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America trapped between its national interest and its core values in the Tigray war

America trapped between its national interest and its core values in the Tigray war

Kalayu Abrha 08-24-21

The key to the conduct of international relations is national interest. America puts this diplomatic formula as bluntly as: "There is no permanent friendship but national interest". All world states have their own national interests that they solicit from others, impose on others, and/or protect from others. World states also have core national values that may or may not be antagonistic or impediments to national interest. America and Britain for sure have shared values such as: democracy, peace, human rights, and constitutional order. They may join hands to realize these treasured values in their dealings or relations with other world states. However, America and Britain may clash head on in matters of international trade, each protecting its own markets from encroachment by the other. Zooming in into the internal affairs of particular states it is quite common for America's national interest to come into conflict with its core values. American allies and/or trading partners often may have undemocratic or democidal regimes in which constitutional order is wrecked. The situation puts America in a difficult position with that state of paradox which is a friend in terms of national interest but at the same time an enemy in terms of the core values. There have been three possible options to resolve the diplomatic dilemma: 1/ to take sides with the state, support and defend it against its domestic opposition, or 2/ to take sides with the internal opponents of the state, or 3/ try to reconcile the two. Unfortunately, taking one of the options is something which is more easily said than done.

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America has on several occasions taken option 1, which gives primacy to national interest, and risked its cherished values of freedom and democratic governance. A case in point is the US-friendly junta in Burma where USA did not exceed the unhelpful rhetoric in favour of the Rohingia genocide victims. General Pinochet was installed and supported by the CIA against the fans of the democratically elected government of Salvador Allende. The junta in chile was meant to protect the copper mining US companies not the democratic rights of the people of Chile. In fact, which of the three options to choose largely depends on who sits in the Oval Office; but there is also an established way of doing things any US-President cannot bypass. This takes us to the American diplomatic dilemma that it is experiencing in Ethiopia over the Tigray genocidal war. It was the way it all began that put the USA in such a difficult position of inaction the consequence of which has extended the death and suffering of the people of Tigray in a biblical scale. The EPRDF-led government was successful in running an economic and social development experiment in Ethiopia which was based on a delicate balance between capitalism and socialism. Since the USA has never approved such a "brew" of socialism and capitalism it eyed the EPRF with mistrust as it also more often than not inclined towards China. Ethiopia and USA were allies on terrorism, though. It is not unusual for the USA to seek convenient substitutes for such governments that cannot be manipulated to bow to the economic dictates of the IMF and the World Bank. Although the USA had its tacit appreciations for the success of the experiment which rocketed Ethiopia onto being one of the fastest growing economies, the fact that the commanding-heights of the Ethiopian economy is (was?) state controlled failed to turn Ethiopia into "capitalist-enough" state to the satisfaction of the USA. It was a blessing in a bad guise for the US-officials during the Trump presidency that bad governance had tarnished the good image of the EPRDF. America took this golden opportunity and used the civil unrest in Ethiopia to support the removal of the leading member of the EPRDF-coalition leaving the rest of it intact to lead the "transformation to genuine democratic rule". The loud noise of capitalism was in the air; but that did not serve the enhancement of social and economic realities on the ground. It was only a smoke screen to attack Tigray by giving it a bad name and inciting the wrath of Ethiopians against it.

I have no evidence that Trump's USA backed the invasion of Tigray; but I take its silence as consent! The callous Trump was busy with the election issues although he may have been informed by his aides about the unjustifiable aggression, the civilian atrocities, the destruction of social and economic infrastructure, the massive robbery, and the involvement of foreign forces in this should-have-been a domestic conflict. When the more humanitarian and peace-loving president and his foreign relations team swore into office it was too late for Tigray. The whole Tigray was brutally violated in pitch darkness and deafening silence. The whole world roared against what happened in Tigray with USA taking the lead. USA was already talking about genocide in and the withdrawal of foreign troops from Tigray. The reference to the invasion as genocidal implied that friends of the USA at Arat-kilo will most likely face justice in the Hague. On the one hand, the long endured national interest of the USA in Ethiopia can be protected only if this Country remains in one piece. America can never accept the second largest country in Africa as a fragmented failed state. On the other hand, the invasion of Tigray and the widespread war crimes committed by what America wrongly believed to be reformist leadership was not compatible with the moral values USA holds dearly. The trend towards the disintegration of Ethiopia is unmistakable because the war crimes in Tigray have disillusioned Tegaru with regards to their continuity as Ethiopians. Most analysts believe that a domino-effect may most likely be triggered with the separation of the de-facto political and historical core of Ethiopia in the north. The genocidal war of invasion has been made more potent by the blockade of Tigray with the evil intention of starving its millions to death. The world has ample experience how gruesome the use of famine as a weapon of war is. Millions died in Biafra, during the Nigerian civil war, due to the blockade of food supplies to the Igbo people under General Yakubu Gowan. There is a great deal of similarity between what happened in Biafra and what is unfolding in Tigray.

America is performing a dangerous tight-rope balance to save Ethiopia and its current leaders if possible, for the USA, if not for the world, and at the same time to address the humanitarian crisis in Tigray and the unconstitutional violation of the territorial integrity of Tigray by the neighbouring Amhara expansionists and their Eritrean backers. The sticking point for America is that it is dealing with stubborn politicians who are decided to destroy Tigray at all diplomatic costs of international isolation and incrimination. America is accused by the Ethiopian leaders for backing the "terrorists" in Tigray. Since the latter are also accusing the entire people of Tigray as collaborators of "terrorists" they are want the world to believe that the siege of Tigray is an extension of the military campaign to starve "millions of terrorists". That is why they are accusing the USA for being "terrorist-friendly" when it insists on lifting the blockade and opening up for humanitarian access. Art-kilo and Bahir Dar have branded six million Tegraru as "terrorists" and thus America's request for access is rendered as interference in the internal affairs of Ethiopia. Ethiopian leaders have had their strange way of foul-mousing the integrity of the

USA, embarrassing it visiting top officials, and threatening the cutting of diplomatic ties. Unbelievably the tactic seems to be working. Anger and frustration with the misbehavior of Ethiopian top officials, and the general public too, did not induce taking more drastic punitive measures on Ethiopia by USA.
Unable to jump out of the trap America seems to be standing on its lowest point of resolve and trying to appease Ethiopian leaders by putting pressure on Tigray favourable for the Amhara war-effort. USA believes that the preconditions given by Tigray Government for ceasefire and national dialogue are the most realistic. They can help America to keep Ethiopia intact and at the same time open humanitarian access via the most convenient route: Western Tigray. The precondition includes a new and inclusive transitional government. USA has to be clear about its desire. If it is keen about the safety of Ethiopia not about Abiy's leadership then it has to go for a more inclusive one. Constitutional order must be restored by the withdrawal of Amhara forces from Tigray. It is unfair to expect Tigray to withdraw from the Amhara Region when its own territory is still annexed by the Amhara forces. No other region's territory is taken by a neighbouring region. Why is the violation of the constitution in Tigray acceptable, but not elsewhere?  War is not a hobby or something to have fun with. Tegaru youngsters are shedding their blood not because it gives them pleasure. It is because they wouldn't opt for a smaller Tigray than it was before the war just for the sake of peace. Human life and honour are inseparable. Mel Gibson took the role of Wallace of Scotland in 'Brave Heart' and was axed while crying "freedom!!". This is an enduring value that drives humanity and is compiled as chapters of history. Otherwise, we just belong to the Animal Kingdom. America must snap out of its dilemma and live up to its revered values. It must call the spade a spade not only with words but also with deeds. National interest does not nourish values; it is the other way round.

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