THE COMING OF AFRICOM: THE DEPARTMENT OF EVERYTHING ELSE VS. EMBRACING DEFEAT*
* image and title shamelessly “liberated” from the multidisciplinarily creative Dan of tdaxp who previously posted an excellent series by the same name.
Two articles with diametrically opposed worldviews of American intervention overseas.The path to error lies in the simplification of both approaches:
Tom Barnett’s Esquire article on the newly created AFRICOM is one of his best pieces in “journalist” mode and it demonstrated the dire need for establishing true ( and not primarily “kinetic”) “operational jointness” in interagency cooperation in Africa. This means accepting the inherent complexity of the Gap and answering with synergistic connectivity to globalization in order to engage in societal-building and state-building .
Dr. Metz also accepts the complexity and interconnectivy of globalization but prescribes defusing conflicts by disengagement, accepting the co-option of aggrieved insurgencies into the national power structure even when they are resolutely hostile to American interests. A graceful retreat does less damage, in Metz’s view, than would sustained conflict fueled by American aid enhancing the power of states to resist insurgencies.
Unsurprisingly, I am in favor of Barnett’s approach but recognize that it is best employed judiciously, with an economy of force and minimalist platforms where aid gives the biggest bang for the buck. Likewise, while I see the Metz approach, if raised to a general rule, as a prescription for strategic erosion of American primacy and the decline of globalization, used with discretion, it is a useful “means-test” for evaluating the strategic importance of failing states and avoiding of the waste of American blood and treasure.
Malawi is not as important as Pakistan, even if al Qaida can be found in both countries. That doesn’t mean ignoring Malawi but that we engage it differently than we do Pakistan.