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July 15, 2004

Why All of Africa is in America's Interest

When Americans think of helping African nations, at best typically think of humanitarian and altruistic aid that will never be more than an exercise in kindness. At worst, they simply sit back and grimly assume that the problems in Zimbabwe or the Sudan, for example, aren't the problems that America needs to be concerned with or the kinds of problems that America can help solve. Rarely do we Americans think in a long-term strategic sense.

The Angola Press is noting a former American Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, one Chester Croker, who has a wholly different view--and a view that I happen to agree with.

Former US assistant secretary of state for African affairs Chester Crocker has underscored the continentís importance in his countryís strategic interests in view of its proximity with the Middle East.

According to a news release issued by the American Cultural Centre in Dakar, Crocker was giving a lecture organised by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies during the presentation of a report on the US governmentís African policy.

The former senior US official turned academician maintained that Africa has turned into a potential battlefield between "terrorist forces and anti-terrorist allies".

The report, prepared at the request of the US Congress and entitled "The Growing United States Stakes in Africa" calls for "ambitious" extension of the US diplomatic and intelligence presence in Africa, especially "crisis-response diplomacy".

Oddly, one of my country's largest failings has been its unwillingness to become involved in overseas politics until a situation is near a bursting point. The American tendency, when dealing with international matters that do not directly effect our national security, is two fold: to maintain a diplomatic distance from problem zones as long as possible followed by an eye roll about the rest of the worlds' inability to police their own. Directly following the national rolling of the eyes, Americans will roll up their sleeves and commence to fixing problems, whether invited or not.

Let me be clear, I don't necessarily think of this as a bad thing. I, patriotic conservative that I am, think that America has managed to do quite a bit of good around the world (and, yes, there were bad moments, too).

What I think would be better, though, is if America were to think in this kind of a long view way and recognize the dangers that wait for us if we continue to allow African nations to slowly slip into anarchy and violence. If Afghanistan was a good breeding ground for terrorism, how bad will it be when terrorists re-locate their camps and their command structures to Africa, migrating south through failing nations?

Worse, having terrorists entrenched throughout the continent will only exacerbate the tendency of those nations to fall into violent political struggle.

The long view tells us that helping African nations learn to be successful members of the international community will help the rest of us sleep in peace. For Americans, though, the urge to bring the troops home and mind our own business is, largely, overwhelming--and the thought of becoming more directly involved in Africa is just one task too many.

They insisted that, if applied correctly, preventive measures and peacekeeping interventions could save the lives of thousands of persons and promote the basic interests of the United States, which is to bring order and stability in Africa.

The report urged the US to allocate more funds to finance United Nations peacekeeping operations in Africa and the training of African armies.

According to the authors, Africa is "in the limelight" and is assuming greater importance at this moment as the US moves away from purely humanitarian concerns.

Humanitarian efforts are in their own way satisfying, but saving a nation from tyranny and the destruction that terrorists would bring into a country is far more fulfilling in the long run. We Americans may not want to deal with the problems of Africa, but if we simply sit on the sidelines and watch the troubles unfold, there will be painful repercussions in the long run.

Read the story.

Posted by zombyboy at July 15, 2004 04:53 PM
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