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US Policy Toward Africa: Eight Decades of Realpolitik

Herman J. Cohen
US Policy Toward Africa: Eight Decades of Realpolitik
ISBN: 978-1-62637-869-8
ISBN: 978-1-62637-870-4
ISBN: 978-1-62637-897-1
2020/280 pages/LC: 2019033985
An ADST-DACOR Diplomats and Diplomacy Book
"A masterful survey.... This book will serve as a basic reference for years to come." —Ambassador Charles H. Twining Jr.

"In a time when respectful political discussions are increasingly difficult, Cohen's account gives an honest, if even unflattering, take on history." —Caleb Slayton, The Bridge

"[This] comprehensive political history of US-African relations carefully chronicles American policy on the continent across successive presidencies, from the administration of Franklin Roosevelt to that of Donald Trump." —Nicolas van de Walle, Foreign Affairs

"Ambassador Cohen's work fills a void … and it is hard to think of anyone as qualified as he is to undertake such a work…. Scholars and commentators on Africa will want to keep his book close at hand." —John Campbell, Council on Foreign Relations

"A concise and invaluable diplomatic history of US relations with Africa…. Few individuals have Cohen's experience and perspective."—Witney Schneidman, Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African affairs

"Excellent…. No one interested in US relations with Africa should fail to read this lively account."—David Passage, Former US Ambassador to Botswana


Herman Cohen draws on both the documentary record and his years of on-the-ground experience to provide a uniquely comprehensive survey and interpretation of nearly eight decades of US policy toward Africa.

Tracing how this policy has evolved across successive administrations since 1942 (beginning with President Franklin D. Roosevelt's third term in office), Cohen illuminates the debates that have taken place at the highest levels of government; shows how policy toward Africa has been affected over the years by US relations with Europe, the Soviet Union, the Middle East, and most recently China; and points to the increasing reliance of Western economic interests on Africa's natural resources. His deeply informed narrative reveals the roles not only of circumstance and ideology, but also of personalities, in the formulation and implementation of US foreign policy.


Herman J. Cohen was a member of the US Foreign Service for thirty-eight years, posted to embassies in France, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. He was US ambassador to Senegal and The Gambia and served as assistant secretary of state for Africa under President George H. W. Bush. Subsequently, he was senior adviser in the Africa region at the World Bank. He is now president of Cohen and Woods, an international consulting firm.


  • The United States and Africa: A Historical Perspective.
  • Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1941-1945.
  • Harry S. Truman, 1945-1953.
  • Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1953-1961.
  • John F. Kennedy, 1961-1963.
  • Lyndon B. Johnson, 1963-1969.
  • Richard M. Nixon, 1969-1974.
  • Gerald Ford, 1974-1977.
  • Jimmy Carter, 1977-1981.
  • Ronald Reagan, 1981-1989.
  • George H. W. Bush, 1989-1993.
  • William J. Clinton, 1993-2001.
  • George W. Bush, 2001-2009.
  • Barack H. Obama, 2009-2017.
  • Donald Trump, 2017-2019.
  • Reflections on Successes and Failures.