Accession Number:



Do We Want to "Kill People and Break Things" in Africa?: A Historian's Thoughts on Africa Command

Descriptive Note:

Journal article

Corporate Author:


Personal Author(s):

Report Date:


Pagination or Media Count:



A common mantra within the military is that the mission is to kill people and break things. The military is ultimately a heavily armed organization dedicated to the protection of the United States by killing enemies and destroying their means to wage war. This certainly played out many times during World Wars I and II, but what about Vietnam or even Iraq right now Was Vietnam won by completing this mission Can Iraq be won this way While this slogan motivates the military, the task to kill people and break things is not the mission the U.S. government gives the military most of the time. So, should we break things or help This is a significant question to consider in light of the formation of the new Africa Command AFRICOM. President Bush has given Secretary of Defense Robert Gates the responsibility for creating the new command. General William E. Ward has already been named its first commander, and AFRICOM should be fully operational as a unified command by October 2008. Break things or help These two views on the mission of the U.S. military must ultimately agree on one all-encompassing goal -- the new organization should, in all cases, support the attainment of U.S. foreign policy. U.S. policy will be better served by a new AFRICOM, one that is based on multilateral operations with African conditions in mind rather than one that relies on the long-standing, somewhat erroneous view of the U.S. military as an armed instrument that only wages big wars. To support these multilateral operations, the command must truly be an interagency construct rather than a military organization with a few actors from other agencies included for effect. It is imperative that U.S. policy makers recognize this and shift the organizations emphasis during the initial stages of AFRICOMs development before it becomes a solidified military organization with a life of its own -- hence, on a path not easily altered.

Subject Categories:

  • Government and Political Science
  • Military Forces and Organizations
  • Unconventional Warfare

Distribution Statement: