Military Interventions in Sierra Leone : Lessons From a Failed State: The Long War Series Occasional Paper 28
Recognizing the importance of the nations residing on the continent of Africa in an interconnected world, the United States established the United States Africa Command (USAFRICOM) in October 2007. That development alone makes it imperative that American military leaders understand the problems facing many African states today and the conflicts that have ravaged them in the recent past. Often rich in resources, both human and economic, yet uneven in development of governmental institutions and infrastructure, the nations of this large continent represent both a challenge and an opportunity. The challenge can be as complex as the removal of a sanctuary for terrorists without excessive violence or the marshalling of resources to alleviate a massive humanitarian crisis. The opportunity is that constructive engagement at an early stage can perhaps forestall the expenditure of large sums of blood and treasure to ameliorate a seriously deteriorating situation. In all of these cases, military leaders must have an understanding of Africa's geography, its peoples, and its history. Only through this understanding can the military instrument be applied intelligently and humanely. This study by Larry J. Woods and Colonel Timothy R. Reese analyzes the massive turmoil afflicting the nation of Sierra Leone, 1995-2002, and the efforts by a variety of outside forces to bring lasting stability to that small country. The taxonomy of intervention ranged from private mercenary armies, through the Economic Community of West African States, to the United Nations and the United Kingdom. In every case, those who intervened encountered a common set of difficulties that had to be overcome. Unsurprisingly, they also discovered challenges unique to their own organizations and political circumstances. Serving soldiers can often profit vicariously from the mistakes of others as recounted in detailed case studies of historical events. This cogent analysis of recent interventions in Sierra Leone represents a cautionary tale that political leaders and military planners contemplating intervention in Africa ignore at their peril.