Dust flux, Vostok ice core

Dust flux, Vostok ice core
Two dimensional phase space reconstruction of dust flux from the Vostok core over the period 186-4 ka using the time derivative method. Dust flux on the x-axis, rate of change is on the y-axis. From Gipp (2001).

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Americans and French begin new cold war in West Africa

Stuck in traffic this afternoon in Accra (the traffic is an entire book in itself). BBC suddenly stopped, and over the airwaves came Voice of America. I wouldn't normally listen to that but I wasn't doing much.

One of the top stories was a long diatribe on the problems in Côte d'Ivoire. First up--it seems that Ouattara has launched "yet more" attacks against his former allies. It seems that the ongoing difficulties there are ultimately going to cause Ghana to become the Queen of Cocoa. There followed a fairly lengthy explanation of why this would be. According to VOA, the age of the average cocoa tree in Cote d'Ivoire is now thirty years, which is past the age of peak production. Farmers in Côte d'Ivoire have not bothered to replant their trees because of the interminable civil problems. Why invest in new trees if your crops may be destroyed or your land confiscated in the fighting?

But what jumped out at me was the repeated mantras about Ghana. For an article which was supposedly about Côte d'Ivoire, they sure talked up Ghana. Ghana is peaceful. Ghana is stable. Ghana will attract the foreign investment that Côte d'Ivoire desperately needs simply to prevent its cocoa production from entering a terminal decline. Ghana has had peaceful elections since 1992. Ghana. Ghana. Ghana.

On the other hand, any time Cote d'Ivoire was mentioned, it was in the context of ongoing instability (now going on ten years), and implied instability of the new President, Ouattara. Infrastructure failing. Instability. Lack of investment. Cocoa trees dying. Production falling. Cote d'Ivoire soon to be of limited importance in the cocoa market.

A few weeks ago, I wrote this:
The Americans have promoted Ghana as the gateway to West Africa. A part of this is the development of a highway system through Ghana from the coast to the interior. The French have their own ideas--that Ivory Coast will be the gateway to the interior.
Considering that Voice of America is US propoganda, it is quite clear that the US intends to make Ghana the gateway to West Africa, and they have already launched their first assault against the French in West Africa.

Update--May 7

Not sure if this is connected, but just as I was leaving West Africa, the French propoganda channel stated that the French Foreign Minister had threatened to withdraw French troops from Afghanistan. Admittedly, the exact wording was "Withdrawal of French forces from the Afghan mission has not been ruled out"--but recall that a diplomat will never come out and tell you what's on his mind. Instead of "I hate your guts and I'm going to kill you", a diplomat would say, "We have a fundamental difference of opinion, but I believe there is an elegant solution to our current impasse."


  1. Hi!

    I've discovered your website via zerohedge.
    I guss you speak french, otherwise I ll translate it.

    Je ne suis pas un fan absolu de l'approche "mathématique" des réseaux quand il s'agit de se pencher sur le "domaine des affaires/choses humaines". Penser en terme systémique/statistique revient en effet à évacuer tout ce qui relève de la signification sociale des échanges (et des matrices/ configurations stratégiques).
    Cela n'empêche pas l'approche d'être très inspirante, et c'est le plus important pour la recherche.

    S'agissant de l'Afrique de l'Ouest en général, il est vrai qu'il s'y tient une guerre larvée entre les US et la France, et que nous la perdons en partie en raison de la nullité tactique et stratégique du précédent président (certains parlent de trahison à mots couverts). Pour ce qui est de la Cote d'Ivoire proprement dite, le problème vient des burkinabe. Ces derniers, migrants qui n'ont jamais participé de près ou de loin à la conception des infrastructures du pays, n'ont rien trouvé de mieux à faire que de virer les élites ivoiriennes qui faisaient jusque là tourner le pays (en plus de leur donner du travail...), les seules à disposer du savoir et des compétences requis, afin de placer les membres de leur propre communauté à tous les postes de direction. Sauf qu'ils ne savent pas faire !!
    Les autres, bien sûr, ont décidé de ne rien faire pour les y aider (faut pas déconner non plus... après s'être fait spolier le fruit de leur travail). Tout cela se terminera par une guerre civile,et/ou par une partition du pays, et les burkinabe seront virés.
    Au final, en Afrique de l'Ouest, les USA ramasseront la mise si rien n'est fait du côté français. Et rien ne semble devoir se faire...

    1. There are two comments to address here--the first is the question of the applicability of the mathematical techniques to social/economic problems; the second is the more specific comment on the complex problems facing Cote d'Ivoire.

      For your first comment, I have attempted to use methods devised to reveal the dynamics of complex nonlinear systems. In theory, it may be possible to determine differential equations governing the system, but this is not as helpful as it would appear, because the time-evolution of these systems typically shows extreme sensitivity to initial conditions, making specific predictions impossible. So there will be no psychohistory, although some probabilistic estimates can be made. This condition is also noted in natural systems, which is why we can discuss future earthquakes only in a probabilistic sense, but any specific prediction is impossible.

      Your second comment on the nature of the French influence on the internal politics of Cote d'Ivoire goes beyond the detail that I wished to entertain on the subject. Not because it is not interesting or relevant, but I am not familiar enough with the topic. I have spent a lot of time in Ghana over the past fifteen years and have only a rudimentary understanding of the political issues between north and south there.

      The Ghanaian perspective on the Ivoiran civil war focussed on the role of France in the future development of the country. The perception in Ghana (probably simplistic) was that the victory by Ouattara represented the return of Cote d'Ivoire to control by France; and that a victory by Gbagbo would have meant true independence for Ivoirans. The issue of the Burkinese vs "true-blooded" Ivoirans was viewed in much the same way.