Sorry Excuse

Politics and policy.
April 4 1998 3:30 AM

Sorry Excuse

Rules for national apologies.

(Continued from Page 1)

What a country should not apologize for is a basically sound foreign policy. And Clinton unfortunately did that as well--though it drew less attention than his other comments. In his Uganda speech, before the part about slavery, Clinton said:

Advertisement

In our own time, during the Cold War, when we were so concerned about being in competition with the Soviet Union, very often we dealt with countries in Africa and in other parts of the world based more on how they stood in the struggle between the United States and the Soviet Union than how they stood in the struggle for their own people's aspirations to live up to the fullest of their God-given abilities.

The president speaks here as if the battle against communism were an overheated World Cup match, rather than itself a struggle for democracy and human rights. Even when Realpolitik led the United States to side with dictators and oppressors, it was in the service of maximizing democracy and human rights in the world at large—a goal we in fact achieved. Every Cold War decision to put U.S. interests ahead of "people's aspirations" in individual countries may not be defensible, but the general policy is one we needn't apologize for. And by the way, the Cold War did not always define American policy in Africa. Well before the fall of communism, Congress passed comprehensive sanctions against the apartheid regime in South Africa. We did this even though the white South African government was a staunch U.S. ally in the Cold War, while Nelson Mandela's African National Congress had extensive Communist and Soviet ties.

As it happens, that subject came up during Clinton's stop in South Africa, when Mandela publicly refused to apologize for the ANC's Realpolitik alliances. It is debatable whether friendships with Libya and Cuba actually serve South Africa's interests today. But Mandela is right not to apologize for having accepted help from various malefactors, including the Soviet Union, during the liberation struggle—when actual support from the United States came very late. Like the U.S. in the Cold War, the ANC made reasonable choices under circumstances in which moral purity wasn't an option.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Don’t Worry, Obama Isn’t Sending U.S. Troops to Fight ISIS

But the next president might. 

The Extraordinary Amicus Brief That Attempts to Explain the Wu-Tang Clan to the Supreme Court Justices

Amazon Is Officially a Gadget Company. Here Are Its Six New Devices.

The Human Need to Find Connections in Everything

It’s the source of creativity and delusions. It can harm us more than it helps us.

How Much Should You Loathe NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell?

Here are the facts.

Altered State

The Plight of the Pre-Legalization Marijuana Offender

What should happen to weed users and dealers busted before the stuff was legal?

Surprise! The Women Hired to Fix the NFL Think the NFL Is Just Great.

You Shouldn’t Spank Anyone but Your Consensual Sex Partner

Moneybox
Sept. 17 2014 5:10 PM The Most Awkward Scenario in Which a Man Can Hold a Door for a Woman
  News & Politics
Altered State
Sept. 17 2014 11:51 PM The Plight of the Pre-Legalization Marijuana Offender What should happen to weed users and dealers busted before the stuff was legal?
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 17 2014 1:36 PM Nate Silver Versus Princeton Professor: Who Has the Right Models?
  Life
Dear Prudence
Sept. 18 2014 6:00 AM All Shook Up My 11-year-old has been exploring herself with my “back massager.” Should I stop her?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 17 2014 6:14 PM Today in Gender Gaps: Biking
  Slate Plus
Slate Fare
Sept. 17 2014 9:37 AM Is Slate Too Liberal?  A members-only open thread.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 17 2014 8:25 PM A New Song and Music Video From Angel Olsen, Indie’s Next Big Thing
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 17 2014 9:00 PM Amazon Is Now a Gadget Company
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 18 2014 7:30 AM Red and Green Ghosts Haunt the Stormy Night
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 17 2014 3:51 PM NFL Jerk Watch: Roger Goodell How much should you loathe the pro football commissioner?