But shouldn’t there be a much greater focus and effort on the part of the U.S. and its European partners to working more closely with North and West Africa?
‘Preferring “Eurasia” Georgia to “Atlantic” Africa?‘ Nikolas Gvosdev, The New Atlanticist. 12 September, 2008.
I believe that there should be. Gvosdev lays out a strong case for the “West” to embrace North and West Africa as integral components of the Western security matrix. The reasons that this is not happening as rapidly or as consistently as it should are numerous. I think there is something beyond the “finite resources” one posited by James Joyner. The reason that Georgia is more readily embraced by the “Atlantic community” — with all of its zero kilometers of Atlantic coast line and being rather removed from that context — is that it borders Russia, a major state actor that many in Europe fear. North and West Africa have few if any major state actors casting their shadows over them and on towards Europe; all of its major security threats are trans-national in nature. These problems are often given lower priority because addressing them means working against possible threats rather than obvious ones, similar to how levees in New Orleans are not built to deal with the strongest possible storms because they occur so infrequently; Why spend money on a [relatively] remote threat? (This is to say nothing of the fact that such problems often benefit individuals and groups within the state structure.) They would benefit from a European style cooperative, stronger than the AU and Arab League infrastructures; that project is too daunting for Europeans and even Americans to even contemplate working with.
Secondarily, it is a Christian society, falling within the rubric of “Judeo-Christian civilization” that was the basis of Western solidarity during the Cold War. It fits the established narrative. To make Morocco, Senegal, Nigeria, Algeria, Tunisia, and the other countries of these regions eligible for the kind of “Atlantic” partnership that has taken place between the opposite sides of the north Atlantic the definition of what is “Western” and what is “Atlantic” would need to be greatly revised. The current understanding was formed without these peoples in mind, at the time they were non-issues, colonial subjects or thought of as pieces of capital (and one can argue that there is no meaningful difference between either of those things). Westerners would need to be able to these of these Islamic and African societies as being part of a common cultural and political continuum. And so would north-west Africans.
Culturally speaking, that case can be made (though not easily in light of the colonial legacy and recent events concerning terrorism); Making it politically will take more time and effort. One of the reasons that Sarkozy’s UPM is so useless, foolhardy and wasteful is that the southern end of the Mediterranean is light years away from being united in the way that Europe is.* Look at the area’s dominant regional bodies: The League of Arab States (’nuff said) and the Arab Maghreb Union. The Arab Maghreb Union is an organization in paralysis and reflects only a common cultural and civilization orientation: it reflect the Arab-Islamic identity of the region but has nothing to show for what might be called a “common” political orientation. It is a body of even less relevance than the Arab League. And so is the UPM. The states of North Africa have no consensus of what the region should look like in even the near term so it only makes sense that an organization seeking to unite these bodies with an alien group of states for no real reason (aside from the pretty words that grace all French activities but carry no tangible utility). They are locked in competition, mistrust and ill will. For interstate initiatives to be useful, a bottom up process is required, and that is precisely what is lacking in north-west Africa.
* [ Aside from the fact that it reflects the pretensions to leadership of a nation that has past its prime and should be referring such matters to Europe’s real leader, Germany. ]