If there is one place that has ridden the Zeitgeist in the early 21st century, it is Africa. From the bleeding of Darfur to the crippling weight of debt burdens built by kleptocratic dictators, the continent's suffering has been a literal cause celebre for years. Yet now, at a time when one African nation in particular (Zimbabwe) needs it more than any other, there is a shocking and painful silence. I would humbly submit, however, that Zimbabwe is more important than Sudan, the Congo, or anywhere else on the African continent.
For those unaware, this has come to a head last month because, for the first time since a constitutional referendum eight years ago, Zimbabwe dictator Robert Mugabe lost control of the election process, and his party was actually defeated in Parliament. It is widely believed that he finished second in the presidential election as well, although it's in dispute whether a run-off is required. At first, it appeared Mugabe might actually step aside. Now, it's becoming clearer he is playing for time (BBC) as he arrests journalists (Committee to Protect Journalists), ransacks the offices of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (Guardian, UK), and hoping that the world will become exhausted and relent before he does.
So why does this matter? Why is Zimbabwe so important? Why must Robert Mugabe go?
Mugabe does not survive because of the support of his people. He has already stolen two elections this decade, and clearly has his eye on a third. The force that keeps him in power is his foreign ally - the only true friend he has - Communist China.
I've explained before what Zimbabwe means to the Communists, but suffice to say, Robert Mugabe is Exhibit No. 1 to terrorists and tyrants everywhere of just what Communist China can do for them. Beijing has helped Mugabe build up his military, block opposition radio transmissions, and take advantage of oceans of "investment" money. In exchange, the Communists get two things: the best of the Zimbabwean economy, and an enthusiastic salesman for them around the world (all is discussed in detail in the above link).
Should Mugabe survive, he will remain a symbol to all other tyrants that the West can be resisted, especially with the aid of the Chinese Communist Party. All other anti-American thugs - including many of the enemies we face in the War on Terror (or as I call it, the Wahhabist-Ba'athist-Khomeinist War) - will take notice, and be drawn even further into Communist China's orbit. This holds especially true of the Khomeinist mullahs who imprison the Iranian people and Kim Jong-il.
From the narrow perspective of the War on Terror (WBK War), Zimbabwe is peripheral. From the broader perspective - one that recognizes we are in fact in a nearly two-decade long cold war with Communist China - Zimbabwe is a central battleground. We must give it the importance it deserves.
Does that require military action? I don't believe so, at least not yet. However, we must make clear a few things. First of all, that we will honor the true election results - meaning that if Mugabe succeeds in stealing another election, we will recognize only Morgan Tsvingirai as the true leader of Zimbabwe. Second, we should also make clear to the rest of Africa that we expect them to follow suit (support for Tsvingirai and the MDC could be an excellent condition for the debt relief that so many of these nations want and need). Finally, if the MDC needs help, we should come to its aid as we came to the aid of Solidarity in the 1980s and the Serbian opposition to Slobodan Milosevic in the 1990s.
If we do this, can we also send a message of our own - a message to every other tyrant who relies on Communist China to survive: namely, that we will do whatever we can to help their own people take their country back. However, we must not only do this for Communist China's allies and satellites; we must do it for China itself. Without the CCP, tyranny around the world would suffer a crushing blow, one from which several tyrants - including Mugabe, if he still lives, or his successor, if he doesn't - would not recover.
Victory in the War on Terror, and the larger Cold War of which it is a part, cannot be achieved in Harare, or Tehran, or Baghdad, or Kandahar, or even in the mountains of western Pakistan. Victory will come - and can only come - in Beijing. America and her allies will never be secure until China is free - and that day will be much closer if we can help the people of Zimbabwe free themselves from their Communist-supported tyrant.