Academic journal article Pepperdine Policy Review

Food Security as U.S. National Security: Why Fragile States in Africa Matter

Academic journal article Pepperdine Policy Review

Food Security as U.S. National Security: Why Fragile States in Africa Matter

Article excerpt


The United States' role in foreign affairs is guided by an interest to keep the general peace around the world while protecting national security and economic interests. Stability in regions such as sub-Saharan Africa is crucial to national security, and one way to keep peace is by supplying a basic human need: food. According to the Fund for Peace, the three most fragile states in 2017 were in Africa- the Central African Republic, South Sudan, and Somalia.1 Several other African countries are fragile, suffering from standard measures of instability, such as widespread corruption, weak institutions, and resource scarcity. Together, these problems create displacement, which can contribute to refugee crises, questions of regime legitimacy, human-rights violations, and power vacuums where non-state actors can flourish. These issues should concern the United States not only for moral reasons, but also because they negatively affect American interests. Food aid and agricultural systems must be used as a tool to promote peace in Africa to decrease the region's burden on the United States and to help stabilize a region that is often referred to as a lost continent.

With bipartisan support, the Global Food Security Act became law in July of 2016. It requires the President and appropriate agencies-including USAID, State Department, and the Office of US Trade-to formulate a plan to address food-insecure countries and report on that plan annually.2 The bill cited the Worldwide Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Community (2014): "[l]ack of adequate food will be a destabilizing factor in countries important to US national security that do not have the financial or technical abilities to solve their internal food security problems."3 Though it is uncertain whether annual reports will continue under the Trump administration, the US has demonstrated (at least through the Global Food Security Act) that it views food security as a matter of national security. According to the most recent Worldwide Threat Assessment, Africa is among the regions most susceptible to terrorism, especially in Somalia and South Sudan.4 This paper explores the ways in which food insecurity can enable conflict, how the US can improve the ways it offers food aid, and why African food security is in America's national security interest.

Consequences of Food Insecurity

To begin, international development is within the scope of national security. Enforcing and communicating a universal conception of human rights by any party is difficult without offending different cultures. Nevertheless, US national security strategy has placed an emphasis on human rights in recent years. The former Secretary of State under President George W. Bush, Condoleezza Rice, once remarked that: "[f]or the United States, supporting international development is a vital investment in the free, prosperous, and peaceful international order that fundamentally serves our national interest."5 Fragile regimes in Africa cannot successfully maintain themselves, let alone pose an immediate threat to the United States. However, authoritative regimes that violate basic human rights are not necessarily looking to strengthen ties with America. Rather, they would likely seek alliances with powers who are ideologically opposed to the United States, such as China, which could create a region of the world adverse to American interests and values.

Secondly, migrant and refugee flows are concerns for the United States due to their economic and social consequences. While many of the most serious cases of refugee crises today are nowhere near the US, they do affect some of the United States' key allies around the globe. A clear example of this is Syrian migration into NATO member countries. In addition to military conflict, bipartisan research has shown that climate can also contribute to mass migrations by impacting harvest yields in regions still reliant on subsistence agriculture. …

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