“Human Security” Strategy in Africa

30.10.08

Categorie: Africa, Relief |

“About two years ago to the day, I was asked to give a presentation to Army staff in the bunker on African security,” said U.S. Army Major Shannon Beebe (pdf!), now Army Intel’s top Africa analyst. “At that time, the chief of staff of the Army was General Peter Schoomaker. And I started off the presentation with two quotes.”

The first one was, Africa is a continent, not a country. And the second one is that there is a reason that Africa is shaped like a question mark. It’s because we don’t understand what drives and determines security on the African continent. General Schoomaker, to his credit, was intrigued and challenged myself, along with a couple other folks, to go out and to canvas the Africa community of interest and ask them how they do view their security.

So began what was easily the most fascinating Department of Defense “blogger’s roundtable” teleconference yet. Beebe explained that we as Americans don’t always appreciate what “security” means to Africans — and that mismatch could have enormous strategic implications as the U.S. military increasingly turns its attention to a previously neglected continent.

Foremost, security in African means “human security,” Beebe said. “Security is not going to be based as much on state-centric models, is not going to be based as much on state-versus-state type of engagement, but the insecurities and the conditions of human beings that create these insecurities across state borders.”

What are these conditions? Broadly speaking, they fall into the following categories: economic, health, personal security and community security. Creating security in Africa isn’t so much about propping up governments with treaties, arms and training. No, security means feeding the starving, helping the unemployed find work, protecting refugees and helping struggling villages gain access to basic services like health care, water and power. By devolving our strategy from the level of states to the level of individuals, we might begin, slowly, to encourage a stable and prosperous Africa, one that benefits the whole world.

This is it, folks: a sketch of what “soft power” really means on the ground, and a preview of how the U.S. must transform itself to address a broad range of 21st-century security threats. Read the transcript of Beebe’s talk, and check back tomorrow when I’ll highlight one particularly important change that must take place if we are to make genuine progress securing Africa.

(Photo: me)

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What’s wrong with Somalia

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4 Responses to ““Human Security” Strategy in Africa”

  1. [...] So when I spoke with Army Major Shannon Beebe (pdf!), the top intel analyst for Africa, I wanted to know how the Pentagon aims to handle intelligence operations as it rolls out a new “human security” strategy for Africa. Said Beebe: Having spent some time in that area of the world, yeah, it is confusing. And I call this — you know, when the violence continues to manifest on itself, it really just turns into a vortex of violence. And it is, no one really knows why, who they’re fighting, why they’re fighting. All they know is that it’s a chaotic world. It’s Mad Max in the Thunderdome. And it’s, again, it’s about personal survival. [...]

  2. [...] 20, 2009 Surviving the Vortex of Violence Posted by Ted Lemon under News   I twittered this a while ago, but I was reviewing my twitterposts recently and it occurred to me to mention it here – an article in Wired from last month that talks very insightfully about the future of war, and what we can do about it.   From the article: …the next generation of war – the so-called “fifth-generation” – won’t feature armies or clear ideas. It will be what U.S. Army Major Shannon Beebe, the top intel officer for Africa, calls a “vortex of violence,” a free-for-all of surprise destruction motivated more by frustration than by any coherent plans for the future. [...]

  3. [...] Where fourth-gen combatants might blend in with the surrounding populace most of the time, they still periodically emerged to form military-style units. 5G fighters, by contrast, remain “subtle actors.” They may never once wear a uniform or carry a rifle. Their weapon is the desperate population of a society on the brink; their major tactic is unrest; their goal is to undermine the established order in the interest of changing it, or just leaving it in ruins. [...]

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