Africa Notes: Some Observations on U.S. Security Interests in Africa - November 1985
November 19, 1985
In discussing challenges to U.S. national security in Africa, it is first necessary to discover whether such challenges exist at all. As we track along that process of discovery, we may find the very concept of security itself undergoing a sea change, transmuted from immediate concerns shaped by strategic imperatives to rather larger, long-term questions of fundamental, even philosophical, import. And by this route, we may find ourselves confronted with challenges to our wisdom and our self-confidence, rather than to our security.
Our relations with Africa make an interesting diplomatic history. It is marked by confusions, curiosities, and ambivalence. The first nation in the world to extend diplomatic recognition to our fledgling democracy was an African nation: Morocco, in 1777. Yet it was not until 1958 that our State Department created a separate Bureau of African Affairs with an assistant secretary for Africa. And it was not until 1982 that the Defense Department created a separate Africa Region within International Security Affairs. I am the first deputy assistant secretary of defense for Africa.
Though we began our history as a nation with a struggle to become independent of a colonial power, our relations with Europe and our perceptions of our strategic interests led us variously to support or to tolerate European colonialism in Africa against the aspirations of the African people and, not incidentally, against the dictates of a part of our history in which we take enormous pride, and one which gives us a unique and peculiar authority among the nations of the world.