Peter asks “Matt, what do you think about AFRICOM?”
Well in a banal sense, putting responsibility for the U.S. military’s involvement in Africa under the umbrella of a new Africa Command makes a lot more sense than splitting responsibility between EURCOM and CENTCOM. So in that sense it’s a good idea. But in the real world, it seems the impetus for the reorganization is the Defense Department’s intention to start getting more involved in Africa issues. I’m, shall we say, skeptical of the merits of this idea. Some people seem to think that security-ifying humanitarian problems by overstating the extent to which poverty and state failure in Africa are a national security problem for the United States is a good idea because when you shift a situation from the “charity” box to the “national security” box you get more resources. Which is true, but you also get the wrong kind of resources. The last thing Africa needs is to become the venue for a continent wide struggle for “influence” and a re-injection of great power conflicts, weapons, funding for armed groups, etc.
But the literal question of AFRICOM is a done deal at this point, so there’s no real reason to fret about it instead of specific policy issues. There are a lot of folks with a background in Africa issues in Obama’s inner circle, so I an Obama administration will probably be able to avoid blundering into fiascos by accident.