Richard Armitage
Former U.S. Deputy Secretary of State

Should we leave Africa alone?

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Absolutely not, Armitage says.

Richard Armitage

Richard Armitage was the 13th United States Deputy Secretary of State, serving from 2001 to 2005. He served in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War and then after the fall of Saigon moved to Washington D.C. to work as a consultant for the United States Department of Defense, which sent him to Tehran and Bangkok.

Throughout the late 70s and early 80s, Armitage worked as an aide and foreign policy advisor to politicians including Senator Bob Dole and President-elect Ronald Reagan. When Reagan was elected, Armitage was appointed to the Department of Defense.  In the 1990s, Armitage worked in the private sector before being confirmed as Deputy Secretary of State with the election of George W. Bush in 2001. He left the post in 2005.

Armitage was educated at the United States Naval Academy. He is an avid bodybuilder, and speaks many languages, including Vietnamese.


Question: Should we leave Africa alone?

Armitage:    Absolutely not.  There are humanitarian reasons why we shouldn’t.  There are also, as I say, cold calculations of national security.  The humanitarian reasons have to do with the infectious diseases and HIV/AIDS, which has been a terrible scourge for that continent primarily.  And it could be a great scourge for all the rest of us if we don’t try to contain it.

On the cold calculation aspect and on the security side, there are tribal and ethnic disputes.  There are religious disputes.  There is extremism.  Tanzania and Kenya come to mind in those . . . the embassy bombings.  So there are . . .  Somalia right now.  There are good foreign policy reasons why we ought to engage in Africa.  And here’s one that perhaps you don’t know.  The African continent as a whole grew at over 5% in economic rate last year and the year before.  So there are economic reasons to get involved, and there are energy reasons – all of which are understood by the Chinese who are trying desperately to get involved.  Just by the way, you know that Africa is 16% of the world’s population.  That’s not an insignificant number.