The Pentagon’s plan to create a US military command based in Africahave hit a wall of hostility from governments in the region reluctantto associate themselves with the Bush administration’s "war on terror"and fearful of American intervention.
A US delegation led by RyanHenry, principal deputy under-secretary of defence for policy, returnedto Washington last week with little to show for consultations withdefence and foreign ministry officials in Algeria, Morocco, Libya,Egypt, Djibouti and with the African Union (AU). An earlier round ofconsultations with sub-Saharan countries on providing secure facilitiesand local back-up for the new command, to be known as Africom and dueto be operational by September next year, was similarly inconclusive.
The Libyan and Algerian governments reportedly told Mr Henry that theywould play no part in hosting Africom. Despite recently improvedrelations with the US, both said they would urge their neighbours notto do so, either. Even Morocco, considered Washington’s closest northAfrican ally, indicated it did not welcome a permanent militarypresence on its soil.
"We’vegot a big image problem down there," a state department officialadmitted. "Public opinion is really against getting into bed with theUS. They just don’t trust the US."
The article cites public opinion and the desire to avoid building obvious terrorist targets in their countries. But I suspect two more things are at work, too. We’re not going to establish an AfriCom headquarters without negotiating an agreement with the host country that gives our soldiers some immunity from local law enforcement, gives us a big financial bonus for establishing the headquarters, and a whole bunch of other goodies. (Read Chalmers Johnson’s Nemesis if you’re interested–here’s a taste.) Once upon a time, such an arrangement was a good acceptable deal for the host country because, well, the US was the uncontested hegemon of the world.
But now, particularly in Africa (where Hu Jintao has been very busy making friends in recent years), that’s no longer true. So I suspect that, when faced with the opportunity to cede a good deal of sovereignty so the US’ cowboys can come in and push local folks around, that doesn’t look like such a great deal anymore.