Wednesday, December 22

A Warrior Society and its Weapons

The Library of Congress Country Study has this to say about military tradition in national life.
Wars, insurrections, and rebellions have punctuated Ethiopia's history [and still do - see the post War Makes Folks Poor]. Kings and nobles raised and maintained armies to defend the "Christian island" against Muslim invasion or to conquer neighboring territories. Even after consolidation of centralized authority under "Solomonic" emperors in the thirteenth century, subordinate neguses (kings) and powerful nobles, some of whom later carried the high military title of ras (roughly, marshal; literally, head in Amharic [like Ras Tafari...]), ruled different regions of the kingdom and commanded their own armies as they struggled for power and position. According to a seventeenth-century European, only nature could temper the bellicosity of the Ethiopians, whom he described as "a warlike people and continually exercised in war" except during respites "caused by the winter, at which time by reason of inundation of the rivers they are forced to be quiet."
This reads like a rather rough indictment. For the sake of perspective think of the toll of war in Europe in the first half of the past century or indeed the past several centuries and remember that being warlike is not that unusual an aspect of the human condition.
From the time of its establishment in the thirteenth century, the Christian kingdom of Ethiopia was fundamentally a warrior society. Both the Amhara and the Tigray, the two dominant peoples of the kingdom, were imbued with a military ethos that placed great value on achievement in battle and the spoils to be gained thereby. Military values influenced the political, economic, and social organization of the Christian kingdom, while senior state officers often bore military titles. Additionally, military symbolism and themes occur frequently in Amhara and Tigray art, literature, and folklore of the period. Other ethnic groups, particularly the Oromo, also had warrior traditions and admired courage in combat, although the social systems that encouraged these values differed substantially from those of the Amhara and the Tigray.

Generally, soldiering has been the surest path to social advancement and economic reward in Ethiopia. Kings and nobles traditionally awarded land, titles, and political appointments to those who proved their loyalty, competence, and courage on the battlefield. As a result, warriors traditionally gave allegiance to that commander who could assure the fruits of victory to his followers, rather than to an abstract notion of the state or to government authority.

In early times, the army's command structure, like the nation's social structure, resembled a pyramid with the emperor at its apex as supreme military leader. In the field, a hierarchy of warlords led the army. Each was subordinate to a warlord of a higher rank and commanded others at a lower rank according to a system of vertical personal loyalties that bound them all to the emperor. At each command level, the military drew troops from three sources. Each warlord, from the emperor to a minor noble, had a standing corps of armed retainers that varied in size according to the leader's importance. Many landholders also served several months each year in the local lord's retinue in lieu of paying taxes. Most troops, however, came from the mass of able-bodied adult freemen, clergy alone excepted, who could be summoned by proclamation on an ad hoc basis when and where their service was required.
Traditionally the beating of war drums and the reading of proclamations and exhortations from leaders and clergy have played a role in this. Service in war to God, Emperor, Country (and region and local lord) was expected. Staying behind meant a lifetime of humiliation and disrespect. Excepting certain 'post-national and post-modern states' snugly under the protection of more traditional ones, the call to arms is still a crucial factor in the national life of every country.

One of the little noted aspects of this kind of martial tradition is the sheer mathematics of war and society. Simply put, if the society can produce a certain surplus of food or gain such by trade or conquest, it can remain at war intermittently or almost indefinitely as long as their is a steady supply of motivated young men willing to go to war. The transformations wrought by the modern era, basically technological and industrial, have upset that nasty calculus because war has become so much more destructive at every level of society. The degree of popular consent required for effective war in most countries also upsets those lethal equations.

Each man provided his own weapon and was expected to acquire skill in its use on his own initiative. He brought his own food for the march or foraged en route. Often a soldier brought his wife or a female servant to cook and tend mules. Indeed, the authorities recognized women as an integral part of the Ethiopian army insofar as many officers believed that their presence discouraged cowardice among the men. More important, women formed an unofficial quartermaster corps because men believed it was beneath their dignity to prepare food.
Curiously other armies such as Cambodia's when fighting the Khmer Rouge continued this tradition into the latter 20th Century.

Like most nations on the planet, the existence of Ethiopia and her predecessor kingdoms depends on an extensive military and martial tradition that regardless of shifting roles and often shared responsibility holds glory for some and bitter resentment for others.

For example, France as we know her, is the result of countless bloody centuries of conquest and defeat by competing militarily and culturally aggressive centers in France and abroad. While folks from Normandy may occasionally be rude to Parisians on vacation there is little chance of a P.F.T.L.N. (People's Front for the Total Liberation of Normandy) going into the forests and waging guerrilla warfare. The modern world has had little patience for Ethiopia's belated consolidation and all the wounds are far more recent, indeed they are manipulated , then rubbed raw and prevented from healing as a matter of government policy.

Thus in Ethiopia, there may be more wars in the offing. One should take a dim view of causes such as selfish competition between elites and on despotic government that forces a popular reaction. However, judgement is in favor of war when looking back on struggles with foreign invaders or at times judgement is suspended in the case of other conflicts without which the country itself would not exist. For now let us turn our attention to the past in Axum and Medieval Ethiopia to trace the story of martial tradition and weapons.

Axum at War

The best known ancient source of the country's martial tradition is Axum
The Aksumite state [which] emerged at about the beginning of the Christian era, flourished during the succeeding six or seven centuries, and underwent prolonged decline from the eighth to the twelfth century A.D. Aksum's period of greatest power lasted from the fourth through the sixth century.
A look at Aksum: An African Civilisation of Late Antiquity by Dr. Stuart Munro-Hay is a good place to begin.
An important aspect of the Aksumite kings' responsibilities was the conduct of military campaigns, the main theme of almost all the Aksumite royal inscriptions which have survived.
We therefore have a considerable amount of information about the Aksumites' methods and tactics in warfare. It is very probable that the Aksumite system of controlling subject peoples through their own rulers had the effect of encouraging these to try the strength of their overlords at each succession or other crisis. This might explain the `revolts' which occurred at places apparently quite near to the centre of the kingdom. The inscriptions and coins often use the word `peace', but we gather that the `Pax Aksumita' was, if not apparently seriously challenged, in need of continuous repair.
The military establishment was undoubtedly one of the key institutions of the Aksumite monarchy, and as such was closely associated with it. The king himself was the commander-in-chief, but royal brothers and sons, and perhaps other relatives, were frequently put in charge of campaigns when the king was occupied elsewhere. The semi-sacred character of the monarchy may have been one of the bases of its domination, but the control of its military arm by members of the ruling family must also have been a source of strength and security.
The Aksumite army was organised into sarawit (sing. sarwe), groups or `regiments' of unknown numerical strength, each with a name (possibly a provincial district name, or a `tribal' name), under their own commanders or generals. The generals of these groups were referred to in the inscription DAE 9 by the title nagast, the plural of negus or king, exactly the same as the word used in the royal title negusa nagast, king of kings, in the same inscription. This indicates the importance of their office, and was possibly a reminiscence of the former sub-kingdoms now part of Aksum. The troops were presumably levied as needed, though there must surely have been some kind of `Praetorian Guard' at the capital for ordinary guard duties about the palace, treasury and the king's person. In mediaeval times such troops were designated by the name of the part of the palace which they guarded.
When on campaign, encampments were set up, possibly in some cases in recognised military stations or garrisons, or traditional muster-points. Certain provisions were requisitioned where necessary from the enemy's country. Others were brought on beasts of burden or by human portage. Mention is made of the water-corvée, and the provision of water must have been particularly important when the campaigns reached the more arid areas. Camels were certainly used in transport, and are sometimes specified among the plunder taken.
Campaigns in Yemen with Aksumite forces numbering up to 100,000 are mentioned. The principal weapons were the sword and spear, whose iron and steel were partially imported - shields were made of buffalo hide. Although there are no accounts of horses in battle, they played an important part in national life as shown by their prominence in burial sites. There were elephants in abundance but the only evidence of their use is a Byzantine witness who gives an account of a royal chariot pulled by them. Axum also had a fleet and shipyards - it was a maritime nation with overseas posessions. One ancient source describes Indian and Aethiopian (sic) ships
"all the boats which are found in India and on this sea (the Red Sea) are not made in the same manner as are other ships. For neither are they smeared with pitch, nor with any other substance, nor indeed are the planks fastened together by iron nails going through and through, but they are bound together by a kind of cording. The reason is not as most persons suppose, that there are certain rocks there which draw the iron to themselves (for witness the fact that when the Roman vessels sail from Aelas into this sea, although they are fitted with much iron, no such thing has ever happened to them), but rather because the Indians and the Aethiopians possess neither iron nor any other thing suitable for such purposes. Furthermore they are not even able to buy any of these things from the Romans since this is explicitly forbidden to all by law"
It is clear that the metals were produced in Axum but the requirements of the fleet may have been secondary to land military needs, especially if other nations on the shores of the Indian Ocean had a long experience of 'sewn ships'. The refusal of the Romans to trade the strategically significant materials is interesting as well.

Aksum eventually became isolated from the other worlds of antiquity when Islam and particularly the Ottoman Empire, came to dominate the coasts of the Red Sea. A prolonged period of decline followed that saw its institutions and inhabitants migrate south towards the interior. There, descendants of Axum formed a new state, culture and indeed a people, the Amhara, from a fusion with the peoples of the interior such as the Agew.

Other descendants of Axum in its natal Tigray also saw much transformation and joined in the creation of their shared new world. The result was the rise of the Abyssinian Empire which itself was transformed after the arrival of the Oromo people on the scene in the 16th century. The creation of all of these interacting groups eventually developed into modern day Ethiopian Empire.

The period of isolation when much of the Ethiopian change was being created is described by some as an Ethiopian Dark Age
The 18th century English historian, Edward Gibbon Wrote: "Encompassed on all sides by the enemies of their religion, the Aethiopians slept near a thousand years, forgetful of the world by whom they were forgotten".

In this telling statement Gibbon was only expressing the prevalent view of Ethiopia in Europe in his days. He was describing in rather colorful terms what Europe regarded as Ethiopia's "Dark Ages," the period from the 7th century to the 16th century AD - i.e., the period which saw contact between Europe and Ethiopia dwindle to a vanishing point.
As we have described, there was a lot going on in Ethiopia at this time including the founding entire states and cultures rich with literary and artistic heritage - so natives of that time certainly may not have felt they were living in a dark age. However, their loss of contact with Europe did mean that their former currency with European religious, political and technical advancements was lost.

Medieval War

The United Nations University Press has a fascinating publication on The impact of technology on human rights that begins
Of all the European technologies introduced into Ethiopia, firearms have had the longest sustained impact, one that has, directly and indirectly, totally changed the country demographically, socially, politically, and economically. A study of this particular technology is therefore of special importance to an examination of the impact of modern science and technology in Ethiopia. A brief review of weapons technology in Ethiopia prior to the advent of firearms will help to explain the impact of the latter.
Bows and arrows were extensively used in the Medieval Period as shown by one description in "the chronicle of Emperor Amde Tsion in which the Emperor 'rose leaping like a leopard and roaring like a lion, drew his bow and shot at the King of Hegera. And the arrow struck him in the neck....' The King of Hegera fell and that finished the battle."

Poison arrows were unfamiliar in the kingdoms as accounts of encounters with Nilotic tribes using such weapons describe that antidotes were not at first available. Virtually every reference to medieval arms in Ethiopian chronicles refers to the spear, sword and metal tipped shield. Cavalry units were either armored or not. This is in the modern tradition of the shock effect of main battle tanks and the harrassing or reconnaisance abilities of more agile units based on light tanks, armoured cars or even helicopters (air cavalry).
One associates the coat of mail and the helmet with European medieval knights so much that it may sound strange to find them in medieval Ethiopia as well. Nevertheless, they are consistently mentioned and described in the royal chronicles and other records, leaving no doubt of their extensive use in Ethiopia.
The arrival of firearms was traumatic and providential inaugurating and helping to end one of Ethiopia's Dark Ages - the ruinous invasions of the 16th Century.
Ahmed Ibn Ibrahim El Ghazi, the Emir of Harer [the infamous Gragn - the left handed], one of the hitherto Muslim states of the east which had formerly been vassal states, armed with muskets and cannon from the Turkish Pacha of Zebid, and mercenaries from the Mocha Arabs, India, Persia, Egypt, and Turkey, routed the Christian empire. Emperor Lbne Dngl (1508-1540) became a fugitive for 11 years before his death. Ahmed's ravaging of Christian Ethiopia was only slightly checked in Tigray, and that was owing to some firearms the Tigrayans had acquired, thanks to their geographical position by the sea.

Ahmed also failed twice to break the defences of the mountain fortress of Amba Gishen in Wello, perhaps primarily because of the natural impregnability of the fortress, though, at least in the second attempt, firearms were used in its defence. Emperor Lbne Dngl's son, Gelawdewos (1540-1560), inherited the throne and obtained military assistance from the Portuguese to the tune of 400 soldiers and a little more than 400 muskets. With this assistance, he defeated Ahmed, and the Christian empire was re-established, though it was much weakened.
Portuguese and Spaniards partially motivated by the defence of Christendom had among their numbers mercenaries including Arabs and Turks who, allied with the emperors, operated heavy gunpowder weapons. The effect of firearms is described as being psychological - the quality of firearms worldwide at the time was such that most killing was done by traditional weapons. Battlefields where "the sun became shrouded in the smoke of the fire of war as if enveloped in a thick mist" may have been doubly trying for combatants. Generally
Familiarity with firearms probably came to Christian Ethiopians through their Muslim compatriots. It is worth noting that until 1670,when Emperor Yohannes I decreed separation of habitation, Muslims and Christians often used to live together as one community, as they have gone back to doing now.
Successive attempts by the Ottoman Empire to invade were beaten back with the new arms in the years after the Empire's devestation by Gragn. Bullets were being made locally - gunpowder followed but despite native metal working traditions and facilities a domestic firearms industry never evolved beyond the basics.

Internally, distance from the sea was a crucial factor in the power that came to various parts of the Empire from firearms and there was never an imperial monopoly in their trade. Early in the days of Gragn's invasion Tigray was able to use them successfully while centuries later in 1882, the kingdom of Jimma Abba Jifa had fewer than fifty rifles and a few pistols when it was reincorporated into the Kingdom.

We will leave for another time more history of war and arms, particularly those involving the arrival of the warrior Oromo people on the scene shortly after the first Dark Age of the unsuccessful Muslim invasions. Without the Oromo, any vision we have of modern Ethiopian history would be impossible. The later Era of Princes which was defined by constant civil war defines Ethiopia's second Dark Age and lasted into the 19th Century.

Eventually we will get to the AK-47, which has become an Ethiopian icon.

Monday, December 20


TV is not a vast wasteland when it comes to some HBO series such as Deadwood and The Wire. The third season of the latter just ended with the usual feature film production values but more importantly with patient and literate novel-like scripts. This series remembers what many of the shortcuts to sound and fury signifying nothing in dramatic entertainment lead many to forget - that without the best writing what is left is just nice pictures and wasted actors.

At first sight the series appears to be a cops and robbers story set among the precincts and drug corners of Baltimore. What is different is the time taken over a dozen or so episodes per season to tell a single story with well crafted exposition and development of all of the characters, none of whom are stereotypes. The series is actually supposed to be based on real events and people from Baltimore's past.

The dealers form a cartel to take the violence out of 'the game' and keep the profit. Some get into the gentrification business. The killings continue. The police try to find a way to 'wire' the disposable cell phones used by the dealers they have been pursuing for three seasons. All are portrayed without sentiment - the misanthropes, the corrupt, the dedicated and the politicians from all sides.

However, the series does not lose its moral center the way another HBO series, the Sopranos does. There, the sheer banality of so many numbing years of evil without consequence forces a moral accomodation on the viewer with mob boss Tony Soprano that the literary device of his psychiatrist does not improve. The suspension of morals required to follow the Corleone family would certainly have collapsed by Godfather XII. In the Wire, throughout all of its Machiavellian intrigue and Shakespearian tragedy, it is always quite clear what the criminals are.

This year a district commander reacted atypically when an undercover policeman is shot in a drug deal. Nearing retirement and frustrated by years of wasted effort in the drug wars and political pressure to cut crime he makes a curious speech about the 'great moment of civic compromise' initiated in the 1950s or so when the first corner drunk put his bottle in a paper bag. The drinkers could then drink in peace while creating an artificial zone of respect for the law while the police were free to chase actual crime rather than endlessly chasing otherwise harmless citizens.

So the commander tries it out, secretly for a while, in his district - effectively legalizing drugs in several 'free zones' which become popularly pronounced as Hamsterdam. Unlike the original though there are no picturesque canals and slumming tourists. What results is a concentrated Dante-esque circle of hell on earth, although protected from most violence by the police, where everything else goes.

Of course, it all hits the fan eventually and the commander's head rolls but not before there are impressive drops in crime everywhere else in the district. People tend flowers and sit on the steps of their classic Baltimore row houses watching their children safely play outside. The police resume the community patrolling that was abandoned decades ago and at community meetings citizens have the luxury of complaing about loud motorcycles and not shootings.

The final police assault on Hamsterdam is a chance for the director to indulge himself and to graphically express his point of view. Like the Air Cavalry assault on the V.C. held village in Apocalypse Now the 'Ride of the Valkyries' blares from loudspeakers and the same lines of dialogue are heard from circling helicopters. All that is missing is the surfing and smell of napalm.

In the end the logic of the martyred commander is seductive. Why not try it out? - seems to be the question after the bloody drug wars and wasted lives. Essentially drugs had been traded with relative impunity all along with the associated violence a feature of their relative illegality. It is not that simple as this eloquent article in the City Journal discusses.
The arguments in favor of legalizing the use of all narcotic and stimulant drugs are twofold: philosophical and pragmatic. Neither argument is negligible, but both are mistaken, I believe, and both miss the point.

The philosophic argument is that, in a free society, adults should be permitted to do whatever they please, always provided that they are prepared to take the consequences of their own choices and that they cause no direct harm to others.

[... however ...]

The idea that freedom is merely the ability to act upon one’s whims is surely very thin and hardly begins to capture the complexities of human existence; a man whose appetite is his law strikes us not as liberated but enslaved. And when such a narrowly conceived freedom is made the touchstone of public policy, a dissolution of society is bound to follow. No culture that makes publicly sanctioned self-indulgence its highest good can long survive: a radical egotism is bound to ensue, in which any limitations upon personal behavior are experienced as infringements of basic rights. Distinctions between the important and the trivial, between the freedom to criticize received ideas and the freedom to take LSD, are precisely the standards that keep societies from barbarism.

[... the pragmatic argument is that ...]

the overwhelming majority of the harm done to society by the consumption of currently illicit drugs is caused not by their pharmacological properties but by their prohibition and the resultant criminal activity that prohibition always calls into being. Simple reflection tells us that a supply invariably grows up to meet a demand; and when the demand is widespread, suppression is useless. Indeed, it is harmful, since—by raising the price of the commodity in question—it raises the profits of middlemen, which gives them an even more powerful incentive to stimulate demand further. The vast profits to be made from cocaine and heroin—which, were it not for their illegality, would be cheap and easily affordable even by the poorest in affluent societies—exert a deeply corrupting effect on producers, distributors, consumers, and law enforcers alike. Besides, it is well known that illegality in itself has attractions for youth already inclined to disaffection.
It stands to reason, therefore, that all these problems would be resolved at a stroke if everyone were permitted to smoke, swallow, or inject anything he chose. The corruption of the police, the luring of children of 11 and 12 into illegal activities, the making of such vast sums of money by drug dealing that legitimate work seems pointless and silly by comparison, and the turf wars that make poor neighborhoods so exceedingly violent and dangerous, would all cease at once were drug taking to be decriminalized and the supply regulated in the same way as alcohol.

[... however ...]

And so long as the demand for material goods outstrips supply, people will be tempted to commit criminal acts against the owners of property. This is not an argument, in my view, against private property or in favor of the common ownership of all goods. It does suggest, however, that we shall need a police force for a long time to come.
The author goes on to point out that by setting the bar lower for the standards of civilization that other antisocial behavior is encouraged. He feels that "a decline in convictions is not necessarily the same as a decline in criminal acts." Even addicts on methadone continue to commit crimes at a high rate even though they no longer need vast sums to feed their habit. In addition
Those psychologically unstable persons currently taking drugs would continue to do so, with the necessity to commit crimes removed, while psychologically stabler people (such as you and I and our children) would not be enticed to take drugs by their new legal status and cheapness. But price and availability, I need hardly say, exert a profound effect on consumption: the cheaper alcohol becomes, for example, the more of it is consumed, at least within quite wide limits.
it is often claimed that prison does not work because many prisoners are recidivists who, by definition, failed to be deterred from further wrongdoing by their last prison sentence. But does any sensible person believe that the abolition of prisons in their entirety would not reduce the numbers of the law-abiding? The murder rate in New York and the rate of drunken driving in Britain have not been reduced by a sudden upsurge in the love of humanity, but by the effective threat of punishment. An institution such as prison can work for society even if it does not work for an individual.

[... finally ...]

Analogies with the Prohibition era, often drawn by those who would legalize drugs, are false and inexact: it is one thing to attempt to ban a substance that has been in customary use for centuries by at least nine-tenths of the adult population, and quite another to retain a ban on substances that are still not in customary use, in an attempt to ensure that they never do become customary. Surely we have already slid down enough slippery slopes in the last 30 years without looking for more such slopes to slide down.
So there it is. We agree that ultimately legalizing drugs would do more harm than good. But what of the real and fictional folks who call those Baltimore row houses home? The ones in the story now have to see the vile army of occupation of drug dealers and addicts return while the real people of the inner city never got a break at all.

Overall crime levels have declined drastically nationwide in the past decade but for whatever reason Baltimore continued to experience a bloody business as usual. More prisons and a 'broken windows' approach to police work have helped as well as the simple attrition of the violent and drug using population of the New Jack 80s and 90s. Arguably economic and other social changes were the most potent. Either way no great moments of civic compromise await us in declaring this particular kind of crime alright.

The human toll of the drug wars as seen in this series is awful. In the three years so far almost forty young men died at the hands of their own or were imprisoned by the efforts of police in the service of the Barksdale-Bell drug cartel alone. In the end that cartel falls and another rises and the circles of hell reach back out to take in the neighborhoods of Baltimore.

Friday, December 17

Do the Right Thing

Leo Tolstoy wrote at the beginning of Anna Karenina, “All happy families resemble each other. Each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

This is also true of nations - look at a map of the world and it is not difficult to pick out the prosperous, peaceful and democratic countries on every continent (or those on the way to becoming so). All of that ‘happy’ group display a basic commitment to some combination of capitalism, rational governance and respect for their citizen’s rights.

The ‘unhappy’ group reveals many different brands of oppressive ideology, religion or any other possible justifications to serve their ruling classes. As though determined to prove that Hobbes and Malthus were right those varied dictatorships worldwide make human life "poor, nasty, brutish and short" for uncountable millions while squandering resources, time and lives.

The world has no more lessons to offer on how to move from one group to the other - reforms not revolutions work and there is no third way. History may not be over but there still is only one direction to progress. Nations are poor and unjust exactly in proportion to the lessons their rulers quite purposefully choose to ignore in the service of their own power and at the expense of everyone else. For such rulers, ‘happiness’ is achieved with each successive day they survive in power. All other factors are secondary.

the right things

What are the 'happy' governments doing right and how should any willing government ‘do the right thing’?

1) A Rational World View - Recognize once and for all that ideology and mantras will not change human nature or create wealth. The most cursory glance at a globe will show what basic policies work and which don’t. Essentially, create conditions favorable to good old fashioned capitalism - not some convenient special version of it.

2) The Rule of Law - Enshrine a constitution and laws that leaves people alone to their own devices as much as is possible by protecting them from the necessary evil of government and from each other. Government and its associated political parties should have no place in the economy besides the minimal regulation of commerce and the collection of the lowest possible tax burden.

3) Civil Society - From the free flow of information all the way to independent civil institutions such as universities and even sports clubs, power and influence should devolve away from government. Basic rights such as private ownership of property can ensure that citizens have a government in their service and not the reverse.

4) Limited Government - This deserves repeated emphasis. Excepting an initial dominance of basic infrastructure projects, education and public health, government should command an ever shrinking portion of national resources. Indeed, government should, within the limits of providing for law and order, be eternally suspected of wrong.

5) Trust and Democracy - Emphasize what citizens have in common and respect tradition. While the executive should run government, she should be subject to constant criticism and fear of recall. She should have no ability to govern without the consent of popularly elected representatives and should have to obey the law as determined by an independent judiciary.

All of the above won’t happen overnight or even necessarily concurrently, but development and improvement will be obvious from day one of a decision to accept them in principal. And no ... these things are not easy to do but even a miss in any regard is better than going in entirely the wrong direction.

what then must be done? ... well, our part anyway

Over the coming months and year we will set before ourselves the task of refining the above facets of ‘doing the right thing’ by looking at other versions of these rules and by consulting sources from Smith to Hayek to Friedman to Sowell. This examination will include philosophical and historical factors from the Enlightenment to the Industrial Revolution. We will continue to show that policy in Ethiopia today is very much based on doing the wrong thing in the service of an unnecessarily insecure grasp of power.

In an other context we will consider why the proven concepts that have made so many societies prosperous and democratic (and others worldwide well on their way to being so) are often suspect in the societies where they are most desperately needed. Meanwhile obviously failed ideas are somehow considered authentic or relevant to the experience of countries like Ethiopia.

Classical liberalism and communism, for example, are both products of the West anyway. Ultimately it should not matter where an idea came from but if it works should matter. The world is decidedly not a zero-sum place where one's success is linked to another's failure and it is not a place where ruinous and reflexive radicalism make any sense at all.

Basically, the successes of the West and those who have emulated them worldwide are human successes that are no one's property. There is absolutely no reason that those victories over want and wrong can not be shared by Ethiopians.

Many in the Third World have taken too much Western self-criticism to heart forgetting that the most radical Westerner has very sharp limits at home about how much she can actually re-order what are essentially conservative societies. After all radical Westerners don't want to live in poor ideologically correct countries but enjoy being tourists in them. The contempt of low expectations is evident in the lip service they have given the radical neo-colonial classes over the years who experiment and muck about with African lives, for example.

ethiopundit has focused on one ideological dead end that has made unhappy countries miserable in the same way. Ethiopia is one of those countries and is deep into its second generation of domination by Marxist inspired nonsense that has led to every possible bad decision being made about development. The murderous Communist military junta, the Dergue, described its policies as ‘Scientific Socialism’ while the today’s government describes its policies as ‘Revolutionary Democracy’. The current watered down version of Marxist-Leninism has the lonely virtue of being less destructive than its originals.

Our concern, in the 21st century, with radical agendas and communism may seem odd to some readers but tragically 70 million Ethiopians live with the residue of those manifest failures today. The current government is more than capable of doing the right thing right now - should it chose to.