Michael Gerson

So, do these cuts symbolize the Republican rejection of fuzzy-headed liberalism? Actually, the main initiatives on malaria and AIDS were created under Republican leadership. They emphasize measured outcomes and accountability. If the goal of House Republicans is to squander the Republican legacy on global health, they are succeeding.

Many American politicians, new to governing, have not yet been exposed to a uniquely modern historical challenge. Dramatically unequal global development has left one part of the world in possession of technologies and techniques that can save millions of lives in other parts of the world. These interventions are relatively simple and inexpensive -- a bed net, a daily pill, a vaccination. Particularly for a nation dedicated to universal human rights, this mortality gap brings responsibilities. It has led America to make commitments on malaria, AIDS and other diseases that should be honored. But aiding the developing world also expands a certain type of global influence -- winning friends, and perhaps opening markets, in unexpected places. Here in Senegal, this is the reason the Chinese government constructs stadiums, builds schools and provides malaria drugs.

For Americans, however, a proper understanding of our global duties requires some historical imagination. For 300 years, Goree Island here in Senegal was one of the main embarkation points of slaves sent to the New World. It is the location of the "door of no return," a stone opening to the Atlantic where many Africans saw the last of their homeland and their families. To the left of that door is a small cell where enslaved children were kept, really stacked, in conditions that ensured the death of many.

Now America is engaged in an effort to save the lives of Senegalese children -- not out of guilt but because it better represents who we are. This historical symmetry is not just coincidence; it is more like providence. It demonstrates the kind of nation we have become, and must remain.


Michael Gerson

Michael Gerson writes a twice-weekly column for The Post on issues that include politics, global health, development, religion and foreign policy. Michael Gerson is the author of the book "Heroic Conservatism" and a contributor to Newsweek magazine.
 
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