US: Ambassador Sarah Palin to Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Nambia?

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    Of Thee I Sing, Oh Glorious Nambia! Island of
    Enchantment, Nation of Prosperity and
    Riches….’

    The first line of the Nambian national
    anthem

    Despite the fact Donald Trump seemed to scramble
    the names of a variety of African nations in his remarks at a
    luncheon in honour of African representatives at the UN General
    Assembly, Nambia is not a fiction. Oh no, not at
    all.

    In fact, Daily Maverick can now reveal that
    the reason he mentioned it was that Nambia was very much on the
    Trumpster’s mind at that very time. The secret information he
    was contemplating was that the US government had just received
    diplomatic agreement from the government of the Sovereign
    Popular Independent Nambia (SPIN) for the appointment of former
    Alaska Governor (and unsuccessful Republican vice presidential
    candidate in 2008) Sarah Palin as America’s new ambassador to
    that peaceful, tropical and near-idyllic island nation, a land
    with an unusual history.

    The next steps in the ambassadorial appointment
    process are the public announcement of this new appointment and
    the official swearing-in ceremony in the formal reception rooms
    at the Department of State. Finally, there is the presentation
    of the ambassador’s letter of credence to Nambia’s head of
    state, once Ambassador-designate Palin arrives
    in-country.

    Once again, one of Daily Maverick’s
    back-room friends in Washington has been helpful in passing
    along some useful and interesting information for the
    edification of our readers. This time, it has been the text of
    the State Department’s briefing memorandum on Nambia that has
    been written to inform relevant White House staff – and most
    especially the incumbent president – about current Nambian
    economic and political issues and their historical
    context.

    We have left off the specific routing information
    and the security classification designations of this memorandum
    as a sop to the privacy of bureaucrats everywhere, but the text
    is complete as displayed below.

    Historical Background and Contemporary Political
    Issues

    Nambia is an island nation strategically located
    near southeast Africa and just north of Madagascar, close to
    major international shipping lanes and with significant
    maritime resources in its exclusive economic zone. Originally
    settled by people from both the African mainland and Madagascar
    more than a thousand years ago, the resulting population
    absorbed significant influences from visiting Arab traders and
    then Portuguese, Dutch and other European explorers and
    merchants.

    According to various contemporary accounts dating
    from the 16th and 17th centuries, the
    island’s people were deemed too warlike to be enticed or
    captured easily as slaves. As a result, for hundreds of years,
    they were largely left alone by outsiders, save for
    intermittent trade opportunities.

    Then, in the latter part of the 19th
    century, Nambia accidentally became an easily overlooked,
    largely neglected colony of the Austro-Hungarian Empire before
    that empire’s dissolution at the end of World War I. Lt-Col
    Markus von Trapp und Schleswig-Holstein (coincidentally a
    forebear of another Von Trapp who became more famous in Austria
    and then America as, first, a naval officer and then leader of
    a family of singers) had served as an adjutant to the
    French-installed Emperor Maximillian, the Habsburg prince who
    became the ruler of Mexico in the 1860s.

    With the violent collapse of that overseas
    adventure in 1867, Von Trapp, having been deeply affected by
    this unsuccessful colonial effort, had spent several years as a
    serving imperial army officer in Austrian-ruled Bohemia, while
    considering alternative future options when he began a serious
    study of the Indian Ocean littoral. Most of the territories had
    already been – or were about to be – claimed by various
    European adventurers on behalf of their respective homelands,
    but some of the lesser-known islands had been largely left to
    their own populations.

    In an apparent nod to that military service in
    Bohemia and the “seacoast of Bohemia” in Shakespeare’s The
    Winter’s Tale
    , Von Trapp renamed the scenic seaside of
    Nambia’s capital Bohemia in place of its original name. This
    curious naming stuck, apparently because the Nambians had a
    real fascination and love for translated copies of
    Shakespearean plays that had been circulating in the country
    for decades.

    Von Trapp had also been deeply influenced as a
    young man by his readings of romantic and imaginative
    literature. When he discovered that Nambia’s royal lineage bore
    the family name of Prospero, he investigated further to learn
    that some German scholars believed that reports of the island’s
    history had influenced Renaissance authors who had, in turn,
    influenced Shakespeare, especially with his play, The
    Tempest
    . Von Trapp became yet further intrigued when he
    learned of a Nambian legendary character, “the Caliban”, an
    apparent version of the Greek legend of the “Anthropophagi”,
    first described by historian/traveller Herodotus over 2,000
    years ago.

    As a result of these readings and Von Trapp’s
    increasing flights of imagination, together with a small force
    of well-armed, experienced military men eager for a share in
    the sudden rush to seize African real estate (including a Capt
    Gustav Drumpf who had originally been in the Bavarian army but
    who later joined the Austrian imperial forces after German
    unification), Von Trapp took control of Nambia from the
    Prospero dynasty, thereby establishing a protectorate over the
    island in 1878. Although the Austro-Hungarian Empire was far
    more interested in the complex Balkan issues of 1878 than in
    gaining colonies in distant African lands or Indian Ocean
    islands, they were, nevertheless, prepared to allow Von Trapp’s
    new political order to be recognised, but only if the costs
    came at little or no cost to the home government in Vienna (the
    Habsburg state had been facing one of its periodic, regular
    budget crises at the time). This Von Trapp-led military coup
    eventually became recognised as a government after a small
    corps of Austrian civilians came to fill the senior positions
    that regulated the island’s trade, taxes, tariffs, and
    communications, as well as its external relations with
    neighbouring territories. It is reported that some years later,
    Franz Kafka was an avid student of the bureaucratic handbooks
    specially prepared for this Indian Ocean
    protectorate.

    Following the collapse of Austria-Hungary after
    World War I, control of Nambia passed to the French colonial
    government of Madagascar, as no other mandatory power was
    prepared to accept this responsibility. Following a brief and
    largely bloodless insurrection in 1960, the French colonial
    administration in Antananarivo agreed to an island-wide
    plebiscite that would determine Nambia’s future. The voting was
    overwhelmingly in favour of the island becoming a separate
    territorial entity, not surprising given its complicated
    linguistic background – a unique mixture of the African
    language of Makua, the Malagasy language of Merino, Arabic and
    German – as well as a lack of any historical links with modern
    Madagascar, save for that post-World War I period of
    governance.

    Post-independence, Nambia has successively flirted
    with political alignments towards the then-Soviet Union, China
    and, more recently, South Africa, Iran and India, as well
    connections to several western nations. Thirty years ago, the
    Soviet Union had had hopes of establishing a naval support
    facility there to assist its push for blue water naval exercise
    staging areas in the Indian Ocean. The Chinese had once planned
    to establish a staging port for their increasingly vigorous
    pelagic fishing efforts.

    More recently, the South Africans, Iranians, and
    Indians have all made a number of strategic investments in
    projects tied with Nambia’s reported mineral wealth in mind
    (see “Economy” section, below). Besides these engagements with
    the Nambians, the North Koreans have built a national sports
    stadium in the island’s capital, Erehwon (roughly, “where is
    this place?” in the local kriol), to gain leverage. Moreover,
    the Germans (on behalf of a larger Germanic cultural zone in
    recognition of the country’s brief time under imperial
    Austria), in association with Austria, have provided
    scholarships, apprenticeships and related training to
    Nambians.

    British, French and American relations with Nambia
    are now largely stable and increasingly positive. Currently,
    ongoing negotiations focus on questions of fishing quotas, the
    exploration and exploitation of underwater mineral resources,
    and calls for Nambia to support international efforts against
    non-state actor terrorism.

    Nambia has largely voted with the US on most major
    proposals at the UN and other international bodies designed to
    limit access to global financial networks by various terror
    groups, and to prevent such groups from establishing any
    further footholds in the region. Nambian anti-terror action,
    however, has sometimes been affected by the island’s deference
    towards substantial resident Arab and Iranian investor
    populations that continue to have a disproportionate presence
    in the island’s banking and commercial sectors.

    The Nambian political system is a unitary state,
    with an elected national assembly that is part of a largely
    parliamentary-style government. The prime minister is the head
    of the ruling party and the usual parliamentary term is five
    years. However, the prime minister can call an election at any
    time. In recent years, the so-called Prospero Party has held a
    majority of seats, although the Calibanist League, advocating a
    more radical economically redistributionist model, has gained
    about 45% of the votes in the past two elections. The
    Calibanist League draws much of its support from tenant
    farmers, fishermen and low-skilled, less-educated urban
    workers, while the Prospero Party appeals to landowning
    farmers, business entrepreneurs, government employees, teachers
    and others.

    Economy, commerce and international
    involvement

    Nambia’s economy remains substantially dependent
    upon farming (including speciality crops air-shipped to
    locations such as Madagascar, South Africa and other southern
    African locations), orchid growing for high-end markets in
    Europe, its speciality upland Covfefe coffee variety, fishing,
    tourism, and a growing roster of light industry such as
    stitching expensive-looking ties and lower end women’s clothing
    on contract for American and European brands, generally sold
    online. A key economic driver is the country’s growing position
    as a regional financial centre that has been gaining favour
    from Middle Eastern nations and investors interested in making
    use of a sophisticated banking regimen that features fewer of
    the restrictions applicable in many other centres in the
    area.

    The growing financial activity has, however,
    generated pressures on a government that has largely maintained
    its reputation as honest and transparent. There have also been
    reports of use of the Nambian banking and financial sector by
    Russian investors eager to move financial resources into the
    above-ground economy from more legally anomalous circumstances
    without being tracked as they might be in larger financial
    centres (see secret attachment).

    Important features of Nambia’s likely economic
    future in the next five years will most likely come from three
    main areas: increased pelagic fishing; exploitable, untapped
    natural gas and oil reserves, and increased environmental
    tourism – including controlled, regulated
    hunting.

    The rich fishing grounds in Nambia’s exclusive
    economic zone continue to have rich potential but they require
    more efficient enforcement mechanisms and patrolling to avoid
    overfishing and stock depletion. This is an excellent
    opportunity for America to engage with Nambian officials and
    the larger public.

    Similarly, its natural gas and oil reserves in the
    waters of that economic zone, still only explored in limited
    areas, are a likely extension of the Mozambican natural gas
    fields. If proved, the revenues of these fields could well
    support vigorous national economic expansion plans, if revenue
    is properly cared for and if negotiations with the companies
    carrying out exploration and exploitation are directed towards
    Nambia’s favour. Here too, this represents a likely area for
    the US to assist the Nambian government, perhaps drawing from
    the experiences of Alaska’s successful negotiations with the
    oil majors.

    Finally, Nambia has a range of unique flora and
    fauna regions and a number of national parks and reserves.
    Properly managed and efficiently run, these areas can support a
    major increase in environmental tourism as well as controlled
    hunting. Nambia is unique in hosting populations of elephants
    and other species that, as a result of evolutionary action
    leading to insular dwarfism, have evolved into almost miniature
    versions of their respective species. There is little current
    advocacy among Nambians for bans on hunting and such tourism
    can contribute to the national economy, if carried out in a way
    that conserves the affected species.

    Current issues

    One of the most controversial issues currently in
    US-Nambia relations revolves around the plans of several resort
    hotel developers – including two American firms – to create a
    self-contained resort village that would call for several
    hundred traditional fishers to lose their land and could put
    severe strains on infrastructure needs. There have been several
    public protests, including at the US Embassy, and numerous
    critical commentaries in the local print/broadcast media and on
    social media.

    Several American-related firms have been in the
    running for new gas/oil exploration contracts but the company
    officials have told the US embassy confidentially that in
    response to possible offers from other nations that do not have
    variations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices regulations, it is
    apparent that a number of thinly disguised bribes have
    apparently been solicited – or paid. American companies find it
    difficult to compete in such circumstances and they will
    undoubtedly seek high-level support from US
    representatives.

    Finally, there have been reported instances of
    visiting American hunters killing some of the now-protected
    species of unique Nambian fauna while making use of helicopters
    as platforms, or using illegal fishing gear to land trophy apex
    predator fish. In the absence of effective management of these
    resources, such misuse of these resources may continue, and
    such behaviour will become increasingly difficult or impossible
    to defend. The individuals involved may well face major legal
    and criminal sanction as a way of making a public example of
    such behaviour, leading to international criticism on a par
    with rhino poaching.

    ***

    Now, doesn’t that country sound like the perfect
    place for a helicopter-flying, moose-shooting-ambassador, with
    a professional fisherman as a spouse, and who never met an oil
    pipeline and oil well she didn’t love? What a shame it is that
    Nambia doesn’t really exist after all. Sounds like lots of
    fun.

    Still, given the current languorous,
    lackadaisical, slow-motion, and thoroughly uninterested way the
    Trump administration has appointed ambassadors and senior
    officials in the State Department (and other departments), and
    the apparent plans of the current Secretary of State for
    cutting away at useful budget items and programmes, does it
    seem totally unlikely that someone who sounds just like Sarah
    Palin might actually be sent off to one of those very real,
    unsuspecting nations on the world map as the country’s chief
    representative there? Hey, watch out there, The Seychelles,
    Mauritius, The Maldives, Sri Lanka, Cape Verde – and a
    veritable slew of Caribbean nations, besides Cuba of course.
    All those campaign contribution mega-donors just love having an
    “Amb.” in front of their names on their business cards and
    personal stationery.

    DM

    Original photo: Former
    Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin holds a copy of ‘Green Eggs and
    Ham’ by Dr. Seuss as she speaks at the 41st Annual Conservative
    Political Action Conference (CPAC), at the Gaylord National
    Resort and Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland, USA,
    08 March 2014. EPA/MICHAEL
    REYNOLDS

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