Betraying An Idealist Ethiopia is Counter-Productive

By Adal Isaw
January 2, 2013

Relations between states is shaped and reshaped by the kind of a world-view that a state holds. A state chooses a specific world-view to interact with other states diplomatically, militarily, economically and so on. A state without a world-view is not perceivable. A world-view of some kind is vital if a state is to function in a world of intricate relations that subsume peace and war, wealth and poverty, and development and decline. Furthermore, to have an international role of some kind and to safeguard its interest and security, a state definitely needs to have a worldview. And out of the world-views known for states, idealism is one that states use more often to coin their foreign policy and to engage other states overtly or otherwise. In this regard, the Ethiopian state is the ultimate idealist, despite being betrayed by some actors, who at least in theory are the building blocks of idealism. Actors that subscribe to idealism as their world-viewshould know that betraying an idealist Ethiopia is counterproductive.

Ethiopia will remain idealist since it cannot afford to continue in the realist tradition of thinking that each state is on its own—scrambling for power all the time while contradictorily searching for peace and security. As far as the Ethiopian state is concerned, I noticed, international peace in huge part is the result of social, economic, and political development. Money set aside for military adventures can be put into useful projects to benefit states across borders—to bring them together if they ever were far apart by economic and political conflict of some kind. For this and other reasons, therefore, to have a realist world-view of international peace is tantamount to seeking peace with might. Conversely, to have an idealist world-view of international peace is tantamount to seeking peace through economic, political and social development via cooperation. I should add; how different these two world-views of idealism and realism are is not a matter of debate, but it is a matter of preference on what the primary concerns of the states that subscribe to either of the world-views should be.

The primary concerns of states are disparate. Each state has a primary concern, and depending on the state’s world-view its primary concern may fluctuate between economic and security issues. If the state is a realist, its primary concern is security and any economic issue thereafter almost always becomes secondary. In contrast, if the state is an idealist one, as the Ethiopian state is, nothing else but the economy becomes its primary concern almost all the time. The caveat to keep in mind is this: a wealthy state can afford to be a realist till it gets to be poor; and a poor state may become a realist to become poorer and miserable.

The choice of a state to use a blueprint of a specific world-view is determined by how those who are at the helm of the state see the world at large. Here; I just want you to go back and ponder about the prime idealist—our Premier Meles Zenawi. Backed by history and tradition and with the help of many idealist Ethiopians at the helm of leadership, the Ethiopian state is one of the best if not the best idealist state known to all actors with idealist world-view. Arguably, no state other than the best idealist state declares poverty as its number one enemy. It has been a while since the Ethiopian state declared that poverty is public enemy number one. And this declaration, to say the least, is simply a quintessential idealist declaration—since our world cannot afford to continue in the realist tradition of thinking that each state is on its own—while the single worst impediment to international peace and security is left unscathed.

Poverty is still running amuck in our world, creating divide in income, education, health, and in everything essential to human life. Nothing other than poverty is therefore at the forefront of a bleak world without a meaningful security and peace. In this regard, states that seek international peace and security should also seek the responsibility to ameliorate poverty—understanding that it is the single worst impediment to world peace and security. And it is in huge part for this reason that the Ethiopian state sees international peace and security as no other than the result of economic, social and political development through international co-operation. This quintessential idealist endeavor requires the active and meaningful participation of most if not all states that comprise our world.

The Ethiopian state, as many other states do, takes part in the works of non-state actors such as the United Nations and African Union. Ethiopia was one of the idealist fifty countries that gathered in San Francisco, California, USA, in June 26, 1945, to create the United Nations—one of the building blocks of idealism. What precipitated the creation of the idealist United Nation in 1945 was no other than the failure of the realist world-view in Europe. The realist world-view led to the development of modern warfare that which in turn led to wars that were far more destructive than anything that humanity had ever seen. In other words, the old realist regimes in Europe went to major wars nearly everywhere in the world to mass slaughter millions of our kind. Consequently, idealist states including the Ethiopian state of the time reoriented their
thinking about international relations in such a way as to stress the disastrous irrationality of realism; and the result was the creation of United Nations. The Ethiopian state has since contributed to the fulfillment of this idealist thinking.

Ethiopia with other states participated in UN Peacekeeping Missions in Korea (1950s), Congo (1960s) and Rwanda following the genocide in 1993. Ethiopia offered a full brigade to the UN Peacekeeping Mission to Liberia. Together with South Africa and Mozambique, Ethiopian troops under the auspices of the African Union, helped solidify the peace process in Burundi.
The successful United Nations reform process which Ethiopia had the privilege to coordinate as Vice President of the General Assembly in 2002, has helped the UN to refocus its priorities to become a more effective multilateral institution in dealing with pertinent issues of international concern. Currently, the focus of Ethiopia’s participation at the United Nations pertains mainly on economic and social issues.[1]

As stated earlier, the primary concern of the Ethiopian state is to defeat poverty through a development plan with its door open to international co-operation. An example of such a development plan is the building of the Renaissance Dam. The Renaissance Dam is emblematic of Ethiopia’s idealism, and it unambiguously mirrors Ethiopia’s willingness to help create a world where the pursuit of international peace does not hinge on power.

As far as the Ethiopian state is concerned, I also noticed, international peace hinges on co-operation even between states with contentious political and economic issues.

There are many ways of co-operation that lead to a prosperous and peaceful world. For example, consider this idealist proposal by no other than the prime idealist Premier Meles Zenawi: during the Clinton Initiative in 2011, Prime Minister Meles Zenawi won rounds of applause for stating that the world can become cleaner if Ethiopia and the Democratic Republic of Congo are helped to light the entire African continent via cascades of hydro electric dams. Idealist Meles Zenawi knew that money for clean energy was traded in open markets around the developed world. This meant that, Africa, having contributed zero emission to degrade the environment of the world should have gotten money for clean energy development. This in turn suggested that, the plan to build the Renaissance Dam should have been welcomed by all actors that adhere to a global clean energy infrastructure and hence to an idealist world-view that yearns for peace and security through development. If poverty is the single worst impediment to world peace and security as many idealist of the world note with emphasis, then, the building of the clean energy Renaissance Dam that which ameliorates poverty should have been welcomed with distinct alacrity.

The list of idealist state and non-state actors includes each and every associations and organizations whose objective is to see a better world at the end of a development plan. Quite arguably, some of these actors may emphasize democratization—a process often mired in acute ideological contention—before they support a development plan. This pure political stance is counterproductive for it serves no tangible purpose of engendering democracy. Ethiopia is democratic and this fact based presumption can be argued at relative ease. Even if it was not, it is the fact that economic development engenders democratization. Therefore, to seek democratization while blocking economic development is insanity disguised in the feeblest possible political argument.

The history of European states including the U.S. suffice as evidence that economic development begets democratization—a never ending process of approximating the best possible fair and just arrangement of social life. And hence, there is no need for any idealist state and non-state actor to condition its support of the building of the Renaissance Dam with the politics of democratization. It is only the realist not the idealist actor who bases his support or lack thereof on power politics. And power politics in international relations is extremely counterproductive, because it forgets that the least contentious issue among idealist of the world is the plan to fight poverty, convinced that it is the worst impediment to world peace and stability.

It is not too late; state and non-state actors who subscribe to idealism as their world-view should remind themselves that what they aspire about world peace and stability may have one of its first steps in Ethiopia. The building of the Renaissance Dam, I believe, is one of the first steps—a step that benefits Ethiopia, Kenya, Djibouti, South and North Sudan, and Egypt. In the long run, cascades of hydroelectric dams of Ethiopia may become the second steps to benefit countries across the Mediterranean Sea. For the sake of these humane plans, therefore, idealists of the world who believe in international co-operation should stay true to themselves and understand that betraying an idealist Ethiopia is counter-productive.

About the author: Adal Isaw can be contacted at:

[1] – See the website of the Permanent Mission of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopian to the United Nations at for further detail.