December 1, 2008

HARRISONBURG—Dr. J. Peter Pham, Director of the Nelson Institute for International and Public Affairs at James Madison University, is the author of an in-depth examination of the United States Africa Command (AFRICOM) which appears in the just-published Fall/Winter 2008 issue of the Brown Journal of World Affairs.

In the sixteen-page article, Dr. Pham explores the new command’s origins (including the U.S. interests and developments in Africa motivating its establishment), its evolving structure in view of the key lessons it is meant to institutionalize, and the challenges which AFRICOM is likely to face. After this, he concludes:

AFRICOM represents not only a new institutional framework for U.S. engagement with Africa, but also a significant shift in the United States’ strategic paradigm from military reaction to threats to a preventative approach that fosters human security by privileging conflict prevention and, where necessary, post-conflict stabilization operations. Will it ultimately work? Can a military culture which has traditionally emphasized spearheading combat operations adapt to working in a cooperative interagency process? Is it possible to shift from longstanding U.S. preferences for bilateral partnerships to work with multilateral regional and subregional partners, many of which will have limited capacity? Is it even feasible to build a single organization that “will benefit the citizens of the United States and the people of Africa, and provide a model that advances interagency cooperation in conducting security assistance” all at once? Time will tell, but given the high stakes involved, it is an effort certainly worth undertaking.

The Brown Journal of World Affairs is a semi-annual publication produced at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, with the mission to provide “a forum for world leaders, policy makers, and prominent academics to engage in vigorous debate of intellectual breadth and vibrancy that bridges the gap between academic discourse and mainstream media.” Past contributors have included former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, former U.S. Secretaries of State Alexander M. Haig Jr. and Madeleine Albright, former U.S. National Security Advisors McGeorge Bundy and Zbigniew Brzezinski, former United Nations Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali, former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana, and Israeli President Shimon Peres, as well as Drs. Graham T. Allison Jr. and Joseph S. Nye Jr. of Harvard University, Dr. Joseph Stiglitz of Columbia University, and Dr. Lawrence Freedman of King’s College, London. Among authors featured the journal’s current issue are Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff; Dr. Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University; Dr. Abbas Milani, director of the Iran Studies Program at Stanford University; Dr. Michael McFaul, director of the Center on Democracy, Development, and Rule of Law at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford University; and Dr. Vali R. Nasr, professor of international politics at Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.

Click here to download a copy of Dr. Pham’s article, “ America’s New Africa Command: Paradigm Shift or Step Backwards?”