Demands for U.S. involvement and assistance--including help in controversial peacekeeping and humanitarian intervention missions--are growing, even as the resources and political will necessary to undertake such involvement are shrinking. Further, the fact that U.S. national interests, especially security interests, are minimal in sub-Saharan Africa militates against such involvement. This dilemma seems likely to intensify in the years ahead.
The policy quandary for the U.S. is that it wants the international community to deal effectively with these crises, but does not wish to take the lead and carry the major share of the burden. One solution would be for Washington to promote measures to build the capabilities of African nations and organizations--and of the U.N.--to better deal with Africa's emergencies as well as long-term needs. But it is not at all clear that either the public or the national political consensus presently exists to support such a policy of peacetime engagement--even if it could be pursued relatively inexpensively.