AFRICOM: Help or a hindrance?

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AFRICOMAFRICAN GLOBE. General David M. Rodriguez, who heads up the United States Africa Command, or AFRICOM, is the continent’s most powerful man. He is also its most powerless. Depending on whom you believe, Gen Rodriguez commands the full might of the greatest military in the history of the world: he could in one awesome shock-and-awe campaign flatten the continent into a parking lot for Humvees. Or, he is a benevolent hugger of children, with no violent mandate whatsoever.

These are the extremes AFRICOM engenders.

Is it here to hinder or to help?

In the preface of their 1984 book ”The United States and Africa: A History”, Peter Duignan and L.H. Gann concede that the literature on American foreign policy in Africa was considerable.

But:

“most of it consists of specialised monographs that are neither accessible nor of interest to the ordinary reader.”

At the dawn of President Ronald Reagan’s second term, if a policymaker were to look for a digestible overview of America’s involvement in Africa, there was but one choice, Messrs Duignan and Gann’s account.

This illustrates that while US-Africa studies may be a robust academic field, it has rarely, if ever, translated into popular interest.

This has had a trickle-down effect: ambitious young diplomats and State Department officials have steered clear of African posts if they hoped to advance their careers. This gap in historical knowledge and institutional memory has made it difficult for many American policymakers to understand the divisiveness of the relationship.

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