By Addissu Admas
America has a long and dismal record when engaging particularly with Third-World countries. From the Spanish-American war of 1898 to this soon to end Afghan war, America has practically interfered in the internal affairs of virtually every Third World country, and nearly always with deleterious outcomes. From Latin America to South East Asia to much of Africa, American foreign policy has only succeeded in exacerbating existing conflicts or generating new ones by installing dictatorships and stunting emancipatory movements. Where America went with the full might of her military, she has only retreated when the going got tough – Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq – to leave the countries perhaps worse than before her incursion. Why this pitiable record for a nation that prides itself in caring for the world’s well-being, democracy, liberty and peace? Is this truly indeed what America stands for or to be honest what America pretends to care for? The fact of the matter is that America has always sought what is beneficial to America. More precisely perhaps, what is profitable to the “military-industrial complex”, to quote President Eisenhower? The one phrase that we have heard ad nauseam from American politicians and diplomats is that “America has the right to seek and defend her self-interest”. No matter what? One may ask. The answer has been invariably a resounding yes, even though it may not have been often stated as loudly.
The question is why is America’s foreign policy constitutionally shortsighted and invariably ineffective or even damaging? I believe that there is more than one simple answer to this question. In what follows, I will attempt to provide several reasons, and conclude on how to counter America’ s damaging interference in the case of present day Ethiopia.
As some have already intimated, racism or at least some form of racist paternalism is constantly at play not only in America’s foreign policy, but also in that of its eternal partner, the European Union. I have very little doubt that racism, either surreptitiously or openly plays a fundamental role in the West’s (and by the West I mean America and Europe together) attitude towards “troubled Africa”. We Africans, apparently because of our inherent inability to solve our own problems, require the “enlightened West” to lead us out of darkness into the light of civilization. This has been the accepted ideology of the 19th century European colonial powers, and it remains the one by which America abides by, though the language and manner of its implementation have been modified to render it more palatable. Besides, why should one be surprised by America’s attitude towards us “poor Ethiopians” if white America is still groping around like a blind man about its own race issues? A racialized civilization, such as the West’s, cannot perceive our present circumstances with clear eye, without prejudice, and in good faith. This is the reality of our present day world, and this is what informs primarily the West’s Third World foreign policy.
Has America ever acted for the objective good of another country, pure and simple? Has it not been the case that she has unfailingly sought primarily her own self-interest first, and only secondarily another country’s when it coincided with her own self-interest?
The “concern” for the Third World, if so it can be called, stems from strategic, economic and environmental consideration rather than genuine care for its peoples and their well-being. We are an inconvenience the West is “forced” to deal with. What is most important and valuable happens only in the West, or in relation to it. The center is theirs. We are only on the periphery. It is this “Western-centric” view that is soon bound to end which still informs America and Europe’s view of the world. The mentality that what is non-Western deserves little attention has infused and continues to inform the West’s foreign policy. Thus, the West will never approach us on equal terms, nor desire for us what we consider our own good.
What American and European politicians, diplomats and academics know about Ethiopia is never directly from the concerned party, but always “filtered” through what they choose to hear, what connections they cultivate, and who calculatingly lobbies for their friendship. It is extremely rare to find anyone of them who can credibly speak our languages and who is unafraid to “get down” with our customs and mores, understanding our core values, what we hold dear, and what our deepest aspirations are. In the case of Ethiopia, the TPLF, I have to hand it to it, has done an extraordinary job at “recruiting”, misinforming and even indoctrinating Western diplomats and academics to shape America’s foreign policy in its favor. This despite the fact that the vast majority of Ethiopians, regardless of their particular ethnicity or religion, loathed the TPLF and its regime more than perhaps the Derg’s. America has been willing to look the other way while the TPLF played one ethnic group against another, dominated every sector of the state’s machinery, won every election by more than 99% of the votes, plundered the nation’s treasury to enrich itself and its members, installed its most incompetent cadre at the helm of very important government institution, institutionalized tribalism as a working policy, and worse of all imprisoned, tortured and killed its perceived or real opponents. As long as the TPLF was willing to do the West’s bidding, not only was the West willing to ignore the suffering of Ethiopians, but also willing to defend it in international forums. Presently, in a remarkable exception to its well-established fickleness, the West is even willing to defend the TPLF in its determination to dismantle Ethiopia!
What Americans have never understood, and perhaps will never understand is that the world is better off without their interference. In fact, they have not understood that their interference is often more damaging than the lack of their interference! Americans are at their best, and indeed do a great deal of good when they do charitable work untainted by politics and calculation. Like for example when they unload tons upon tons of their surplus agro-industrial products on our shores.
There is a saying in America, that all politics is local. This applies remarkably well to America’s foreign policy as well. Indeed, American foreign policy is meant more for local consumption than conceived and designed strategically for long-term implementation and outcomes: it changes from one administration to another at enormous cost not only to Americans, but also to the peoples for which it was designed. Let us take for example the Iran nuclear deal: despite what Israel maintains, the deal was indeed beneficial to both the US and Iran and it could have had many beneficial outcomes. Not only would it have discouraged, or at least postponed by more than a decade Iran from pursuing its nuclear ambitions, but also it would have prevented her most likely from becoming a client state to Russia or China. As things stand, Iran is more than ever pursuing her nuclear ambition aggressively, and embracing with alacrity the Chinese and the Russians!
Thus, Ethiopians, as denizens of the Third World, must await with expectant eyes what is in store for them at every change of the guard! In other words, we are at the mercy of the whims and caprices of the inhabitants of the Western World.
Our own truth, our majority voices will never have a fair hearing in the halls of Western powers even in this age of the internet. What Ethiopia can and must do is to plead her case primarily to the emerging or resurrected superpowers of Russia and China. This may be the only way for Ethiopia to get the Western world to pay close attention to her present predicament. The TPLF seems to have created an unbreakable bond with the West that virtually allows it to divulge freely lies and deceptions and to sell its revisionist history of its nearly three decade-long-odious regime. I say to my fellow Ethiopians that the war for the truth must be won before the call to arms. Otherwise, the world would not even know what we are fighting to save.