Currently, the United States operates Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti as the only permanent U.S. military installation in Africa.
The U.S. uses Camp Lemonnier as the headquarters for US AFRICOM, as well as for counter terrorism operations, surveillance, and other covert operations China, also aware of Djibouti’s important strategic location, opened its first overseas base of any kind there on August 1, 2017. Beijing maintains that the base is merely a logistics facility to further aid Chinese humanitarian efforts, but the presence of military infrastructure seems to prove experts right – that the outpost is a naval base, indicating China’s growing interest in having a worldwide military presence. This base is just the most recent outcome of years of China’s rapid expansion of its military (funding will double between 2010 and 2020) and focus on modernizing its navy. The United States sees the two bases’ proximity as an opportunity for Beijing to keep a close eye on U.S.
military operations staged out of Camp Lemonnier. The U.S. also sees the construction of the Chinese naval base as an attempt to counter U.S. influence in the region and, more specifically, as an attempt to challenge the local balance of power. As Morgenthau explains in Politics Among Nations, local balances of power have become functions of a world-wide balance of power and challenges to local balances of power have the potential to upset the system as a whole.
Thus, if the Chinese utilize the base to more directly challenge the U.S. and the status-quo balance of power in the region, it will challenge the world-wide balance of power as a whole. The U.S. clearly sees even the mere construction of a Chinese base in Djibouti as a threat and an attempt at Chinese power projection. The U.S.
response was swift, with the White House securing a 20-year lease with the Djibouti government, physically expanding the base, and doubling the price it pays for use of the land. Japan, an extremely close military ally of the United States, will also begin to expand its Djibouti base in order to counter China’s power projection.China building a base in Djibouti near the United States is consistent with many of Morgenthau’s theories in Politics Among Nations. First, the situation exemplifies his theory of the general nature of alliances, wherein a “great power has a good chance to have its way with a weak ally as concerns benefits and policies.” The “great power” (the U.
S.) recognized the strategic importance of Djibouti, payed the “weak ally” (Djibouti), and has influenced the region through the base and its monetary contributions. Next, China building a base near Camp Lemonnier is what Morgenthau would see as an attempted Chinese counterweight to U.S.
influence in the region. Overall, Morgenthau would view Djibouti as a theater for a power contest between the U.S.
and China, with both countries as the “great two protagonists” fighting in the pattern of competition.