chapter  3
19 Pages

American Engagement with Africa

Since decolonization, Africa has been on the periphery of U.S. security interests. America’s lack of a colonial history on the continent meant that the U.S. was content to leave its European allies, the former colonial powers, to deal with African countries. After the continent gained its independence in the postWorld War II era, its strategic importance was tied to the Cold War. Although not a priority, Africa was a pawn in the ideological struggle between the West and the former Soviet Union and a region whose resources had to be denied to the communists. The end of the Cold War initially marginalized Africa further in U.S. policymaking. The 1990 National Security Strategy of the United States devoted less than a page to Africa, briefl y recognizing Africa’s importance as a source of strategic raw materials and the continent’s human potential. It also emphasized American support for economic reforms and negotiated settlement of the region’s confl icts. 1 The 1994 National Security Strategy noted that Africa was one of the greatest challenges for the strategy of engagement and enlargement outlined in that document. It went on to say that the U.S. sought to “help support democracy, sustainable economic development, and the resolution of confl icts through negotiation, diplomacy, and peacekeeping.” While it noted the U.S. humanitarian intervention in Somalia, it stated that, “in the end, however, such efforts by the U.S. and the international community must be limited in duration and designed to give the people of a nation the means and opportunity to put their own house in order.” 2

By 1998, there was an indication of the strategic importance that Africa had come to represent. The 1998 National Security Strategy stated that “serious transnational security threats emanate from pockets of Africa, including statesponsored terrorism, narcotics trafficking, international crime, environmental damage and disease. These threats can only be addressed through effective, sustained engagement in Africa.” 3 Subsequent National Security Strategy papers have continued to upgrade Africa’s significance. As Africa’s importance has grown, it is useful to examine the historical pattern of U.S. security cooperation with the continent. During the Cold War, the U.S. played a role in many of the continent’s high-profile crises. Briefly surveying U.S. security policy toward Africa during the independence era, this chapter examines the thrust of

U.S. security cooperation with Africa and the factors that drove Washington’s policy toward the continent.