Making the click-through worthwhile: The brutal dictator who seized all the farms finally buys the farm; Howard Schultz calls it quits long after everyone forgot he was running; the president still wants to argue about Alabama and the hurricane; and a point about the European Union’s behavior since the Brexit referendum.
Robert Mugabe’s Dead, So Today’s a Good Day Already
Robert Mugabe was — ah, what a delight it is to use the past tense — one of those demonic despots whose name and crimes ought to be commonly known. Yet somehow, he never quite caught the imagination of the Western press, even if he caught its attention. The average person walking down the street knows about the Kims in North Korea, Saddam Hussein, and Ayatollah Khamenei; but you had to be interested in foreign affairs to recognize the name Mugabe as a monster who deserved to be lined up alongside them in hell.
Some might argue Mugabe’s relative obscurity reflects a Western press that is uncomfortable with acknowledging the fact that a leftist anti-Colonialist revolutionary leader can turn out to be a bloodthirsty and brutal despot; some might argue his relative obscurity reflects a Western press that simply isn’t all that interested in Africa.
Earlier this year, John Fund offered a succinct summary of Mugabe’s catastrophic rule:
Robert Mugabe became the president of Zimbabwe in April 1980, back when Jimmy Carter was still president. Within two years he had deployed his infamous North Korea–trained Fifth Brigade against minority tribes in Matabeleland in a campaign of deliberate killing and starvation. The organization Genocide Watch estimated that 20,000 people were ultimately killed.
Mugabe would later launch an insane seizure of white-owned farms. That led to widespread food shortages and destructive hyperinflation that resulted in almost-worthless 100 trillion Zimbabwean dollar notes in circulation.
But henchmen from the ruling party, Mugabe’s Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU), violently tamped down protests, and he ruled until November 2017, when a clique of his own generals worried that his wife would replace him overthrew the 94-year-old dictator in a coup. Since then, former minister of defense and current president Emmerson Mnangagwa has proclaimed that his country is “open for business,” when in reality the regime’s slogan should be “The new boss is just like the old boss.”
Just how similar are Zimbabwe’s new rulers? This summer Jay Nordlinger caught up with Evan Mawarire — a pastor and democracy leader from Zimbabwe:
The current regime in Zimbabwe is just as bad as Mugabe’s. In fact, it is a continuation of it. As Pastor Evan says, Mugabe is gone but the Mugabe system remains.
When the old man fell, there was euphoria in the streets, Evan says. People of all ages and tribes rejoiced. There had not been such unity since independence, says Evan. But it quickly turned to ash.
As before, democracy leaders and protesters were arrested (Evan among them). Their wives and daughters were raped. The men were beaten in prison. Evan wound up in the very same cell, incidentally — not just the same prison but the same cell.
Perhaps the Western world never paid much attention to Mugabe because Zimbabwe is far away and most Americans couldn’t find it on a map. It has little strategic geopolitical value. Back in 2017, Helen Andrews wrote a long piece for NRO observing that he reflected and greatly exacerbated his country’s problems, but he didn’t invent them. She also tackled the question of how things could have turned out differently, and ended up rejected a lot of the easy answers. These questions that arise are relevant to places much closer to home:
The most inviting answer to the question of what should have been done differently, which beckons like an oasis in the desert, is to blame the colonial regime. If only Rhodesia had been governed better, its oppressed native population would not have presented such an easy foothold to Marxist guerrillas. Alas, this particular oasis is a mirage — not because conditions for Africans were so splendid under Ian Smith and his predecessors, but because no amount of peace, prosperity, and good government has ever been a prophylactic against violent nationalism when other factors have made it an advantageous ideology to embrace. If nationalism were a function of oppression, there would have been a Mau Mau revolt in Hungary under the Soviets and rather less of one there under the Hapsburgs. Nationalism, like a contagious disease, does not discriminate.
Thanks for Nothing, Howard Schultz
About a week ago, I put an inquiry to Howard Schultz’s organization, asking about the back injury that interrupted his independent presidential campaign at the beginning of the summer and whether he would be returning to the campaign trail. No one replied. This morning, Axios reports what has been increasingly obvious since Schultz effectively disappeared from the public scene: Schultz isn’t running for president in 2020.
Schultz will tell his supporters today, “[N]ot enough people today are willing to consider backing an independent candidate because they fear doing so might lead to re-electing a uniquely dangerous incumbent president. If I went forward, there is a risk that my name would appear on ballots even if a moderate Democrat wins the nomination, and that is not a risk I am willing to take.” In other words, Schultz really wants a moderate Democrat to be the next president, even more than he wants to be president.
Fine, but if Schultz’s real driving motivation all along had been to ensure Bernie Sanders didn’t become president, he should have just said so.
Most conservatives felt no affection for Schultz, but after some initial mockery, I found his earnest naïveté strangely appealing. In the end, he had almost nothing in common with today’s angry Left or the modern nihilists. A man who spent his life in business and philanthropy had significantly more faith in the ability of business and philanthropy to make a better world, and didn’t see the private sector as a malevolent force that needed to be subjugated by government. The reaction to him from the Left was extremely revealing. Overnight, Schultz transformed from a well-liked and respected, do-gooder CEO to Public Enemy Number One, mocked in Stephen Colbert’s monologues and profanely heckled by leftist protesters. Nothing he did previously in his life mattered, nothing he was actually saying mattered. He had dared to publicly express a desire to do something that might have interfered with a Democratic Restoration, and for that he had to be destroyed.
It’s a little frustrating Schultz didn’t decide to run just to mess with everyone who joined the effort to demonize him.
Isn’t This a Press Secretary’s Job?
The President of the United States has too much time on his hands: “Fox News senior White House correspondent John Roberts had just finished his 3 p.m. live shot on Thursday when President Donald Trump beckoned him into the Oval Office. The President had one argument to make, according to an internal Fox email Roberts sent about the meeting provided to CNN. ‘He stressed to me that forecasts for Dorian last week had Alabama in the warning cone,’ Roberts wrote. ‘He insisted that it is unfair to say Alabama was never threatened by the storm.’”
The European Union and the United Kingdom Can’t Go into Counseling
Felix Salmon, writing about “global disintegration” at Axios, makes a quick reference to the Brexit fight: “the desire of half the nation to cut itself off from its major trading partners is going to dominate British politics and economics for decades to come.”
Comparatively unexamined in all of this is why so many people in the United Kingdom thought membership in the European Union was such a bad deal, particularly if the benefits are so obvious, as many British economic, political and media elites insist. The easy and self-flattering answer is to scoff that 52 percent of the British public was consumed by ignorance and xenophobia.
Put yourself in the EU’s shoes. One of your members has been grumbling for a long while, but then one day in the summer of 2016, it publicly announces it wants to leave you. You’re shocked; you never thought it would reach this point. But then you have a choice: Do you try to examine what went wrong and how the relationship could be rebuilt so that both sides feel like it’s working for them? Or do you try to punish them for growing unhappy with you?
The EU has shown no interest in reassessing why so many British think they’re getting a bad deal. They’ve shown little willingness to cooperate, work things out, attempt a good-faith effort to work through British concerns. The general reaction has been an indignant outrage that the British could think they’d be better off on their own, and a repeated expressed desire to make the negotiation and departure process as painful as possible for the U.K.
Why is slightly more than half of the British public willing to “cut itself off from its major trading partners”? Because those trading partners refuse to recognize any legitimate complaints about their rules and have demonstrated a desire to inflict as much economic pain on the U.K. as possible for daring to want to leave. European Union leaders say they don’t want the Brits or anyone else to leave, but they’re sure as heck not acting like it.
Maybe, immediately after the referendum, there was a chance the EU and U.K. could have worked out their differences. But now it’s like a bitter, messy divorce, where both sides have grown to loathe each other.
ADDENDA: I joined Rich Lowry, Charlie Cooke, and Michael Brendan Dougherty on the most recent episode of The Editors, discussing the latest twists and turns in Brexit, gun control, and Democratic climate change proposals.
Whole lot of listeners to the pop-culture podcast this week. I know we hear “maybe this is a turning point in the battles over political correctness” a lot, but maybe Dave Chappelle’s Netflix comedy special really did break the back of “cancel culture.”