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* 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:

Africa Command: The Americans Have Landed” in Esquire by Dr. Thomas P.M. Barnett
(This article is currently only available in dead tree format)

Rethinking Insurgency” (PDF) at Strategic Studies Institute by Dr. Steven Metz (hat tip to Danger Room)

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.


Steve DeAngelis is also discussing AFRICOM at ERMB

One Response to “”

  1. Steve Metz Says:

    I’m not sure the distinction between my position and Tom Barnett’s is as stark as you suggest.  AFRICOM will mostly be focused on preventative measures.  I’m greatly in favor of that.  I was, for instance, an early supporter of the African Crisis Response Initiative. 

    I would only warn that we resist any urge to unilaterally undertake major counterinsurgency support from any African government unwilling to address its systemic problems. 

    I did, on the other hand, advocate military disengagement from the Arab world.  Having spent time in both places, my impression is that American security assistance provokes hostility in the Arab world and does not, at least to the same extent, in Sub-Saharan Africa.

    Nice blog, by the way!

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