President Obama has responded to the Ebola crisis in Africa by sending 3,000 military personnel to the affected region. The real beneficiary of this militarised messianism is, in fact, the military-industrial complex back in the US
The international system has long become inured to the relentless hiccup of African insecurity malaise. Major clichés and few strong allegories conjure up the spasms of this ongoing malaise to the point of oversimplifying the field of African security. A cascade of crises encapsulated by patterns of sociopolitical ‘fragility’, ‘failure’, and ‘vulnerabilities’ has been plying the continent’s security environment with regards to the HIV/AIDS pandemic, the Ebola outbreak in West and Central Africa, as well as the hydra of terrorism and bout of violent conflicts. To be sure, the continent as a surrogate ideological battleground between Western democracies and a soviet-centric security dilemma has been put to rest. Noticeably today, a post 9-11 terror-centric security messianism has been perking up on Washington’s foreign policy chariot wheels in Africa. This security messianism is characterized by an insulated minimalist engagement riding on a missionary rhetorical commitment to African security.
Not surprisingly, the continent is broadly painted under a missionary diplomatic utopia that promises to terminate the ills of Africa. Putting aside some headier geopolitical matters, President Bush in July 2005, with an evangelical tone, made the confession that the U.S. ‘seek[s] progress in Africa because conscience demands it.’ Binding tightly moral imperatives with security concerns, Bush exited the White House cementing his signature legacy as the AIDS president. He left behind a strong savoury trademark of his long-standing gig to defeating the tides of malaria and AIDS on the continent. By the time he left the world stage, President Bush had increased aid to the continent by more than 640 percent. In humanitarian aid, the continent was the beneficiary of more than $5 billion a year. The $46 billion President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) was instrumental for at least 2 million people who received antiretroviral drugs.
To be sure, the fine apostles of HIV/AIDS policy wonk have been battling out support for access to drugs and treatment for AIDS patients. As a result of this global battle, expensive treatment and drugs for AIDS had garnered public resources and attention as well. Ironically, expensive drugs and treatment have been raining down on environments without proper hospitals, qualified medical doctors, and poorly equipped clinics. While antiretroviral drugs are available to patients, the resources to training health workers and building schools of medicine have been drying up. Tellingly, American Ebola victims from the West and Central have to be flown home to Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta for treatment. Though the much-hyped PEPFAR project christened President Bush as the healer- in- chief on African shores, the everlasting romance between militarized health foreign policy and security is hard to disconnect. As a shining jewel on President Bush’s chest, PEPFAR stands out as a corporate bonanza for US pharmaceutical corporations to harvest safe vouchers from financial manna. Oil corporations such as Mobil Oil and Chevron own a share of some HIV-medicine patents and medication. Not only had US foreign policy aid to HIV made vast profit for US firms, but it softly tied up HIV/AIDS’ industrial headquarters to oil corporations and the creation of the unified command for Africa to oversee security and conduct military operations as necessary.
Of course, the hotly touted Obama’s West African foreign policy pledged a major US military-led surge to stop the Ebola virus as a global health and national security threat. Far from throwing a monkey wrench on military expansion, such a foreign policy vision has not divorced from a militarized version of epidemic diseases. On September 16, 2014, President Obama made public his decision to establish a joint military command headquarters in Liberia by quickly dispatching 3,000 US troops to Monrovia and Senegal. The Ebola outbreak crafted its own response to the military footprint on the continent. The Obama administration pledged $ 1.26 billion to fighting against Ebola that has already claimed more than 2,800 lives in West Africa. The crisis has spurred the opportunity to hew a close look at some nichified source of security fixes in order to reinforce the post-9-11 security quandaries.
President Obama’s quick policy stand is not unprecedented. The root of the militarization of Washington foreign policy goes back to 1947 with the Cold War. The National Security Act of 1947 amends the US armed forces as intrinsically embedded with national security policy in peacetime. To be sure, demilitarizing epidemic diseases in West Africa will divert resources to building roads that lead to good hospitals and schools of medicine to train public health personnel for the continent.
* Narcisse Jean Alcide Nana holds a BA in Philosophy, MA in Political Theology from Boston College and is currently specializing in International Security at the University of Leicester, UK.
* THE VIEWS OF THE ABOVE ARTICLE ARE THOSE OF THE AUTHOR/S AND DO NOT NECESSARILY REFLECT THE VIEWS OF THE PAMBAZUKA NEWS EDITORIAL TEAM
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