Monthly Archives: October 2013

US Military in Africa


Map from Nick Turse’s MJ piece

Nick Turse from put out this excellent piece on Mother Jones about a month ago. It’s one of a number of articles he’s written about the dramatic increase in US military actions on the African continent since the early 2000s. Turse details not only the startling rate of increasing military operations, but also the near absolute silence from AFRICOM and the Obama administration about its activities on the continent.

The growing presence of the US military in Africa raises important questions about the role of the US as ‘global policeman’ and the relationship between global capitalism and military expansion. The Left usually explains this relationship in one of two ways: One, the military is a kind of ‘primitive accumulation’ tool used by capital to grab resources like African farmland, oil, minerals, etc.; or two, the US military is not a tool for capital, and should be seen more simply as the ‘coercive apparatus’ of the US state, keeping order in an unruly and chaotic world.

Obviously not everyone on the Left thinking about the military and capitalism can be lumped into these two ‘camps’, but I would argue that most analyses that broach the connection between the military and capitalism fall into one of these frameworks. I’ve raised this issue before, but perhaps not as explicitly as I should. I think it is imperative that we think harder about the relationship between the military, capitalism and state power. What does it mean that the US state is rapidly ramping up its military presence in Africa?  Why is the expansion of global capitalism coupled so tightly with the expansion of military capacity? How can we map the connections between the endlessly expansive ‘War on Terror’ and the efforts of the US state to superintend the global economy? Does the military play an intrinsic role in capital accumulation?  I don’t have answers to these questions, but they deserve more attention.