There is no Case for a Paradigm Shift: Ethiopia’s

                  Foreign Affairs & National Security Policy & Strategy is Pragmatic


           Part III


          Adal Isaw


         December 20, 2009


As noted in part II of this article, Alemayehu mischaracterizes and confuses some major points in his argument.  Quoting from UNDP, “Redefining Security,” p.229, he points that “…classical concepts of security emphasizes territorial integrity and national independence as the primary value that need to be protected…[and it] has been related to nation-states than to people.”  As revealed in part II of this article, Alemayehu’s argument bodes well for a different country in a different era and mistakes Ethiopia for nation-sate such as Japan.  As a result, he mischaracterizes nations within the Ethiopian state as members of nation-state, and he is unaware of the implications that his mischaracterization has in national security planning.  He further confuses legitimate, just and necessary state actions to defend the sovereignty and the territorial integrity of Ethiopia as ‘undesirable millennia old state-centric policy,’ while he bundles up national and international security concerns together, to critic Ethiopia’s Foreign Affair and National Security Policy and Strategy (FANSPS).


Alemayehu is neither the first nor the last person to mischaracterize ‘nations’ that make up a ‘state’ as members of a ‘nation-state.’  Academics, some think tank groups and plenty other experts of international relations are somehow accustomed to calling states with diverse nations—“nation-states.”  This is unusual and may be is the case of when ideas become a material force.  The concepts and facts that constitute a ‘state’ to be a ‘state’ and a ‘nation-state’ to be a ‘nation-state’ need no belaboring for they’re somehow straight forward. Yet many scholars including Alemayehu Fentaw overlook to distinguish the difference between ‘nation,’ ‘nation-state’ and ‘state.’


‘Nation’ is a word often confused to mean ‘state’ as often as ‘state’ is confused to mean ‘nation’ likewise.  States and nations make-up our contemporary political world,  and by definition, a state consists of an area of territory which is under the single rule of a government, and nation is a hard to define sociological, political and philosophical concept often loosely and incorrectly used to mean ‘state.’   


Aderes, Oromos, Basques, Amharas, Scots, Tigreans, Catalans, Gurages, Ukrains, and Hungarians are nations, but of these, only the Ukrains and Hungarians have states where most of the citizens are members of the nation; the other eight, that is, Adere, Gurage, Tigreans, Catalans, Oromos, Basques, Amharas, and the Scots nations are citizens of states which contain members of other nations. 


The implications of mischaracterizing a state for nation-state are many.  As it relates to our discourse about the national security policy of Ethiopia, the bearing that a realistic definition has is far-reaching and it plays a pivotal role in national security planning.


The security needs of a country with less cohesive members are more demanding than the security needs of those nation-sates with solid cohesiveness.  Cohesiveness in nation-states creates less security concerns that may emanate from cultural, religious and other differences.  In countries where diverse nations create the state, lack of cohesiveness can also be compounded by economic and political backwardness.  Identifying such a problem and planning to deal with it honestly then becomes the duty of a government at the helm.


     To reiterate again for the purpose of making this aforementioned point very clear, a nation-sate is a state where the majority of the members are from one nation.  Iceland is the quintessential example of a nation-state, and Japan qualifies as one among the major states of our world.  The greater numbers of countries in the world are states composed of many nations, and it includes our country Ethiopia.


     In a state of many nations, a nation may rise to dominate other nations politically, economically and socially.  A nation in our country had risen to dominate other nations by way of tradition, culture and language to create uneven political, economic and social power structures.  To correct this injustice, we have made most of the necessary changes. The new Ethiopian state has been born where all nations of the state stand equally at the same pedestal of political, social and economic power.


Nonetheless, the pains of yesteryear, suffered by many nations in our country will not be forgotten by less than two decades worth of extraordinary political and economic work.  That’s why Ethiopia yet has to deal with some separatist groups.  Given where Ethiopia is today, separatist groups would have faired well by peacefully advocating for the betterment of a people.  Unfortunately, they’re still clinging to their guns, blindly guided by untimely and outdated programs.  As a result, Ethiopia is still awaited by further arduous and challenging work, to solidify its unity within its borders.  Of course, the nature of this awaiting arduous work should continue to be public-centric.  


For almost two decades, the Ethiopian state has been highly engaged in works that are highly public-centric.  The results are in and the greater many results will be evident in the near future.  The focus of these arduous works is to empower the diverse nations of Ethiopia and to bring forth their full-fledged interest into a glowing reality.  Eventually, the political, economic and social interest of the many nations in Ethiopia will be positively intertwined, thereby creating unity that leads Ethiopia to a greater cohesiveness.  Consequently, the need for a single nation to opt-out from the federation of strongly intertwined sisterly/brotherly nations becomes almost obsolete.  The need to focus on the survival of Ethiopia first and foremost may then give way to other national security concerns.  Keep in mind that this public-centric national security policy is being carried out while forces of disunity are still at work as counter-productively as they can. 


On one hand, the one-man Eritrean state is still working very hard to pit peoples against a people of our country.  The propaganda is not worth repeating.  Unfortunately, adhering to the same line of propaganda, even some of our citizens have the temerity to propagate against a people with threatening tones in the name of opposition.  The threats by what was then UIC, the father of al-Shebaab, to bring about misery on the Ethiopian people are well documented, while its brazen plan to annex part of Ethiopia is being heard loud and clear.  The camaraderie between forces of terror in Somalia, OLF, ONLF and the rogue Eritrean state for the purpose of breaking Ethiopia into miniature states is well established.  They have killed and maimed innocent civilians and have destroyed peoples’ belongings for which the Ethiopian state has the absolute right and responsibility to counter engage these terror groups.  In light of these aggregated real threats, therefore, a decisive military measure is expected now and then and it should not in any way warrant such a theoretical outlay from Alemayehu.  After all, prioritizing to protect the survival of our country from these real and living enemies does not in any way deprive the rights and interests of the diverse nations of Ethiopia.


     With all these real threats at the backdrop, Alemayehu argues by giving preference to theoretical explanations.  He sees no real threat that warrant a primary focus to protect our country from OLF, ONLF, al-Shebaab, the rogue Eritrean state and others.  Alemayehu should have known that no matter what, the real threat posed by all these staunch detractors of Ethiopia cannot be surmounted by how sophisticated our theoretical argument is.  Social theories are but only ways of interpretations and cannot defend Ethiopia from the real threat posed by those who will not be swayed by any pedantically theorized reason of anyone.


     According to Alemayehu’s central theory, the Ethiopian state is bent for millennia focusing on external threat to protect its sovereignty and territorial integrity.  This theory has led him to assume that Ethiopia, if not for its millennia old state-centric policy would have not involved its defense forces in Somalia.  It’s hard to imagine that Alemayehu is unaware, about Ethiopia’s serious national security stake in what’s shaping Somalia.  If whatever is taking place can be clogged from trickling down to Ethiopia by the power of some authority within Somalia, then, Ethiopia may not have to worry too much about its own security.  In reality, however, the international security system operates in anarchy.  Ethiopia, rightfully so, therefore, have too big a security stake in what’s shaping Somalia.  Let alone for abutting countries such us ours, America—arguably the lone super power country—thousands miles away from the shores of Somalia, may have too much to worry about its own national security, from keenly observing what’s shaping Somalia.


     For this reason then, the insinuation that some scholars utter to give credence to the notion that Ethiopia is fighting America’s war in Somalia is as blind and as absurd as it gets.  These scholars including Alemayehu are in practice cherry picking security concerns for Ethiopia, and have become less inquiring to find the real threat that might have created the willingness in Ethiopia, to accept the legal invitation from the Transitional Government of Somalia (TGS).  It should have been evident for these said scholars and Alemayehu, that no sane country sends its defense forces if it doesn’t see its own security interest in what it is willing to do. 


     Alemayehu tacitly de-emphasizes the internal security threat posed to Ethiopia’s unity by forces of OLF, ONLF and others to strengthen his argument that Ethiopia’s FANSPS is the same millennia old state-centric policy, primarily crafted to protect its sovereignty and territorial integrity.  This inflexible theoretical approach blinds him from seeing the solid tie between ONLF, OLF and other groups of Ethiopia with terror forces of the al-Shebaab kind in Somalia.  Adding to this, the well established tie that the rogue Eritrean state has with all of Ethiopia’s detractors should have allowed Alemayehu to see the clear picture of Ethiopia’s security concerns from within.  Instead, he overlooks to recognize that these terror groups operate as one, and that alliances of terror groups are as real as states create alliances to fight back their common detractors.  This fact in turn should have made Alemayehu see why and how the Ethio-U.S. alliance has come into existence.   


     It’s therefore very hard to comprehend why Alemayehu sees no security threat that warrants a pinpointed focus to keep Ethiopia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity as is.   As it is stated in part II of this article, protecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ethiopia is not state-centric as Alemayehu want us to believe, but it is overwhelmingly a public-centric endeavor under which the state is employed by the people to act as the Chief Executive.


      From the essence of his argument, Alemayehu seems to be shifting the paradigm of blame from millennia old enemies, UIC, ONLF, the one-man state of Eritrea, al-Shebaab, OLF and others to Ethiopia’s millennia old FANSPS’ that he argues should give way to ‘public-centric’ policy.  Alemayehu labors his point in many pages while he would have easily put it aphoristically.  He should have plainly argued that Ethiopia, since its inception never had a peoples government.  FDRE is only “…the shift in orientation” and that everything has stayed as it has been for thousands of years.


     It’s weird to blame our ancestry for having protected the sovereignty and territorial integrity of our country, and it is also equally weird to critic FDRE for having been raised to behave in manners like our ancestors.  A critic may be reasonable for what happened during the Ethiopian state-formation, although nearly each country in the world has to go through the process of state-formation as a matter of a historical must.  In fact, the focus of the overall public-centric policies being undertaken by FDRE now is to mitigate the social, political and economic misdeeds during the era of Ethiopia’s state-formation.  FDRE is thus unlike any other state in the history of Ethiopia and Alemayehu’s contention that it is the same old bearer of state-centric policies confuses the apple for the lemon. 


     Like any other national security concerns of many countries, the debate to resolve the national security concerns of Ethiopia in its many forms is based on different school of thoughts and may require regional and global considerations.  Specific foreign policy issues with respect to Ethiopia’s national security concerns may be dealt by forming alliances with states and non states actors.  But one should not overlook the disparate paradigm, emphasis, resources and approaches that national security concerns of different countries require.  For example, our relation with all our neighbors is not likely to succumb to peace by about two decades of peace and development-centered national security strategy.  You may ask why not?


As much as Alemayehu is arguing for “public-centric” FNSPS to exact peace and development, many observers talked about a peace dividend after the cold war, and hopes were raised that arms industries could be converted from producing deadly weapons to producing some essentials to life.   Nonetheless, arms trade is still a vibrant industry and war still ravages some areas of the world more than it does another, and Ethiopia is closer to it more than many other countries.


If peace is to be exacted in our world to permit sustainable public-centric policies, it needs an international concerted effort to limit arms for seldom use to “just war” only.  Unfortunately, even those nominally responsible for maintaining international peace and security are sadly among the biggest suppliers of arms to state and non-state actors. If not equally, there also exists a large network of black-market within the international security system that supplies arms to insurgents, separatist groups, and other paramilitary organizations.  Our world is not sane, and Ethiopia cannot forgo its priority to keep its sovereignty and territorial integrity intact, situated amid a region known for its volatility. 


What makes Ethiopia craft a security policy to keep itself intact, needless to say, is not at all induced by millennia old state-centric bent as Alemayehu argues, but rather by the vastness of our interconnectedness within the anarchic international security system for which Ethiopia stand with no other defensive mechanism.  After all, it is a world of “self-help,” and, until Ethiopia gets the strength to stand as cohesively as nation-states do, there is no case to shift Ethiopia’s Foreign Affairs and National Security Policy and Strategy.