This is part two of the series Augmented Political Warfare. Follow this link to read Part One.
In 2020 and 2021, two regional hegemons, and anchor nations of their respective regions, found themselves at odds with successive administrations in the White House. These 2 nations pride themselves as millennia-old civilizations that have survived into the modern era, and are now republics committed to honor their priceless historical achievements. Also, these nations are currently led by nationalist governments that are fighting armed secessionist rebels and violent Islamists. These two countries are China and Ethiopia, and both have faced augmented political warfare waged by USG with support from some EU nations. This enhanced political warfare has achieved varying levels of success in each of the targeted nations because one nation countered it with wit and valor, and the other was forced to cede an entire region to a non-state actor. This has exposed the latter nation to regime change schemes.
Unlike China which has been using offensive realism to promote its interests, Ethiopia’s use of offensive realism has been limited while focus on defensive realism has been hamstrung by domestic ethno-regional conflicts. This has exposed Ethiopia to sustained information warfare, which has used Western mainstream media, civil society organizations, and humanitarian non-governmental organizations to spearhead a narrative framing campaign that has created a set of narratives that disadvantage GoE.
American and European governments have used these publicized narratives to criticize, condemn, and sanction officials of the Ethiopian government. The Ethiopian military has bore the brunt of these reprobations, with the US-based Genocide Watch and Finland’s Foreign Minister accusing it (ENDF) and the Central Government of conducting a genocidal campaign in Tigray.
This has exposed Ethiopia to sustained information warfare that has used Western mainstream media, civil society organizations, and humanitarian non-governmental organizations to spearhead a narrative framing campaign that has created a set of narratives that disadvantage GoEGeopolitics.Press
Narrative Framing and Moral Victory
Narrative framing is an accepted strategy in any form of fourth generation warfare (4GW), and it serves to create a frame of reference that will be used in information warfare. In the Tigray crisis, narrative framing has benefited the TPLF and capacitated it to win the moral high ground over ENDF, with this victory being secured at a fraction of the cost that GoE is forced to spend to counter it.
Most importantly, there has been no effective narrative management by GoE. This has allowed the narrative of a weak, incapable, and abusive GoE to dominate the airwaves, media spaces, and public consciousness. This has given USG the conviction to publicly denounce GoE, impose economic sanctions, and issue threats of military action.
For Egypt, the fallout between the Biden administration and Abiy’s government has worked in its favor as showcased by public support that the United States Military, through its Central Command (CENTCOM), has offered to the Egyptian government.
In June 2021, during an interview with Nile News TV, CENTCOM’s commander, General Kenneth McKenzie, admitted that “GERD is very concerning to us”, and praised Egypt for “showing real leadership” regarding the GERD conflict. “I think Egypt is actually exercising enormous statesmanlike restraint as it tries to find a political, diplomatic solution to this problem”, General McKenzie elaborated (ibid). It should be recalled that in 2010, Egypt and Sudan had drawn up a plan to destroy any Ethiopian dam that will impact downstream streamflow of the Blue Nile, with Sudan allowing Egypt to establish a lodgment of Egyptian commandos in Kusti. CENTCOM’s backing adds further support to Egypt’s lobbying in the Arab League and the United Nations Security Council (UNSC).
In June 2021, the Arab League called on the UNSC to intervene in the GERD crisis, as well as required member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council to take “gradual measures to support Egypt and Sudan”, a resolution that Qatar supported.
PHOTO to the right is the Flag of the Arab League. CREDIT: Wikipedia
With the rift between USG and GoE widening, can Ethiopians trust USG to be an impartial mediator in the GERD conflict?
USG has been warning that Abiy Ahmed’s government is driving Ethiopia to the verge of a violent implosion, with Secretary Antony Blinken blaming this state of affairs on “continued presence of Eritrean forces in Tigray (which) further undermines Ethiopia’s stability and national unity”. Secretary Blinken then called on “the Government of Ethiopia (GoE) to withdraw Amhara regional forces from the Tigray region and ensure that effective control of western Tigray is returned to the Transitional Government of Tigray”.
Considering the criticisms from the Biden Administration that Ethiopia is unstable and can implode, one can ask this question: Is the US at peace with itself?
Is America at Peace with Itself?
On June 20, 2021, an apologia for Antifa and the Democratic Party written by columnist Doyle McManus, for the Los Angeles Times, denounced former president Donald Trump for – what the author described as – refusal to accept defeat and attempt at getting the Republican Party “to fight to restore him to power”. Interestingly, TPLF has been accused of being driven by revanchist ambitions and seeking to use armed means to restore itself back to power.
McManus quotes Daniel Drezner of Tufts University who claims that the Republican Party (GOP) has turned into the American version of Hezbollah, “a (Republican) party that also has an armed wing to coerce other political actors through violence”. So, what was the reason for such denunciation? The reason is pretty simple, the columnist is castigating Americans who marched to the Capitol on January 6, 2020.
When Rep. Andrew Cylde compared the march to “a normal tourist visit”, and Rep.Paul Gosar called out the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for “harassing peaceful patriots”, McManus became alarmed. McManus is reading an ominous sign from their statements – that the GOP has normalized violence in order to keep the support of Republicans who fear that “the traditional American way of life is disappearing so fast that we may have to use force to save it”. In the same piece, McManus claims that retired Lt.Gen Michael Flynn said that a “Myanmar-like coup should happen here (in the US)”.
McManus opinionated commentary highlights how much political factionalism has encumbered the American body politics, an issue that was raised in the Fall of 2020 by National Affairs in a published post that was adapted from the book Never Trump: The Revolt of the Conservative Elites. The post describes how political demoderation and negative partisanship risk the future of the US. If external political warfare is added to this domestic political factionalism, then the prospect of violent domestic opposition against USG cannot be ruled out.
In Ethiopia, political factionalism and irreconcilable differences between TPLF and GoE led to eruption of war in November 2020, with GoE describing its offensive against TPLF as a “Law and Order Operation” whose goals are to preserve the constitutional order and territorial integrity of the largest and most populous nation in the Horn of Africa region. This created the Tigray Crisis that has exposed GoE to augmented political warfare. The non-kinetic operations of this special form of warfare are coordinated by a Command and Control Fusion Center. This is the topic of the next post.
Featured Image shows remains of a downed C130 transport plane that TPLF claims to have shot down. PHOTO CREDIT: Getachew Reda