In This Review

Ambiguous Order: Military Forces in African States
Ambiguous Order: Military Forces in African States
By Herbert M. Howe
Lynne Rienner, 2001, 327 pp

This important and copiously referenced overview of security issues in Africa examines the links between a lack of military professionalism and the proliferation of civil and interstate violence in the post-Cold War period. The author reviews the historical roots of military weaknesses and catalogues the various predicaments that beset leader-based African regimes following the withdrawal of superpower protection. Forced to choose between competent armies and loyal ones, insecure rulers have almost always chosen short-term, patronage-based loyalty and rejected organizational and technical competence. One result has been a growing number of governments unable to quell domestic insurgencies; another has been regimes that misuse their armies to pillage their weaker neighbors' resources. Three case studies look at problematic antidotes to unprofessional armies: ad hoc multilateral peacekeeping ventures such as ecomog (Economic Community of West African States Ceasefire Monitoring Group), private security companies such as Executive Outcomes, and the African Crisis Response Initiative, an American program to retrain African armies.