Merchant of Death
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Blood from Stones

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Africa Slipping Away
Secretary of State is reportedly uneasy over the faltering peace efforts across Africa, an unraveling that will have direct strategic and security implications for the United States.

Among the top three problem spots, mostly ignored over the past decade, are the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia and Sudan.

These are at the top because they are ongoing, armed conflicts. The Sudanese regime (surprise, surprise) stood Rice up on her recent trip to the region; the president of Ethiopia is ailing, and Somalian leaders refuse to create a truly inclusive government that could embrace everyone except the radical Islamist factions. So that conflict drags on.

The DRC, with its vast mineral resources, has uranium, a strong North Korean presence, Hizbollah (and possibly al Qaeda) diamond networks and is a long-standing center for weapons trafficking and other smuggling activities. The endless wars against new warlords rage on, in part because the central government has no legitimacy and the DRC's neighbors make a killing by raping the natural resource base of the country.

But the hot wars are hardly the only issues to resolve.

One could add South Africa, a growing haven for radical Islamist groups; Zimbabwe, a destabilizing factor that is dragging down several other countries; Angola and Equatorial Guinea, Chad and Cameroon, all despotic but oil-rich regimes with a vast network of criminal pipelines crisscrossing them; and many other trouble spots.

West Africa, while more peaceful since the demise of Charles Taylor in Liberia and the end of conflict in Sierra Leone, is now part of the new and growing cocaine pipeline to Europe. Nigeria is an internationally-know haven for scammers of all types and rogue elements, including the main drug kingpins in the region.

What this adds up to is a continent in crisis, where the U.S. policy and intelligence communities have little interest and expend few resources.

It is a continent that is home to a fanatical Islamist regime, and where radical Islamic groups have carried out some of the most deadly recent attacks on American targets (the Embassy bombings in 1998, the USS Cole bombing in 2000).

It is also a continent where Islamist banking structures, freed from normal oversight, can move money to terrorist operations, as they have in the past.

Transnational criminal pipelines overlap with terrorist groups, creating a dangerous marriage of convenience. This marriage can be seen in the diamonds and weapons trafficking arenas. It extends far further.

The ongoing wars provide the necessary instability these multiple but overlapping interests need in order to thrive. Peace, strong states and the rule of law would put them out of business.

So, it is nice to know that Secretary Rice is "uneasy." What she should be is terrified, mortified and willing to spend some of her remaining time and political capital on halting the further unraveling of a continent.

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