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Surely we can do something.
Some years ago I was sitting around with a bunch of colleagues at the Wall Street firm I worked for. These were "two-year analysts" — kids recruited straight out of college to do two years drudge work in the firm's back offices ("turning out equity margin crap for little old ladies," as one of them... Read More
With American troops getting ready to liberate Liberia, the World Liberator himself descended upon the continent of Africa earlier this month to prepare the way. Antiquarians may recall that some years ago, President Bush's predecessor, Bill Clinton, also traveled to Africaand declaimed sentiments on slavery not very different from those emitted by the current Liberator... Read More
If you want to understand why immigration will be the great world issue of the years immediately in front of us, you could do worse than learn Wolof. This is a West African language used, often in a pidgin form, as a lingua franca in the countries at the westernmost extreme of the West African... Read More
Once as a colonial project, now as a moral playground, the ancient continent remains the object of Great Power maneuvering
George W. Bush’s seven-day, five-country trip around Africa generated much surprised comment about how popular our president is over there. The leaders of the nations Bush visited beamed with pride through their photo-ops. In Tanzania, local artists had emblazoned the president’s smiling face on fabric, which was made into dresses and smocks worn by citizens... Read More
Since the recent Russian presidential election of Medvedev (which shifted Vladimir Putin to the less prominent post of Prime Minister) and even for a while before that, Russian foreign policy was a matter of guesswork. There was a widely-held view that Mr Medvedev would take a more submissive line towards the US and the West,... Read More
I have a certain respect for what I see as President Obama’s clear-eyed exercises in foreign affairs triage. Obviously, his plate is full with Iraq/Iran/Pakistan/Afghanistan and keeping Europe on board for the whole global-recession-fighting deal, and the Obama administration has shown little interest in looking for solutions (or trouble) in strategic backwaters of the world... Read More
Since the mid-20th century, ‘skin bleaching’ has become more and more common among dark-skinned populations. It involves lightening skin color by means of topical preparations that contain hydroquinone, cortisone, or mercury. These products are effective, but prolonged use may damage the skin by making the epidermis thinner and by breaking down collagen fibers. Despite being... Read More
In my previous posts, I’ve argued that China is entering a demographic transition that is already occurring in other developed countries, i.e., decline of the indigenous population and progressive replacement by higher-fertility immigrants. In this post, I’ll focus on how the initial phase will play out over the next ten years. The China of tomorrow... Read More
Expansion of modern humans out of Africa and within Africa. Mellars (2006). When we discuss the origins of modern humans, the term ‘Out of Africa’ is a bit misleading. Our common ancestors came not from Africa as a whole but from a relatively small area somewhere in East Africa. Beginning around 80,000 years ago, this... Read More
Figurines of Nubian archers (from Egypt) The Roman conquest of Britain brought not only cultural change but also profound ethnic change, i.e., an influx of soldiers, officials, and traders from elsewhere. Until recently, historians placed this influx mainly in the first century of Roman rule. As the native British became Romanized, they would have increasingly... Read More
Eboracum with the Colonia in the foreground and the fortress across the river. In my last two posts, I presented evidence that Roman York (Eboracum) was home to a large African community in the late 300s. This was due to the stationing of Nubian archers and other African legionnaires in this and other garrison towns... Read More
The US bombing of Libya in support of rebel clients in the spring of 2011 is part and parcel of a sustained policy of military intervention in Africa since at least the mid 1950’s. According to a US Congressional Research Service Study[1] published in November 2010, Washington has dispatched anywhere between hundreds and several thousand... Read More
Wasted $1 trillion in the futile Iraq war? Being defeated by medieval Afghan tribesmen? Can’t pay your bills at home or abroad? Government paralyzed? Worried about China? What’s the answer? Simple. A new little war in Africa. Having finished off former ally Muammar Gadaffi, the US Pentagon, CIA, and the new US Africa Command are... Read More
“Neanderthal” admixture seems to be higher in West Africans than in East Africans. How come? (Source) When modern humans began their expansion from a small core somewhere in East Africa, the continent probably had several different archaic populations. It now seems that one of them was related to the Neanderthals in Europe. In an ongoing... Read More
The Obama administration is enhancing the U.S. presence in Africa, which it is increasingly identifying as the new front in the war against Islamic militants. New drones for the CIA will be partially deployed in Afghanistan in an attempt to take up the slack as Western troop presence wanes over the next year, but most... Read More
The Startling Size, Scope, and Growth of U.S. Military Operations on the African Continent
They’re involved in Algeria and Angola, Benin and Botswana, Burkina Faso and Burundi, Cameroon and the Cape Verde Islands. And that’s just the ABCs of the situation. Skip to the end of the alphabet and the story remains the same: Senegal and the Seychelles, Togo and Tunisia, Uganda and Zambia. From north to south, east... Read More
Here’s a question for you: Can a military tiptoe onto a continent? It seems the unlikeliest of images, and yet it’s a reasonable enough description of what the U.S. military has been doing ever since the Pentagon created an Africa Command (AFRICOM) in 2007. It’s been slipping, sneaking, creeping into Africa, deploying ever more forces... Read More
HBD Chick and I talk about how rates of historic inbreeding have had an important impact on the selective pressures acting on the traits of various peoples living today. We have often used Europe and the Middle East as examples of this, because strong regional variations in historic rates of inbreeding exist in those places.... Read More
Togolese representation of a white man (source) In a previous post, I wrote that the recently published book De quelle couleur sont les Blancs ? was originally supposed to provide a new perspective on French race relations. How do the Français de souche perceive, imagine, and experience their increasingly multiracial society? What does it mean... Read More
Our major post-9/11 wars are goners and the imagery of American war-making is heading downhill. The Iraq War was long ago left in the trash heap of history, while in Afghanistan the talk is now about “the zero option” -- that is, about an irritated Obama administration making a lock, stock, and drone departure from... Read More
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America’s New Model for Expeditionary Warfare
Lion Forward Teams? Echo Casemate? Juniper Micron? You could be forgiven if this jumble of words looks like nonsense to you. It isn’t. It’s the language of the U.S. military’s simmering African interventions; the patois that goes with a set of missions carried out in countries most Americans couldn’t locate on a map; the argot... Read More
Documents Reveal Blinding Pace of Ops in 2013, More of the Same for 2014
The numbers tell the story: 10 exercises, 55 operations, 481 security cooperation activities. For years, the U.S. military has publicly insisted that its efforts in Africa are small scale. Its public affairs personnel and commanders have repeatedly claimed no more than a “light footprint” on that continent, including a remarkably modest presence when it comes... Read More
After years in the shadows, U.S. Navy SEALs emerged in a big way with the 2011 night raid that killed Osama bin Laden. Afterward, they were lauded in print as supermen, feted by the president, and praised by the first lady. Soon, some of the country’s most secretive and elite special operators were taking the... Read More
U.S. Officials Talk Candidly (Just Not to Reporters) about Bases, Winning Hearts and Minds, and the “War” in Africa
What the military will say to a reporter and what is said behind closed doors are two very different things -- especially when it comes to the U.S. military in Africa. For years, U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) has maintained a veil of secrecy about much of the command’s activities and mission locations, consistently downplaying the... Read More
Let me explain why writing the introduction to today’s post by TomDispatch Managing Editor Nick Turse is such a problem. In these intros, I tend to riff off the ripples of news that regularly surround whatever subject an author might be focusing on. So when it comes to the U.S. military, if you happen to... Read More
A Secret African Mission and an African Mission that’s No Secret
What is Operation New Normal? It’s a question without an answer, a riddle the U.S. military refuses to solve. It’s a secret operation in Africa that no one knows anything about. Except that someone does. His name is Lieutenant Colonel Robert E. Lee Magee. He lives and breathes Operation New Normal. But he doesn’t want... Read More
Amid the horrific headlines about the fanatical Islamist sect Boko Haram that should make Nigerians cringe, here’s a line from a recent Guardian article that should make Americans do the same, as the U.S. military continues its “pivot” to Africa: “[U.S.] defense officials are looking to Washington’s alliance with Yemen, with its close intelligence cooperation... Read More
Is the Conflict in South Sudan the Opening Salvo in the Battle for a Continent?
[This story was reported in partnership with the Investigative Fund at the Nation Institute. Additional funding was provided through the generosity of Adelaide Gomer.] Juba, South Sudan -- Is this country the first hot battlefield in a new cold war? Is the conflict tearing this new nation apart actually a proxy fight between the world’s... Read More
For the last two years, TomDispatch Managing Editor Nick Turse has been following the Pentagon and the latest U.S. global command, AFRICOM, as they oversaw the expanding operations of the American military across that continent: drones, a special ops surge, interventions, training missions, bases (even if not called bases), proxy wars. Short of a major... Read More
The Limits of America’s African Experiment in Nation Building
[This story was reported in partnership with the Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute. Additional funding was provided through the generosity of Adelaide Gomer.] Juba, South Sudan -- The soft glow of the dancing white lights is a dead giveaway. It’s Christmas in July at the U.S. Embassy compound. Behind high walls topped with fierce-looking... Read More
On return from his recent reporting trip to Africa, Nick Turse told me the following tale, which catches something of the nature of our battered world. At a hotel bar in Juba, the capital of South Sudan, he attended an informal briefing with a representative of a major nongovernmental organization (NGO). At one point, the... Read More
Those of us who hark back nostalgically to the glory days of Anglophone financial journalism in the 1960s and 1970s know that little of that tradition survives. For the most part the great newspapers of those days have fallen prey to bureaucracy and cost-cutting. Worse, their editors seem to care more about pandering to the... Read More
In light of recent history, perhaps it’s time to update that classic U.S. Army recruitment campaignslogan from “be all that you can be” to “build all that you can build.” Consider it an irony that, in an era when Congress struggles to raise enough money to give America’s potholed, overcrowded highways a helping hand, building... Read More
Hushed Pentagon Investigation Slaps U.S. Africa Command’s Humanitarian Activities
[This story was reported in partnership with the Investigative Fund at the Nation Institute. Additional funding was provided through the generosity of Adelaide Gomer.] DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania -- Movie night in Mouloud, Djibouti. Skype lessons in Ethiopia. Veterinary training assistance in Garissa, Kenya. And in this country on the east coast of Africa, work... Read More
As American hysteria over events in the Middle East rises, news about whatever grim video the Islamic State (IS) has just released jostles for attention with U.S. bombing runs in Iraq, prospective ones in Syria, and endless confusing statements out of Washington about what the next seat-of-the-pants version of its strategy might be. These days,... Read More
In the Face of Rising Maritime Insecurity, AFRICOM Claims Success and Obama Embraces a Strongman
[This story was reported in partnership with the Investigative Fund at the Nation Institute. Additional funding was provided through the generosity of Adelaide Gomer.] “The Gulf of Guinea is the most insecure waterway, globally,” says Loic Moudouma. And he should know. Trained at the U.S. Naval War College, the lead maritime security expert of the... Read More
Skull from Broken Hill (Kabwe), Zambia.  Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Archaic humans were still around when the Neanderthals were going extinct in Europe
East Africa, 60,000 to 80,000 years ago. The relative stasis of early humans was being shaken by a series of population expansions. The last one went global, spreading out of Africa, into Eurasia and, eventually, throughout the whole world (Watson et al., 1997). Those humans became us. This expansion took place at the expense of... Read More
Having watched the taxpayer and Federal Reserve bailout of the financial institutions, the criminal actions of which had collapsed the economy, he realized that the financial system and its regulators were corrupt and committed to protecting the house of cards that corruption had created. The flood of liquidity that was on its way would drive... Read More
A Base Camp, an Authoritarian Regime, and the Future of U.S. Blowback in Africa
Admit it. You don’t know where Chad is. You know it’s in Africa, of course. But beyond that? Maybe with a map of the continent and by some process of elimination you could come close. But you’d probably pick Sudan or maybe the Central African Republic. Here’s a tip. In the future, choose that vast,... Read More
Sometimes, to see the big picture you need to focus on the smallest part of it, as Nick Turse does in the latest of his dispatches on the U.S. military in Africa. He takes a look at that military in Chad. Yep, I said “in Chad.” At least 99% of Americans are undoubtedly unfamiliar with... Read More
African district, Guangzhou (Wikicommons: Anna Frodesiak)
Long a land of emigration, China has become one of immigration. Surprising? Not really. Life is now better there than in most of the Third World. Meanwhile, with fewer people leaving the Chinese countryside for the cities, employers have to offer higher wages and better working conditions ... or get their labor elsewhere. Finally, with... Read More
Military Missions Reach Record Levels After U.S. Inks Deal to Remain in Africa for Decades
For three days, wearing a kaleidoscope of camouflage patterns, they huddled together on a military base in Florida. They came from U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) and U.S. Army Special Operations Command, from France and Norway, from Denmark, Germany, and Canada: 13 nations in all. They came to plan a years-long “Special Operations-centric” military campaign... Read More
Years ago, Chalmers Johnson took a term of CIA tradecraft, “blowback,” and put it into our language. Originally, it was meant to describe CIA operations so secret that, when they blew back on this country, Americans would be incapable of tracing the connection or grasping that the U.S. had anything to do with what hit... Read More
There were those secret service agents sent to Colombia to protect the president on a summit trip and the prostitutes they brought back to their hotel rooms. There was the Air Force general on a major bender in Moscow (with more women involved). There were those Drug Enforcement Administration agents and their “sex parties” abroad... Read More
What U.S. Africa Command Doesn’t Want You to Know
Six people lay lifeless in the filthy brown water. It was 5:09 a.m. when their Toyota Land Cruiser plunged off a bridge in the West African country of Mali. For about two seconds, the SUV sailed through the air, pirouetting 180 degrees as it plunged 70 feet, crashing into the Niger River. Three of the... Read More
Off Lampedusa, February 2014 Nine years ago, when illegal aliens were coming out of the shadows to stage huge marches demanding “rights,” I wrote a column forNational Review (!!!) with the title The Future Comes Apace. I took those words from Shakespeare’s play Timon of Athens. The title character of the play is a wealthy... Read More
Presidential Waivers, Child Soldiers, and an American-Made Army in Africa
MALAKAL, South Sudan -- I didn’t really think he was going to shoot me. There was no anger in his eyes. His finger may not have been anywhere near the trigger. He didn’t draw a bead on me. Still, he was a boy and he was holding an AK-47 and it was pointed in my... Read More
President Obama couldn’t have been more eloquent. Addressing the Clinton Global Initiative, for instance, he said: “When a little boy is kidnapped, turned into a child soldier, forced to kill or be killed -- that’s slavery.” Denouncing Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army, or LRA, and offering aid to Uganda and its neighbors in tracking Kony... Read More
It’s been an incredibly quiet show. In recent years, the U.S. military has moved onto the African continent in a big way -- and essentially, with the exception of Nick Turse (and Craig Whitlock of the Washington Post), just about no one has noticed. In a sense, it’s a reporter’s dream story. Something major is... Read More
Topic Classics
Once as a colonial project, now as a moral playground, the ancient continent remains the object of Great Power maneuvering