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Africa, Modern U.S. Security Policy and Interventions

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Africa, Modern U.S. Security Policy and Interventions

United States policy in Africa since World War II has generally been non-interventionist, in the sense that U.S. troops have seldom actually engaged in military or quasi military activities on the African continent. Exceptions, however, do exist, most notable among them being a limited commitment (both of troops and of covert operatives) during the Congo civil war in the early 1960s, the bombing of Libya in 1986, and the humanitarian mission to Somalia in 1993.
More often, the United States has provided assistance to African movements, such as anticommunist guerrillas in Angola during the 1970s and 1980s. America has also used diplomatic and economic pressure, both against South African apartheid in the
1980s and criminal activities in Nigeria during the twenty first century


After the 1998 embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, the United States conducted bombing raids over both Afghanistan and Sudan, attempting to neutralize Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda terror network. The fact that the same terrorist group later caused the 2001 bombings in New York City and Washington, D.C., serves to illustrate the fact that events in Africa are not removed from impacting American security and policy. As of July, 2003, the U.S. made a limited troop commitment to secure stability in Liberia and considered a more extensive involvement.
In choosing their policy priorities for Africa, American leaders managed a fine line between appearing interventionist or imperialist on the one hand, and insensitive to Africans’ misery on the other. Generally, U.S. policy in Africa has been guided by assessments of the strategic importance of a given nation, its existing alignment or non-alignment with U.S. interests, and the stability of its government.

With the exception of Liberia and Ethiopia, every nation in Africa—more than 50 in all—was at one time a European colony.
This is true even in North Africa, whose people are linguistically and culturally distinct from their neighbors to the south. At the beginning of the twentieth century, France held much of west and central Africa; Britain southern and eastern Africa, as well as parts of West Africa; Belgium what is now the Congo, and Portugal a few notable colonies, among them Angola and Mozambique. Germany and Italy, latecomers to African colonialism, controlled some of the sites less rich in natural resources
In the period between 1945 and 1975, virtually every nation in Africa gained independence, with the Portuguese—first Europeans to colonize in Africa becoming the last to relinquish colonies.
High hopes attended independence, but with few exceptions (a notable one being Botswana), the history of modern Africa has been an unrelieved tale of cruelty, corruption, mismanagement, and rampant disease and poverty. Funds given to help the African people have often ended up in the Swiss bank accounts of dictators, and money intended to build schools and feed children has instead been used to fund civil wars.


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