In This Review

Intervening in Africa: Superpower Peacemaking in a Troubled Continent
Intervening in Africa: Superpower Peacemaking in a Troubled Continent
By Herman J. Cohen
Palgrave, 2000, 268 pp

As assistant secretary of state for Africa from 1989 to 1993, Cohen was instrumental in guiding U.S. policy through the post-Cold War transition on the continent. This candid practitioner's memoir looks at seven civil wars in which the United States played a role. In Ethiopia, America's most successful intervention, U.S. diplomacy helped end the warfare that accompanied the fall of Mengistu Haile-Mariam's dictatorship. In the other six cases, interventions ranged from moderate success (Mozambique) to costly failure (Sudan, Angola, Liberia, Rwanda, and Somalia). All were shaped by varying mixtures of political and bureaucratic interference, faulty intelligence, naive expectations, and the inability to appreciate that early preventative action costs less than later intervention. Cohen believes that because American diplomacy carries great weight in Africa, it can help create positive conditions -- if well applied -- for negotiated solutions to conflict and even directly prevent deadly wars. Power, he says, implies a duty to promote peace and stability, but he stops short of spelling out the precise nature or limits of this responsibility.