, the "law" by which Mr. Gadhafi exercises his one-man rule over Libya? Mr. Gadhafi may dream of one day becoming the emperor of the "United States of Africa." Let him spend all his petrodollars for the next decade, and it´ll still be a dream.


Arnold Beichman, a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, is a columnist for The Washington Times.


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