[Marxism] Lessons from History: The Case Against AFRICOM
milongonsinga at yahoo.com
Sat Apr 25 18:46:27 MDT 2009
Lessons from History:
The Case Against AFRICOM
by Stephen Roblin
Africa has historically been less of a priority to U.S. foreign policy planners than other regions, such as the Middle East, Eastern Europe, and Latin America. This was certainly the case when George W. Bush took office in 2001. But during the course of his tenure, "Africa's position in the U.S. strategic spectrum . . . moved from peripheral to central."1 There is no better evidence for this development than the most recent and significant change to the U.S. military structure -- the establishment of the U.S. Africa command, commonly referred to as AFRICOM.
So what is AFRICOM? To answer this question, we need to understand one of the principal means of organizing the U.S. military's global presence. The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) has carved the globe into regions, and these regions fall under the "area of responsibility" of geographic combatant commands, the "prisms through which the Pentagon views the world."2 The function of these combatant commands is to coordinate, integrate, and manage all U.S. defense assets and operations for their respective regions.3 Until recently the globe was covered by five U.S. combatant commands: European (EUCOM), Pacific (PACOM), Northern (NORTHCOM), Southern (SOUTHCOM), and Central (CENTOCOM).4 On October 1, 2008 AFRICOM was added as the sixth U.S. combatant command, its area of responsibility being the continent of Africa, with the exception of Egypt.
Before AFRICOM was established, Africa fell under the responsibility of three different commands -- EUCOM, CENTCOM, and PACOM -- each of which viewed Africa as a "secondary or even tertiary concern."5 AFRICOM has effectively taken over all U.S. military initiatives and operations conducted on the continent (again, with the exception of Egypt). This administrative change within the DOD has been praised as a "positive" step towards the U.S. achieving a "unity of focus throughout Africa."6 AFRICOM's proponents, official and intellectual, claim increased U.S. "focus" on Africa will be mutually beneficial for African countries and the U.S. alike. They argue that AFRICOM will facilitate security and stability on a conflict-ridden continent while enabling the U.S. to better pursue its increasing "strategic interests" there. Such claims have elicited abundant criticisms, but proponents insist that AFRICOM is "a different kind of command" that
represents a new "paradigm" in U.S. military engagement. Hence, "there is sufficient reason to be hopeful," as put by one military intellectual.7
In contrast to proponents, I argue that, given the history of U.S. involvement in Africa, past and present, there is "sufficient reason" to think that AFRICOM will be potentially disastrous for citizens of African countries.
A student asked Soen Nakagawa during a meditation retreat, "I am very discouraged. What should I do?" Soen replied, "Encourage others."
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