By Maurice R. (Papa Maury) Clark
February 23, 2012 (SSNA) — To a disaster weary world, the litany of death and destruction emanating from South Sudan becomes hard to bear. With so much of the western world being called to account for its own economic missteps, and political failures, the agonizing struggles of a remote new nation become easy to ignore. We do so at our peril!
Comparing the current world economic and political realities to the 1930’s and the risk of world conflagration is no stretch. The economic excesses of the 1920s versus those of the late 1990s through the first few years of the new century differ mostly by orders of magnitude. And falling from a greater economic height will likely make the ultimate landing even more difficult to bear. Meanwhile, lesser tyrants recognize weakness and exploit that weakness for territorial gain and profit.
To a very large extent, Adolph Hitler was the creation of a Germany overwhelmed by the burden of debt resulting from World War l. While the rest of the world rejoiced in libertine excess during the ’20s, the German Weimar Republic endured hyperinflation and privation brought on by the bills for WW I, and the Treaty of Versailles’ demands for reparations. With the onset of world-wide depression in the 1930s, the world was far too consumed by its own problems to pay attention to a petty tyrant in a defeated country.
Adolph Hitler played to his nation, the siren song of racial purity and layed blame on a minority to ease the reality of national responsibility. So, much like the Jews were to Hitler, the black tribes of South Sudan have become to Omar Hassan al-Bashir.
Let’s examine some parallels between that earlier era, and what is occurring now in Africa. Both Weimar Germany then, and Sudan now, were defeated nations held to account for the costs of war. The little industrial capacity that remained in Germany was dedicated to war reparations dictated by the Treaty of Versailles. Similarly, Sudan’s vastly diminished resources provide little hope for revenue. Khartoum controls only the world’s largest supply of sand, not exactly a high-demand resource. Meanwhile, South Sudan, incredibly rich in undeveloped natural resources, and land so fertile that a steel post would sprout when put in the ground tantalizingly lies just over the mountains.
Oh, and did I mention OIL? Virtually all of that known resource is now the property of the Republic of South Sudan. Oil is the most immediate need for Khartoum because without it, there is no export revenue to pay the bills. And while we are at it, ask yourself why Khartoum, with so much sand, is so interested in the semi-desert state of Darfur? I can assure you that the interest lies not in the desert, but what lies beneath it.
By 1935, Adolph Hitler’s leadership was undisputed, and in 1938 he made his next move: the Anschluss! The overnight annexation by Germany of Austria differed from Bashirs armed descent upon Unity State, Jonglei, Abyei, Blue Nile, and others including his own South Kordofan. While Austria proved to be a willing annexation, joyfully welcoming German troops, the citizens in Sudan/South Sudan are being slaughtered by Khartoum.
While the world stood to one side, wringing its hands, 1939 saw Hitlers Germany overrun and capture Poland in less than five weeks! In between those two assaults on the free world, we heard Britain’s Neville Chamberlain declare “–Peace in our time” and World War ll was on.
There is another comparison worth drawing. A German ally or, at a minimum, a non-combatant now forgotten by much of the younger generation was solidly in the background- Soviet Russia. The Soviets unquestionably saw a German – Western Europe war as advantageous to their own ambitions, until the German warhorse eventually turned on the Soviet Bear.
Khartoum’s ally is also a world giant: China. During the past two decades China bankrolled, and engineered the refineries, pipelines, and the Port Sudan oil tanker facilities. It developed the oilfields in Southern Sudan. In return, Khartoum was the beneficiary of billions in foreign revenue and financial support. Look carefully at China and its vast need for petroleum supplies to maintain its markets. Ask yourself this: since China has been the willing supplier of war materials to Sudan: the bombs, the guns, the delivery systems, is it rational to expect them to peacefully walk away from their investment AND their largest petroleum supplier- Khartoum?
Meanwhile to the north and east of Africa, the Arab, oil-producing, states are aflame in the “Arab Spring”. The rest of Africa from the west coast countries of Senegal, Liberia, and the two Congo’s continuing through to Uganda and Kenya to the east are under assault by the Lords Resistance Army or internal strife. The horn of Africa, and the pirates of Somalia are not exactly situations that can be ignored either.
In my opinion, it is time to re-examine history, and be very, very concerned about the lessons we should have learned, and the parallels to the risks facing our world today.
Sudan’s president Bashir does not stand in isolation. Does anyone else smell smoke?
Maury Clark is a retired investment banker/broker, as well as a Called and Commissioned Deacon in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), Northwest Washington Synod. He served under Bishops Appointment as pastor of Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church in Maple Valley, Washington in 1990 and 1991, and also served four years on the Synod Council. He has been deeply involved with the people of Southern Sudan since 1996, and is an advisor to the Government of Southern Sudan. He is also the adoptive father of seven Dinka, the youngest of whom is fourteen years old. Maury and his family reside in Hobart, Washington.