Your enemy’s enemy is your friend

 By Leoul Mekonen

I read the following piece in Los Angeles Times under the title “Somalia could be Ethiopia’s quagmire”, and I would like to comment on the Ethio– Somali war.


“The U.S. has worked closely with Ethiopia, including training elements of its military, in its four-year effort to contain the spread of Islamic extremism in the Horn of Africa. U.S. officials repeatedly have denied using Ethiopia as a proxy against Somali Islamists, and have insisted that they argued against an Ethiopian invasion with officials in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital.”

It is very easy to deny the involvement of U.S. in the Ethio-Somali war and it is understandable. Is it politically correct to approve that U.S. is using  Ethiopia as a proxy against  Somali Islamists? What will be the reaction of United Nations and the Islamic states around the world if the U.S. approves the invasion of Somalia. We know that in our complicated world, the most important thing is political correctness and not honesty. We knew from experience that sometimes leaders like Yassir Arafat gave order to terrorist attacks and at the same time lament and condemn the terrorist acts. Such kind of political game is not new in our world and in some ways U.S. is also a part of this game.

When it comes to the strong relationship between U.S. and the Meles Zenawi regime in Ethiopia, the U.S. government has never been honest to the rest of the world. First of all, Meles Zenawi is holding power by squashing opposition groups who won during the May 2005 election. The Ethiopian people have demonstrated their support to the opposition groups mainly to Coalition to Unity and Democracy(KINIJIT) by flooding the streets of Addis Ababa like Tsunami. Not a single African country has witnessed such human wave of support for political oppositions as it happened in Addis Ababa during May 2005. The opposition political leaders who now languish in Ethiopia were high profile scholars who have studied, worked and lived in U.S. for many years. They are academics who have been committed to build a democratic society and there is a great deal of resemblance between the incarcerated leaders and the American civil and political rights activists of the 1960’s. While U.S. was aware of the fact that the Meles Zenawi regime was tyrannical and hold power by guns, the U.S. state department kept a blind eye and deaf ears for the call of Ethiopians to denounce and stop supporting the Meles Zenawi regime. Despite to the atrocities Meles Zenawi regime inflicted on peaceful citizens, the U.S. continued its strong ties under the pretext of “war on terror”.

One of the reasons for the failures of the U.S. foreign policy both in the Middle East and in Horn of Africa is, its old and short-sighted theory which is based on “your enemy’s enemy is your friend”. We have seen how this principle affected U.S. and our world generally during and after the cold war period. The enemy’s enemies who were supported by U.S. against Soviet Union, during the cold war era were turned to be the nightmares of U.S.A. We Ethiopians used to believe that U.S. was committed to the establishment of democracy and good governance in Africa. But to our grief, sorrowand dismay, we have learned that political interest is more valuable to U.S. than democracy and human rights. When the Meles Zenawi government was clearly condemned by the European Union and criticized for massacring  more than 190 peaceful demonstrators in a broad daylight, the U.S. state department was admiring the tyrannical regime of Meles Zenawi as good ally to “war on terror”.

It is clear that the Somali Islamists are enemies to the U.S. but arming and supporting a dictatorial regime with the notion of supporting the enemy’s enemy will not bring positive outcome to the U.S. as well as Ethiopians. After all, Ethiopians feel as captives under the Meles Zenawi regime and U.S. is perceived as the main contributor to the misery they face each day. During the 1960’s there was a saying “if you are black, stay at the back, if you are white you are alright.” Now this saying is no more valid but “As long as you stand with U.S., you are free to kill and harass” seems to be the dominant attitude among dictatorial African leaders.

How can U.S. win war on terror by supporting a regime that terrorises its own citizens? In my opinion, it is lunatic to think that the Ethiopian army will crush the Islamists. Instead it will raise the patriotic spirit of Somalis and even those who have had negative attitude towards Islamists will prefer to join them. Hating Saddam doesn’t necessarily mean to love USA. Any Iraqi father or mother who lost her son by American bomb will sooner or later hates the presence of U.S. army in Iraq. Any Somali who hates the Islamists will not necesarily like the precence of Ethiopian troops in Somalia but be compelled to join the Jihadists when their airport is bombed by Ethiopian aircrafts.

To conclude my comment, it would be wonderful to the U.S. if the government shifts its attitude of supporting the enemy’s enemy. This can give a short term advantage but its consequences and outcomes are grave in the long run. The U.S. can make a fundamental change in our world specially in 2007, by upholding the principles of democracy, human rights and rule of law above political and economic interests. It is wise to learn from previous mistakes and it is not late for the U.S. to make the world a better place by sanctioning dictatorial regimes like Meles Zenawi’s and promoting democratic forces. This will lead U.S. to a long lasting victory. As the Holy Bible teaches us “Man harvests what he has sown” and it is the time for the U.S. officials to evaluate what the country has harvested due to its wrong and sometimes unethical foreign policy.

The writer can be reached: leulmekonen@hotmail.com

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Published in: on December 26, 2006 at 10:49 pm  Leave a Comment  

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