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Ambiguous Order: Military Forces in African States

Herbert M. Howe
Ambiguous Order: Military Forces in African States
ISBN: 978-1-55587-931-0
ISBN: 978-1-58826-315-5
2001/316 pages/LC: 00-042551

"This is a remarkably informative book."—Douglas Rimmer, African Affairs

"Imperative, verging on the seminal.... This is a most impressive and welcome first [book,] with relevance outside as well as inside both the academy and the continent."—Timothy M. Shaw, Contemporary Security Policy

"No other book examines these interrelated political, military, and security issues as Howe does.... Highly recommended."—Choice

"A substantial strength of Howe's book is his extensive personal communications with soldiers, practitioners, and policymakers (African and non-African) possessing firsthand experience on the issues of interest. The range of his personal contacts is remarkable, including many of the most perceptive analysts of military issues in Africa." —Dr. Dan Henk, Parameters

"Howe's analysis goes to the heart of the security problem in Africa."—Robert J. Griffiths, American Political Science Review


This original work examines three potential options for increasing state security in contemporary Africa: regional military groupings, private security companies, and a continent-wide, professional peacekeeping force.

Howe explores these alternatives within the larger context of why African militaries have proven incapable of handling new types of insurgency; how the failed intervention in Somalia limited Western efforts to act in subsequent crises, such as the genocide in Rwanda; and how African attempts to redefine "sovereignty" provide philosophical justification for armed intervention in the internal affairs of other states. Based on extensive travel in African war zones, his findings provide an important contribution to the growing field of African security.


Herbert M. Howe is chair of civil military relations at the Africa Center for Strategic Studies, National Defense University.


  • Introduction: Changing Security Patterns in Sub-Saharan Africa.
  • The Roots and Results of African Military Unprofessionalism.
  • Africa's Ongoing Security Predicament.
  • ECOMOG and Regional Peacekeeping.
  • Executive Outcomes and Private Security.
  • ACRI: U.S. Support of African Military Professionalism.
  • Conclusion: Toward Restoring the Civil-Military Divide.