On July 12, TomDispatch posted the latest piece in Nick Turse’s “changing face of empire” series: “Obama’s Scramble for Africa.” It laid out in some detail the way in which the US Africa Command (AFRICOM) has, in recent years, spread its influence across that continent, establishing bases and outposts, sending in special operations forces and drones, funding proxy forces on the continent, and so on. As last week ended, TomDispatch received a “letter to the editor” from Colonel Tom Davis, director of the US Africa Command Office of Public Affairs, disputing in some detail a number of Turse’s points. (Colonel Davis also sent a copy of the letter to the Nation Institute, which supports this website.)
As readers know, it’s quite possible to write this editor. I read everything that arrives at TomDispatch with appreciation and answer when I can. There is, however, no “comments” section, nor a place for letters to the editor at TD. In this case, however, I found the obvious time and effort AFRICOM took to respond to the Turse piece of interest and so, today, we’re posting Colonel Davis’s full letter, and a response from Turse. After all, whatever highlights the changing US military position in Africa, about which Americans know remarkably little, seems well worth the time and space.
Two things remain to be said: first, beneath the detailed critique and response that follows lies an obvious difference of opinion that seems worth highlighting. Like a number of other TomDispatch writers, I believe that the US military should not be responsible for Planet Earth; that it is not in our interest for the Pentagon to be dividing the globe, like a giant pie, into six “slices” covering almost every inch of the planet: US European Command, or EUCOM (for Europe and Russia), the US Pacific Command, or PACOM (Asia), CENTCOM (the Greater Middle East and a touch of North Africa), NORTHCOM (North America), SOUTHCOM (South America and most of the Caribbean), and AFRICOM (almost all of Africa). Nor should the US military be garrisoning the planet in the historically unprecedented way it does. This imperial role of ours has little or nothing to do with “defense” and creates many possibilities for future blowback. Instead, it seems far more sensible to begin to shut down or cut back radically on our vast array of global bases and outposts (rather than, as in Africa, expanding them), and downsize our global mission in a major way. AFRICOM would obviously disagree, as would the Pentagon and the Obama administration, and the results of that basic disagreement about the role of the US military in the world can be seen in what follows.