Saturday, December 15, 2007

Soft power in Africa: Anything goes.

AP reports:

"Dec. 14, 2007, at least 401 members of the U.S. military had died in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Uzbekistan as a result of the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in late 2001, according to the Defense Department. The department last updated its figures Dec. 8, 2007, at 10 a.m. EST. . . Outside the Afghan region, the Defense Department reports 63 more members of the U.S. military died in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Of those, two were the result of hostile action. The military lists these other locations as Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, Cuba; Djibouti; Eritrea; Ethiopia; Jordan; Kenya; Kyrgyzstan; Philippines; Seychelles; Sudan; Tajikistan; Turkey; and Yemen."


Isn't that one of the those African countries we're trying to project our soft power to?

NYT reports:

"The Ethiopian government, one of America’s top allies in Africa, is forcing untrained civilians — including doctors, teachers, office clerks and employees of development programs financed by the World Bank and United Nations — to fight rebels in the desolate Ogaden region, according to Western officials, refugees and Ethiopian administrators who recently defected to avoid being conscripted."

Rebels in the Ogaden region, made up of mostly Muslim Somalis, have been fighting the Christian Ethiopians for a while now. The continuing instability in Somalia, even after our glorious victory over the Islamic Courts Union last year, and the threat of another war with Eritrea seems to be putting the regime in Addis a little on edge. So much so in fact that they're Shanghai-ing civilians into armed service.

A nice bunch, that regime in Ethiopia. Good Christians.

The Times reports that being a dissident in Ethiopia can be very dangerous, too, even if you manage to escape the country:

"United Nations officials said Ethiopian intelligence agents had infiltrated Kenya, and on Nov. 2, there was a mysterious attack that only added to these fears. According to the Kenyan police, masked men burst into an apartment building in a Nairobi slum and shot five Ethiopian refugees. Two died, along with a guard outside who was shot in the head."

So this is the government Pentagon spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Joe Carpenter says we have "a close working relationship" with? We have currently about 100 U.S. military trainers in Ethiopia instructing their troops.

Almost a year ago Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J pushed legislation that would have tied our money to Prime Minister Meles Zenawi's exhibiting better behavior human rights-wise. Smith told USA Today, "We have to be careful that that old maxim — the enemy of my enemy is my friend — does not make us unwitting enablers of abuse." [This coming from a country that can't figure out what the meaning of "torture" is.]

That may be so, congressman, but when you're so bent on fighting the GWOT that you're willing to allow the North Koreans to sell weapons to the Ethiopians, human rights issues seem to pale in comparison. [IHT]

In W.'s mind, the Ethiopians are a Christian nation surrounded by Muslim countries. They're fighting Islamic terrorists, ergo we let them get away with murder. Sure they bombed the hell out of civilans in Mogadishu, so did we in Fallujah. You've got to break a few eggs to make that democratic omelet.

Joseph Nye, the guy who coined the term Soft Power says, "I think having stubbed our toe badly on Iraq, people are realizing that we weren't doing that well, and it's time for a change. . . Since 9/11, the United States has been exporting fear and anger rather than the more traditional values of hope and optimism." [AFP]

Not too much of that to go around in Africa it looks like. No wonder the Sudanese don't listen to us.


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