Sunday, December 09, 2007

Time to Engage with American Foreign Policy Makers

By Fikru Helebo

There was an interesting article earlier this week on the Washington Post which quoted an unnamed Pentagon official who characterized the policy pursued by US Department of State towards Somalia as a
It was dispatched by a correspondent who was traveling with the US Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, on his visit to Djibouti and the Middle East. What made the article interesting was that it leveled a categorical criticism of US policy and it was made just a day before a visit to Ethiopia by Condoleezza Rice, the US Secretary of State. The unnamed Pentagon official not only criticized the State Department's policy but also went on to suggest an alternative policy that will shift US support from the Mogadishu based Transitional Federal Government of Somalia to the Hargesa based Republic of Somaliland by giving recognition to the former British colony of Somaliland.

There is nothing new about a
tug of war between the Pentagon and the State Department in setting US foreign policy. In fact, a struggle between the two Departments has been a defining feature of American foreign policy making since the end of World War II, but disagreements between the two Departments are rarely aired in public. This public criticism of the official policy of the State Department on a high profile issue such as this one by the Pentagon indicates to me that there is a serious split among American foreign policy makers on what US policy should be towards Somalia in particular and the volatile Horn of Africa region in general and a change of policy may not be that far off.

Although the suggested alternative solution in the article does not address the fundamental problem with Somali politics, which is clanism, I think t
his recognition of the US policy towards Somalia as being a failed policy should be welcomed by all who have a stake in American foreign policy towards the Horn of Africa region. Even if H.R. 2003 gets through the US Senate, it is not realistic to expect any changes in American foreign towards the Horn of Africa region before 2009, since 2008 is an election year, a year that will be overshadowed by the US Presidential election, and since the lame duck Bush Administration has unwisely invested too much of its political capital on the dictatorial Ethiopian regime and it has very little incentive to change its policy with only 13 months left in the White House.

The good news is that 2009 is not that far away and I believe there will be a change in American foreign policy towards the Horn of Africa region within the next two years regardless of which party takes the White House in the 2008 election. So, now is the time for those of us who want the US to adopt a policy that serves both American
long-term security interests as well as the interests of the citizens of the Horn of Africa nations to double our efforts in lobbying US government officials and influential Americans to effect the right kind of changes in American foreign policy towards the Horn of Africa. H.R. 2003 is certainly a tool that can be used towards this objective, but it should not be seen as an end in itself.


Anonymous said...

I couldn't stop thinking about what you crossed your mind in writig this article. Few things to bear in mind:

First, the latest foreign policy piece for the Bush Administration is to sale the idea of AFRICOM. Something you did not mention at all.

Second, only few people in the DoD understand the stake in HR 2003. The few that actually get the feel of it, see it as something miniscule.

Third, I don't know what makes what gave you the impression that 2009 brings new light on US foreign policy unless you are supporting Ron Paul, the most unlikely candidate. You should convince us that something out of the ordinary is going to happen in the next 12 months. Republicans as well as Democrats restled with the Somalia issue very closer than before since the Carter Administration.

Last, it is in the nature of US foreign policy that the ultimate measure of success is the short-term interest of the Administration rather than the long-term peace and development of the land they ever cross.

So, where is your optimism coming from? Can you share it with me, someone that lost hope in US foreign policy. They are dealing with us as a problem waiting to be solved. We are not their partners in this world. We are the poorest of the poor. Did you ever hear them diagnos our poverty? Do you know how they treat their own poor? You should! It is my recommendation to you.

enset said...

Dear Reader,

Thanks for the input. You queried why I think a change of policy by the US towards the Horn of Africa region is probable in 2009. Well, my optimism is based on the presumption that a change of administration in the White House will offer US policy makers the opportunity to take a fresh look at the current policy and examine why it has failed. I do not believe any US Administration wants to associate itself with a failed policy of a predecessor Administration. In retrospect, I believe most policy makers at the State Department's Africa Desk will privately admit that giving a green light for Ethiopia to invade Somalia a year ago was a mistake, and that Ethiopia's "intervention" in Somalia has not had the desired effect as far as US security interest is concerned.

Now that it is clear that there will not be sufficient number of African Union troops to replace the Ethiopian occupation army in Somalia, going into 2009, the situation in Somalia will continue to deteriorate, and the new US Administration which will take office in January of 2009 will have to take a hard look at the Bush Administration's current policy. I do believe that the likelihood of a more qualitative change of policy taking place is greater if a Democratic Administration take over the White House rather than the Republicans retaining control of the White House. But I am also of the opinion that even a Republican-led administration will have to review the current policy and make adjustments.


Anonymous said...

Lej Fikru,

Now I know you based your analysis on your own wish list in stead of the facts on the ground. By the fact on the ground I mean that the US is pushing its plan in Somalia no matter what people like you think. In spite of admitting their failures and decrying the atrocities committed by the battling parties in Somalia they have no other option than to push Ethiopia to bring it to some kind of conclusion.

Bear in mind that the equation of armed representation soon changes with the French Army taking lead role in controlling the pirates and Somaliland gaining ground for support from the US. There are so many things going on on the ground.

Again, you did not touch upon the AFRICOM issue. It is the most urgent matter that Mr. Gates had to take to the attention of Mr. Guelleh. The AFRICOM commander and his two deputies are touring Africa. Nigeria, the Maghrib, and SACU did not appreciate this solitary move on the part of the US. The only ideal location and only logical for them to bring US Army closer to the war on terror (Africa front) is if they start in the Horn of Africa.

I do appreciate your sincere wishes and positive hopes but the situation on the ground tells me otherwise. As for the 2008 election and possible change of policy on Africa, our only hope is Americans promoting enlightened self-interest and not their Administration, Democrat or Republican.

I have to remind you that the people that specialized in conflict analysis and hence advising the US intelligence network as well as the Administration are in business of their own and for personal gain. They are after their secured income (consultancy fee) rather than the much awaited peace and development of the region/Africa. Admittedly most of them were diplomats and bilateral and multilateral agency officials that once attempted to genuinely resolve conflict and promote peace. However, they have discovered that the bulk of international aid goes to securing the interest of the donor than promoting the development and peace of the recipient. I hope you are beyond the paradox of divergence between donor motif and recipient priority. So where do these people turn? Their knowledge of the country they once served and the position they take as a direct result of speaking the language fo the donor puts them in a better paying and secured new job. The lives of these consultants gets tied up with the continued conflict than in resolving it. Irruption of conflict becomes proof for their indispensability. Once gaining the ground, they further brush up their report previously circulated as concern and publish it with recommended solutions under the guise of some Educational institution in the West. So we are at the mercy of these evil wishers and war mongers who gain financially from the deal.

I hope you know some of them. Basically they are ready to exchange thousands of lives for just thousands of blood money they earn from the Administration. Read what they boldly write in major western newspapers about you and me. When you are tasking them to evidence for what they wildly predicted, they tell you it is the intelligence source. When the intelligence source is finally made public it was only the speculations of these people themselves that suggested the presence of danger to Americans and their interest.

So, it leaves me wondering why you are still hopeful that the situation changes in 2009. Who among the consultants is retiring or is tired of the game and admitted to his/her role to fuel conflict around the globe. This is true of most so called consultants, if not all.

Personally, I hope to see malevolence swallowed up by benevolence as a ground for any optimism in US Foreign Policy.

Anonymous said...

Wow, now you guys would like to try to run HR2003 through the Pentagon? Reality must have finally kicked in and optimism must have gone very low. In very clear terms the US government has rejected the bill and now you seem to smell something cooking miles away from the oven. I can see your genius of reading the mind of the Pentagon officials in coming to your delusional conclusion.

Admit it, there is nothing left except to lower your expectation and wait it out till the dawn of 2009. I think that would give people like Dr. Birhanu enough time to do their “research” to find ammunition to taint the next election come 2010. For me, the reason for all the constant failure of the opposition is the wrong premise that change/power is a low hanging fruit that could be grabbed through third parties with no hard work. Trust me unless people fully appreciate the level of hard work it requires to get there, waiting till 2009 or 2019 would bring none, zero! Government change in Ethiopia would never come through third party interference, impossible! That is my conviction. I am grateful to leaders such as Prof. Beyene, Lidetu, Merara, et al for recognizing this and working hard no matter what.

If you allow me, I would like to ask you a few questions on your blog:
1. If US policy in Somalia (which according to my reading is against extremists but advocates reaching out to moderates) is a failure, what is your alternative as an Ethiopian/American? I hope you won’t side with the Aweys group, since they have clearly showed their contempt to attack Ethiopia.
2. To my understanding, since day one Ethiopia’s official policy in the Somalia debacle has been clearly against the few extreme leaders of UIC and the militant Alshebab, why do you think is this wrong?
3. How is recognition of Hargessa by the US gov’t going to affect anything in the “Horn”? Last time I checked the Hargessa administration is a good ally of the Ethiopian Gov’t and of course have been asking Ethiopia to be the first country to give them recognition.
4. I could not also understand how taking away support from the TFG could help Hargessa or for that matter Ethiopia? If you mean that will lower the importance of the Ethiopian government in US policy in the region and will then lead to easily pass HR2003, I think you have failed to see the bigger picture.
5. The same time you have heard the news about Gates’s visit to Djoubiti, one of the US top generals was in Addis Ababa consulting with Ethiopian gov’t officials, doesn’t that ring something or I am missing something to connect to your story. I have also heard that there is consideration for Addis Ababa to become head quarters for AFRICOM, and/or air force central com? Why is these all missing from your blog. I think we should not cherry pick news to fit our story.
6. Finally, HR 2003 is a bill about Ethiopia and you seem to stretch it to be a solution for the ills of the horn. Sorry, what is your convincing reasoning on this? I hope you won’t just tell me that it will have a spill over effect.

enset said...

Dear Esteemed Reader,

No, I do not think it is fair to characterize my analysis as being based on my "wish list in stead of the facts on the ground". My argument for taking a proactive approach to influence American foreign policy towards the Horn of Africa region was based on the rift between the Pentagon and the State Department as it was reported in the Washington Post article I mentioned. What I was attempting to do in the article was to alert Ethiopians to this fact and encourage them to continue to be proactive in their lobbying efforts in spite of the fact that the Bush Administration does not seem to be friendly to the pro-democracy camp.

I am as frustrated as you are with US policy makers (government officials, consultants, etc...), but I do not see them as the main culprit for what is wrong with Africa. Most African countries are poor, and thus violence prone, mainly because of Africans. Obviously, there are some blood suckers among them (like that Rand fellow and others), but I do believe that most of them, from both sides of the political divide, are good people who wish what is best for Africa.


Anonymous said...

Lej Fikru,

Your point is clearer to me than before. I will let you live with your cautious optimism.

We have another Anonymous comment. So I say this to this other person.

If the conclusion of this blog appears to be delusional to you, the best you can do is to save yourself by remaining enlightened of the facts and also help others. But what you offered is personalities you admire in Ethiopia and your doubts regarding one another person. What is that in discussing US foreign policy remains to be said.

I want you to know that you are entitled to your opinion but you have no monopoly over the truth. Mark that! When all is said and done and in shallah we sit together in peace, it will be you to beg for an apology. Trust me, on my part, I will let get away, with a word of apology for coming back to the 21st century.

From election in the US you jumped to election in Ethiopia. Was that connected in some mysterious way, I did not see? Or you are saying what you are here to say, no matter what other people discuss?

Do you think Ethiopians are waiting for the next election in Ethiopia? What makes you say that? What is there to wait for?

On your specific questions:
(1) you assumed siding with one side categorizes me with the other. Not true. There are no clear two sides in the Somalia crisis. Read the UN report. All external powers have their own goals other than the wishes of the suffering Somalis.

(2) What is wrong with the invasion of Somalia is a blind support by people like you. A complex situation like Somalia cannot be resolved by going after 'few' people you deem the evil ones. Time tells how far you were short of the glory.

(3) You are too much into the Government business: Hargessa Government, Ethiopian Government, and US Government. Check back what you are writing. I am rather for the people first and the Government as their servant. Tell me what the people want and I will tell you what I think.

(4) the real bigger picture in HR 2003, if read for what it worths is an accountable Government and accountable government in Ethiopia to its people, Ethiopians. Don't just mix it with TFG and confuse yourself.

(5) In my opinion, it is your responsibility to feed in additional news to this blong and enrich the discussion. You did not. So don't just complain for what is missing. Don't let emotion get the best out of you. Bring on the topic and let us debate it. What benefit did you see in giving to the US a military base?

(6) I am not sure how you got that kind of conclusion but I gathered from your comment that what happens in Ethiopia has nothing to do with the region. Do you say the same for what happens in Somalia?

Were you consistent in what your were saying? My friend... you need time for reflection.

enset said...

Dear Reader,

Cautious optimistic is the correct characterization of my view -- thanks for recognizing that. There is a lot of pessimism among Ethiopian pro-democracy groups which, in my view, is well justified, but I do not think it will do us any good to wallow in our misfortune. I had found myself to be in your shoes between 2001 and 2005 until I was awakened by the 2005 Ethiopian election results. So, I am not ready to revert to my pessimistic days and I choose to remain cautiously optimistic.

As to the other commentator from the coastal area of South Carolina (he is the same person who justified Senator Inhofe's racist comment a few weeks ago on this blog), I know his admiration of Beyene, Merera, and other worthless stooges to be insincere and he does not add any thing of value to the discussion as you pointed out. I will let his spiting out Woyane talking points stand for what they are worth -- worthless.


Anonymous said...

the fact that your thinking is focused on how you can shape US policy to attack EPRDF is sickening. we ethiopians should work together to shape the best future for ethiopia, not the best future for CUD or other party.
if america policy changes to supporting somaliland, then we never know if america changes its mind again and support another policy (for example supporting ONLF to pressure China to abandon oil in ogaden)
but short-sighted people like you only think about the useless HR 2003 and using america against EPRDF. you are a shame to ethipia.
at the end of the day america cares about its oil and its own national interests. if you really care about ethiopia, you should worry about ethiopia's national interest vis-a-vis american foreign plicy changes instead of your war against ethiopian government.
God save ethiopia from people like you.

Anonymous said...

If it is your belief that the US is after oil what makes you think their support of EPRDF produces any other result? Aren't you confused, to say the list.

I want you to learn that the US can be seen as both positive and negative influence. I don't give up hope on you... as we all humans do ... someday you will come to your senses and see the things for what it is. Now you are looking at things from position of power much like EPRDF does.

Please do not go into the territory that you don't know much. You acted sa if you called the Name of God for the salvation of Ethiopia. I hope it is only a way of saying. The last time I checked you guys were atheists and secular humanist, at best.

Prayer is good, so it sincerely. Who knows even Saul of the Bible has become Paul of the Churches in Asia minor. So there is hope... keep on praying and in all give peace a chance.

Anonymous said...

Getaw, you should have a cool head and a gut to make a conversation with people of different views. What you have consistently demonstrated is you gullible character and inability to debate with opposing views. You say my points are worthless, because I described your conclusion as delusional (false belief). And I am requested to ask an apology for it. Come on guys, you should grow out of this naivety. One thing though, I did not and do not write to offend. I am trying to communicate my points in my own way and I do expect you to criticize me in your own way. Instead of trying to characterize who I might or might not be, you could save your self from disgrace by focusing on the issues.

I would recommend for you all to watch the podcast of Bill Moyer’s Frontline “Buying the War: Frontline last week of November”, on the role of the Chalabis on the biggest foreign policy disaster of the US. You might get a lesson or two on how the Chalabis were used by the Pentagon for their hawkish motives and how the US was taken for a ride by fabricated information from crooks who did not have nothing but power in their soul. The agony these people caused on their country and people is not disputable at the moment. The role of political pundits and scoop journalists who never challenged cooked intelligence in this foreign policy disaster was also meticulously analyzed in this podcast.

It looks like that, the war was a lesson for many and that there is going to be a growing scrutiny on pundits and reporters on their “undisputed facts” at least when it comes to foreign policy. So, you should not expect me to keep quiet when I see you contemplating this type of stinking strategy which I believe is dangerous to the people of Ethiopia. Finally, please do not cherry pick and spin facts. Yes, commentary is free but fact is sacred.

Anonymous said...

It is rather Bill Moyer's Journal not frontline at

Anonymous said...

I am amazed to find you to be a PBS person. If you only borrowed it from someone else my regard goes to them.

Bill Moyer … what is your point? How does America's introspection explain your point?

Don't just bluff and hit around the bush. If I were in Ethiopia, it is clear from your comment that you would have persecuted me and yourself being the first and last witness against me and if the judge is sick, you could have taken that job too and declared me as traitor. However, we are in the free world and I also hope that watching the PBC will help you see the light of day.

If you want a talk... stick to the agenda. If you wanted to accuse me of anything, quote me. I’m still around to tell you what I am. Don’t ever bother to define me within your box.

Anonymous said...

americans don't care about problems in africa. we have to take care ofour own business in ethiopia. strong ethiopian military leaders like makonnen, menilik and even southern low-level commanders like Yohannes Manjura and Tekle haymanot never waited for others to liberate their country from invaders! ethiopia will be built byethiopia only