In 10 short years, Isaias Afwerki has achieved the status which took Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez longer to accomplish: an annoying loudmouth just tilting at the windmill. In 2007, Spain’s king famously told Hugo Chavez: “why don’t you just shut up?” after he kept interrupting, over, and over, and over, the Spanish prime minister. Isaias’s “why don’t you just shut the hell up” moment will come (and my bet is on Oakland’s fearless Eritreans Youth for Change) and when it happens, again this is just pure speculation, but Isaias Afwerki, at last confronted, will submit to the new Alpha Male. But for now the world will just roll its eyes every time Isaias thinks he is saying something profound but, to the world, simply sounds pedantic.
(By the way: if you want to see how Isaias behaves in the presence of a bigger alpha male, just google the image of Isaias Afwerki signing the Algiers Peace Agreement in December 2000; or Isaias Afwerki visiting Kaddaffi in one of his tents; or Isaias Afwerki hosting US Defense Minister Donald Rumsfeld in Asmara; or, more recently, Isaias Afwerki attending the 66th General Assembly in New York when he was confronted outside his hotel by Swedish media inquiring about Eritrean-Swede journalist Dawit Isaac. Hell, no, I am not going to do that for you: remember, I listened to 6 (six!) hours of Isaias Afwerki interview on New Year’s Eve: I say you lift your share of the burden.)
The World According To Isaias Afwerki: It Is All America’s Fault
In 1992, Francis Fukuyama wrote “The End of History and the Last Man” where he postulated a theory that now that the Cold War is over, what we may be seeing is the world actually ending the debate of which sort of governance is best and finally accepting that the so-called Western liberal democracy is suitable for the entire world. Fukuyama theorized that we may be seeing “universalization of western liberal democracy as the final form of government.”
In 1992 and in 1993 or 1994 or, hell, all the way to 2006, Isaias Afwerki had NO PROBLEM with this formulation. He was eagerly courting the United States: he was part of the “frontline states” combating Sudan’s Muslim fundamentalism, he was OUR MAN in the Great Lakes, he was OUR MAN (one of only a handful) joining the Coalition of the Willing and he was OUR MAN arguing that Eritrea, not Yemen, not Djibouti, should be the Red Sea base for America’s Perpetual & Endless War Against Terror.
This is a reality that Isaias Afwerki and his fans now want to conveniently forget. So, this interlude of “reality sucks” is brought to them by Alnahda:
Isaias Courts The US To Establish A Base In Eritrea:
Isaias Envoy Girma Asmerom Courts The US To Establish A Base In Eritrea:
Eitrea Eager For U.S. Military Partnership. by Anthony Sipher Yomiuri Shimbun (Japan), 5th July:
Donald Rumsfeld in Eritrea
The reason the world rolls its eyes when Isaias Afwerki now complains about American hegemony is because the world knows that the Isaias Afwerki junta was actively lobbying to be an agent of American hegemony and was rudely rejected by the United States who, to add insult to injury, chose Yemen, Djibouti and Ethiopia as its base for its so-called Global War Against Terror (GWAT.)
The PFDJ complaining about the world prostituting itself to serve the US is a lot like the street whore complaining about the “escort services” provided by others: the objection is not on moral grounds but on inability to compete. You can’t have your ambassador (Girma Asmerom) eagerly and shamelessly inviting the US to establish a base in Eritrea because Eritrea’s topography resembles that of Afghanistan and THEN, when you are rejected, pretend that you never invited the “hegemonic powers.”
The second reason that the world rolls its eyes when Isaias Afwerki speaks is because he has sophomoric understanding of how American foreign policy is developed. In the Atlantic article I linked above, Robert Kaplan, a great journalist who is (was?) also an admirer of EPLF, gives him helpful hints on how to attract the United States but Isaias, as usual, is too stubborn to understand it. Kaplan says that Isaias Afwerki “…analyzes brilliantly what he knows, but he gives in to paranoia about what he doesn’t know. He did not seem to understand that U.S. foreign policy is often a synthesis of what the State and Defense Departments are comfortable with.”
Here’s where Isaias Afwerki gets lost:understanding the synthesis between how the Defense Department may have an upper hand at times, and the State Department at other times. Isaias is given to comparing Eritrea with Saudi Arabia and China and asking: “these countries have human rights records worse than Eritrea’s: so how come they get a pass and Eritrea doesn’t?” Then, failing to understand that, he “gives in to paranoia about what he doesn’t know” and starts talking about Huntington, Fukuyama.
Of all the articles I have written since 1995, the one that I have received the most response to is my review of the god-awful book “Confessions of an Economic Hitman.” In it, I talk about Isaias Afwerki’s very, very, very late discovery of American hegemonic policy which I will now quote (I know, I know, don’t you just hate it when writers quote themselves?):
“You’ve no doubt heard President Isaias Afwerki talk about some secret American plan to control the world in the 20th century and much of the 21st century. This paper is not “much-studied” and has to be studied, invites us Isaias. The paper he is referring to was produced by something called the Project for New American Century. I am not downplaying the organization; it included all the luminaries of the so-called “neo-con” movement. My problem is that President Isaias Afwerki seems to have surrounded himself with people who have no understanding of how American policy is developed. Shouldn’t the Organization of Eritrean Americans (OEA) give the presidential staff and the Eritrean foreign ministry a crash course in how American policy is developed? If they could find their voice, I am sure they would not cost as much as the 50,000/month lobbying firm that Jack Abramoff worked for and Isaias hired. The OEA’s first course could be entitled: Sir, It Is Not A Good Idea To Insult America When We Are Trying To Organize A Petition To Influence Them. But the OEA has developed into a monomaniacal organization, a one-pony show (the pony is called Demarcation), so let me volunteer my services for free:
“First of all, the document Isaias Afwerki is alluding to is not new: it was published in 1997, when Isaias was the darling of the United States (remember the “new generation” label?) It was one of hundreds of competing scholarly works produced by American intellectuals about what American role should be post Cold War. Remember Fukayama’s End of History? There were intellectuals arguing for American isolationalism, there were others calling for American-European axis, there were some calling for Pax Americana.
“Second, the document is not only not new, it is not a secret either. Isaias presents the paper as if it is some sort of Protocols of the Elders of Zion but you can read it here for yourself: http://newamericancentury.org/statementofprinciples.htm
“Third, the paper was hardly earth-shattering or influential or a blueprint for American foreign policy. The election and re-election of George W Bush in 2000 and 2004 by one of the smallest margins would tend to argue that the document, far from being the blueprint of American foreign policy, was just one of many competing viewpoints; [PS: You can add the election of Barack Obama as further evidence that the US uses the swinging pendulum approach: left, right, left, right—when choosing a path.]
“Fourth, in the United States, the only people who even know that the paper or the organization exists are those in [the] hard-hard left who blame George Bush and his neo-cons for engineering the war on Iraq, long before 9-11–in fact, as early as 1997. And, in fact, the paper did argue that the US should conclude the war in Iraq, the Gulf war of 1990. But, as I recall, Isaias Afwerki was one of the first volunteers enlisted in the Coalition of the very, very willing, wasn’t he?
“Fifth, PAX Americana and American domination of the world cannot happen if there aren’t countries who are willing to provide their countries as military bases for the US. Wasn’t Isaias Afwerki asking—begging—Ronald Rumsfeld, a co-author of the document Isaias is now condemning, to establish military bases in Eritrea?”
Not much has changed since Isaias was first alerted in 2006 about what was written in American think tanks in 1997. In his New Year’s interview, Isaias Afwerki talks about how the United States controls all of the world institutions to engineer hegemony, by controlling cultural, economic, military institutions. And the reason the world is going to roll its eyes at this is because the whole world is thinking: “NO F&*@ing kidding, we already know this: what took you so long to wake up, jackass!” If you had been asking, pleading, begging to be a partner in the campaign for American hegemony, why would anybody care now that you are on the losing end of that? Virtually no African country enlisted in the “Coalition of the willing” campaign: you did. Why would the rest of Africa listen to you now? Virtually no African country agreed to the United States having an African military base. Not only did you not oppose that, you actively courted to change Eritrea into an American base pledging PUBLICLY that “the sky is the limit” on what you would do to accommodate the US. You said, PUBLICLY, “I share the strategic view of the Americans in the region. French forces in Djibouti have been a stabilizing factor, and U.S. troops will add to that. You need outside powers to keep order here. It sounds colonialist, but I am only being realist.” (refer to The Atlantic article.) So: why would any African country, why would the US now listen to your very, very, very late protestations?
The North African Revolution
Isaias Afwerki was invited by Abbe to give his predictions about how the North African revolutions would turn out. The question that should have been posed (but wasn’t, for very understandable reasons) was: “You and Qaddaffi were very close. He is dead now. What is your opinion about how his demise came about?”
The thing is that the North African revolutions were about overthrowing the status quo: where self-appointed leaders come to power and refuse to leave for decades. They refuse to acknowledge the existence of any political pluralism; they refuse to acknowledge the people’s right to hire and fire their governors; they refuse to acknowledge their people’s right to freedom of assembly, freedom of speech, and freedom of worship. Qaddaffi was swept away (actually, blown away) because he was from the old guard—and Isaias Afwerki was his soul mate. The PFDJ was very impressed by the Qaddaffi metrics of improving Libyans “quality of life”–infant mortality rates, literacy rates, access to clean water, paved roads, subsidized fuel and the “fact” that the Qaddaffi family did not have secret Swiss accounts—none of which impressed the Libyans, who were chaffing under Qaddaffi’s brutal rule, one bit. (Again, I am not going to google image a pic of Isaias Afwerki in Qaddafi’s tent looking very deferential, like in the presence of a king—you find it—it is pretty embarrassing for Eritrea, actually.) There was a Libyan guy, Nouri al Masmari, interviewed on Al Jazeera asking African leaders like Isaias Afwerki: “how do you feel now? How do you feel now after you bowed down and after you kissed his hand in the tent.” As Qaddaffi’s head of protocol, Nouri Al Masmari had a front-row seat to watching African tyrants slobbering all over the Libyan tyrant. And the “proud” Isaias Afwerki fawned and slobbered the most at Qaddaffi. So, yeah, how do you feel now?
And this is one more reason why the Rest of The World rolls its eyes when Isaias Afwerki, yet another corrupt president-for-life, tries to present himself as a revolutionary.
Israel vs Palestine
Isaias Afwerki is not a big fan of the Oslo Accords. In his view, the Palestinians agreed to go into a “dark tunnel” (geleria atyom), ultimately agreeing to a state without congruent borders (tebejajele geography) simply because, for public relations (hzbawi rkbat—really? We are calling PR: hzbawi rkbat?) purposes, they jumped in to a deal and trusted their ability to show flexibility to yield for them a better result. And now they are screwed.
Ok, so far so good: one can’t argue with this: it is actually pretty accurate. Now, here is where Isaias Afwerki jumps the shark and geleria atyu:
On February 16, 2011, Isaias Afwerki gave the Swedish media Aftonblade a wide-ranging interview and along with telling the Swedish media that Dawit Isaac will never be brought to a court of law, this is what he is quoted as saying in regards to the Israeli Palestinian issue:
“Israel needs a government, we must respect this. The Palestinians also need to have a dignified life, but it can not be the West Bank or Gaza. A two-state solution will not work one day. It’s just to fool people. The ideal solution that Israelis and Palestinians living in the same nation will never happen for many reasons. One option that may work is a Trans-Jordan. Israel may be left in peace and the Palestinian and Jordanian peoples are brought together and can create their own nation.”
I don’t know which is more amazing: that Isaias proposed this “solution” for the Palestinians (essentially uprooting them from Gaza and the West Bank and moving them to Jordan) or that Isaias is surprised that he received a lot of push back from his Arab friends for proposing this. Even in the United States, even within Israel, this idea of moving entire people is considered extreme: when presidential candidate Newt Gingrich, a man who has a long history of saying controversial things, described Palestinians as an “invented people”, there was a massive uproar—in the United States! Even Israelis, even Likudniks within Israel, would not propose uprooting Palestinians to Jordan. And here’s Isaias Afwerki proposing it casually and then being surprised at the reaction. All this because Isaias Afwerki is yet to appreciate the beauty of these four words: “I do not know.”
Kbur president, you had talked about African Renaissance, could you tell us how you hold on to that view given its civil war, tribalism? According to Isaias Afwerki, there are two problems with Africa: inferiority complex imprinted by decades-long colonialism and the external interference of the US which wants to divide Africa into four sections (North, South, East, West) and administer it using anchor states (South Africa, Kenya, Ethiopia, Nigeria and Egypt.)
Administering Africa requires penetrating and owning all regional and international organizations (IMF, World Bank, AU, IGAD, COMESA, etc): which is the theory espoused by Huntington and Fukuyama, according to Isaias (never mind that all these institution’s predate Fukuyma’s End Of History book.)
It is not that the analysis of Isaias Afwerki is wrong. In almost every case, it is actually right: for example, the analysis of the Security Council—there are technically 5 permanent members, but it is more like 3 because 2 of them (UK and France) are just appendages (“laqeba iyen”). And of the 3, Russia is recovering from its post Soviet Union breakup and China is a “large but silent power—for now”, leaving only 1, the United States, with disproportionate power. And in the discussion of how to reform this—5 permanent members and 10 rotating members—those who were for reform once (Brazil and India) are more inclined to pursue permanent membership for themselves as opposed to leveling the field.
The reason that the rest of the world just rolls its eyes is because EVERYBODY KNOWS THIS. A junior foreign office representative of any country receives this tutorial in his/her orientation class. Yet Isaias Afwerki talks about it as if it is truth revealed to him by God Almighty, boring the rest of the world with his hubris. And this is why, even when he is right, he is so arrogant about it, and so full of himself, and so incapable of communicating in any mode other than the lectury professor, he turns people off—and they just roll their eyes at him and can’t wait for him to “just shut the hell up.” And when they have a chance to avoid him—as they did at the 66th Session of the General Assembly—they leave: giving him the satisfaction of addressing an empty hall. And it is Eritreans who have the burden of compensating for the neglect the world gives him.
Next: Isaias Shrugged And The Eritrean People Sighed