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Thread: The role of non-African powers in Africa: a discussion

  1. #21
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default That's a rather assinine statement...

    Quote Originally Posted by JMA View Post
    ...Zimbabwe for example could have been and could still be sorted out with two non-ballistic cruise missiles. One for Mugabe and one for his Joint Operations Command (JOC) when in session. It would have been as easy as that. But there is no way China would give the nod for such action.
    Nor is there much of any way the US Congress would give its approval of such an action -- not to speak of the rest of the world. While you may have an argument with Mugabe, I suspect the majority of your fellow South Africans would go bonkers criticizing the US had we foolishly done what you suggest.

    As for no commitment in Africa, I presume you mean large scale combat troop commitment as opposed to the number of US force commitments in Africa today and over the past 17 years. Your logic on the issue was also shared before late 2001 by a number of people who said the US would not commit troops but would merely do what you suggest, lob a missile or two, therefor they could attack the US with impunity -- or close to it...

    Every war we've been involved with for over 220 years occurred in large part because someone made the stupid assumption that "the Americans won't fight." The later ones tend to last too long because we foolishly try to be nice -- I think we're finally starting to realize that's really dumb on our part.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
    Nor is there much of any way the US Congress would give its approval of such an action -- not to speak of the rest of the world. While you may have an argument with Mugabe, I suspect the majority of your fellow South Africans would go bonkers criticizing the US had we foolishly done what you suggest.
    You took the bait there Ken.

    I would have thought it would be easier (to get congressional and world support) to toss a few missiles into Zimbabwe than to invade Iraq? Maybe you missed it but most of the world went bonkers when the US went into Iraq? Did the US give damn? But now you are suggesting that the US should worry about what the people of the world would think about Zimbabwe's criminal leadership being taken out when they don't give daman about using drones to fire missiles into Pakistan (a supposed ally) against the wishes of the government and people of that country? Consistency, Ken, consistency.

  3. #23
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default You're kidding, right? No bait in that, simply a lack of knowledge of the US.

    Quote Originally Posted by JMA View Post
    I would have thought it would be easier (to get congressional and world support) to toss a few missiles into Zimbabwe than to invade Iraq?
    Possibly true for many places, less true for any former British colony. You apparently didn't notice that we tend to defer to the British on those. As for other places, you may be correct -- but that only shows how out of touch 'western values' are with reality.
    Maybe you missed it but most of the world went bonkers when the US went into Iraq? Did the US give damn?
    I say western because the ME predictably did object to our invasion of Iraq but only on a pro forma basis to get the 'rest of the world' roused in a futile attempt to stop it. You may have noted that once it went, they basically quited down -- because they fully understood why we had done it even if most westerners did not.

    Many have never figured out that Afghanistan was about attacking the US on its own soil and that Iraq was a message to the Middle East that a long series of probes and action emanating from there against US interests worldwide need to stop. WMD, oil and all that foolishness had virtually nothing to do with it.

    The folks in the ME understood that and you may have noticed that the Asians made almost no noise about it because they understood that it was all about reversing the damage four previous Presidents had done by accepting probes from the ME since 1979. All the noise was European hearth yammering. They and South America. Who rightfully object from experience to our meddling and interventions.

    Some people here also yammered; about a third. That's typical here for any military effort, 1/3 objects, 1/3 thinks it's a great idea and those two swap depending on which political party is in power. The remaining third will support as long as progress is being made. Been true for all our wars and incursions.
    But now you are suggesting that the US should worry about what the people of the world would think about Zimbabwe's criminal leadership being taken out when they don't give daman about using drones to fire missiles into Pakistan (a supposed ally) against the wishes of the government and people of that country?
    Nah, I'm suggesting that we do not meddle with former British colonies unless they agree (and that includes Pakistan...) and, far, far more importantly, that Zimbabawe (unlike Pakistan) has little to no effect on US interests therefor the cost isn't worth the effort.
    Consistency, Ken, consistency.
    Oh, we're as consistent as we can be with an electoral system that changes the political complexion of the nation every two years to at least some degree -- that makes for a great lack of continuity and a total inability to have a grand strategy or even a fairly consistent foreign policy.

    Not a problem, we get by...

    We are remarkably consistent on two things, defense and foreign policy wise, and only two things:

    We do not tolerate potential physical threats, we will disrupt them or take them out by fair means or foul and regardless of the opinions of others.

    We will react adversely to any thing that appears to be a significant constriction of our trading ability in international commerce and movement.

    That's been true for that 220 years. I'd say that was pretty consistent.
    Last edited by Ken White; 04-17-2010 at 10:13 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by M-A Lagrange View Post
    JMA, Ken, it's a Sudan threat here! And oriented on stabilization and State building! , Go to the Zimbabwe one to discuss Bob eradication
    I may support the missile option by the way.
    There are parallels here which (IMHO) should not be ignored.

    In Ken's view the Sudan is a former British colony or whatever so therefore we should be asking the Brits what to do. But then again so were Iraq and Afghanistan...

    Confusing yes I know.

    But the similarities are that when the Brits were there they ran the North (Muslim) and the South (Christian) as separate entities, later at independence the North and the South were forced together into one state, later there was an act of genocide by a brutal dictatorship and rigged elections. Now what exactly are the differences between Sudan and Zimbabwe?

    Sudan has oil. So this brings the Chinese into play.

    What did the Brits and the US do about Zimbabwe?

    NOTHING... so don't expect any action on Sudan... especially with the Chinese daddy standing there and wagging his finger at uncle Sam and the Brits hanging onto uncle Sam's coat tails.
    Last edited by JMA; 04-18-2010 at 09:50 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
    Every war we've been involved with for over 220 years occurred in large part because someone made the stupid assumption that "the Americans won't fight." The later ones tend to last too long because we foolishly try to be nice -- I think we're finally starting to realize that's really dumb on our part.
    So what you are saying is that had you (the US) made its position clear right up front then all those wars could have been avoided?

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default The role of non-African powers in Africa: a discussion

    In one particular current thread 'South Sudan: a laboratory for stabilisation':http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/...ead.php?t=8460 some disturbance has been caused by a series of posts speculating on the role of the external, or great powers in Africa, in places like Zimbabwe and what exactly will China do?

    I have created this new thread for the discussion and moved some of the posts to here - leaving an explanation behind.
    davidbfpo

  7. #27
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Fair catch...

    Quote Originally Posted by JMA View Post
    ...the Sudan is a former British colony or whatever so therefore we should be asking the Brits what to do. But then again so were Iraq and Afghanistan...
    Not what I said, I said the US -- not "we" -- defers to the British on their former colonies (and to a slightly lesser extent, to the French on theirs). That means we are unlikely to do anything IF they ask us not to or that we are generally liable to take action in concert with them -- sometimes playing the good cop / bad cop game. As in Iraq where they and we went together...

    That is due, I think, to the fact that we know we forced the British out of the Colony business while allied with them in WW II for international commercial advantage. It, BTW, would go by the wayside IF further advantage were deemed needed or a significant threat were discerned.

    Do the British or Afghans know that Afghanistan is a former British colony?
    Confusing yes I know.
    Should not be if one pays attention to what is written and thinks for a second.
    Sudan has oil. So this brings the Chinese into play.
    What a difference a deposit makes...
    What did the Brits and the US do about Zimbabwe?

    NOTHING... so don't expect any action on Sudan... especially with the Chinese daddy standing there and wagging his finger at uncle Sam and the Brits hanging onto uncle Sam's coat tails.
    Can't speak for the Brits, I can say that the US' lack of involvement in Zimbabwe cued on the British example and was guided by a distinct lack of any significant affect on US interests. Sudan, oil not withstanding, falls in almost the same category. The slight -- perhaps inconsequential, perhaps not, dependent upon how it plays out -- difference with Sudan is the proximity to the Gulf of Aden. We like the choke points to be open (that commercial interest I cited...).

    We will accord China the respect due a nation of over a billion people, just as we accord India the same respect. Respect and fear are two different things and in our childish way, we tend to react negatively to wagging fingers. Thine, Chine or other...

    You do the British a disservice with the coat tail remark. One could almost sense that you were upset over British and US refusal to help in Rhodesia. If so, understandable and certainly your prerogative. Many probably agree with you.

    Been my observation that one is not advised to let emotions or old wrongs affect affect the application of basic logic to current actions and events. Not being a psychologist, I know little or nothing about that, certainly can't apply such thoughts to this or any other discussion. I cite it only because our daughter is one of the Psych types and she contends that happens occasionally...

    ""Originally Posted by Ken White View Post:
    "Every war we've been involved with for over 220 years occurred in large part because someone made the stupid assumption that "the Americans won't fight." ...""
    So what you are saying is that had you (the US) made its position clear right up front then all those wars could have been avoided?
    No that's not what I was saying -- or said. However, that is a fair catch and a logical inference. It is reasonably accurate. We seem gauche, blase and more concerned with beer and barbecue than with the broader world -- and we are. Most Americans really wish the rest of the world would tend to itself and leave us alone to ponder the Kardashians. So others tend to think we can be pushed about; sadly true -- to a point...

    Unfortunately, those two political parties start jockeying for power and tend to get over involved in one thing or another and the next thing you know, somebody decides we are so frivolous that we won't fight over a minor point. Not a good plan; we can be irrational about that, one never knows what's going to punch into our comfort zone or when that might happen. IOW, the point at which we get excited is difficult to predict.

    You can rely on the fact that impinging on our commercial ability or a firm physical threat will bring action -- but a lot of people seem to miss that.

    Good example is Iraq. We got pinged and probed by a number of folks from all over the ME for years and really sort of took it and just yapped about it instead of really deterring it. Bad mistake on our part, it only encouraged escalation of the probes and minor attacks. So we inadvertently, trying to be nice guys and not escalate did little and thereby did not make our position clear.

    In the event, Bush decided we needed to send the ME a message to back off. He realized that the lack of adequate response by his four predecessors from 1979 until 2001 were a significant factor in causation and he feared that his successor might not take the action he believed (as do I) was needed. The fact that France, Germany and Russia had supplanted us and the UK in local commercial dominance there was considered but the US Congress likely wouldn't buy that as an adequate reason (regardless, that folded into the actual as opposed to publicly stated rationale for the attack). A Threat -- even one that was insignificant -- OTOH would if used arouse enough (not all; that politically dissenting 1/3 again...) of Congress to allow a strike. So away we went...

    Wasn't about oil other than in the sense that we wanted minimum disruption to the world oil supply (we really want China and India to have all the oil they need...). Afghanistan and Pakistan are in South Asia, not the ME -- so no message to the ME would be received from anything done to them. An attack on Iran or Saudi Arabia would have meant a major oil disruption, so they were not options. Iraq, OTOH, was a minor supplier, had a pariah government and was strategically located in the heart of the ME...

    Yeah, had the US made its position clear right up front then most of its wars could have been avoided. The War of 1812 was a commercial dominance and potential threat thing, the War with Mexico and the Spanish American War were land grabs that only only partly occurred due to lack of clarity, all the others including Afghanistan and Iraq were due to misconceptions on the part of opponents. Even our Civil War fits that.

    Regardless, our seeming cultural introspection and our electoral process are a big factor in causing that recurring problem. Those are unlikely to change...
    Last edited by Ken White; 04-18-2010 at 05:23 PM.

  8. #28
    Council Member M-A Lagrange's Avatar
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    JMA,

    I think first that the departure or lower interrest for Africa from former colonial powers (Europe) is an African will. Africa wants to have african problems solved by african. And that's a good thing.
    Now, if you ask me if I think this is a good thing for Europe, my answer will be no. Not because Africa is not capable to take care of its self alone but because, at least in the case of France, it is done for no good reasons.

    Coming back to the US involvement in Africa. What Ken is saying is a very much a common opinion in the US. I think it was in a post from David that I read that Stefen Ellis was asking for the Europeam to be more involved in Liberia. It's funny in the sense that USA are the former colonial power in Africa.

    Saying so, I do agree that for long the post 2001 grand strategy of chaos damage control of USA, specially in Africa has been quite difficult to see as productive. But today, let say since 3 years, I would say that there is a US strategy over Central/Horn of Africa.

    For Austral Africa... I unfortunately do not see the same. But I think it is very much difficult for any European state to come to rescue South Africa and Zimbabwe. It's a shame because there were great people coming from there.

    M-A

    PS, Thanks David. I was just trying o bring back JMA and Ken to the central subject: Sudan. But anyway, it is certainly more confortable for eveyone to have this discussion separated.

    Thanks.

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    Quote Originally Posted by M-A Lagrange View Post
    JMA,

    I think first that the departure or lower interrest for Africa from former colonial powers (Europe) is an African will. Africa wants to have african problems solved by african. And that's a good thing.
    Now, if you ask me if I think this is a good thing for Europe, my answer will be no. Not because Africa is not capable to take care of its self alone but because, at least in the case of France, it is done for no good reasons.
    Really you need an understanding of Africa. African leaders do not want outsiders starting to push for human rights or linking aid to good governance. They have a very nice little thing going.

    The best thing for Africa is for the world to walk away and leave it to its own devices. This will never happen because of Africa's natural and mineral resources. China has become the biggest player and the US and the rest will be lucky to get the crumbs.

    To accept the reality of the situation is the most sensible course of action.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
    We will accord China the respect due a nation of over a billion people, just as we accord India the same respect. Respect and fear are two different things and in our childish way, we tend to react negatively to wagging fingers. Thine, Chine or other...

    You do the British a disservice with the coat tail remark. One could almost sense that you were upset over British and US refusal to help in Rhodesia. If so, understandable and certainly your prerogative. Many probably agree with you.
    The world has watched Britain slowly come to terms with her diminished status in the world and seen how she has fallen back on the "special relationship" she has with the US to maintain some degree of dignity befitting her previous status as "Empire". Everyone (intelligent observer) knows that the 'special relationship' was never a partnership of equals but rather one where Britain was no more than a side-kick.

    I am not upset about any refusal to help Rhodesia as I was a South African who served in Rhodesia for ideological reasons and not to perpetuate any race dominated social model. We were all quite surprised that the Brit response to UDI was so weak kneed.

    But your comment appears to indicate that the transition in Zimbabwe took place because of the failure of US and Brit support. Not at all. It was the US and the UK that installed Mugabe in power in Zimbabwe. Why they even used the Rhodesian SAS to drop the bridges in Zambia to effectively prevent any invasion by Zipra and thereby put ZAPU out of the game leaving the field open to Mugabe. And like in Rwanda both stood back while Mugabe carried out a genocide to settle old tribal scores.

    So by 2010 the Brits have come to accept that they are tolerated to work in the shadow of Uncle Sam. The sun had long set on the Empire but it took 50 years for the Brits to accept it.

    The US finds itself in the same position now. The only remaining question is how long will it take for the US to realise the China is the new super power?

    Now to set the record straight I have only a healthy disrespect for all governments, the US and the UK included. BUT... I have a huge amount of respect for the forces of both. I hope you are intelligent to recognise the difference.
    Last edited by JMA; 04-27-2010 at 01:25 PM.

  11. #31
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Heh. Probably about

    Quote Originally Posted by JMA View Post
    So by 2010 the Brits have come to accept that they are tolerated to work in the shadow of Uncle Sam. The sun had long set on the Empire but it took 50 years for the Brits to accept it.

    The US finds itself in the same position now. The only remaining question is how long will it take for the US to realise the China is the new super power?
    50 years or so at a minimum. Then we go back to the old 'balance of power' game. Won't that be fun.

    We can do the math. Don't forget India who will also be a super power. Math, again. The Indians may well beat the Chinese to the top of the heap.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
    50 years or so at a minimum. Then we go back to the old 'balance of power' game. Won't that be fun.

    We can do the math. Don't forget India who will also be a super power. Math, again. The Indians may well beat the Chinese to the top of the heap.
    So with which of the two next superpowers, China or India, can we expect the US to establish a 'special relationship' with?

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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Neither in one sense, both in another and

    most likely a continuing conflict here in the States over which one should receive precedence.

    Bottom line is that while all nations have 'special relationships,' for the US as those others, those relationships get trumped by national interest so we'll waffle back and forth.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
    Bottom line is that while all nations have 'special relationships,' for the US as those others, those relationships get trumped by national interest so we'll waffle back and forth.
    And this is pretty much the same for any country one might care to name. Folks like to single out the US, but I can't think of any nation that is likely to ignore a "special relationship" when its own perceived national interests come into play.

    That said, the US has always had a strange relationship with China...one that borders on love/hate in more ways that either party may want to admit. But at this point it's all academic....
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    Quote Originally Posted by JMA View Post
    This will never happen because of Africa's natural and mineral resources. China has become the biggest player and the US and the rest will be lucky to get the crumbs.
    There's no doubt that the Chinese have become increasingly important economic actors in Africa, and will continue to do so. Also, Chinese investment is more strategic, and more closely linked with political engagement.

    However, at the moment, Chinese DFI in Africa continues to be dwarfed by that of the US, UK, France, Germany, and Japan by several orders of magnitude. Indeed, in many years Indian (and even Malaysian) investment in Africa exceeds that of China too.
    They mostly come at night. Mostly.


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    Quote Originally Posted by Rex Brynen View Post
    There's no doubt that the Chinese have become increasingly important economic actors in Africa, and will continue to do so. Also, Chinese investment is more strategic, and more closely linked with political engagement.

    However, at the moment, Chinese DFI in Africa continues to be dwarfed by that of the US, UK, France, Germany, and Japan by several orders of magnitude. Indeed, in many years Indian (and even Malaysian) investment in Africa exceeds that of China too.
    Don't worry about investment right now. You need to watch how the Chinese are tying up the rights to mineral and natural resources way into the future. And guess where all that stuff will be headed?

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    Council Member Dayuhan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JMA View Post
    Don't worry about investment right now. You need to watch how the Chinese are tying up the rights to mineral and natural resources way into the future. And guess where all that stuff will be headed?
    Doesn't make any difference at all. These resources are fungible, whatever China gets from Africa means they get less from other suppliers, which is then available for others to buy. China is doing the US a favor by investing in production in high risk environments where Americans don't want to go: they bring more material onto the market, that keeps prices down. They take the risk, we share the benefit. What's not to like? Much better for us to have China investing in new production than to have them using that pile of dollars to bid against us for the right to buy existing production.

    "Tying up" anything in unstable political environments is a risky business, especially where long term investments with extended recovery horizons are involved. You make a deal with a government, you put in a few billion, or more than a few, and all of a sudden a new government wants a new deal. What do you do, send the Marines? Not likely. Western companies have learned about this the hard way; the Chinese are likely to run into it as well.

    The notion of China as an unstoppable rising economic juggernaut is also misplaced... they have their share of problems and chickens have a way of coming home to roost. Look to some upheavals in the medium term future, potentially with major political implications. Remember when the simplistic among us were declaring that Japan was the rising power of the future?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dayuhan View Post
    Doesn't make any difference at all. These resources are fungible, whatever China gets from Africa means they get less from other suppliers, which is then available for others to buy. China is doing the US a favor by investing in production in high risk environments where Americans don't want to go: they bring more material onto the market, that keeps prices down. They take the risk, we share the benefit. What's not to like? Much better for us to have China investing in new production than to have them using that pile of dollars to bid against us for the right to buy existing production.

    "Tying up" anything in unstable political environments is a risky business, especially where long term investments with extended recovery horizons are involved. You make a deal with a government, you put in a few billion, or more than a few, and all of a sudden a new government wants a new deal. What do you do, send the Marines? Not likely. Western companies have learned about this the hard way; the Chinese are likely to run into it as well.

    The notion of China as an unstoppable rising economic juggernaut is also misplaced... they have their share of problems and chickens have a way of coming home to roost. Look to some upheavals in the medium term future, potentially with major political implications. Remember when the simplistic among us were declaring that Japan was the rising power of the future?
    I suspect the Chinese will be happy that some are reading the situation that way.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JMA View Post
    I suspect the Chinese will be happy that some are reading the situation that way.
    Probably true. Irrational sinophobia is of no use to the Chinese, nor is it of any use to anyone else.

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    http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/...xt-empire/8018
    The Next Empire
    All across Africa, new tracks are being laid, highways built,ports deepened, commercial contracts signed—all on an unprecedented scale, and led by China, whose appetite for commodities seems insatiable. Do China’s grand designs promise the transformation,at last, of a star-crossed continent? Or merely its exploitation? The author travels deep into the heart of Africa, searching for answers.
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 05-10-2010 at 09:20 PM. Reason: Tidy up
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