Responsible benevolence or paternalistic denial? : the George W. Bush administration and aid to Africa
Emily M. Lantz
May 10, 2016
Department or Program
Over the course of his presidency, George W. Bush increased aid to the continent of Africa from 1.4 to 9 billion dollars. His administration created new programs for distributing this aid for both development and health-related goals. However, the Bush administration also claimed to be changing something else: the underlying relationship between the United States and African nations. I will argue that although the Bush administration presented its aid programs as new approach to African aid through benevolent American responsibility that encouraged greater African autonomy, its discourse actually worked within traditional Western justifications for interventions in Africa, altering these discursive patterns slightly to ensure the United States took no blame for potential failures of its aid policy. This worked within a narrative of American values and history that distanced the United States from any real responsibility for problems the continent is currently facing. In order to do this, I will first use the work of scholars who have written about the Bush administration’s aid programs to provide a context for understanding the material changes it implemented. I will then analyze the discourse used to present those changes, in conversation with scholars who have written on common, historical Western representations of Africa in order to understand how the Bush administration’s discourse both fits into and differs from these tropes. Finally, I will argue that the kind of responsibility the Bush administration was calling for actually constituted a denial of meaningful responsibility by looking at it in conversation with African demands for reparations, which pose a very different definition of Western responsibility to Africa. I will use the reparations movement to demonstrate that the Bush administration failed to create a truly new and progressive framework for African-US relations, instead operating within comfortable historical notions of American power and benevolence.