Of all the blank spots in the mental maps of many Americans, Africa is one of the largest. Informed by a number of misconceptions and popular myths, knowledge of the continent’s complexity is poorly understood not just by ordinary citizens but by policymakers as well. This ignorance informs foreign relations with African states. As Congresswoman Maxine Waters once put it, when it came to the Rwandan Genocide, she "didn’t know whether the Hutus or the Tutsis were correct," and because of that she couldn’t tell anybody else what to do. Consequently, the drivers of foreign intervention in Africa are often ill-informed about local contexts, and this has driven a number of disastrous foreign interventions that have rarely fixed the problems they set out to resolve.
In Foreign Intervention in Africa after the Cold War: Sovereignty, Responsibility, and the War on Terror
(Ohio UP, 2018), Elizabeth Schmidt
picks up where she left off in an earlier book and examines several different foreign interventions in Africa. Using a variety of different case studies, she illuminates some of the patterns that have informed western intervention in Rwanda, Somalia, and elsewhere, and the complicated role of international institutions in this process. By pointing out the ways that intervention has been shaped by concerns around the War on Terror, access to natural resources, and varying degrees of concern over human rights issues, Schmidt illustrates how these interventions fail or lead to unexpected and new problems. Written for a broad audience, the book is an excellent synthesis of a very complicated topic.
Zeb Larson is a PhD Candidate in History at The Ohio State University. His research is about the anti-apartheid movement in the United States. To suggest a recent title or to contact him, please send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.