Foreign Intervention in Africa: From the Cold War to the War on Terror

Schmidt’s history of military intervention in the region during the last half century breaks no new empirical or theoretical ground, but it does provide a good introduction to the Africa policies of outside powers. She starts with the interventions that accompanied the decolonization of the parts of the continent long dominated by Belgium, France, and the United Kingdom (with a particularly good chapter on the Congo crisis in the early 1960s), then examines the conflicts surrounding the later decolonization of Portuguese-speaking Africa and the end of apartheid in South Africa. She finishes with a chapter on the African dimension of the U.S.-led “war on terror.” Schmidt assumes that economic interests motivated the outside powers that intervened in Africa during these conflicts, argues that such powers have almost invariably relied on the collusion and collaboration of local actors, and concludes that the interventions have usually had devastating effects on the continent. But she does not integrate her critique into a broader analysis of Africa’s international relations, barely mentioning foreign aid and humanitarian assistance and disregarding the effects of external support from the UN and regional peacekeeping forces.

Latest Commentary & News analysis