Academic journal article African Studies Review

Africa in International Politics: External Involvement on the Continent

Academic journal article African Studies Review

Africa in International Politics: External Involvement on the Continent

Article excerpt

lan Taylor and Paul Williams, eds. Africa in International Politics: External Involvement on the Continent. New York: Routledge, 2004. xi + 225 pp. Index. $105.00. Cloth. $36.95. Paper.

The editors of this useful volume begin from the premise that, despite chatter to the contrary, "Africa is not marginalized from world politics and external actors continue to play a highly visible role in the continent" (18). They have assembled a set of well-informed essays about the African policies of the major powers and certain international organizations. Rounding up the usual suspects (the permanent members of the security Council plus Japan and-less usually-Canada), the authors analyze the concrete interests that these states pursue in Africa. Several contributors perceive a constructivist phenomenon according to which African policy provides not only a means for pursuing classic national interests but also a "means through which national and institutional self-images are developed and defined" (18). Rather than constructing empires, states now construct reputations in Africa.

This type of argument has long been a familiar one insofar as France is concerned. Despite some cosmetic changes in French policy during the years of Lionel Jospin's premiership, Daniela Kroslak sees longer term continuity in this dimension of French policy. While Jospin sought to change France's image as the "gendarme d'Afrique" (79), the notorious networks are still in place, and President Jacques Chirac reasserted the familiar French role via interventions in Côte d'Ivoire in 2002 and the eastern Congo (under U.N. mandate) in 2003. Kroslak finds that the longstanding notion that France cannot be France without Africa is alive and well. Reviewing American policy in the post-Cold War environment, James Hentz perceives some evolution from its primarily realist orientation during the Cold War toward what he calls a "meliorist" approach during the 1990s that emphasizes humanitarianism and democratization. He seems doubtful, however, that the trend will survive the current administration's focus on the war on terrorism. …

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