"War is the greatest threat to public health." - Gino Strada, Italian war surgeon and founder of the UN-recognized Italian NGO Emergency

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Is AFRICOM Just Another CON?


In my last post I introduced you to the newest United States Department of Defense (DOD) Unified Command - U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM). If you remember the phrase "The sun never sets on the British Empire", the following map showing the (not so) new and improved American Empire should make you sit up and take notice. It seems that the U.S. learned the lessons of classical colonialism early on, and decided that a different approach was in order. Rather than occupying countries in the traditional way (except in cases like Iraq and Afghanistan), the U.S. has established a massive web of military bases on nearly every part of the globe (with the agreement of the governments of the nations in which they reside), each one under the umbrella of one of these Unified Commands.

Click here for a full screen version of the map.

The DOD Unified Command Website states that, "the main goal of the new U.S. command in Africa will be to develop a stable environment on the continent to promote civil society and improved quality of life for the people there..." I don't doubt the military's (or the U.S. government's) desire for a "stable environment", but is the military the appropriate tool for helping develop (long term) stability, or "civil society and improved quality of life"???? Is there just possibly another way?

Having navigated around the DOD Unified Command Website, I finally understand what it must have been like for Alice when she fell down the rabbit hole. It is a dizzying journey through acronyms like PACOM, EUCOM, CENTCOM, SOUTHCOM, NORTHCOM, and AFRICOM. Of course we can't forget STRATCOM, JFCOM and SOCOM. And now with addition of AFRICOM, we have a nice round number of (10) Unified Commands that cover just about everything (and everyplace) you can imagine (and quite a few things you don't want to).

I have no doubt the the U.S. military is doing some fine humanitarian work around the world - looking over the SOCOM home page might convince you that it is just a humanitarian organization - but you have to wonder if the U.S. military, which spends billions to operate SOCOM, is the best vehicle for supporting "security and stability" (as it's Website states) "in the Americas", particularly when one considers that the U.S. military (through its School of the Americas) has been responsible for much of the insecurity and instability throughout Latin America.

And just what will AFRICOM bring to the African continent? Security? Stability? Is there a better way to help nations become secure and stable? Are decision makers in Washington, D.C. asking such questions. At least a few are. Read what Representative John Murtha has to say about AFRICOM at Stars and Stripes. And are they listening to those with experience in foreign policy? Read a detailed analysis of AFRICOM, that focuses on the history of SOUTHCOM in Latin America, by retired Ambassador David Passage. And then, as I mentioned last time, keep informed (and get involved) at Resist AFRICOM.

Let's work to help bring real security an stability to the African people through compassionate and just (non-military) foreign policy, and work with other nations (through the United Nations) to help bring this about.



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