Before I get started with this week’s roundup, I wanted to plug the new African Arguments website. Check out their blogs on Sudan, Zimbabwe, Central Africa, Africa & Asia, and Politics.
Chris Blattman flags a study on weather, malaria, and infant mortality.
Daniel Drezner offers some thoughts on foreign policy blogging.
Ambassador John Campbell writes, “There seems to be a new flurry of Obama administration diplomatic engagement with Africa [which…] highlights the complexities of balancing our sometimes contradictory interests in Africa.”
Jason Stearns looks at efforts to integrate armed groups into the military in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Dibussi Tande continues his excellent “Memory Lane” series on the 1991 protests in Cameroon, reminding us that protests in West Africa have long historical roots.
At the State Department’s Dipnote blog, Anita McBride talks about the future of the Fulbright program.
J.L. at the Economist‘s Baobab blog comments on the death of Fazul Abdullah Muhammad in Somalia. He writes,
To me, Fazul’s death, together with the sinking of Osama bin Laden to watery depths, signals the beginning of the end of the epoch of the war on terror. The end will not be tidy. Iraq has not recovered; the Taliban and the drug runners of Afghanistan will outlast foreign intervention. In their weakness the jihadists in Somalia are even more likely to strike Kenya, Ethiopia or perhaps South Africa and Europe. Since Fazul’s death suicide bombers have already blown up the interior minister of Somalia. It is more a matter of drift: the narrative of jihad will no longer command the attention of foreign editors. It is spent. Other stories are taking over—China versus the rest, the anthropocene and climate change; a new epoch for today’s foreign correspondents.
The “war on terror” is, in US domestic politics, in some sense already over – the Obama administration has largely avoided that framing. As for the “narrative of jihad,” I have long thought that journalists and commentators have overemphasized the significance of ideology in conflicts that are driven not just by ideas but also by history, grievances, and politics. But J.L. may be right in his/her analysis of where media narratives are heading. What do you think?
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It might end the American mentality of a ‘war on terror’ but personally I hold the opinion that there never was one ‘war on terror’ at all any more than there was ever one ‘war on Communism’. In reality we had multiple conflicts across several continents that had some links to each other* but were driven by local issues. We shouldn’t confuse the fighting in Iraq with the fighting in Yemen and we certainly shouldn’t (as some have) give anything but minor associations between the fighting in Iraq with the Beslan siege.
*Namely some ideological agreement, some assistance between groups that varied widely and the fact that the U.S didn’t like those groups and wanted local governments to crack down on them.
The Economist hits and misses. Guerrilla warfare/terrorism is a dominant arc starting from 1970’s post Vietnam, and is likely trending down historically. However this time-frame could stretch another 15-30 years before U.S.-China relations become the new ideological conflict. OBL’s death has weight but Fazul doesn’t mark the end of anything.
Too many questions are being twisted up: actual conflicts vs. perception of the “War on Terror,” with those perceptions diverging on jihad’s internal narrative and U.S. hyper-focus on China. I don’t think these spheres are mutually exclusive; China could run into its own militant problems in the future. And unfortunately the U.S. establishment does see a connection between Iraq and Yemen, and is recklessly pursuing its fledgling conflict in a similar fashion.