There is no Case for a Paradigm Shift: Ethiopia’s
Foreign Affairs & National Security Policy & Strategy is Pragmatic
December 7, 2009
In part I of this article, the rebuttal to Alemayehu’s contention was introduced, after exposing readers about the nature of some concepts in social science. Two particular concepts, namely, “state-centric” and “public-centric” frame the presumption of Alemayehu about Ethiopia’s Foreign Affairs and National Security Policy and Strategy (FANSPS). These concepts need to be defined with examples from carried out policies, in a way that describe state and public-centric actions. Defining these concepts in such a way will then allow readers to decide for themselves, whether there is a case to shift Ethiopia’s Foreign Affairs and National Security Policy and Strategy (FANSPS) from “state-centric” to “public-centric.” Keep in mind that Alemayehu asserts that Ethiopia’s FANSPS is “state-centric,” and there is the need to shift it into “public-centric” paradigm.
What does it mean to be “centric” of something anyways? “Centric” is an adjective that describes having the characteristic of being at or near the center. And it’s drawn from “center”—a noun that describes a point around which something rotates or revolves. Metaphorically speaking, “center” is also the heart of all matters—the point from which the natural muscle within the innermost earths crust stretches to shake an area of land from underneath, that geophysicists call epicenter. Of course, the epicenter of an earth quake doesn’t exactly match the perceived notion of public and state centers.
Within the discipline of a social science, public and state centers are defined as perceived by those with penetrating insight about the nature of pertinent national and international relations. In spite of their penetrating insight, however, the genius of these social scientists will not morph public and state centers into epicenters of earth quakes. And no matter what, public and state centers will remain matters of fluid conceptual reference points that may describe the nature of security and development policies of a country such as Ethiopia.
“Public” in its adjective form describes as having the characteristic of concern or that which affects the community or the people, and, in its noun form means the community or people as a whole. Irrespective of the difference in nomenclature, the word “public” is a perfect synonym of the word “society.” Both “public” and “society” describe the same thing. Society is to public what an automobile is to a car and it will be a farce to draw a distinction between these two words. State on the other hand is a noun given to an area of territory which is under the single rule of a government.
State and society are not mutually exclusive, and no matter to what end the center of an issue of security and development is pointing, both public and state centers are always at work to a greater or lesser extent so long as society lives. Therefore, to insinuate that these centers exist independent of each other in a clear-cut fashion is, to forget the deeper reality that society is the giant circle that embodies everything political, social and economic, and in this case, the FANSPS of Ethiopia as well. In other words, even those “state-centric” policies—the kind that Alemayehu alleges about FANSPS, cannot exist out of the domain of society or the public at large.
Who benefits from FDRE’s clear-cut security policies and decisive actions to protect Ethiopia from its detractors? The answer is self-explanatory; it’s the Ethiopian society. What if any is the implication of this fact? This fact implies that, a “state-centric” policy may be induced by a greater want of the state for the greater good of the society in question. And by extension, the distinction between what is “state-centric” and “public-centric” at times may become blurred. The issue of evaluating a policy to render it “public-centric” or “state-centric” then becomes a matter of asking a simple yet decisive question—who benefits? And every time we ask this simple question we will see that neither centers exist as exclusively and as pristine as Alemayehu’s argument alludes. The fact of the matter is both “public-centric” and “state-centric” policies exist in one body—as the feminine and masculine side of humanity in a single person.
To begin with, it is the many public-centric actions of many years that gave FDRE the life it has now. FDRE is the product of a people’s revolution paid in full with the lives of a selfless generation whose only aim was to create today’s Ethiopia—where the many nations and nationalities live united on equal footing. In fact, its bold declaration of the extent why, when and how nations and nationalities within Ethiopia may be granted the right to secede should have rendered FDRE the “ultimate public-centric” state on steroid.
FDRE’s conviction to hold land as the communal property of Ethiopians; its unambiguous loose federal structure that allows nations and nationalities a complete handle on their own lives; its magnificent development work that can be exhibited for willing eyes without a fee; the many clinics, hospitals, assorted quality schools, including those that cater higher education, housing, roads, communications, the cascade of hydro electric dams, should have given FDRE the highest commendation there is for having done such an extraordinary “public-centric” work. The simple and yet pithy point is this: FDRE is inundated to its neck day after day by public works that requires no blood spilling.
Moreover, even when and where FDRE should have acted with heavy-handed “state-centric” manner, it didn’t, but literally begged Ethiopia’s enemies to lay their arms for a dialogue. It is FDRE not the one-man state of Eritrea who is open to dialogue for reasons to dictate over guns. It is FDRE that pleaded to the Union of Islamic Courts eight times, so that their insanity of declaring jihad yields to sanity, peace and civil life in Ethiopia and Somalia as well. It is FDRE that still maintains a wide-open-door diplomacy, so that those Ethiopians with violent prone programs can trade their guns for shovels. How is Alemayehu misreading all these “public-centric” deeds and argues for a paradigm shift as if FDRE is spending its time roaming and chasing wars after wars? It is because Alemayehu’s presumption is mired with many invalid assumptions.
Alemayehu’s primary presumption is unambiguous and it rejects FANSPS core statement that “security policy is a matter of ensuring national survival. The alpha and omega of security is the ensuring of national survival. Other national security issues may be raised only if national existence is ensured. Foreign affairs and security policy must be formulated first and foremost to ensure national security. Issues of prosperity, sustainable peace, and stability and other related concerns then follow”
Alemayehu asserts that there is something wrong with FANSPS core policy statement. His reading of this statement is literal and he alludes that there are two strictly delineated issues of security—one of national survival, and the other, issues of public interest. Alemayehu further equates the emphasis given to national survival with an act of second tiering and overlooking issues of public interest. By so doing, he utterly misreads this ultimately context-dependent FANSPS core statement for something that isn’t.
As it’s noted in part I of this article, Alemayehu mistakes Ethiopia for either England or Sweden and all other Northern industrial nations. Ethiopia is neither Sweden nor England and ensuring its national survival comes next to nothing. Till cohesiveness of the biggest order becomes the norm, those who are nominally responsible about the national security of Ethiopia cannot assume otherwise but give due emphasis to the survival of Ethiopia first and foremost.
Underscoring national survival should not have created the egg or chicken conundrum in Alemayehu’s thinking. It should have been evident to Alemayehu that no “public-centric” policy would be entertained let alone implemented without a country. Who in his right mind would think to build “a bridge to nowhere” from nowhere? Who in his right mind would think to have become the life that he is without a father or a mother?
The whole idea of rejecting FANSPS core policy statement to ensure national survival is eerie and startling. In the mist of it all, however, the whole point of rejecting the primary concern to safeguard Ethiopia’s national identity arises from Alemayehu’s own confusion. Alemayehu confuses, misidentifies and mischaracterizes many points of his own argument. He confuses state formation with state-centric and national defense; he misidentifies national security concerns with international security concerns and mischaracterizes nations and nationalities within a state as members of nation-state. And these issues will be discussed in detail in part III of this article.