Gunboat in Nigerian waters

In a November 1 article in This Day, Juliana Taiwo asks is a US Military Base in Germany Temporary� The article goes on to say:


German Embassy in Nigeria has said location of the United States military base tagged AFRICOM, in Stuttgart, Germany, is temporary . . . At the moment, AFRICOM is also stationed in Stuttgart, but only for a transitional period.
. . .
THISDAY gathered that the Chinese government was already mounting pressure on Nigeria and leadership of the African Union to resist the establishment of the base, seen by some countries in Europe and Asia as a threat to their huge investments in Africa.
. . .
AFRICOM was expected to mark a significant re-ordering of the US military, and an increased interest that can be explained in three words – oil, terrorism and instability.
. . .
(Nigerian) Defence sources said contrary to US claims, the move was to halt the huge economic incursion of China, considered the greatest threat to the US economic interests in the African continent.
Oil is the bottom line of all these U.S. moves. It is not that US likes Africa.

If the Germans are telling the US they can only base AFRICOM in Germany temporarily, that puts more pressure on the US to find a permanent home. As they say near the end of a football match, the clock is a factor here. If African countries hold fast against a land base, and Germany wants AFRICOM out, it looks like the US Navy might get its wish for a sea based HQ.

In 1988 Ronald Reagan said:

Too often security assistance is portrayed as a tradeoff against support for development. In Africa, this distinction is particularly ill-founded. Our security assistance programs promote a stable political and economic environment that permits the exercise of individual choice and the development of human talent. Without that environment, sustained development is not possible.

Bush announced creation of AFRICOM in February 2007:

This new command will strengthen our security cooperation with Africa and create new opportunities to bolster the capabilities of our partners in Africa. Africa Command will enhance our efforts to bring peace and security to the people of Africa and promote our common goals of development, health, education, democracy, and economic growth in Africa.

They sound almost the same. Reagan poured arms into Africa, often arming both sides in some conflicts. Millions died as a result of his policies. Many times those millions have suffered from that military assistance. And the suffering and violent conflict those arms and policies enabled continue today.

Robert Kaplan has an article about AFRICOM in the November 2007 Atlantic titled The Next Frontier in which he says it is part of the “long war” on “terrorism”, and will counter China’s influence. Everyone knows this and oil are the motives for AFRICOM, despite the constant denials when the US speaks to Africans. Even after years in which Kaplan could watch the Bush administration bungle everything it touches, some of what he says would be hilarious, except that people are expected to believe it, and people will die because of it:

AFRICOM, if it is done right, will be a test case for putting the Pentagon and the State Department under one bureaucratic roof: becoming, in effect, a bureau for nation building.
(and concludes)
Indeed, through a combination of small-scale military strikes that do not generate bad publicity and constant involvement on the soft, humanitarian side of military operations, AFRICOM could rebuild the post-Iraq image of the American soldier in the global commons.

At the same time he chillingly points out how unobserved and unaccountable the military actions of AFRICOM will be.

When an AC-130 gunship takes off from a base in Djibouti, or attack helicopters and surveillance planes take off from warships in the Indian Ocean, there is nothing to film, no way of embedding, and no way of knowing the result until the military tells you.

And he trusts the military to inform, and police itself. Without transparancy and oversight, abuse and corruption (to put it the nicest way possible) is inevitable.

A formidable inability to learn from experience describes US policy towards Africa going back decades. It is the opposite of Kaplan’s description of the Chinese:

China will be a tough competitor. It is already sending over teams of area experts with capitalist instincts. AFRICOM should not think of the Chinese in Africa as in any way similar to the Soviets in Africa during the Cold War. The Chinese are more sophisticated, with a formidable ability to learn from experience.

As Danny Glover and Nicole C Lee of Trans Africa write in The Nation, Say No To AFRICOM:

Misguided unilateral US military policy to “bring peace and security to the people of Africa” has, in fact, led to inflamed local conflicts, destabilization of entire regions, billions of wasted dollars and the unnecessary deaths of US soldiers. The US bombing of Somalia in January–an attempt to eradicate alleged Islamic extremists in the Horn of Africa–resulted in the mass killing of civilians and the forced exodus of refugees into neighboring nations. What evidence suggests Africom will be an exception?

In contrast, Africa has demonstrated the capacity to stabilize volatile situations on its own . . .
. . .
There are a range of initiatives that can be taken by the US government and civil society to provide development and security assistance to Africa that do not include a US military presence. Foremost, policy toward Africa must be rooted in the principles of African self-determination and sovereignty.

OR, as a comment on the article in This Day said:

Dear America Soldiers,
You are not welcome at all. wherever you go blood spills, Terrorists attack. Please, Please and Please I beg you in the name of whatever is dearest to you, we do not want the security and prosperity you have in Iraq and Afghanistan now in Nigeria. We prefer our poverty instead of that. PLEASE LEAVE US ALONE! SOMEBODY HELP PLEASE!

Added November 3: I added a bit to a couple of the quotes above.
As b real points out about Kaplan in the comments:
his notion that the media can be controlled is fantasy. u.s. corporate media, perhaps, but there was no shortage of information in the foreign press & local medias during the invasion of somalia. wonder if the guy realizes that there are african journalists? and africa, especially somalia and the horn, has cell phones (w/ cameras, mind you) coming out the wazoo. which is where kaplan should keep his head, if he wants to be taken seriously.