Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Yemen. Enough already!
Unfortunately, not yet. Former Lieutenant Daniel L. Davis put it bluntly: “The purpose of the U.S. military has now become, unequivocally, to engage in permanent combat operations in dozens of countries around the world—none of which enhance America’s national security.”
And yet here we are in Somalia, combating the same enemies as in 1992, with dispiriting results.
The northeast African country has no oil, no gold, no minerals but great quantities of sand and disputatious tribal clans. Before its last coherent government collapsed in January 1991, its only exports were bananas and camels sold to Arab countries for meat and to race.
This week, American planes ramped up an offensive against al-Shabab Islamists, killing 62 alleged militants with “precision strikes” in a Somali town called Gandarshe.
“The U.S. has been bombing the country for about a decade, but this year, there has been a big increase in airstrikes,” said NPR correspondent Eyder Paralta. “With this bombing run, the U.S. has killed more than 300 militants in Somalia this year.”
Amid the deepening troubles in the White House, a “new” Africa strategy for the U.S. was unveiled. But critics say it seems to be stuck in the past.
Washington’s take on Africa is stuck somewhere between the 19th century scramble and the Cold War, claimed an editorial in the British Financial Times newspaper. It is unlikely many Africans will relish returning to an era of “us or them” development partners or feel much sympathy if America is the one left behind, the Times noted in its editorial.
Meanwhile, Beijing has adopted a long-term view of Africa’s potential, marrying its own quest for resources and new markets to Africa’s need for infrastructure development and fast money. Moscow, like Washington, is arriving late to the party.
The pioneering spirit with which Americans built their nation has been notably absent from U.S.-Africa policy. That has increasingly focused on combating militant Islamists and terrorism, at the expense of a more multifaceted approach.