Thucydides Trap: The final showdown between TPLF and PFDJ
In the summer of 1981, EPLF forging a tactical alliance with the then six years old TPLF, pushed ELF out of the battlefields of Eritrea when the latter retreated back to Sudan in an attempt to regroup but the attempt took a life its own when it resulted in tiptoeing around oblivion instead. It was only a matter of time till the tension comes out to the open when EPLF and TPLF were on a verge of war against each other only had to differ the war lest give the common enemy—Dergue another day to stay in power. As it was inevitable, however, in 1998, they went to war but in the end, the leaders of EPRDF for a reason only known to them opted to leave EPLF in power albeit isolated like a leper colony for the next two decades or so.
Certainly, the power struggle between EPLF and TPLF is not uncommon where a 2015 case study that was conducted at Harvard suggests that, “…..over the past five hundred years, in sixteen cases, a major rising power has threatened to displace a ruling power. In twelve of those, the result was war. The four cases that avoided this out-come did so only because of huge, painful adjustments in attitudes and actions on the part of challenger and challenged alike…” The authors of the study dubbed the project, “Thucydides Trap.”
Thucydides was a Greek historian who was the first not only who recorded the thirty year war [which is also known as Peloponnesian war] between Sparta and Athens in 5th century B.C. but also he examined history with in the context of abstract ideas as well.
One of the main authors of the Harvard study, Graham Allison, who is also the author of the book titled, “Destined For War: Can America and China Escape Thucydides Trap?” writes that, Thucydides identified the cause of the Peloponnesian war when the rise of Athens instilled fear in Sparta. He goes on to write that, “…intentions aside, when a rising power threatens to displace a ruling power, the resulting structural stress makes a violent clash the rule, not the exception…” In the end however, it is the power of ideas and Athens’ adherence to the principles of democracy that gave her an advantage and ultimately won the war over the most powerful but tyrannical Sparta.
And it is precisely the reason, tyrants may win a battle but can never win the war and ShaEbia is not an exception either. A regime that rules with an ironclad decree where democratic institutions including the right to vote, free speech, free press, freedom to worship, right to assembly are nonexistent much less the absence or a declared dead Constitution can hardly stand as Thucydides put it the structural stress the violent clash brings to the fore.
The diametrical differences between TPLF and EPLF were more prominent than if they had any glaring similarities—if at all including in military strategies much less in political ideologies and economic policies. Of course, when the former was for self-determination working with in Ethiopia-proper, the latter was for total independence. What instilled fear in EPLF is not however, the rise of TPLF [as Thucydides observed as the main trajectory for the war between Athens and Sparta] but when TPLF fostered an open political culture with in the Tigrean people and most of all TPLF appeared to be a hurdle to EPLF’s grandiose and manic ambition not only to control Ethiopia but the entire region as well.
When the regime’s intent was clear to TPLF from the get go, it chose to contain and diplomatically isolate the regime particularly after the end of the Badme conflict. Serious observers including Tegaru lament the missed opportunity when they say, the regime has been bidding its time to wreck havoc in Tigray when it committed genocide in cahoots with the Abiy regime for over a year when they invaded Tigray in November 2020.
Recently—two days ago to be exact—, the regime in Eritrea, in a classic Orwellian doublethink, rumbled about an impeding offensive by “Weyane” so much so that the objective, it says, is to create a greater Tigray with the ownership of the Red Sea. And it went on to say that, “Weyane’s” attempt to take Welqait, Tsegede and Humera will destabilize Ethiopia in particular and the region in general. Furthermore, it accuses “Weyane” of atrocities in Ethiopia during the last twenty seven years in power. It is claptrap but not funny anymore.
When evidence based report by HRW and AI accuses the regime in Eritrea of gross human rights violations including war crimes, crimes against humanity, gang rape, destruction of healthcare facilities, factories, burning farmlands among other things throughout Tigray and while the regime is also illegally occupying parts of Tigray, the audacity of the doublethink is beyond sick! As such, if war is eminent between TDF and the regime in Eritrea, it is not a power struggle ala “Thucydides Trap” but it is a matter of upholding and adhering to justice including international law where Tigray is with in her rights as Getachew Reda put it, to return back every inch of her territory.
Few days ago, Bloomberg reported that anonymous diplomatic channels suggested—there is a clear intent by the Government of Tigray to march to Asmara. The objective however is not clear for the GoT’s foreign policy particularly on Eritrea thus far is not regime change—I haven’t heard or read anything to that effect—[there is a clear difference between removing a regime and regime change.] One could also suspect that the march to Asmara could be to bring the genocidaires to face justice.
It is also curious and to be seen how Abiy Ahmed will react if a full scale war breaks out between TDF and the regime in Asmara when the removal of Formajo seems to have made a dent so much so that the relationship between Isaias Afwerki and Abiy Ahmed appears to be, on the surface to the very least, cooled down.
Moreover, when the regime sided with Russia when the latter invaded Ukraine, this time around, the US including the Western world wouldn’t have any appetite to rescue it when it reached out to the UN at midnight in September 2000 when EPRDF soldiers penetrated deep into Eritrea. As Karl Marx duly noted, history repeats itself first as tragedy and second as a farce. That said however, as the cerebral Getachew Reda aptly put it in his recent Twitter feeds, things have changed and have changed for good [forever.]