And not just because I am a director of Friends of African Village Libraries, which will be working this year to establish 20 village libraries in northern Burkina Faso in a project with Catholic Relief Services funded through a U.S.D.A. grant. But more broadly, what has happened in Burkina Faso is a massive popular uprising, what we would call in the economics and political science literature a tipping point, where all the old patterns of preference falsification (going along with the regime because everybody else is going along with the regime) suddenly crumble. Now the messy part begins as people sort out their true preferences and have to craft new institutions of restraint.
What should U.S. policy be? The United States has “invested” (in the VC parlance) billions of dollars in Burkina Faso. Why? Because policymakers hoped that a stable, democratic Burkina Faso would be an important bulwark against the spread of AQIM and Ebola (yes, long before Ebola there were national security worries about global disease vulnerability from an unstable Sahel) and more importantly because that was the right thing to do for the people of Burkina Faso, who have long been very friendly towards the United States (ask Ambassadors Tulinabo Mushingi and Jeanine Jackson). So our partnership with the people of Burkina Faso needs to continue, now more than ever.