Imperialism, and especially United States global imperialism, generates militarism and warfare.
This occurs for three main reasons. First, the U.S. obsession with global dominance causes conflict with any country that seeks a multipolar world (e.g. China or Russia) and also with any nation wanting even a modicum of political independence (e.g. Venezuela or Nicaragua). Second, the Pentagon and military industries are giant establishments requiring a steady diet of warfare for their financial and ideological sustenance. Third, the United States, as the foremost transmitter and chief protector of global capitalism, routinely defends any corporate investment endangered by nationalism, socialism, or economic common sense.
Although the United States’ war upon Afghanistan proved to be a sanguinary, 20-year, trillion-dollar disaster, the dynamic fomenting imperialist warfare remains intact. Where will our next imperialist war transpire? The location is uncertain, but a likely candidate for our next killing fields is the Horn of Africa.
The Horn of Africa is the easternmost part of the African continent. It is actually a peninsula that lies on the southern border of the Red Sea and extends into the Indian Ocean. The Horn of Africa has a population of about 140 million. It includes four countries — Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia — of which Ethiopia, with 117 million people, is the largest.
United States governing elites have geographic, economic and political motivations for focusing on the Horn of Africa. One geographic motivation derives from the Bab-el-Mandeb strait which lies at the southern entrance to the Red Sea and is only 12 miles across. Ships carrying over 3 million barrels of oil pass through the strait every day, and Bab-el-Mandeb thus constitutes a natural choke point for this crucial energy supply.
The Horn of Africa is also richly endowed with the kind of minerals needed for the computerized automation of industry (sometimes called the fourth industrial revolution), which gives an economic inducement for U.S. focus on the region.
Most importantly, Africa has become a key locus of competition between the United States and China. China has invested heavily in Ethiopia and Eritrea, appears to have good relations with all of the countries of the Horn and China’s only foreign military base is a naval center in Djibouti, near the Bab-el-Mandeb. These Chinese advances surely raise the ire of U.S. imperialists thus providing an intense political motivation for their concentration on the Horn of Africa.
The modern history of the Horn is complex and riven with violence. Part of the problem is the baneful legacy of Western colonialism. Another part lies in the extreme ethnic diversity of the region, which contains over 80 distinct ethnicities, some of which have a heritage of antagonism.
The most recent internecine conflict is the war between the government of Ethiopia (committed to a policy of unification and allied with Eritrea) and the secessionist province of Tigray. The war has caused abundant human rights violations with wildly contradictory narratives about who is responsible for the numerous murders and sexual assaults. Objective allocation of guilt is impossible, but probably none of the antagonists are entirely free of blame.
The leaders of the Tigray rebellion have close relations with Washington and are widely regarded as agents of Western imperialism. This combination of material motivations and alleged human rights violations has sometimes been the prelude to U.S. military aggression (e.g. Iraq and Libya) under the ideological guise of “humanitarian intervention” and “responsibility to protect.”
The U.S. foreign policy establishment, which is currently replete with technicians of intervention (e.g. Anthony Blinken, Susan Rice and Jeffrey Feltman), has recently started demonizing the governments of Ethiopia and Eritrea. Even more ominously, the U.S. is now imposing economic sanctions upon both countries. These actions readily function as overtures to military assault.
But so-called “humanitarian intervention” is rarely humanitarian. It usually vastly escalates the level of violence, destabilizes the target country, and rarely deals with the underlying causes of human rights violations. A careful report on the Tigray War by a progressive African organization (Pan Africans for Liberation and Solidarity) emphatically rejects U.S. military intervention and concludes with this statement:
“[W]e support African-owned, localized conflict resolution … as we believe in the inherent agency and ability of Africans on the continent to reach a resolution to the conflict peacefully and independent of Western aggression.”
United States progressives must likewise reject the bogus ideology of humanitarian intervention as well as the imperialist assault upon the Horn of Africa to which it might lead.