This is the longest produced video I’ve ever done, and I think I’m fairly proud of it? It’s the product of reading a few books and multiple lengthy reports on Ethiopia’s conflict, and following the coverage closely for over a year now. I think my coverage has also been aided by having multiple viral videos on the country on TikTok, and the responses I have gotten over there. I hope you like it!
I am enjoying this new style of calling out folks for bad opinions. Sure, drama is a little crude, but hey it’s the internet, and it seems to succeed at winning views. Over the past couple weeks I have gone after well known YouTuber Kraut, and late night TV host John Oliver. It seems only fair, and very appropriate to the MFF channel, that I also go after “more distinguished” members of the foreign policy community today. Calling people out provides a hook for videos I have always wanted to make. In today’s video, a particularly egregious column by retired admiral and war popularizer Admiral James Stavridis has given me the opportunity to finally talk about the Rwandan Genocide, and Samantha Power’s “A Problem From Hell”, a topic I’ve been meaning to tackle for years. I hope you enjoy the video. What do you think of the whole new “YouTube Drama” approach?
Comparative history is not an exact science. It can be a fraught business. I’m sure there are a number of ways in which today’s video could be portrayed as condescending or even a bit racist. “What do you mean Ethiopia is 100 years behind Europe!!!”. But comparative history is too useful a tool, to not use. Unfortunately, it’s often used poorly. With this video, and a follow up I’m still drafting, I hope to debunk some of the dumber comparisons that are made. I also want to show that while Ethiopia’s civil war is horrible, it’s not really much of a detour from normal development.
It’s always worth re-examining something we all just think of as normal. I would never call myself a journalist. I don’t do the hard work of cultivating sources and ferreting out things that are hidden from us. But what I hope the MFF is good at is re-interpreting things we all know, connecting the dots, and laying out why certain aspects of our common knowledge are troubling. That’s what today’s video attempts to do. We have come to see it as normal that actors all over the world seek to take advantage of US elections to get away with things. Why should they care what happens in this country? And what does it say about the true dimensions of US power that they do?
I think I may need to do a series about “Bab el Mandeb-ia”. This crucial strait between Yemen, Eritrea and Djibouti has enormous potential. It’s the choke point of one of the world’s most strategic shipping lanes. But unlike Panama, or Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia, the countries surrounding the “gate of tears” seem to have received a curse rather than a blessing. There is so much packed into this region. Tiny countries like Djibouti and behemoths like Ethiopia, Christians, Muslims and Jews, the world’s richest countries and some of the poorest, long-standing US interests, and brand new Chinese bases, this strait has everything.
If the Bab el Mandeb is mentioned in the context of US geopolitics it’s usually looked at as a threat. Some insurgent group or US rival could capture the strait and cause great damage. This possibility exists, but it’s far more interesting to look at the potential. Places like Panama, the mouth of the Baltic sea, and even, to a lesser extent, the straits of Malacca, exist in a much more homogenous cultural context than the countries surrounding the Bab el Mandeb. There is a culture unifying “Bab el Mandeb-ia” but it’s been torn apart by centuries of abusive empires, ideological strife, and general impoverishment. If some of the trends I talk about in today’s video come to fruition, we could see one of the world’s most impressive places return to prominence. That would be a fantastic thing to watch.