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Tuesday, March 14, 2006

"It's all about OIL!" Nigeria as quagmire prediction from "liberal" media

Alternet poses the question: Nigeria: The Next Quagmire?. After all, it's all about OIL!
If U.S. troops go to Africa, it won't be for a humanitarian intervention; it will be to protect American oil interests in the troubled Niger Delta.

...Nigeria might be the next Iraq.
Or, as the piece warns, an "African Vietnam." I sure wish the left would get some new anologies.

However, ponder these paragraphs:
Putting American troops at risk in Africa would be a big change -- and speaks volumes about the new relationship between America and the sub-Saharan Africa. Ever since American troops were killed in Somalia early in the presidency of Bill Clinton, a firm rule of U.S. policy toward Africa has been to never put U.S. soldiers on African ground. For more than 10 years, American troops have studiously avoided intervening directly in African conflicts. This policy prevented the United States from trying to halt the genocide in Rwanda in the mid-1990s. More recently, this stance stopped the United States from using troops to restore order to Liberia. The policy may also stop the United States from sending troops to Nigeria.

But maybe not, because the purpose of an intervention in Nigeria would be to protect American oil -- not save lives in a humanitarian spirit. Oil drives American foreign policy as never before, and the Middle East isn't the only troubled oil-producing region. Nigeria is already one of the top-five largest exporters of oil to the United States, and the country's oil-producing region, the Niger Delta, is beset with insurgencies and criminality, some of which is directed by factions in Nigeria's own government. Two Nigerian rear admirals were court-martialed last year for their part in the attempted theft of thousands of tons of Nigerian oil by an international crime syndicate operating in Russia and eastern Europe.
Rwanda genocide occurred in 1994. Somalia "Balckhawk Down" 1993. An interesting take on the lessons of Somalia here:
Arguably, Somalia does not offer an ideal test of either the Bush concept of limited humanitarian intervention or the evolving concepts of expanded peacekeeping and peace enforcement based on the use-of-force authority provided in Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter. The Somalia "failure" was less a failure of either humanitarian intervention or muscular peacekeeping than a failure to apply them steadily and wisely. The failure was of another order: strategic confusion followed by a collapse of political will when the confusion led to combat casualties.

In Cambodia, Central America, Namibia, and now Mozambique, U.N. operations have unquestionably given war-torn lands a chance to get on their feet. These were complex operations conducted successfully under wide-ranging mandates. But the United Nations' attempt at a militarily challenging "peace enforcement" operation shows that it cannot manage complex political-military operations when its own structure is an undisciplined and often chaotic set of rival fiefdoms that resist unified command and control in the field at both the civilian and military levels. Basic change is needed on the issues of delegation to the field, unity of command in the field, and professional military backstopping and oversight from U.N. headquarters. We already knew these things about U.N. reform. After Somalia, we know them even better.

Equally important, Somalia underscores the need for improvement in the way the United States -- the United Nations' leading member -- defines missions, reviews and approves peacekeeping mandates, and approves U.N. force levels and budgets. The United States and the United Nations overreached in Somalia when they expanded the initial mandate without providing the means to carry it out. They failed to resolve a raging debate over whether and how to disarm the Somali factions. In the end, of course, the United States refused to take on that task before handing it off to the U.N. command. UNITAF probably could have done much more to demilitarize and disarm Somalia if the United States had been prepared to make the necessary forces available for a longer period and had maintained effective working relationships with the Somalis.
Also some "lessons learned" here.

More to the point, it will come as a surprise, I assume, to the US troops at work in the Horn of Africa today that the US has completely avoided Africa since Somalia.

Further, it begs the question of the number of US interventions in Africa prior to Rwanda (to which we ultimately did send some troops, by the way). Historically, the US has not been active in Africa.

However, when some activity was beginning, at least one article from 1998 suggested that the US might be "stumbling toward neo-colonialism."

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