Posted by: bklunk | June 4, 2007

US Strategy–Africa Style

peter at an analysis of us foreign policy notes the significance of the creation of the new African Command. In the upcoming issue of Esquire magazine, Thomas P.M. Barnett has an interesting article pointing to the new role of Africom in the “global war on terror.” Careful students will read the following and think about both the long cycles of power relationships and the importance of bureaucratic politics.

An Analysis of US Foreign Policy

First is the concern over the militarization of US policy toward Africa.

The creation of the Defense Department Africa Command, with responsibilities to promote security and government stability in the region, has heightened concerns among African countries and in the U.S. government over the militarization of U.S. foreign policy, according to a newly released study by the Congressional Research Service.

AFRICOM would have traditional responsibilities of a combat command “to facilitate or lead [U.S.] military operations” on the continent, but would also include “a broader ‘soft power’ mandate aimed at preemptively reducing conflict and would incorporate a larger civilian component to address those challenges,” according to the CRS study.

Fear that it could represent a first step toward more U.S. troops in Africa led [Ryan Henry, principal deputy undersecretary of defense for policy] to assure African leaders that the “principal mission will be in the area of security cooperation and building partnership capability. It will not be in warfighting.”

As has been discussed often on this blog, usually by Dan, the US role as hegemon with a global order / empire to manage has required a number of US policy and grand strategy shifts in recent years. The US has become more involved militarily in more corners of the globe, not only fighting terrorism, but also enforcing and maintaining the current global order. Africa, long ignored in this process, now gets its own military command, allowing the Pentagon to further extend US military interests in Africa. Given the power of the Pentagon in the current Administration, its highly likely that under the new Command, the Pentagon’s priorities for Africa will come to dominate the US Government’s priorities and policies toward Africa, thereby increasing the militarization of US Foreign Policy.

However, the interesting line above is:

also include “a broader ‘soft power’ mandate aimed at preemptively reducing conflict and would incorporate a larger civilian component to address those challenges,”

How soft can power be? Nye’s idea of soft power rests on getting people to want what you want so that one can achieve outcomes without having to resort to military or economic force. Unresolved in Nye’s definition, I think, is the very question raised by AFRICOM–can the military employ ‘soft power?’ Is soft power defined by the tools used to realize it, making it a cultural/media/internet type phenomenon, or is soft power defined by the way one exercises power over another–in this case, allowing for the possibility that the military might be the organization that is best able to convey values and ideas to other actors.

The US Military has a very mixed record on this front. On the one hand, military engagement programs have been very very effective in helping to transform former communist countries into Western-European, NATO allied market democracies. These engagement programs have been all run out of EUCOM, so creating an AFRICOM might similarly duplicate this success in Africa. Moreover, the military may in fact be one of the most powerful social institutions (for good or ill) in many African countries, so using soft power to spread certain ideas through the military could be a good way to reach more (and more important) people than working through some other social network. On the other hand, the military does like to see and solve military problems, and its hard to see how a special forces A-team or IMET money will make serious progress in sustainable agriculture, clean water, or combating HIV-AIDS.

Second is the change in US bureaucratic politics:

A State Department civilian official is to be one of the two deputy commanders of AFRICOM, though that official would not be in the chain of command on military operations, according to the CRS report. In addition, more than one-third of AFRICOM headquarters personnel would be from outside the Pentagon. Defense officials told CRS that “the new command will seek greater interagency coordination with the State Department, USAID and other government agencies,” according to the report.

Now this is very interesting. In my earlier piece on AFRICOM, I noted that having a high-profile, well funded bureaucratic organization within the government to generate knowledge, raise and define issues, advocate for positions, and implement programs would change the way the US government sees Africa. Now, there already is one person who ostensibly does this: Jendayi E. Frazer, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs. I never heard of her either until I looked up that link. Compare her stature and resources to those of the eventual three or four star flag officer who will assume command of AFRICOM, and under Goldwater-Nichols report directly to the National Command Authority–The President and Secretary of Defense. Add, on top of that, the rise of the Unified Command Combatant Commanders in recent years and the rise of the Pentagon within the national security bureaucracy under the current administration, and you have a very strong new player on African Issues who will probably come to dominate the agenda (leading to the worries of militarization above).

But, notice how ‘inter-agency’ the new command is supposed to be. Having a State Department official as a Deputy Commander will create a new role in the diplomatic corps and give State and other civilian agencies a huge say in the Command’s activities. Having one third of staff from non-military agencies, including USAID, suggests that AFRICOM may very well start to champion inter-agency cooperation on African issues and perhaps might even be able to raise the profile of key development issues on the continent. Of course, there is the price of securitizing development, AIDS, and the like, but the lesson in Washington is that this is how things get done these days. Perhaps the new, inter-agency make up of the Command will lead to a ‘softer’ military presence, and engagement in non-military or partially military development and capacity building activities.

Do you think it would make a difference if a 4-star general in full uniform heads up to the Hill to testify on behalf of an increase in the 150 account (the foreign aid budget) for development in Africa?

If this model works, it could very well serve as a model for future government reforms, where inter-agency cooperation and coordination is a key need. Look no farther than Iraq where DoD, State, and everyone else couldn’t get along and it turned into a colossal disaster (as Dan just pointed out). Key agencies worked at cross-purposes to the detriment of the government’s policy agenda. Worse, they failed to learn from each other, ignoring key bits of knowledge, expertise, and insight that could have prevented many of the worst elements of the post-invasion occupation from happening. Granted–the failings of the inter-agency process in Iraq were as much the result of fighting among principles, not line-workers, but having some more State Dept and AID folks on Frank’s staff might have helped them just a bit when the “planned” the invasion.

So, I think the creation of this new Command and the way in which its being done will have far-reaching affects–on how the US sees the world, develops policy, and goes about its business as a national security state.

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Posted by: bklunk | May 31, 2007

A Different Kind of War

It was a little less than two years ago that President Bush said this:

Yet this is a different kind of war. Our enemies are not organized into battalions, or commanded by governments. They hide in shadowy networks and retreat after they strike.

So why, then, is he relying on analogical thinking. What is different about the challenge of terrorism is that it is not inherently territorial, nor is the key to dealing with terrorism essentially military.

FP Passport | blogging on global news, politics, economics and ideas

Illustrating his long-term intentions regarding the U.S. presence in Iraq, President Bush called yesterday for a U.S. occupation similar to that in South Korea. While he merely intended to convey the idea that the United States will be engaged there for a very long time, his choice of analogies gives me a headache. The two occupations are completely different. In Korea, U.S. forces safeguard a clearly defined demilitarized zone, where their purpose is to deter a North Korean invasion. In Iraq, the occupation is not even close to being that straightforward. The front lines are everywhere, and even the Green Zone is becoming dangerous. There’s no real threat of invasion, but there’s also no single entity with whom the United States can negotiate. Also worth noting: There never was a Korean insurgency. Even U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates exhibited similar delusions about the nature of this conflict earlier this month, when he said: It’s important to defend this country on the extremists’ 10-yard line and not on our 10-yard line. American football is about equally crude an analogy as the Korean peninsula. Once again, a U.S. official sees the conflict in terms of old-fashioned interstate war, in which the enemy must be confronted abroad, lest we be forced to battle him at home. Sorry, Bob, it’s not that simple. Keeping up the fight in Iraq isn’t likely to stop any potential terrorists—by all accounts, it’s creating more of them.

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Posted by: bklunk | May 30, 2007


On the one hand, the Bush administration has provided far more support than previous U.S. administrations for programs like this. On the other,  critics, probably with some cause, will be concerned about the emphasis on abstinence as an AIDS prevention strategy. The lovely thing about money is that it is fungible

Bush Seeks to Double Spending for AIDS Program – New York Times

WASHINGTON, May 30 — President Bush asked Congress today to double the amount the United States spends to fight “this modern-day plague” of AIDS in developing countries. He proposed spending $30 billion over a five-year period beginning in September 2008.
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President Bush with Baron Mosima Loyiso Tantoh, 4, and his mother, Manyongo Mosima Tantoh, who is H.I.V. positive.
Bush’s Proposal for AIDS ProgramVideo
Bush’s Proposal for AIDS Program

The United States’ current campaign against AIDS, with $15 billion in committed spending, has made possible the treatment of 1.1 million infected people in 15 countries, most of them in Africa — an achievement Mr. Bush called “a promising start.” If America steps up its commitment to $30 billion, 2.5 million people can be treated and as many as 12 million cases of infection can be prevented, Mr. Bush said.

“This money will be spent wisely,” Mr. Bush said in the White House Rose Garden, where the brilliant sunshine and the music of birds seemed incongruous, given the seriousness of the subject.

Mr. Bush said that compacts with other governments, with private organizations and with faith-based groups would ensure that the money is not wasted.

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Posted by: bklunk | May 28, 2007


Here is an interesting story: domestic politics requires cover for a possible change in strategy. The “garbage can” theory of policymaking suggests that policymakers don’t necessarily go through a thorough search of all possible policy alternatives but rather look for available options:

NPR : Iraq Study Group Report May Resurface

The White House now has four more months of funding for the war in Iraq. But September offers another focal point for a debate over the direction of the war. The Iraq Study Group’s report — initially ignored — may yet provide a framework.

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Posted by: bklunk | May 25, 2007

I Still Haven’t Blogged What I’m Looking For

Paul Hewson (aka Bono Vox or just Bono to his friends) is one of the outstanding examples of what have been called “super-empowered individuals.” He has leveraged his celebrity to play an interesting role on the issue of poverty in Africa.  Do you suppose he is an anomaly in a state-centered international system? Or is he the image of things to come?

BBC NEWS | Entertainment | Bono honoured for Africa campaign

Rock singer and campaigner Bono is to be honoured in the US to mark his work to relieve suffering in Africa.

The Liberty Medal is awarded by the US National Constitution Center for those who have “demonstrated leadership and vision in the pursuit of liberty”.

The $100,000 (£50,300) prize will be donated to the Debt Aids Trade Africa charity Bono founded in 2002. He will be given the medal in September.

Six recipients of the medal have gone on to win the Nobel Peace Prize.

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Posted by: bklunk | May 24, 2007

A New Approach?

It’s unlikely that any approach to Greenhouse Gas reduction will work without the U.S., China, and India.  Maybe this approach would lead to an approach more workable than Kyoto. Japan

May 25 (Bloomberg) — The U.S., China and India should agree to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s proposal to cut greenhouse gas emissions by half by 2050, Japan’s Foreign Minister Taro Aso said.

Abe made the proposal yesterday as a new framework to replace the Kyoto Protocol that expires in 2012 and will discuss it at the Group of Eight summit next month. The U.S., the world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, rejected the Kyoto Protocol and China and India are not signatories.

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Some realists claim that a world where all states had nuclear weapons would be more stable.  Other observers worry that someone somewhere will again use nuclear weapons with horrendous consequences.  If Iran goes nuclear, the international nonproliferation institutions may become completely irrelevant.

US warns Iran as armada enters Gulf | The World | The Australian

THE US today threatened new UN sanctions to punish Iran’s nuclear drive as it ratcheted up tensions with the biggest display of naval power in the Gulf in years.

A bristling US armada led by two aircraft carriers steamed into waters near Iran for exercises, hours before UN watchdogs said Iran was expanding its uranium enrichment program in defiance of international sanctions.

The International Atomic Energy Agency said that Iran continues to enrich uranium – which can provide fuel for civilian reactors but also make nuclear bombs.

That prompted warnings from US officials of further UN punishment unless Iran curtails its nuclear development – which the Islamic republic insists is devoted to civilian energy.

“Iran is once again thumbing its nose at the international community,” US Under Secretary of State Nicholas Burns said, as US and Iranian envoys prepared for historic talks on Iraqi security in Baghdad next Monday.

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Posted by: bklunk | May 22, 2007

And Now Some State Level Analysis

My last post highlighted a system-level analysis of international politics. In this offering, I look at a situation where state-level factors are more important.

First, the separation of powers system in the U.S. has a marked impact on the way the U.S. approaches issues of international political economy. Congress has the constitutional authority to make trade policy, and while the legislature has delegated substantial powers in this area to the executive branch, Congress and its members often threaten coercive measures to try to affect economic relations with other countries.

BBC NEWS | Business | US urges China to speed up reform

There is increasing anxiety in the US over the growing trade deficit with China, which last year surged to a record $233bn (£118bn). These fears have prompted members US Congress to press for action against China, with critics claiming the price of the yuan is kept artificially low, giving China’s industry an unfair competitive advantage.

This generally leaves the executive branch playing “good cop” to the Congressional “bad cop.”

The other “state-level” factor at work here is the voracious consumerism of U.S. culture. As my son’s girlfriend likes to sing, we like “to shop, shop, shop.” We don’t like to delay gratification nor do we particularly like to moderate our appetites.

But many economists say that these factors have a relatively small impact on the trade imbalance. They say the deficit in US international trade is due to the fact that American consumers save very little – they buy large amounts of imported goods while consumers in China and other Asian countries save a great deal.

Quite a lot at the state-level setting the stage here.

Posted by: bklunk | May 21, 2007

Some System Level Analysis

Thomas L. Friedman, or “the moustache of understanding” as he is sometimes known, suggests in a recent column that the United States has little choice but to develop some kind of understanding with Iran.

Playing the Hand We’ve Dealt – New York Times

With Saddam gone, none of the Arab states are strong enough to balance Iran. They are all either too weak or too dysfunctional. This means we have two choices. We can be the regional power balancing Iran, which will require keeping thousands of troops in the area indefinitely. Or we have to engage Tehran in a high-level dialogue, in which we focus on our mutual interests in stabilizing Afghanistan and Iraq. You have to choose, Mr. President: I can’t do my job if you don’t face the fact that our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — and our energy gluttony — have empowered Iran.

This is classic system level thinking–adjusting one’s behavior–according to the relative power of the actors involved. Because none of Iran’s neighbors is capable of offsetting Iranian power, the US should, Friedman says, find accommodation with Iran. That depends, of course, on a sufficient community of interests between the US and Iran.

By the way, for more on TMOU, Iran, and Iraq see the top two videos on the right sidebar.

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Posted by: bklunk | May 3, 2007

Where Do I Turn?

Japan faces an interesting security dilemma with the growth of China and uncertainty about North Korea.

U.S. Commitment to Extended Deterrence for Japan « International Humanity

Currently, the United States is the most powerful state in the international system. However, there is a continual struggle in international politics for a balance of relative power among states. Security is a major concern of states, especially from a realist perspective that would argue a self-help system. One such attempt to balance relative differences in military strength is to form bilateral or multilateral alliances among states.

Japan and the United States agreed on May 1st to conclude a treaty that will allow the two states to share information concerning ballistic missile defense and other military data. This agreement was the result of a series of information leaks involving Japanese Self-Defense Forces members.

The U.S. and Japan agreed that this new alliance will be consistent and complimentary to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in contributing to world peace and stability. Furthermore, Japan agreed to achieve broader cooperation with NATO in the future.

The underlying motivation behind this decision is the desire to be able to respond more effectively to emerging security challenges and to further protect classified materials. This can be seen in the ministers’ agreement to establish a task force on chemical, biological, radioactive and nuclear defense so that Japanese and U.S. forces can swiftly respond to such attacks.

In this way, Japan is being a very intelligent state in international politics. Not only is the Japanese economy heavily integrated with other economies throughout the world, Japan is also allying itself with the strongest military power in the world in order to advance the nation of Japan. From the perspective of the United States as well, having strong ties with a state such as Japan in East Asia has a number of benefits. Japan is a highly industrialized, technologically advanced, democratic, cooperative state that shares many of the same values as the Western United States such as human rights, peace, and liberal trade. It is only natural that these two states would want to cooperate in every way possible, to the extent that they can trust and rely on one another. Thus, international institutions such as NATO and the United Nations are essential in maintaining a political regime of principles, norms, and rules that the two states can agree upon.


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