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U.S. Defense Policy towards Africa Essay

The Unite States promote its defense policies all over the world. The last attempt to promote democracy in the Middle East and in Iraq in particular has turned into a mass violent conflict, the outcomes of which are still unclear. Africa and especially Sub-Saharan Africa is not an exception. Since the time of the Cold War the U. S. was trying to develop a sound defense policy in terms of Congo (Zaire), Somalia, and other African countries. Whether these attempts were successful is to be discussed in more details.

The historical implications of the U. S. defense policies in Africa Since the beginning of 1990s, globalization processes have expanded beyond the areas of economic activity, to be noticed in the political arena. Globalization has simultaneously displayed its benefits and negative sides. “While technological advances and the spread of telecommunications have made the world more interdependent through greatly increased information, business, and personal contacts, these same trends have also helped spawn conflict” (Noonan, 2002).

Globalization makes it evident that the use of global military instruments does not always imply the proliferation of arms or military forces; these instruments often take forms of computer viruses or informational blockades. Since the middle of 1990s, Africa has become the center of mass violent conflicts. By 1998, Africa was already involved into 11 military conflicts of local character, and evidently, the continent was not able to cope with those military and political problems without external support. There are many supporters of the U. S. defense policy towards Africa.

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Supporters often view the U. S. defense strategies as the means to eliminate violence against people, and to bring peacemaking initiatives into the continent. However, was the U. S. defense policy rooted in peacemaking initiatives only, or did it stem from the far-reaching mistakes the U. S. made to suppress the striking civil conflicts? The U. S. defense policies in Africa prove the latter. Statistics is persuasive, and it is difficult to deny that “throughout the Cold War (1950-1989), the U. S. delivered over $1. 5 billion worth weaponry to Africa” (Arms Trade Resource Center, 2000).

Somalia, Liberia, Sudan, and Zaire (now- the Democratic Republic of Congo) were the top “clients” of those weaponry supplies. Thus, the picture becomes a little bit clearer: what I personally think is that the weaponry supplies have greatly contributed into the development and the current course of events in Africa. This does not mean that the U. S. has become the direct cause of the military conflicts in Africa. It is implied that the later U. S. defense policies towards Africa might have been aimed at minimizing or even eliminating the bloody consequences of the earlier military relations between Africa and the U.

S. It is even probable, that with the desire to neutralize the negative impact on the African countries, the U. S. decided to develop a sound defense policy towards the most problematic African areas. The history of the U. S. defense policies towards Africa actually displays the persistent failure of the American state to implement any effective policy besides the proliferation of armed forces. The history of the African politics is connected with the numerous examples when the U. S.

offered military support to any of the conflicting parties, justifying those actions by the desire to promote democratic values in African states (many of us remember the Mobutu conflict in Congo – Armed Trade Resource Center, 2000). Even the mere name “defense” suggests that the U. S. will hardly be able to create any reliable peacemaking policy. Congo and Somalia are the two brightest examples of the U. S. failure in the African continent. I totally agree with the opinion that “the U. S. failed to acknowledge its role in fueling conflict and undermining democratic development in Africa” (Noonan, 2002).

I am confident that any international peacemaking initiatives are invariably linked to the risks of interference with the policies of other countries, and to breaking their normal course of political and social development. We witnessed these situations in the Gulf War, we understood these implications in the U. S. war in Iraq, and evidently the African countries have not become an exception in this row of the American military failures. Does not this mean that it is high time the U. S. paid better attention to its real objective position in the world? I am not trying to say that the U. S.

should not be involved into any peaceful initiatives in the world. Moreover, many states often require external support in dealing with local conflicts. I agree with the statement that “the U. S. and South Africa have many things in common” (Nye, 1995). What I am trying to say is first, the U. S should not limit its peacemaking initiatives in Africa to weaponry supply, and second, the U. S. should thoroughly reconsider its approaches to the physical structure of defense policies in Africa. Physical structure presupposes proper evaluation of the military positions in the most problematic areas of the African continent.

Exercising global leadership is a responsible mission. The U. S. is thus called for re-evaluating the challenges which Africa creates in the international political arena. The history of the U. S. defense policies in Africa is also connected with the development of the Cold War policies in Europe, especially between the U. S. and the Soviet Union. As a result, the support of African democratic regimes was often viewed not as a peacemaking opportunity, but an opportunity to devastate the communist regime by any means possible.

“The weapons suppliers to the perpetrators of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda included brokers and shippers in the United Kingdom, South Africa, ad France, working with collaborators in Albania, Belgium, Bulgaria, Egypt, Israel, Italy, and Seychelles. While the United States was not a major player in this traffic, many of its closest allies were. And the U. S. history of overt and covert weapons trafficking to the region helped nourish the informal networks which are now often the main source of supply for the world’s most vicious ethnic conflicts. ” (Arms Trade Resource Center, 2000)

The U. S. has to re-direct its defense policies in Africa away from the military expansion and weaponry supplies. The United States has to leave alone its fight for military superiority in the region, and to develop sound social and peacemaking policies, the center of which is neutrality towards all political regimes in the African countries. Constitutionality of the US defense policy in Africa It is difficult to argue whether the African policies of the US are constitutional or not. Evidently, these policies pursue the ideals of democracy and non-proliferation of violence.

As a result, it seems impossible to say that the American defense policies in Congo and Somalia contradict constitutional norms. However, these are constitutionality illusions. In order to decide how unconstitutional the U. S. -African defense policies are, one should perform a profound analysis of the separate defense policy aspects. As a result, the findings may appear totally unexpected to the reader. Congo (ex-Zaire) used to be a flourishing economic and political center of the American continent before it was torn by numerous violent conflicts.

After the Mobutu authorities came into power, the country was plunged into the whirl of the persistent bloody political and civil conflicts. The question is how these facts relate to the constitutionality of the American defense policies in Africa. The relation is evident, and the Congo population still perceives the negative consequences of the mentioned American military approaches. This is not a secret, that the U. S. was openly supporting the regime of Mobutu. Even in the light of persistent reports on the violence and human rights violation, the U. S.

did not take any measures to investigate the situation and to take appropriate measures. “U. S. policy toward Mobutu was rationalized on the grounds of fighting “communism” and Soviet influence in Africa, but the U. S. was clearly more concerned with securing its own interests in the region than helping foster a stable, secure, and peaceful future for the people of Central Africa” (Arms Trade Resource Center, 2000). What Constitutionality are we talking about, when political goals are pushed to the foreground against the simple protection of human rights?

I think that proliferation of arms in the African territory was not the best approach in the set of strategic objectives of the U. S. defense policy in Africa. It is more than obvious that the weaponry proliferation was forced not by the desire to protect African people, and not with the desire to restore peace in the continent, but with the desire to prove the U. S. superiority in the Cold War against the Soviet Union. Certainly, these assumptions can be easily debated by those who support the American initiatives in Congo, but from the international politics viewpoint, the U. S.

had no right to use military operations, and there are several reasons for that. First, the U. S. was not directly involved into military conflicts on the continent. Second, it was not indirectly impacted or threatened by the violence against African people. On the contrary, I clearly see that by breaking the principles of neutrality, the U. S. was only fueling civil conflicts. How else can one explain the following fact: “in 1991, the U. S. delivered more than $4. 5 million in military hardware to Mobutu’s government. That same year, Congress suspended its economic assistance to Congo” (Arms Trade Resource Center, 2000).

Is it constitutional to support any party of a military conflict without giving the African state any hope to restore its human stability? I am not trying to blame the American authorities of the negative implications they used in their defense policies in Africa; I may only suggest that the U. S. defense policies in Africa were probably misguided. This is what I’ve read in the official report on the African military operations initiated by the U. S. : “issues on the African continent have not historically been identified as strategic priorities for the U. S. military, and the U. S. military engagement in Africa has been sporadic.

According to one defense analyst, during the Cold War, the United States foreign policy toward sub-Saharan Africa had little to do with Africa. After the fall of the Soviet Union, many U. S. policymakers considered the U. S. military’s role and responsibilities on the continent to be minimal” (Ploch, 2007) How do these assumptions fit to the already discussed statistics on the military participation of the U. S. in the political conflicts of Congo? Is it constitutional to openly reject the long-term interests of the U. S. in the political course of the African countries? These questions are not answered yet.

“The Department of Defense is using its capabilities and expertise to help create and nurture an enabling environment that is conducive to democratization, human rights, conflict resolution, and economic and social prosperity” (Ploch, 2007). As a result, the DoD acts as the major player in the policymaking processes towards Africa. The DoD and the President of the United States support current initiatives in the Sub-Saharan Africa. Even despite the increasingly serious economic issues in the region, the direction of the U. S. defense policies towards Africa has not considerably changed.

As earlier, Somalia is taken as one of the most problematic areas of the African continent. As earlier, the major principles of the African defense policies include “mobilizing international support to help build the governance capacity of the transitional institutions, to move forward with the deployment of an African stabilization force in Somalia, and to encourage inclusive political dialogue between the transitional institutions and other key Somali stakeholders” (U. S. Department of State, 2007). Even with the painful experiences of several military failures in Somali, the U. S.

strives for creating the governance capacities of the institutions which are absent there. International support in this region has proved to be absolutely ineffective. It would be better for the U. S. to direct its efforts at investigating the political situation in the country, and to find the solutions which would allow at least creating the lacking governance institutions. “We need a simple and transparent set of rules to govern all our military education programs. The first rule should be that the United States does not give any kind of military assistance whatever to governments that murder their own people” (Ploch, 2007).

The contradictions of the official U. S. defense policies in Africa are evident. Until these contradictions are eliminated, it will hardly be possible to state that the U. S. has succeeded in restoring stability in Sub-Saharan Africa. The U. S. should change its views upon military operations not only in Africa, but all over the world. When it is impossible to resolve the conflict without military instruments, the choice of these instruments should be reasonable and extremely cautious. Undermining the inner stability of the African states is by all means inappropriate. Conclusion

The defense policy of the United States in Africa seems to have been developed without accounting the major factors of any military aggression. When it comes to resolving military conflicts of local character, foreign interference should be thoroughly weighed and balanced. Otherwise it breaks the inner political and economic, as well as social structure of the country in conflict. The history of the U. S. activity in Africa proves that “the U. S. military has much to offer South Africa as it continues on its way through this difficult, but exhilarating transition” (Nye, 1995).

However, these offers should not be limited to weapons and military forces. African countries currently find themselves in the atmosphere of relative isolation from the rest of the world, due to their geographical position and their political difficulties. African defense policies should be re-considered in the international arena. Moreover, it is even possible that such policies are developed in collaboration with other countries. As the U. S. cannot restrain their desires to support African countries through this difficult period, the emphases of defense policies should be shifted from military to economic and social aspects.Applying military resources is partially justified, but it should be reasonable and should not be forced by any political preferences.


Arms Trade Resource Center. (2000). Deadly legacy: U. S. arms to Africa and the Congo war. World Policy Institute. Retrieved January 28, 2008 from http://www. worldpolicy. org/projects/arms/reports/congo. htm Noonan, Michael P. (2002). Re-mapping U. S. Defense Policy. Foreign Policy Research Institute. Retrieved January 28, 2008 from http://www. fpri. org/enotes/military. 20020617. noonan. remappingusdefensepolicy. html Nye, Joseph S. (1995). U. S.

Defense interest in Sub-Saharan Africa. African Security Review, vol. 4, no. 6. Retrieved January 28, 2008 from http://www. iss. co. za/Pubs/ASR/4No6/Nye. html Ploch, L. (2007). CRS Report for Congress. Africa Command: U. S. strategic interests and the role of the U. S. military in Africa. Retrieved January 28, 2008 from http://www. fas. org/sgp/crs/natsec/RL34003. pdf U. S. Department of State. (2007). State’s Frazer outlines U. S. policy priorities for Somalia. Embassy of the United States, Belgium. Retrieved January 28, 2008 from http://uspolicy. belgium. usembassy. gov/Article. asp? ID=7EAB962D-AF06-4EC1-928F-10C812EF22A5

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