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Windshield Tour of a Military Coup in Benin

The small Western African country of Benin (formerly Dahomey) has had a turbulent post-colonial history. Since gaining independence from the French in 1960, the country has experienced various forms of government, coups, periods of military rule and ethnic strife. A number of politicians rose and fell from power in a series of coups between 1960 […]

The Greek Debt Crisis — How Did It Get Here?

The ongoing Eurozone crisis has taken on the dimensions of a long, repetitive Greek drama. After years of imposed austerity, Greece voted against accepting the bailout terms proposed by its EU creditors in a referendum in early July 2015, only to see the leftist government under Prime MinisterAlexis Tsipras accept another bailout in exchange for […]

Somalia — From Great Hope to Failed State

While today the mention of Somalia may conjure up images of a destitute nation run by warlords, such was not always the case. When it gained independence and the territories of British Somaliland and Italian Somalia were unified to create what we know today as Somalia, there was great optimism about the country’s political future. […]

Ghana’s Populist Mystic, Jerry Rawlings

Like many leaders throughout Africa, Jerry Rawlings was a paradoxical figure. He could be calculating and ruthless, as when he ordered a bloody “housecleaning” of those he viewed as corrupt or disloyal. Or he could demonstrate genuine concern for the well-being of Ghanaians as he tried to address the country’s myriad problems. Jerry John Rawlings […]

The Ivory Coast’s Félix Houphouët-Boigny – “A Master Manipulator and Destabilizer”

The late President Félix Houphouët-Boigny of Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) did not look like a “strong man.” He was small of stature, and he spoke softly. Nevertheless, during his 33 years as head of state (1961–1994) he was one of Africa’s most powerful leaders. He brought prosperity to his farmers and interfered in the internal […]

The Reign of the Snake – The Seedy Tenure of Togo’s President Eyadema

Extravagant dinners with Dom Pérignon and caviar, rampant corruption, political assassinations, a starving populace. Togo had been a small jewel in West Africa in the 1960s, a tourist destination for the French, with fine hotels, a reputation for stability, and a bulwark against Communism. And then it all went to hell. General Gnassingbé Eyadema served as […]

The Collapse of Order in the Middle East

Will Rogers once observed that “when you get into trouble 5,000 miles from home, you’ve got to have been looking for it.”  It’s a good deal more than 5.000 miles to Baghdad or Damascus from here.  And, boy, have we gotten into trouble!  We are trying to cope with the cumulative consequences of multiple failures.  Just about every […]

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“Military overreach cannot be offset by diplomatic incapacity”

2014 marks the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I, the devastating “war to end all wars.” While the world is a very different place than it was a century ago, retired Ambassador Chas W. Freeman notes that on the eve of WWI, nations began to conflate “military posturing with diplomacy, much as events […]

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The Iraqi Revolution — of 1958

In 1958, the 14 July Revolution ended the thirty-seven-year Hashemite monarchy of Iraq in a coup d’état and established the Republic of Iraq. The Free Officer group, led by General Abd al-Karim Qasim and his associate Colonel Abdul Salam Arif, was inspired by Pan-Arab nationalism and Nasser of Egypt’s 1952 overthrow of the Egyptian monarchy. […]

The Famine in Biafra — USAID’s Response to the Nigerian Civil War

Known as the ‘Giant of Africa,’ Nigeria stretches across the continent like a patchwork quilt, sewn together from dozens of historically independent religious, ethnic and linguistic subgroups, all vying for political representation and control. After achieving independence in 1960, the infant nation struggled to maintain a fragile peace as members of the Muslim Hausa-Fulani ethnic […]