walter russell mead peter berger lilia shevtsova adam garfinkle andrew a. michta
Feed
Features
Reviews
Podcast
Will the Westlake Mall Terror Attack Pull America into Africa?

Despite all the talk of US withdrawal from world problems, last weekend’s terror attack in Kenya appears to be boosting chances that US engagement in Africa will grow:

U.S. officials on Tuesday were shipping law-enforcement equipment to local police in Nairobi, two U.S. officials said. Both said they expected Kenya to formalize more-specific requests for counterterrorism assistance, after Kenya’s government regroups from a four-day militant siege at Nairobi’s upscale Westgate mall that ended late Tuesday, leaving 61 civilians dead.

U.S. diplomats and law-enforcement officials have provided tactical guidance to manage the crisis as well as medical assistance for the victims, a senior administration official said. Intelligence cooperation, which has long been a staple of the U.S.-Kenyan relationship, has also stepped up.

President Obama’s had hoped to center his African policy on promoting business, commerce and trade. It looks like those might not be the only issues on the agenda.

The difficult reality is that the level of US engagement in the world is threat driven. The persistence of terror threats continues to pull the US toward deeper security involvements in parts of the world that are at risk. Africa is no exception.

Features Icon
Features
show comments
  • lukelea

    “The difficult reality is that the level of US engagement in the world is threat driven.”

    This is the officially promulgated line anyway. In the case of Africa the threats are infinitesimal in scale. Laughably so, in fact, except where global oil supplies are threatened.

    • Jack Klompus

      True. I think that if Boko Haram achieved any level of capability to threaten the Delta region of Nigeria you’d see greater notice taken of the carnage they inflict, but they tend to be limited to the northern states where resources are scarce. Likewise, the stability of Angola is important for exactly the reasons you give.
      I think America has an advantage in having not had a direct colonial influence in Africa, thus leaving France, and even Portugal as the primary go-to countries to supplement any security that the locals can’t handle.
      Otherwise, what’s the point of getting involved, if the potential outcome is a Clinton-induced fiasco like Somalia which one could argue caused a trickle effect on emboldening worldwide jihadist movements?

  • oswaldwasaleftist

    “….The difficult reality is that the level of US engagement in the world is threat driven….”

    “Threat” = Military production and military bases. When we’re talking about “business, commerce and trade”, the U.S. has an unparalleled comparative advantage in military production and military power. So this use of the term of “threat” just can’t be taken seriously. There simply is no state, or alliance of states, even contemplating challenging the U.S. militarily. Even China isn’t doing this, although that could change given its manufacturing might. We’ve basically sacrificed our domestic manufacturing, save for Pentagon related military production, which can’t be produced outside U.S. borders.

    Now when we’re talking about comparatively weak states in Africa, the term threat can be taken seriously. When Third World governments are barred in so many ways from providing basic services, religious organizations step in to do it. Meanwhile, they can and do spend all they want on the military and Washington helps them do this is so many ways. What happens is the dispossessed not being provided with basic services by the central government get taken in by sectarian religious organizations, who do attempt to provide these services. Eventually these people see no other way to express their grievances in the comparatively civilized political area, and take up arms against the central government.

    Unfortunately, the only thing the U.S. has on offer are more military weapons, suitcases full of dollars, and eventually military bases. This is why China is seen by so many African countries as an alternative to U.S. military aid and bases.

    • Jack Klompus

      The religious based provision of goods and services isn’t necessarily a bad thing – there’s a big difference between food banks and madrassas, but unfortunately the latter seem to get the lion’s share of funds from our overlords the Saudis.
      I think the backlash against China on the ground level economic front will start to happen as grunt labor in places like Zambian copper mines realize that the Chinese aren’t exactly fair trade and practice types when it comes to their labor. How they adjust to those grievances will be interesting to see. There’s only so far the workers will trust their, mostly bs, pitch of being an alternative to the evil imperialists of the past. I think those who see American Republicans as the ultimate bogeyman of “anti-worker” policies will hardly hail their new Chinese overlords like Kent Brockman hailing the super ants.

  • Corlyss

    God, I hope not! Africa is just the middle east without oil.

    • Jack Klompus

      Except for Angola and Nigeria. Even Ghana has more proven oil reserves than Oman.

  • USNK2

    Kenya, and Uganda last year, were directly targeted by Al Shabab because Kenya and Uganda are part of the African Union military stabilization force [my descriptor] in Somalia.

    The AU has a mission for member states to intervene to restore stability.

    United Nations deployments have always been limited to ‘observer’ ‘peace-keeping’ status.

    The AU mission is to transcend those limited rules of engagement.

    The USA has been playing a serious role in training, and, I assume, arming, AU militaries, though not much covered in the msm.

    I admit what surprised me was how openly, and proudly, Kenyan officials acknowledged their bilateral military cooperation with Israel, who also has strong links with South Sudan, Ethiopia, and Somaliland (patiently awaiting recogniton by more states, recogniton hampered by AU rule on preserving colonial borders).

© The American Interest LLC 2005-2014 About Us Masthead Submissions Advertise Customer Service