AND US NATIONAL SECURITY
As ambitious as our plans are in the
Middle East in regards to regime change and democratization, these ambitions
pale in comparison to those for Africa where the same design is redrawn on a
continental scale. The recent reversal
in our Africa engagement policy is driven by many of the same
considerations of relevance in the Middle East. These include issues of strategic access,
resource access, and security. The scope
of the challenge which Africa poses, however, is orders of magnitude greater than
the Middle East given our goals there and its current state. The ends we seek, as well as the means being
used to achieve them, have inherent conflicts.
Clearly defining these ends, weighing the costs of achieving them and
resolving the inherent conflicts will be critical determinants of our success
or gross failure in this endeavor.
As a practical matter, the strategic
importance of Africa to US interests in the past decade can be said to
have been relatively low considering our lack of engagement there. Recent measures indicate a dramatic
shift. The reasons for this shift
reflect a fundamental reevaluation of several factors, the first being
strategic access. The implementation of
an effective access strategy must be viewed in light of our military force
structure strategy. The shift from a
threat based to a capabilities based force structure drives strategic access
implementation requirements. It does so
because of the defined needs in terms of capabilities. These include speed, flexibility, agility and
precision. Such capabilities require
small, light, and information intensive force structures and enabling
infrastructures. Concurrently, the
political need for forward engagement and presence creates a challenge in that
fixed presence capabilities become problematic with ever decreasing force
size. Such a combination of capabilities
based force structure requirements and practical necessity drives a strategic
access strategy likewise based on flexibility, speed and precision of force,
asset, or presence application. The
recent Global Access Strategy and strategic access plans articulated by DOD
reflect these realities. The forward
presence lost by troop reductions in Europe and the Far East must be offset by a capability that affords quick, flexible
access. The retention of selected Joint
Main Operating Bases (JMOB) supplemented by Joint Forward Operating Sites
(JFOS), Joint Cooperative Security Locations and preposition sites is the
necessary strategic access strategy which accompanies our capabilities based
force structure strategy. These
strategies drive the forward access “lilly pad”
architecture of access points which is currently being defined, with impacts
specifically relevant to the African Continent due to its proximate location to
multiple SLOCs, its importance in the GWOT, and its
emerging increased importance in terms of its energy resources.
In terms of defining national interest,
and with the exception of the physical security of our borders and population,
few things resonate as well as economics.
Although Africa has always been an important source of raw materials,
its significance is increasing rapidly in terms of resource access. This is due to the confluence of several
factors. First, the gas that we burn in
our cars is approximately 70 million years old.
In terms of our human “event horizon,” it is a non-renewable resource. Second, given current consumption levels and
economics of extractive technologies, it is a non-renewable that is rapidly
approaching exhaustion. Third, this
increasing resource scarcity is occurring concurrently with a rapid and
dramatic increase in demand by industrializing countries. Finally, the majority of the proven reserves
of this commodity lie under the most turbulent and troublesome soil on the
globe. Although certainly not a utopia
in terms of conflict, the petroleum resources in Africa
offer an important alternative or at least a significant supplement to middle eastern oil.
The US, which consumes approximately 20 million barrels of
oil per day, currently imports approximately 15% of that consumption from Africa. It is estimated that this will be increased
to 25% in 10 years in consideration of recent discoveries in Africa
both on and offshore. One of the most
significant areas for future extraction lies in the Gulf of Guinea. In 2004, the United States agreed to finance an $800,000 viability
study for expanding the international airport of Sao Tome and Principe and building a deep-water port in this
small, twin-island state which sits in the Gulf of Guinea. America needs access to energy resources, and
these resources exist in significant quantities in Africa, an area composed mostly of non OPEC
states. We do have alternatives;
however, due to investment delays in R&D and lead time constraints, it is
doubtful that such alternatives and the infrastructures to support them can not
be brought to bear on the problem quickly enough.
All of this is not to say that our motives
in Africa are purely exploitive. We need oil, and Africa sorely needs foreign investment. With humanitarian disasters of biblical
proportions and economies lacking the means to address the problems, Africa needs, among other things, cash
infusion. As well, the world economy
requires a steady flow of energy, its highly integrated structure resulting in
ever expanding ripples of negative economic impact when one area is
affected. It used to be said,
economically speaking, that when America coughs, the rest of the world catches
pneumonia. A more vivid word picture is
that when the affluent nations economically sputter, those living on the edge
drop off that edge. In Africa, with the
majority of its population subsisting on less than a dollar a day, rampant
disease in the form of HIV/AIDS, and persistent conflict which stymies
development, that drop is fatal for many unless others have the means and will
to help. Given the current situation in
the Darfur area of Sudan, it remains doubtful that this will is sufficiently present, which situation is
relevant to our third requirement.
We have a strategic access requirement
that can be partially met in Africa. We have a resource access
requirement that can be met there as well.
We also, because of the unprecedented second, third or even more distant
effects in a highly integrated system, have a security requirement that can be
met by engaging in Africa.
The reality of the highly integrated and interdependent system that we
have created is becoming increasingly evident as chaotic impacts of changes to
that system, which escape the common sense logic of simple, measurable cause
and effect, become apparent. They don’t
have ICBMs. They don’t have blue water
navies. They don’t have strategic lift
or a military which poses an invasion threat.
They do, however, have invasion threats equally as dangerous;
environmental degradation, disease, and terrorism. As we have come to realize the effects of our
integrated economic system, we are beginning to realize that similar effects
exist in all highly integrated systems, including our environmental and social
systems. An illustrative example of this
is the historic impact of El Nino on the economy of Peru.
El Nino affects air currents. Air
currents affect ocean currents. Ocean currents affect upwelling. Upwelling affects oceanic nutrient
distribution. Altered nutrient
distributions caused by this chain of events affects anchovy populations off
the coast of Peru.
Concurrently with one of these cycles, social and political pressure in Peru in 1972-1973 allowed fishers to harvest
at levels which could not absorb these environmental fluctuations. Together, these resulted in the crash of the
Peruvian anchovy fishing sector which, at that time, accounted for one quarter
of the world’s catch, with debilitating consequences for their economy. The continuing effects in this chain could be
further enumerated, but the point is that what happens to the global
environment on the back side can have a significant,
and sometimes disproportionate far side impact.
The same can be applied in regards to any tightly coupled system with
complex interactions, including social systems.
Stability becomes ever more critical as connectivity becomes more
ubiquitous due to both the lack of slack or buffering capacity between events
and processes as well as the virtual impossibility of predicting or planning
for outcomes in complex adaptive systems.
A case in point is 9/11. Does
instability in Africa have national security implications for
the United States?
In terms of strategic access, resource access, and system feedback
consequences on national security it certainly does, but it is critical that we
approach this problem with a long term view.
The criticality of this is evident in the apparently
inherent conflicts in our interests in Africa.
One interest pair exhibiting this conflict is resource access and
security. Instability in Africa has an impact on our society. We need to develop a plan for the long term
stability of that continent.
Unfortunately, our relatively short term interests of resource access
are not, in all points, compatible with long term stability. There is substantial empirical evidence
indicating a strongly negative correlation of social stability with economic reliance
on extractive industries. More simply
put, counting on social and political developments that will contribute to
lasting stability through FDI in extractive industries in Africa is a false
hope unless strict controls are put in place and the will is present to enforce
those controls. If we plan on
substantially increasing our reliance on African oil, it is critical to our
overall security strategy that we also plan on the expense of ensuring that
controls are in place and enforced to ensure that the FDI infusion makes its
way to the population that needs it in the areas most conducive to increasing
long term stability. These include
access to clean water, disease eradication and prevention, participatory, transparent,
democratic governance, employment, education and security sector reform to
mention a few.
Another goal pair with inherent conflicts
is strategic access and security in the sense that we leverage presence and
support to gain strategic access. A
principle means by which we gain leverage are our security assistance and
military education and training programs.
We ostensibly also count on these programs to increase our security by
increasing stability in the recipient countries. Unfortunately, a large percentage of the
countries receiving such assistance are either marginally democratic or
undemocratic and have significant problems in regards to respect for basic
human rights. It would appear that we
have decided that strategic access holds the trump for the moment over security
as these policies will likely result in less stability given the track record
and current practices of many of the recipient countries. Additionally, we stand to loose a significant
trump of our own in the international arena – our moral authority.
Africa has begun to take a more prominent
position in our overseas agenda. This is
rightly so because of its significance in terms of strategic access, resource
access, and security. At the same time,
we seem to have taken a regrettably short term view in our approach to these
issues in Africa.
Our penchant for bilateral approaches, or rather our aversion to
multilateralism and multilateral institutions, has restricted our options for
addressing areas of vital concern. A
bilateral approach will not work in Africa as, first, we stand to foot the whole bill as the other side can
little afford it and, second, it discounts the inescapable “cross boundary” and
regional impacts of local actions. There
are many nations in Africa and there are many states, but there are
few nation states. The neat lines on the
map and finely drawn boundaries are less than ephemeral in practice. Such border porosity as well as longstanding
and intimate cross border affiliations create great
difficulties in localizing effects. Alternatively,
regional mechanisms are being established which offer to spread load the costs,
as well as provide a forum for a much more in depth understanding of
historical, cultural, and social relationship patterns and their impacts, with
Africans bearing a fair share of the burdens in helping themselves, yet there
seems to be little interest in focused interagency engagement with these
regional bodies. In fact, what is
evolving in strife torn Africa may even be a model worthy of emulation and repetition – regional
communities which serve as the means to enforce the collective decisions and
normative standards of the community of nations. At this point, however, it is not at all
clear either how we intend to resolve our conflicting goals or create a
coherent strategy. What is clear is Africa’s importance, both to Africans as well as