The government's assaults on our common sense,
our wallets, and our dignity are becoming so numerous that one is hard pressed
to keep up. The media pivot like a herd of wildebeests from one scandal to the
other from illegal wiretapping, to torture, to mercenaries, to saber
rattling in the Persian Gulf, to $4 billion lost at Homeland Security, to $9
billion stolen in Iraq.
Amid such a blur of perfidy, major events that portend disaster in the future
can slip by with barely a notice by the media, by Congress, or by the public
at large. For example, does one voter in a hundred know that the Department
of Defense has quietly activated a new regional military command? Just type
in the acronym "AFRICOM"
into a search box, and the reader will find a DOD website that presents the
new United States Africa Command, in the same boosterish manner that Microsoft
rolls out a new operating platform.
According to the site, "U.S. Africa Command will better enable the Department
of Defense and other elements of the U.S. government to work in concert and
with partners to achieve a more stable environment in which political and economic
growth can take place. U.S. Africa Command is consolidating the efforts of three
existing headquarters commands into one that is focused solely on Africa and
helping to coordinate US government contributions on the continent."
In other words, more meddling, more fishing in troubled waters, more displacement
of traditional diplomacy with militarized "shaping of the environment,"
more armed, buzz-cut boy scouts playing roughly the same role Graham Greene's
played in Southeast Asia. Oh, yes, and oil in the Gulf of Guinea.
The Center for Defense Information has posted a useful
primer on AFRICOM [pdf], and discusses some of the misgivings that the intended
host countries have about Uncle Sam's gun-toting social work on the Dark Continent.
There is no need to recapitulate its information and arguments; the reader should
consult it for further enlightenment.
There remain only two issues to mention that the CDI piece does not cover:
the domestic institutional angle and the domestic political angle.
All government bureaucracies, if allowed to fester, metastasize like a malignant
cancer cell. DOD, having been given extraordinarily indulgent latitude by a
somnolent Congress, has metastasized more than the norm. AFRICOM is yet another
venue for general officer billets, staff jobs, and proconsular pretensions.
Once created, the bureaucratic imperative becomes paramount. The collapse of
the Warsaw Pact nearly two decades ago did not lead to the dissolution of NATO.
AFRICOM, once created, will be immortal.
AFRICOM also represents a God-sent opportunity for both our major political
parties to find new worlds to conquer. The GOP, being a subsidiary of Big Oil,
is fairly licking its chops at West African oil, although how a bunch of armed
social workers would "stabilize" a basket case like Nigeria is not
clear, given the unfortunate precedent of Somalia.
As for the Democrats, this could be their big moment once again to preen as
Wilsonian internationalists and hairy-chested liberals. Throughout the 1990s,
any discussion about the Balkans was sure to include some cavil from advanced
thinkers that we intervene only in white countries because we value their lives
more what about Rwanda?
Should the first Wednesday after the first Monday of November 2008 dawn with
a Democratic President-elect, AFRICOM will be a ready-made vehicle for proving
he or she is no wimp, and for mollifying important Democratic voting blocs as
well. Should the President-elect be a Republican, there is always the oil.