chapter  1
24 Pages

Introduction: Framing United States–Africa security relations


United States-Africa Security Relations: Terrorism, Regional Security and National Interests is about the United States’ response to the September 11, 2001 terrorists attacks in New York and Washington, D.C., with specific focus on how the attacks and subsequent response through the Global “War on Terror” (GWOT) impacts U.S.–Africa security relations. The book covers such topics as international security, the history of American foreign policy toward Africa, U.S. security interests in Africa, the connections between GWOT and military institutions in Africa, African military officers’ response to U.S.–Africa military cooperation, the institutions and economic dimensions of U.S.–Africa security relations, and AFRICOM as a new security architecture for U.S. national security interests in Africa. These issues are examined against the backdrop of the long history of the United States’ diplomatic and military engagements in Africa-what some scholars refer to as “benign neglect,” to the specific effect of the Cold War period on U.S.–Africa relations and how these relations changed after September 11, 2001. We hope this volume will stimulate more in-depth scholarly and policy debates and discussions on the U.S’s. Africa policy in general, and more specifically on U.S.–Africa security relations. For well over 40 years, the world was held hostage to the ideological dif-

ferences between capitalist western allies against socialist eastern bloc countries. Most of the third world countries-despite their collective non-aligned foreign policy stance-could not escape the grips of the advanced industrial societies as the U.S. competed against the former Soviet Union for the friendships of the various thirdworld states. Each alliance spent billions courting dictators, and in most cases supplying those dictators with arms to suppress their own citizens. Democracy, free market, and international institutions like the United Nations were largely irrelevant in practice under such major states’ competition for power and influence. The client states of the major powers across the third world were largely rewarded with weapons and economic aid on the basis of their support of the various foreign policy positions of their patrons rather than on the achievement as states with responsibility for economic and political development of their nations and peoples. Consequently, most of the states in

the periphery, especially those across sub-Saharan Africa, used the opportunity to silence government oppositions, deny human rights protections for their citizens and in many instances entrenched autocracy with the support of their patrons in such states as Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo), Nigeria, Ghana, Central African Republic, Ethiopia, Sudan, and other states, as the only form of governance. The exclusionary strategies and policies of various African governments

resulted in the coups and counter-coups, exile for many of the intellectuals and others, who could escape the brutality of the states. But at the same time, these governments increasingly became isolated in the capital cities without direct and productive engagements with the citizens. A direct consequence of these uninformed policies of exclusion and isolation was the unintended ceding of outposts and territories to non-governmental actors, many of whom have come in alliance with external non-state actors to challenge the sovereignty of states in Africa in places like northern and southern Nigeria, Niger, Chad, Burkina Faso, Guinea, and elsewhere. According to one African proverb, “when two elephants fight, the grass suffers; just like when two elephants make love, the same grass suffers.” Thus, while the western and eastern alliances have resolved their Cold War differences and now enjoy cordial economic, military and strategic relations, not much has changed for small states, especially since September 11, 2001, when terrorists from Saudi Arabia used Afghanistan as a launching pad to attack the U.S. But the two former enemies now collaborate in opposition to smaller states, especially if the smaller states are perceived to be havens for terrorism and other criminal activities like drug trafficking and money laundering. The casualties of the Cold War were not only the small powers in the

international system; but, they included core ideas like democracy and liberty that differentiate liberal democracies from authoritarian states. The anti-war movement in the 1960s and the formation of the Student for Democratic Society across elite campuses in the U.S. were in response to the trampling of America’s democratic ideals in the prosecution of the VietnamWar and the larger war on communism that degraded the hallowed U.S.’s Senate Halls with the broad brush of McCarthyism. These were the foundations of the fears of most protests against President George W. Bush’s Iraq war decision in 2003. Some, including domestic political opposition to the “Bush War” and Iraqi political elites, argued that the war was not valid as it demonstrates a desire to control Iraqi oil. For the Bush Administration, the necessity of the war was not in question. It was to root out potential site for terrorism against the U.S. and her allies before it takes hold. The contested reasons for the war need clarification, because of its larger implication for the establishment of the Africa Command (AFRICOM), as well as for the expanded war on terrorism with strategic attention to Africa. First, the circumstances surrounding the war on terror that started with the

9/11 bombing and subsequent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are vastly different from those that gave rise to the Cold War to which the Vietnam war was a significant part for the U.S. The erosion of America’s democratic ideals

during the Cold War, especially the war in Vietnam, was made possible by the secrecy with which the leaders made decisions without being held accountable for those decisions. But with the post-Cold War era, and the development of information technology, not much is hidden for more than 24 hours without the informed public knowing about it. Second, the former Soviet Union funded and provided intelligence to

America’s enemies that made more problematic the realization of America’s war aims in Vietnam and elsewhere, which were blurred in the first place by American leaders’ misinterpretation of the situation in Vietnam. It was not clear what the objective of the war was, and thus the strategieswere compromised by the leaders’ misperceptions of the intentions of the opposition in Vietnam. For example, while the North Vietnamese were fighting a war for national independence, the Americans were fighting to rid Vietnam of an ideology that was neither well developed nor understood by the Vietnamese themselves. As history continues to teach us, those who fight for political independence often do so until the last man dies. But the problem in the contemporary international system is that some of the wars been fought in marginal states, like those in sub-Saharan Africa are not wars for national liberation or even for the control of a segment of the territory for its own sake. Rather, these wars have become wars for resource control without regard for the space or territoriality in question. As sovereign entities, sub-Saharan African states with records of suppres-

sing the rights of their citizens, the new wars have become challenges to the capacity of states to control their sovereign territories. And similar to the Cold War context, the war on terror has not changed the perception and strategy of international involvement in Africa-no robust and effective international intervention to aid the insurgents or the state to resolve the issues. But then, this was the agreement the Europeans reached in the Treaty of Westphalia (1648) and imposed on the rest of the new states-the leader of a state has the right to determine the nature of citizenship, space, and territoriality under their control, as well as its capacity for legitimate use of violence against challengers to its power and authority. Unfortunately, and especially in the context of post-Cold War conditions, international norm provides no clear pathways or mechanisms for states to secure their sovereignty safe through violence. The lack of clear pathways leaves open the competition for power between states and in war on terror contexts, between states and non-state actors such as Boko Haram andMovement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta (MEND) in Nigeria and al-Shabab in the case of Somalia and other East African states. However, states (like the U.S.) with the most latent economic resources are likely

to use those resources to develop sufficient military capability for defensive purposes in the international system and exercise influence against other states. But states that are less fortunate (Chad) by accident of location or poor strategy (Nigeria) and with economic resources but poor leadership are likely to face challenges from within and beyond its borders for the control of those resources. Also, the war on terrorism is different from the Cold War contexts

because, the Soviet Union is moribund, and France is very unlikely to provide any useful counter-weight to Washington by providing, for example, Chad with intelligence and arms to defend challenges to its sovereignty. Consequently, major powers extend their reach to secure their interests while small or peripheral states are co-opted along the way as the case of the U.S. “war on terror” demonstrates in its relationship with African states. Arguably, if the circumstances were reversed in favor of the states in Africa,

the governments of Kenya, Nigeria, and or South Africa would be likely to challenge the sovereignty of the U.S. to gain access to their resources. But, it is the nature of governance or its absence in the international system that compels states to behave as they do. There is no world government, and the United Nations has no enforcement powers against major states’ actions like those of the U.S., Russia, or against regional powers like Israel or Nigeria without the support or tacit approval of the major powers. Perhaps this explains persistent violations of the norms and resolutions of the United Nations by its member states when it serves their interests. The 2011 NATOorganized and supported military intervention in Libya is in the tradition of major states’ tendency to assert their power against weaker states. Thus, the external and the internal objections to the “war on terror” in the U.S. and anti-AFRICOM in many African circles are based on superficial idealism about peace, and how peace is obtained and maintained at home and abroad. Interestingly, both the domestic and the external coalitions are not opposed

to the idea of war or even the strategies that are deployed; but it seems their selection of wars and strategies to oppose is based on their perceived interests or ideological thermometer. To the extent that these anti-terror/war groups are selective in their support of peace, we are unimpressed by their positions. Domestically for the U.S., it would be impressive to see a huge movement aimed at stamping out poverty, ignorance, racism, religious extremism, sexism, gang wars, xenophobia, and all other forms of silent and overt discrimination against those perceived as the “other.” Externally, it would be impressive for the European states that created the artificial boundaries in the continent of Africa to lead a coalition of all states against arms shipment to African countries, where over ten million lives have been lost in various civil wars and extra-judicial killings of pro-democracy activists since the 1970s, at times with the support of the same governments and citizens now opposed to anti-terrorism strategies in sub-Saharan Africa. Better still, it would help if these Europeans were to reveal and repatriate ill-gotten wealth stored in European financial institutions and real estate investments by African public officials to African states rather than constantly preaching about human rights violations and corruption only in theory to the citizens in African states. For Africans, the opposition to AFRICOM and other international interven-

tions in the continent would be more credible if such catastrophes as the wars in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan, Somalia, and the genocide in Rwanda, Burundi, and Nigeria were collectively opposed and stopped by Africans without looking to the international

community for assistance on how to save Africans from themselves. Indeed, the “Arab Spring fever” that was helped by NATO in Libya resoundingly reveals the “emperor has no clothes in African Union!” Until such a time, pragmatic and sensible realism suggests that major states have system-wide interests in ensuring security and protection of their interests; thus, regional powers oppose the major states at their peril. September 11th has only amplified the nature of the international system

and the right that states have in a world characterized by the absence of a hegemonic global state. The issue is whether or not states in Africa are sensible enough realists to coordinate their policy actions to enhance internal state capacities to deliver services to their citizens, physical security, infrastructure, and other services that make for progressive engagement of citizens within their states. For such progressive and active nationalism are likely therefore to undermine the possibility of a portion of their territories becoming safe haven for criminal and terror-related activities. The outcome of such engagement is one that is likely to also forestall external interference with the sovereign integrity of states in Africa. The issue therefore is not about oil or other mineral resources per se, but about how states define their interests and their capacities to protect those interests within their sovereign territories as well as in the international system. Thus, how terrorist threats to the national security interests of the U.S. and

its friends are perceived and contextualized in U.S.–Africa security relations is what this book aims to contextually explain with policy prescriptions for a more stable region. Structurally, the rest of the chapter focuses on the following: (1) it briefly contextualizes the analytical framework for understanding the U.S.’s security relations with Africa; (2) it examines the “war on terror” in the context of the U.S.’s relationship with Africa; (3) it briefly discusses the various chapters in the volume; and (4) it makes concluding remarks on U.S.–Africa relations.

To theoretically explain the U.S.’s stated missions, policies, and strategies for securing its global interests, especially since the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, DC requires thinking through the realist worldview of the Bush Administration. The administration’s foreign and defense policies were guided by such known realists such as Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, National Security Advisor and later Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and Vice President Dick Cheney. Such a perspective views the structure of the international system as anarchic and conditions state behaviors and outcomes. Realists assume that the anarchic international system structure is (1) comprised of sovereign states whose foreign policies are shaped primarily by security concerns;1 (2) that states are rational and unitary actors with stable power-maximizing preferences that maintain the existing power relative to other states and/or extend them; and (3) that states will consistently prefer national security over economic or welfare

issues, and by extension, balance of power is preferred over notions of collective security. For realists, especially those that guided the U.S.’s foreign and defense

policies under President GeorgeW. Bush, given anarchy, war retains its utility in the international system, as it always has, historically. And, as Stephen Krasner points out, “ … the basic explanation for the behavior of states is the distribution of power in the international system and the place of a given state within that distribution.”2 These policy-makers equally believe that the number of major world powers will determine the structure and governance of the international system; and given the end of the Cold War, the United States retains a preponderance of power that it can deploy globally in securing its national security interests. For these realists, states must seek to preserve and strengthen their positions against other states-dominate them or at least balance their power. Equally significant for the realist argument is the assumption of rationality.

States as dominant units in the international system seek power “either as an end in itself or as a means to other ends.” Thus, in part, states behave in ways that are, by and large, rational, and therefore comprehensible to outsiders in rational terms,3 because states also tend to be responsive to constraints of structures largely determined by the state’s position within the system. For example, while the terrorists’ attacks against the United States were carried out by non-state actors, the realists in the administration had to conceptualize and execute security policies as if state actions ignited the terrorism against America-hence the view that Al Qaida, the Talibans, and other Islamic fundamentalists are traceable to specific states and spaces that only make sense in terms of state structures and rational decisions by government officials. As Robert Keohane argues, “[t]o say that governments act rationally…means