Reihan: Why Paul Kagame is Important

Many years ago, Fareed Zakaria began a fascinating with Lee Kuan Yew, one of my personal heroes, with the following:

"ONE OF THE ASYMMETRIES of history," wrote Henry Kissinger of Singapore's patriarch Lee Kuan Yew, "is the lack of correspondence between the abilities of some leaders and the power of their countries." Kissinger's one time boss, Richard Nixon, was even more flattering. He speculated that, had Lee lived in another time and another place, he might have "attained the world stature of a Churchill, a Disraeli, or a Gladstone."

If anything, I think this is an understatement. And I wonder if we'll soon be saying the same thing about Paul Kagame, the president of Rwanda. Read this very short op-ed to see what I mean.

I realize that there is a pattern of Westerners fawning over this or that African leader, and the romance usually ends badly. Lest we forget, Robert Mugabe was once celebrated throughout the world. Yet it's precisely the bourgeois banality of Kagame's ambitions that I find so encouraging. He's not tugging at heartstrings, but rather setting achievable ambitions and building the institutional capacity he needs, with considerable help from friendly outsiders, to achieve them.