COMMENT ON: "Implementing AFRICOM" http://www.unc.edu/depts/diplomat/item/2008/0103/grib/gribbin_africom.html
FROM: Ambassador (ret.) Edward Marks
I hesitate to cross swords with Bob Gribbin, whose experience and knowledge of Africa is unsurpassed. Nevertheless I believe he is seriously mistaken about the Department of Defense's move to create an African regional command.
There are serious objections on various levels, from strategic to operational to tactical. I won't go into all of them here, but on the strategic level I do not believe the contemporary problems in Africa are security related in the Department of Defense sense. This is not the Africa of the "Winds of Change" era where U.S. policy interests included Cold War concerns and there was a great similarity of challenges facing the newly independent African governments taking over governance reins from their former colonial masters. Security in Africa today is not a military problem but a symptom of lack of effective governance. It cannot be resolved by more military training and equipment. Trying to use the military tool would be equivalent to resolving the Thirty Year War in Europe by injecting more soldiers and training and equipment rather pursuing a political settlement (albeit one based on exhaustion) which eventually did so.
But the justification for AFRICOM argues that is there is a need for new and innovative organization for dealing with Africa, and there may be. In which case we should be looking for a "whole of government" approach, not the tweaking of an outmoded military model. The Regional Combatant Commands are a refined version of WWII combat commands designed for the Cold War. In the Cold War, where we mainly avoided actual combat, the COCOMs expanded beyond their primary war planning and war fighting role into what they call engagement activities. The military tasks mentioned (briefly and vaguely) for AFRICOM are of this engagement character, with a careful statement that no warfighting duties are envisaged.
These engagement tasks for AFRICOM are largely justified on two grounds: fighting terrorism and "nation-building." With respect to the first, I can only note that the military themselves have decided that the Regional Combatant Commands are not the appropriate organizational mechanism for the GWOT, hence the upgrading and leadership role given the Special Operations Command. In addition, it might be useful to remember former Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld's...