Fair Elections

Getting Mugabe out of power in Zimbabwe, while clearly not a national security priority, should be a goal of current United States policy as long as we believe that promoting democratic self-rule is a good idea. A recent Economist article discusses South Africa's complicity and discusses possible reasons for it, most worryingly: Perhaps Mr Mbeki believes that backing ZANU is the lesser of two evils, since an opposition victory might prompt Mr Mugabe's generals to mount a coup. Perhaps he believes that, by befriending Mr Mugabe, he can persuade him to rule more wisely—though he has so far failed. Perhaps. But some observers fear that Mr Mbeki just doesn't like to see a fellow liberation leader lose power.

One reason I find this so worrisome is something a thread that the Economist started covering quite a while ago; that Zimbabwe's power supply is entirely dependent on the good will of South Africa. Zimbabwe stopped paying its electricity bills sometimes in late 2002 or early 2003, at that point its other supplies get them off, but South Africa chose to continue supplying it. It's commonly thought that even with Mugabe's extensive control of the state apparatus, if South Africa just cut off the power to Zimbabwe, there would be enough unrest to get him out of office. That's no guarantee of who would come into office next, but it still seems like a good option.

So now the question should be what the United States can do to persuade South Africa that it's in their best interest to turn against Zimbabwe. And I don't know the answer, but there probably is one, and it might not even be that costly.