Solid Foundation Being Laid Towards Ensuring Equitable Development For Generations: President Isaias (PART IX)
Excellency, it has emerged that the actions of the Security Council and other regional and international organizations are increasingly violating the sovereignty of countries. Indeed, practices such as direct military intervention, arbitrary recognition of illegitimate governments, calling for regime change and effecting it, supporting and arming rebels, bombarding government buildings, as witnessed recently in Libya have become common. In your opinion, where will this trend lead? How will the role of charters and legal statutes play out?
As I mentioned earlier, we cannot say that the unipolar world is prevailing in the current situation. However, we should not expect the proponents of hegemony and global domination to easily give up their ambitions. To prevent any change that is contrary to their interests they can be expected to employ various delaying tactics, which should remind us of the inevitable wait for any anticipated change. Incidentally, economic clout and military might or superiority alone cannot be the basis for any unilateral action on the part of the powers that be. Thus, they try to lend a semblance of propriety and legitimacy to their actions by pretending to recognize and uphold international laws. A common phrase used in their ostensible maneuvering is “values and interests”; however, in reality, it is only the interests that they arduously pursue and promote while the values are consigned to oblivion. Yet, they have extensive propaganda machines that are used to project a false allegiance to common values. In that line, the international organizations including the UN and the Security Council are put firmly under their control.
If we look at the recent events for example, we remember that the developments in Tunisia and Egypt came as a surprise to everyone. Perhaps the internal dynamics of the situation in those countries may be better explained after a year or so. At the present stage, any analysis would require collecting pertinent information and eligible evidence; otherwise you can only talk about the general situation in a broad context. Thus, the revelations in North Africa and the Middle East were unfamiliar territory to the western powers. Yet, they recognized that the developments could have serious ramifications; hence, the “game plan” was to try to control or manage the events. However, the suddenness and spontaneity of the situation did not allow for the drawing of elaborate strategies and plans. As a result, they opted for creative chaos to prolong the uncertainty while they figured out ways and means to turn the tide in their favor. To attempt to reconstruct the bits and pieces of the “game plan” we can look at the situation in the Middle East. The precariousness of the region’s situation is obvious taking into consideration that 60 or maybe even 70 per cent of the world’s oil reserves are contained there. If the uprisings in that area persist and if the people continue to take to the streets, it is clear that the west cannot control the situation. Heedful of this fact, they have engineered a way to defuse the tension by creating chaos in areas apart from the current “hot spots”. They have added further fuels to existing conflicts and they have incited them in places where there was no conflict to start with. However, all this was done with pretentious legitimacy under international law.
We would get a clearer picture if we looked at snapshots of the actions of the Arab League in light of the recent developments. It may be recalled that the Arab League is a regional rather than an international organization. We should also retrospectively appraise the make-up of the organization; we should evaluate the contributions of the body in the last 20 years and even before that in the Cold War years; finally, we must ask whether the Arab League genuinely strives for the interests of the region and whether the organization has been effective. Nonetheless, in the immediate wake of the unrests in the region, the Arab League displayed a unique boldness in the statements it released that is quite contrary to its character and reputation as the record shows for instance that the Arab League had never before openly condemned Libya. This inevitably raises questions as to the source of this newly found boldness. Moreover, the rants of individuals in that grouping arouse curiosity on the source of their ideas. When you listen to their speeches, you feel like shooting your hand up like a frustrated student in a classroom and ask them what they are trying to say. But the motives and intentions are clear at the end of the day. The maneuverings in the Arab League are tantamount to what is referred to as “manufacturing consensus”. It is a tried and tested means of creating impressions of legitimacy and legality, which are then manipulated to lay the groundwork for action. Thus, the western powers would point to the consensus built in regional organizations and neighborhood groupings as sufficient justification for intervention on a large scale. The actions and statements of the Arab League were similarly manipulated to lay the ground work for the decision of the Security Council. Snapshots of the events surrounding the decision throw further light into the process of laying the groundwork for manufacturing consensus which in turn gives a veneer of legality and legitimacy to their actions.
Indeed, the situation in Bahrain cannot be compared with the conditions in Yemen, Libya, Syria, Tunisia and Egypt. The situation clearly shows the western standards and their provocative maneuvers surfacing. But the west labors to feign legitimacy for the creative chaos that it wreaks. The fact remains that all their intervention is unilateral and illegal. We may recall the “No Fly Zone” that was established in Iraq’s air space in the 1990s under the pretext of protecting the Kurds in the north and the Shias in the south of that country from Saddam’s atrocities. At that time, it was the US and the UK which unilaterally imposed the No Fly Zone and when the measure failed to have any consequence, the countries invaded Iraq with claims that it possessed weapons of mass destruction and that the regime was involved in terrorist activities.
Now, the common practice is to disguise illegal intervention by perpetrating it under the banner of the UN or the Security Council. If we rewind the scenarios in the buildup to the current situation in Libya, we look at many overlapping and often conflicting events occurring in succession. Italy was hesitant at first compared to France’s eagerness to go in, while the US dragged along in the final moments. Nonetheless, what must be remembered is that the game plan is the same regardless of the theater, be it Libya or Iraq. The trick is to project an initial disagreement between various actors with regards to any issue, which would then be resolved to result in a unified stance or consensus paving the way for indefinite and unlimited intervention. While this would serve as the primary justification, other excuses such as “protection of civilians” or “chemical weapons” would be floated to ramp up the pretext for intervention. Apart from this, unidentified snipers would be deployed among the populace to further exacerbate the chaos and the panic. These are all very helpful in manipulating and shaping public opinion. This mode of operation has been fashionable for quite a while now. There may have been minor cosmetic changes in the tactics employed but the essential strategy remains the same. But their legitimacy is indeed unfounded and illegal. If asked why they directly interfered in the internal matters of countries like Libya, Yemen, or Syria, they would not be able to provide any reasonable justification or explanation.
Let’s look at how the opposition government was established in Benghazi, Libya. Who are the constituents and who are the representatives in that government? What are the aims of that government? There are many questions that can be raised. For now, the west is claiming that the Benghazi government is legitimate and that it truly represents the wish of the people contrary to other governments that coercively impose their administration. The west is whimsically recognizing governments and hijacking the will of the people and forwarding its own in the process. Similarly, there is talk about preventing the “situation in Yemen from being exploited by Al-Qaeda” but this has nothing to do with the wishes and desires of the people who are in the streets. The west is only concerned about its own interests; therefore, any action that it takes cannot be legitimate or legal. The demands of any popular uprising or any alliance of opposition forces cannot be superseded by the interests of any intervening external powers. There are no legal grounds by which external powers can have a say in determining or recognizing factions or parties within a state as legitimate or illegitimate. Any attempts in that direction can be construed as overriding the rights and will of the people. What is worse is when direct military intervention escalates internal conditions into civil war. The conflict transforms into a power struggle between two parties with varying military capabilities. Does this mean they should try to tip the balance in the favor of one party by employing every weapon in their arsenals. This will lead us into further speculation with regards to the mechanics of the conflicts and would be better left for another discussion. What is important to remember is that the actions of the west have put a big question mark on the so called “values and interests” that they claim to uphold. At one point in time, the western powers lay the red carpets and receive governments with open arms only to recoil the carpets and grant recognition and legitimacy to another government in that same country after a while. Generally, protests or opposition to their actions is strongly discouraged, which is why only a few countries have voiced their concerns. But a look back at the past four or five months shows us that they have no respect for any charter. Anyone and everyone is expendable in their eyes, whether kingdom or emirate, whether republic or any other form of government. Any value they may attach to any party is dependent on its role in the securing their perceived interests.
There are no guarantees that, in the future, the west will not recognize Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar, Morocco, or Jordan. Therefore, we must be able to question their actions at each interval. We must assert that they have no legal justification or legitimacy on any grounds to change governments and to instate replacements at will. Indeed, they have no right to indict, convict and punish anyone based on their goals and interests.
At the end of the day, their double standards, their odious tactics and their ostensible motives will only succeed in breeding general sentiments of cynicism. In the past four or five months, every lay man was repulsed with their superficial actions. Respect for international charters, laws and the prevalence of the rule of law is simply not in their chemistry. Failing to grasp this basic fact creates ample scope for confusion.
Hence, justice is imperative. There should be international laws to dictate international relations. And those laws must be genuinely interested in upholding the rule of law and respecting the rights of peoples and individuals. At the same time, there must be a robust mechanism to see that the laws are not breached. Otherwise, we cannot expect any fruit from international organization and we cannot aspire for the rule of law if the situation that prevailed in the Cold War and further worsened in the last 20 years further continues. There are many quarters calling for reform and change; however, the resistance is just as strong and may even be stronger. If all the people in the world, in all continents and countries, were given a chance to choose the type of global system or the kinds of international organizations they desire, the result would be indicative of the disappointment with the current state of affairs in the world. But, that is only possible in an ideal world. In reality, change can only come at a very slow pace. It is important to know that overall change is dependent on economic, social, cultural, security and military factors.
The Government of Eritrea has made clear its stance with regards to the need for reform and structural adjustment in international organizations such as the UN. What does structural adjustment look like from Eritrea’s point of view? And whose involvement is necessary for the adjustment to be practically realized, if indeed it can be realized? If yes, what are the potential steps that countries and regional organizations can take to create the basis for this reform?
It is all about the capacity to effect change. Aspiring for change but lacking the capacity to bring it about only leads to miscalculation. Without global awareness and efforts and without the participation of influential powers the process would indeed be very difficult. Some even say it is an uphill task taking into consideration the considerable resistance to change. Moreover, the balance of power has not shown real change on the ground. If we see the case of China and the US, we see that China has become more vocal now than it was in the past when protesting against the US. In general, there is some change that can be noted. However, if a critical mass that can reverse the balance of power is to be achieved, the situation in each region and neighborhood must first be changed. The power imbalance or asymmetry and its negative influences are perpetuated by regional crises. Thus, we can assume that global change can only be realized once all regions start resolving their issues by themselves. Taking note of this possibility, the west is deliberately weakening regional organizations and groupings rendering them powerless and ineffective in dealing with their issues. We could envisage a scenario, wherein the governments of the countries in the Horn of Africa recognized their collective interests and accordingly took a unified stance. If that were the case, the domination of external forces and the influence of power asymmetry would have been mitigated. Similarly, if all the Arab countries could unite and work towards a single aim, they would surpass Japan in power. Coupled with the existing power of oil resources, the Arab countries could have elevated their regional organization, the Arab League into a much more potent force. The same applies to other regions in South Africa, West Africa, Asia, South America and Europe. But this is only one of the alternatives, which can at least help to lessen the impact of a domineering global system. We must remember that there are many other avenues towards change. Still, the west is sowing discord and inciting conflicts within regions so as to be able to further its own interests. Examples of this trend are: the border conflict between Eritrea and Ethiopia, the border conflict between Eritrea and Djibouti, the North-South conflict in Sudan among others. The conflicts would be deliberately ignited between two parties and then they would be “managed” according to ulterior interests. This problem must be recognized and addressed, first and foremost.
Another alternative way to bring about change is for all the people in the world and all the governments to agree on general reform. The sentiments are always there and the issue is raised countless times in September during the annual conclaves of the General Assembly. However, the argument wanes as every year passes instead of gathering momentum. The resistance of the powerful countries to change is a major factor in the weakening of the drive for change.
Thus, regardless of the pace in which change will come, these alternatives are realistic and practical. If the situation in all regions changed to the advantage of the people instead of suiting the interests of the governments, then the cumulative change within countries and regions would couple with the annual efforts in the General Assembly to bring about real change in the global spectrum. However, we must remember that political factors or dynamics alone will not suffice to alter the course of events in the world. In that regard, we must appreciate the potential role of economic changes, and redefinitions of inter-state relationships. Any attempt to measure the pace of change must first consider the ability of the counter-forces to delay that change.
If we ask why there is no stability in a country, we may venture that it is because of external factors but we must remember that the main factor is always internal. Hence, managing your domestic issues is paramount. From there you can move towards regional cooperation and stability. We can confidently speak about the possibilities for the Middle East, North Africa, East Africa and the Horn of Africa as they are interrelated. Discussions about Asian countries however would be better avoided as they are very far away and we know very little about them.
Your Excellency, when President Obama came to power, the Government of Eritrea stated that he would be evaluated on his performance in the long run. Two years later, what is our assessment about his administration? And what are the prospects for a second term in office?
I recall that this question had earlier been raised in the wake of his immediate election. I personally don’t see any merit in assessing or evaluating the intelligence, brilliance or competence of Obama as an individual. Our concern is not the report card of individuals. That would only deviate us into other tangential paths. Asking if Obama is good and if he makes good policies only personalizes the matter and gives it a distorted meaning. Thus, to get a better picture you have to look beyond the individual.
Firstly, Obama is a product of the system that has prevailed for the last 20 years. There is a TV program called “Intelligence 2” where many intellectuals and think-tanks forward their opinions and theories. However, their preoccupation with “Democrats” and “Republicans” and individual dissection of Obama does not help to portray the US system properly.
In his election campaign, Obama made many speeches that really impressed people. The anticipation and hope that he generated was very great. But his speeches and promises cannot be used as parameters to judge his administration and his policies. You need to have a good look at his practical performance. You may look at his individual performance, or you may try to analyze the character and background of the people in his administration. But you can only get a full picture if you look at the US system in general. I am not saying that Obama is irrelevant. Nonetheless, we can point to the failure of his campaign promises as proof of the inconsequence of the individual when compared to the larger scheme in the US system. There have been many discussions about healthcare, tax, fiscal adjustments, the national deficit, so on and so forth. Talking about the individual when addressing these issues would only confuse these matters further. To say “Sarkozy said this; Cameron said that” would only be a degradation of self-worth.
When we look at the US in the domestic as well as the international context, it is important to look at the general trend of events. We should pay attention to the statements of government officials, to the fiscal policy of China, to the fiscal policies that are drawn, etc.; it is helpful to get a bigger picture of the trappings and underpinnings of the US system in general. You look at the statements of the administration and at the same time compare them with the practical steps being taken on the ground. The general assessment cannot be made in a single term. When Obama campaigned for “Change”, he had admitted that it cannot be achieved in one term in office. This is one significant point which he raised. That being said, if we are going to anticipate the changes that may be effected in his second term then we need to look at his accomplishments during his first term. We should be able to read whether he has reached half the journey towards his destination. Have his domestic policies satisfied the US public? Have his foreign policies been accepted by the world at large? These are questions that we must ask.
In the end, I would to reiterate what I said earlier. “Let’s not personalize”. Let’s try and look at the bigger picture.