Friday, February 22, 2008

Our Ms. Brooks: AFRICOM

President Bush has just made a momentous victory lap around Africa, touting his brilliant aid and successful aid packages which have wiped out malaria and HIV from the continent. One aid program he didn't mention much about was AFRICOM, a program created by Mr. Bush just about this time last year. Rosa Brooks noticed the omission in her latest column:

During his tour of the continent, President Bush seized every opportunity to boast of his innovative approaches to African health and development issues. But he kept strangely silent about what may be his administration's most enduring legacy for Africa: AFRICOM, the most significant U.S. foreign and military policy innovation you've probably never heard of.

AFRICOM stands for the U.S. Africa Command, created by presidential order in February 2007. On the surface, AFRICOM doesn't sound like anything special -- the U.S. already has several military commands organized geographically: PACCOM (Pacific Command), CENTCOM (Central Command) and EUCOM (European Command), so why not AFRICOM? But unlike the others, AFRICOM has the promotion of stability as its primary mission. It's designed, as the president put it, "to enhance our efforts to bring peace and security to the people of Africa and to promote the ... development of health, education, democracy and economic growth."

Yes, you read that right: The Defense Department has a new military command dedicated, more or less, to establishing peace, love and understanding in Africa. Don't giggle or sneer; they're serious. AFRICOM will bring together military personnel with civilian employees from the State Department, the USAID and other U.S. agencies, and most U.S. humanitarian work in Africa will be coordinated through AFRICOM.
[Emphasis added]

Now, I have to admit that I was tempted to call that a pretty surprising use of the military, but on further reflection I remembered all those schools that the Army and Marines painted in Iraq, a country which we currently occupy. That parallel certainly must have occurred to others, especially those living in Africa. Ms. Brooks noticed it as well:

Innovative though it may be, it also has a familiar ring to it, one that isn't reassuring to many African ears. It's a Kipling-esque ring, perhaps: something to do with the White Man's Burden, something that reminds many Africanists of the bad old days of colonialism, when European imperial powers also seamlessly merged their military, economic, political and diplomatic forces to dominate and exploit Africa's people and resources.

Promoting African peace, democracy and development are all good things, but the U.S. efforts might be more palatable if the velvet glove handing out foreign aid weren't stretched so obviously over the iron fist of the world's most lethal war-fighting machine. To skeptics, AFRICOM's creation suggests that the scramble for Africa isn't over, it's just entering a new phase, as the U.S. seeks to keep Africa stable -- on U.S. terms.
[Emphasis added]

It's pretty clear that this administration is incapable of diplomacy or foreign aid unless it is accompanied by guns. Perhaps that's why the president was a little shy about discussing this wondrous new program.

332 days

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Blogger Arabella Trefoil said...

Kipling would have loved the idea but at least he'd write poems about it. I'm not saying that they'd be good poems.


4:26 AM  
Blogger Candymarl said...

But the AFRICOM troops are strictly peace keepers! Honest!

4:58 AM  
Blogger Avedon said...

It's pretty clear that this administration is incapable of diplomacy or foreign aid unless it is accompanied by guns.

They need guns to enforce the "economic revival" of taking jobs away from local people.

6:30 AM  
Anonymous larry, dfh said...

Meanwhile, Petrobras (national Brazilian oil company) is signing deals with Angola.
"He who take cakes whcih the Parsi-man bakes makes dreadful mistakes"

2:55 PM  

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