As AFRICOM stands up, it might be worth looking at the short essay by Thomas Palley featured on RGE Monitor from Nouriel Roubini, The Origins of the American Corporate Predator State (also here).

Jamie Galbraith’s recent book describes modern (Bush-Cheney) Republicanism as creating a “predator state”. Its predatory aspects are starkly visible in the gangs of corporate lobbyists who roam Washington DC, the Halliburton Iraq war procurement scandal, and the corruption and incompetence that surrounded the Hurricane Katrina relief effort.

However, the broad concept of a predator state needs qualification as we are really talking of an “American corporate” predator state. Thus, the predatory nature of contemporary US governance is quintessentially linked to corporations, and it is also a uniquely American phenomenon.

… [The] origins clearly trace back to the military – industrial complex that President Eisenhower warned about in his final televised address to the nation on January 17, 1961.

That complex has captured politics and corrupted the business of government, including of course the conduct of national security policy. The fact that it has wrapped itself with the flag and entwined itself with the military makes it impossible to confront without being charged as unpatriotic. Worst yet, its enormous enduring profitability has provided a model for imitation by other industrial complexes like Big Pharma and Big Oil.

Another feature … is a tendency to conflate profit with free markets. That means the distinction between fair competition (which is good) and fat profits (which are bad) is lost, thereby providing cover for predators.

The Africa Command is a creation of the Bush Cheney American corporate predator state. It was conceived by people who were focused on Africa’s oil, other natural resources, and on opposing China. These are the same Bush Cheney cronies that have done the most to convert American democracy into a corporate predator state, and destroy American democracy in the process. I have tried to document these origins since February 2007 when the command was announced. For another excellent introduction to AFRICOM, see: Understanding AFRICOM:
A Contextual Reading of Empire’s New Combatant Command Part I
, part II , part III.

Look at the AFRICOM logo. It bears an unfortunate metaphorical resemblance to female genitalia, with target Africa in the middle. In the metaphorical context of the phallic shapes of the military weaponry being shopped to Africa, it is additionally unfortunate. Intentional or not, it speaks to the underlying motives for creating the command.

In his essay Why AFRICOM has not won over Africans Samuel Makinda divides the questions about AFRICOM into three areas, paraphrased here:

  • The lack of any clear explanation or rationale for creation of the command.
  • The complete lack of transparency in creation and presentation of the command.
  • The creators of AFRICOM discount or disparage the advances Africa has made with respect to African security through the African Union as well as regional organizations.

Although there is a lot of talk from AFRICOM about partnerships, there has been little real consultation with Africans. Most of the Africans consulted have been those trained, one might say indoctrinated, in US military training programs such as IMET. Regarding the lack of transparency, Makinde says:

African analysts and policy makers point out that in Africa today there is little or no transparency in discussions of AFRICOM or of U.S. military relations with African states generally. They note that . . . it has not been freely and openly discussed by the legislatures of the African states, even in countries that have been mentioned as possible sites for AFRICOM’s headquarters.

This prompts the question: what governance ethos would AFRICOM foster in the future if its current relationships with African governments are shrouded in secrecy?

AFRICOM is a major manifestation of the militarization of US foreign policy. The Pentagon is swallowing the traditional diplomatic and foreign assistance programs of the United States. The process and budget are described in the report from Refugees International: U.S. Civil Military Imbalance for Global Engagement

And most important of all Makinda points out:

Africans know that the militarization of political and economic space by African military leaders has been one of the factors that has held Africa back for decades. While African states are trying to put the culture of military rule behind them, the United States appears determined to demonstrate that most civilian activities in Africa should be undertaken by armed forces. To some African policy makers, this suggests that the U.S. Government lacks sympathy for what Africans so deeply want today, namely democratic systems in which the armed forces remain in the barracks.

What is needed is energy, focus, and money to strengthen civilian democratic political, economic, and social institutions, so that democracy, participation of all the people, can grow and flourish.