April 25, 2014
Ward and Fishman on Pivoting To Africa
This week, all eyes are on Asia. President Barack Obama, after cancelling his initial trip to the region seven months ago, headed to Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines to prove that the “pivot,” or “rebalance,” to Asia is real. There is no question that a stronger U.S. focus in Asia is important given the economic, demographic and security realities now and in the future. But this great focus on Asia — and now Europe, thanks to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s actions in Ukraine — draws American attention away from a soon-to-be strategically vital region: Africa.
Focusing on Africa is necessary for securing long-term U.S. interests and ensuring global security for three main reasons. First, Africa is arming faster than any other continent. According to the Stockholm International Peace and Research Institute, as mentioned by the “War is Boring” blog, African military budgets increased 8.3 percent on average from 2012 to 2013 — and a whopping 81 percent between 2004 and 2013.” Yes, African militaries are still woefully unprepared to face many of the world’s threats, but they are willing to confront their security challenges, which explains their desire to work with the United States and other allies. In order to help them confront these threats, more active U.S. engagement will be required for training and support with the goal of being completely autonomous and effective fighting forces.