Grading Obama’s Africa speech

Bill Easterly grades Obama’s Accra speech.  He comes away generally positive, but this bit irks him. 

“We welcome the steps that are being taken by organizations like the African Union and ECOWAS to better resolve conflicts, keep the peace, and support those in need. And we encourage the vision of a strong, regional security architecture that can bring effective, transnational force to bear when needed.”

D. Sigh. Obama seems to fall for the myth of the benevolent, neutral, outside, rapid-response “peacekeepers,” which is a leap of faith relative to the historical record that outside military intervention is rarely neutral and rarely available rapidly “when needed” (JEL article). Any given African country will not automatically see an outside force as neutral just because it is made up of other Africans.

With respect, I think Easterly is missing the point.  The fact that the intervention is “rarely available rapidly ‘when needed'” is precisely why the United States should support regional security arrangements, like the African Standby Force, that seek to correct this problem.   The AU, at present, does not have the capacity to mount complex peacekeeping operations, yet it is being asked to bear primary responsibility for fielding these kinds of missions. (e.g. AMIS in Darfur and AMISOM in Somalia).  The problem is, the AU can barely support these kinds of mission.  As Susan Rice has said, Africa is basically “tapped out” with its ability to field peacekeepers. 

To that end, it is important that the international community support efforts to build regional peacekeeping capcity.  This kind of vision is eminantly sensible, could save lives,  and would help make manifest the maxim of “African solutions to African problems.”  Hard to see why this vision would come under such harsh criticism from Easterly.