At Open Democracy, Paul Rogers writes:
Among the most compelling nuggets of information contained in the batch of United States diplomatic documents released by WikiLeaks and published in leading international newspapers is the list of installations in more than fifty countries which the state department in Washington deems to be a US security concern.
Some of the locations seem obvious (major oil-and-gas processing-plants and pipeline terminuses, for example); but others are far harder to fit any evident national-security frame (such as an Australian pharmaceutical plant specialising in anti-snake-venom treatments, and cobalt-mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo).
But even the more unlikely sites are relevant to a country that sees itself as the world’s sole superpower with interests across the globe. The anti-snake-venom plant in Australia almost certainly has the expertise and equipment to make antidotes to other toxins, and this could be highly significant in the event of a biological-warfare threat.
The cobalt-mines around Kolwezi and Mutshatsha in the southern DRC extract the world’s most important deposits of cobalt ores, and ferro-alloys containing cobalt have the specific property of retaining their shape at very high temperatures. They are therefore much in demand for the guidance-vanes of missile-engines and other elements of modern weapons-systems.
The more surprising elements of the list as much as the expected ones thus illustrate the continued reach of the United States’s strategic and security ambitions. But they also reveal something more: its new vulnerabilities. The increased inter-state competition across much of the global south from China and other rising states is one, familiar, source of these; another and perhaps less visible source is the challenge posed by insurgent groups to these prime targets. Indeed, central Africa may be a good place to begin to track this superpower dilemma.