Academic journal article Military Review

Militarization of U.S. Foreign Policy in Africa: Strategic Gain or Backlash?

Academic journal article Military Review

Militarization of U.S. Foreign Policy in Africa: Strategic Gain or Backlash?

Article excerpt

MANY THINK AMERICAN foreign policy objectives reflect America's values and ideals. The United States globally promotes human rights, democracy, international justice, rule of law, and free trade. Achieving these liberal ends would require liberal policies. Ironically, U.S. foreign policymakers, informed by neorealist motivations, employ realist mechanisms, especially military force, to pursue its putative liberal goals, undermining the attainment of those liberal ends. U.S. policies toward Africa historically followed a "hands off" approach until the onset of the Cold War. U.S. anti-communists stratagem led to its involvement in Cold War African security issues, evidenced in the Angolan war and the militarization of some client states and factions. In the post-Cold War era, America had limited political, humanitarian, security, and economic interests in Africa. Expectedly, its interest in African security issues dimmed with minimal military involvement in Africa. Eastern Europe and Asia gained primacy in America's foreign policy, demoting African security issues to the periphery of its foreign policy. In 1995, the Defense Department asserted that American security and economic interests in Africa were limited: "At present, we have no permanent or significant military presence anywhere in Africa: We have no bases; we station no combat forces; and we homeport no ships.... Ultimately we see very little traditional strategic interest in Africa." (1)

Contrary to Africa's strategic insignificance to the United States in the post-immediate Cold War era, it gained primacy in post-9/11 due to terrorism, energy sources, and China's creeping influence into Africa. (2) Defense secretary Robert Gates warned against the risk of "creeping militarization" of U.S. foreign policy and recommended the State Department lead U.S. engagement with other countries. (3) This article is an examination of the militarization of America's foreign policy and the ramifications for its strategic interests in Africa. It observes that America's military involvement in Africa, despite some strategic gains, has backfired due to the inherent contradiction of the use of realist means to achieve liberal ends. The article recommends that it would be prudent for America to deemphasize "hard power" and heighten "soft power" to achieve its interests in Africa.

Why Militarization?

U.S. militarization of Africa is intended to fight terrorism, secure oil resources, and counter China's influence in the continent. (4) Africa's relevance in U.S. national security policy and military affairs gained primacy during the Bush administration. Vice Adm. Robert T. Moeller, while serving as deputy commander for Military Operations, U.S. Africa Command, listed oil disruption, terrorism, and the growing influence of China as challenges to U.S. interests in Africa. The spillage of Al-Qaeda's heinous activities in the Middle East into Africa in 1998 with Al-Qaeda's bombing of U.S. embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam changed America's disengagement policy with Africa. America's involvment in Africa was accentuated by the 9/11 attacks and the emerging hotbeds of terrorism in East Africa.

America views weak and failed African states as incubators of threats to its geo-strategic interests in Africa. Weak and failed states are prone to growth of terrorism and international criminal activities such as drugs and money laundering, all of which threaten America's interests. Susan Rice, former assistant secretary of state for African Affairs, states:

   Much of Africa has become a veritable
   incubator for the foot soldiers of terrorism.
   Its poor, young, disaffected, unhealthy,
   uneducated populations often have no stake
   in government, no faith in the future, and
   harbor an easily exploitable discontent with
   the status-quo ... these are the swamps we
   must drain ... to do otherwise, is to place our
   security at further and more permanent risk. … 
Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.