Ethiopia and Eritrea Go to War! Stupid Is As Stupid Does! [Archives:1999/07/Front Page]

February 15 1999

Two of the world’s poorest nations have gone to war. Ethiopia and Eritrea, Yemen’s neighbors across the Red Sea, are now engaged in the beginnings of what could evolve into a full-scale war. It could be a menace to the southern Red Sea and the Horn of Africa. It will also inflict unbearable suffering on the people of the warring countries, and will bring untold damage to their economies.
The reasons behind the inability of the leaders of the two nations to reach a negotiated settlement to their differences is a strong sense of dignity and pride. To be sure, Eritrea’s leaders – with their repeated attempts to grab a disputed territory and then negotiate later – created this new instability in the region. But, Ethiopian leaders for their part decided they will not accept anything short of unconditional Eritrean withdrawal from the disputed areas, or they will go to war, no matter what the price.
Efforts at intermediation by the UN, the OAU, the USA-Rwanda Initiative, and other parties all failed because of the intransigence of the two leaders. A misplaced sense of pride, together with the strong personal feelings of the revolutionaries turned rulers is fast bringing disaster to the region.
Over the last 6 months, the 2 poor nations spent more than half a billion US dollars in preparing for war. Most of the money went into buying military hardware. Some expenditures were incurred in the drive to win world support and sympathy. The two states will incur more expenditures in their internal mobilization effort to meet the needs of waging war and sustaining its costs.
Those leaders will bring much suffering to their people, and could disrupt the whole region.