Thursday, January 30, 2014

US Foreign Policy Objectives in Africa & Europe

A few days ago US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, said in an interview 'our engagement with every country in Africa is very complex'. Yesterday we learned that the African Union's Peace and Security Council supports sending a UN force to Central Africa. At the same time Mark Leon Goldberg argued that the US likely won't support such a mission because of budget concerns.

Having followed the dynamics at play leading to the approved EU mission in the Central African Republic, I suggest an alternative reading of why the US would not want a UN mission. The US, as Obama explained in his visit to South Africa a couple of months ago, wants both European and African states to play a larger role in providing security. The meeting between Zuma and Holland in october signaled an important new chapter in US relations with both Africa and Europe. It was a European and an African president taking the lead in stabilizing Central Africa.

It's this longterm objective of having African and European states take responsibility, as Obama clearly explained in the pressconference with Zuma during his visit to South Africa, that should guide us to a better understanding of US foreign policy.

Longterm US foreign policy is aiming for less intervention by the US and more responsibility by it's friends in Europe and Africa. Put it in another way, a strong national defense does not necessarily mean more US intervention, it should actually mean less. Being tough while undermining this longterm strategy leads nowhere.

It illustrates why both Republicans that want more 'toughness' and Democrats that want humanitarian interventions can be both wrong at the same time. A longterm strategy that transcends populist narratives of people like Marvin Olasky who see Africa as a battlefield between Christianity and Islam.

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