The entire North of the continent of Africa seems to be melting down right now, with the underlying causes being drought, famine and competition to exploit natural resources. There are Egypt’s calvinball twists and other Arab Spring revolts, as well as unrest and chaos in Mali, and Sudan, and Somalia. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo the rebels are making inroads in the east – possibly with Rwandan help. The ongoing violence in Nigeria, is both tribal and religious. A revolt in Chad with possible backing from Sudan, albeit one that’s apparently incompetent so far adds to the general tangle of armed insurrections, wars and revolts.
Tom Engelhart writes that America may be helping the growing chaos along, not through malice but simply through the misapplication of militarized foreign policy.
The truth is that such “solutions,” first tested in the Greater Middle East, are now being applied (even if, as yet, in far more modest ways) from Africa to Central America. In Africa, I suspect you could track the growing destabilization of parts of that continent to the setting up of a U.S. command for the region (Africom) in 2007 and in subsequent years the slow movement of drones, special forces operatives, private contractors, and others into a region that already has problems enough.
Here’s a 2012 American reality then: as a great power, the U.S. has an increasingly limited toolkit, into which it is reaching far more often for ever more similar tools. The idea that the globe is a chessboard, that Washington is in control of the game, and that each militarized move it makes will have a reasonably predictable result couldn’t be more dangerous. The evidence of the last decade is clear enough: there is little less predictable or more likely to go awry than the application of military force and militarized solutions, which are cumulatively incendiary in unexpected ways, and in the end threaten to set whole regions on fire. None of this, however, seems to register in Washington.
The Obama administration has ordered more than a dozen airbases established across the continent, with the central hub in Burkini Faso, for surveillance flights as far as the Sahara and the equatorial jungles. Using the AUMF for authority and in the name of the great war on terror, thousands of US servicemen and units of US special forces troops are deployed in Uganda, the Central African Republic, DR Congo, Cameroon and Sudan. We’re not paying enough attention, as a nation, to what is being done in our names in Africa.
(This first appeared on The Agonist.)