Ethiopia, like other African countries, has not been a priority for America’s political leaders. During the Cold War, US presidents and top foreign policy advisors, such as the NSC, looked at the Horn of Africa only through the lens of US–Soviet maneuvering. During the Carter Administration, when the Soviet involvement in the HOA was at its highest, President Carter and his NSC advisors were setting policies and providing directives in an unsuccessful attempt to avert the Soviet involvement in Ethiopia.
US foreign policy makers, at least in the case of Ethiopia and other third world countries that are not unfriendly, base their policies partly on the information they receive from standing governments. They usually avoid being too critical of some of the host country’s policies unless something drastic attracts the media and the US public. The US and its diplomatic officials in Ethiopia associate with government officials and with the inner circle of the ruling elite and the sympathizers who promote ethnic-based discrimination. They in turn embrace and promote the government. This is how knowledgeable Ethiopians and leaders of different organizations view the method of operation of US policy makers. Political officers in the US embassy in Addis Ababa may contact and confer with opposition groups, human rights activists, professional and civic organizations. But their critical reports may not receive due attention by higher US government officials. Needless to say, that there are Foreign Service officers who are selfless, love the country they serve in, and maintain professional demeanor. They have passed the rigorous civil service exam and the stringent annual review for promotion. I was honored to serve as a public member on the USAID and US Department of State Foreign Service Selection Board and am impressed by the performance of most officers. The caveat is that they mostly deal with the immediate issues at hand during their tenure and have no time to develop a long-term plan to serve their assigned country or consider the wider ramifications of their policies.
For some US officials posted in Ethiopia, as in other countries, the primary concern is securing their jobs and livelihoods and staying out of controversy. Opposition