The greatest threat for African nations is a neocolonialism masquerading as American diplomacy. Attacks against elusive al-Qaida operatives decimate countries already ravaged by centuries of European colonial rule. And though Africa’s resources enrich foreign corporations and an elite political class, World Bank reports show that sub-Saharan Africa’s gross national per capita income is only $1,125 — proving that the people remain impoverished.
Obama’s challenge is complicated. He must guard U.S. national security and promote the country’s economic interests while operating in a political apparatus that historically has not taken into account the needs of Africans. Western interests have too long dominated international affairs, and a U.S. president — Kenyan heritage aside — may find it difficult to change the status quo.
More important, Obama’s African drone wars may leave a blueprint that future presidents use to justify unbridled intervention in African affairs. This is the greatest risk of all. The “Bush Doctrine” could become permanently codified, and Obama will have been its most effective ambassador. The president’s recent nomination of John Brennan as CIA director — an architect of drone warfare under George W. Bush — proves that the status quo is secure.
Carol Williams of the Los Angeles Times considers the broader implications of Obama’s drone wars. “Imagine if North Korea or Iran or Venezuela deployed thousands of unmanned surveillance aircraft in search of earthbound enemies,” she writes. The benefit of drones, and the rationale behind Obama’s use of them, is clear: They are highly effective at gathering intelligence, and they avoid the use of ground troops, which invariably lead to military casualties. But drones offer an equally disturbing alternative: virtual warfare, unjustifiable civilian deaths, little to no accountability and the danger of being adopted by the very enemies we fight.
For these reasons, President Obama may need to rethink the drone wars — especially in a land where too much damage has already been done.
Edward Wyckoff Williams is a contributing editor at The Root. He is a columnist and political analyst, appearing on Al-Jazeera, MSNBC, ABC, CBS Washington and national syndicated radio. Follow him on Twitter and on Facebook.