Small Wars Journal

From Small Wars to Great Power, Trump’s Africa Reset Could Change U.S. Military’s Role

From Small Wars to Great Power, Trump’s Africa Reset Could Change U.S. Military’s Role by Katie Bo Williams - Defense One

The Trump administration has declared a new era of Great Power competition, shifting U.S. national security priorities from counterterrorism after almost two decades to long-term strategic threats from countries like Russia and China.

But in Africa — a contested battlefield where those adversaries are vying for strategic influence — policy experts warn that the U.S. hasn’t been playing the game. The Pentagon has escalated counterterrorism strikes and special operations missions across the continent in a quietly expanding mission. Some lawmakers and former officials for years have warned that the U.S. has relied too heavily on elite operators for short-term tactical missions that aren’t underpinned by an holistic strategy or complemented by non-military efforts and, in Africa, that dynamic is particularly stark.

Gen. Tony Thomas, the head of U.S. Special Operations Command, or SOCOM, told a conference audience in Austin earlier this month that “there has been a realization that [Africa] is a great power competition area.”…

Read on.

Comments

From the beginning of our article above:

"The Trump administration has declared a new era of Great Power competition, shifting U.S. national security priorities from counterterrorism after almost two decades to long-term strategic threats from countries like Russia and China." 

First let me suggest that discussing these such matters, in this such way, this would seem to be insufficient.  Rather, what is necessary, I suggest, is to define (a) what kind of overall "competition" we are actually talking about here and, in this light, (b) where do these such great powers (Russia and China) "fit" into this general, overall "competition" scheme.  In this regard, consider the following attempt: 

a.  The U.S./the West today is engaged in a single effort (at multiple locations); this, to transform the outlying states and societies of the world more along modern western political, economic, social and/or value lines.  (This, and to "hold on to what they have got" in this regard.)  And, re: this/these exact such political objective, the U.S./the West:

b.  Today finds itself being opposed by various adversaries (both state and non-state); ALL of whom are (a) determined to prevent the U.S./the West from achieving it such political objective and (b) adopting such things as "containment" and/or "roll back" strategies (and such things as "hybrid warfare" employed in the service of same) toward this strategic end.

For a time after the end of the Old Cold War, the U.S./the West did not see Russia and China as part of the problem (see my "b" above) and, indeed, hoped that they would become part of the solution (see my "a" above).  Thus, during this time, the "era of competition" was described in non-great power competition terms.

Now, however, that we see that Russia and China have formally joined the "problem" group/crowd/team (again see my "b" above) -- and, because of their great power status and capabilities, taken the lead there -- is it (a) specifically because of this exact such development that (b) an "era of great power competition" now has been declared? 

But is this declaration -- of an "era of great power competition" -- sufficient/correct?  Or, due to the more specific nature of the conflict -- as I describe it above (see my "a" and "b") -- and much as was the case with the Old Cold War -- is a more specific description of the conflict necessary/required?

(For example, one which help us understand how [a] our proposed move away from such things as counter-terrorism and Africa in [b] the New/Reverse Cold War context I provide above may [c] be seen as playing into our enemies hands?  This, given that "containment" and "roll back" of the U.S./the West -- this would seem to be our diverse enemies' -- common goal?)