An "African Marshall Plan"
CTA Board member Fred Stakelbeck writes in today’s Washington Times about a pressing strategic issue that – given the emphasis placed on all-things Iraq-Terrorism-Iran-North Korea – has received scant attention:
After years of intermittent engagement, China's 50-year relationship with the African continent has accelerated recently, with discussions on issues including energy, security and trade taking center stage. Over the past several years, Beijing's Communist government has invested billions of dollars in African projects, gaining favor with a number of fledgling governments. This change has occurred as Western influence has steadily declined, the result of inconsistent and often times ineffective policies related to important African concerns, such as poverty, disease, corruption and infrastructure development. The disjointed Western response to critical African needs has pushed the continent closer to China, providing a unique opportunity for Chinese President Hu Jintao to become Africa's newest savior.
While the Chinese invest tens of billions in trade, loan forgiveness and infrastructure improvements, they are also cutting lucrative arms and energy deals with oil and gas producing nations to help power the homeland. This includes dealing with troubled and troubling nations like Algeria, Libya and Sudan.Fred continues:
All of this has occurred as U.S. influence on the continent has diminished, due in part to its involvement in the Middle East. This has allowed China to make substantial progress, nurturing deep economic, political and defense ties. Making matters worse for Washington, Beijing's progress comes as disagreements over China's military modernization, currency revaluation, trade practices and extra-regional aspirations have intensified.
Fred’s argument for an “African Marshall Plan” is a call to action, not simply as a counter to the Chinese as future near-peer competitor, but as a part of a broader approach to both national (energy, counterterrorism) and international (war, humanitarian crises) avoidance. Modest progress can be found in the Administration’s plans for a new Africa Command, though as some reports have indicated, enthusiasm for such an endeavor is lacking.