In 2008, the campaign staffers tasked to wrangle Sarah Palin were terrified people would discover she thought Africa was one big country. In 2001, President George W. Bush told a gathering in Sweden, "Africa is a nation that suffers from incredible disease." Vice President Joe Biden, speaking to none other than the US-Africa Leaders Summit in 2014, said, "There's no reason the nation of Africa should not join the ranks of the world's most prosperous nations." That's twice in one sentence, Joe.
After four elite US soldiers were killed in an ambush in Niger several weeks ago, and after President Trump made a gut-grinding botch of offering condolences to the families of the fallen, Africa policy has become a hot topic in US politics. Beyond the febrile fodder of yet another presidential humiliation lay the deeper question: What were those four soldiers doing in Niger?