Many of us marveled at Nelson Mandela’s humanity, tolerance, and patience towards those who had imprisoned him in what is now a national monument on a small island off Cape Town. He cautioned against acts of revenge, he embraced his lifelong enemies from the apartheid regime, and he called for South Africa to show the world that a multiracial society could flourish, even after years of civil strife.
Most Americans rooted for South Africa under Mandela, and American businessmen poured into the country with offers of help. In the event, Mandela turned out to be a great inspirational speaker but a failed national leader. Instead of taking the opportunity to shut down the vast networks of corruption put in place by the white leaders of the country, he permitted his own cohorts from the Africa National Congress to wallow in the same troughs. Instead of insisting on the creation of a first-class educational system for all South Africans, he simply presided over the installation of a quota program that gave most of the slots in the best schools to the majority black population. Instead of taking the great influx of foreign aid to build adequate housing for the masses of poor people, that program sputtered along without ever taking off.
But foreign policy was his greatest failure. Mandela had a great opportunity to lead a democratic revolution in Africa, but he never even gave voice to cries for freedom for all Africans. Indeed, he lavished grotesque praise on many of the world’s dictators, from Castro to Khadaffi, and repeatedly failed to intervene decisively at major potential turning points in countries like Zaire and Zimbabwe. Even now, an elderly retiree, he cannot bring himself to demand the removal of the mad tyrant Robert Mugabe, and he continues to genuflect before the dictators who supported the ANC in the bad old days.
Now he has unburdened himself of the accusation that President Bush is a megalomaniacal racist, about to unleash a new holocaust on the Arabs, and opposed to any U.N. role because Kofi Annan is a black man. He’d have done better to lambaste his own designated successor, President Mbeke, for his insane proclamations that AIDS is not caused by HIV, thereby justifying the government’s failure to provide timely or adequate treatment to South Africa’s AIDS victims. And he’d have done well to praise President Bush for being willing to commit huge amounts of American taxpayers’ money to save Mandela’s own infected people. No. He posed for the brain-dead anti-American crowd instead.
It’s a pathetic spectacle, but entirely in keeping with the monumental failure of a man who could have been a great leader and world figure. Instead, he’s failed his own country and his own destiny. He’s become yet another African loudmouth, giving moral lessons to the world and tolerating corruption and misery on his own continent.
— Michael Ledeen, an NRO contributing editor, is most recently the author of The War Against the Terror Masters. Ledeen, Resident Scholar in the Freedom Chair at the American Enterprise Institute, can be reached through Benador Associates.