Interventionism: Stuff Even Andy Wouldn’t Do

I’ve been really curious about Mayor Dickens recent interest in welcoming leaders from Pakistan, the country of Georgia, and Ethiopian leaders to Atlanta and Mayor Dickens visiting the latter in their home country. This was further spurred by the recent trip by the Governor to Georgia (the country) and now the City of Lights along with other Governors. Let me say, It’s been a minute since I last used my degree in International Relations, so I might be a little rusty, but cursory reading of Foreign Policy & Foreign Affairs would let you know that the theory rarely changes, my copy of Leviathan just gets dustier. I just finished War On Peace, so a discussion of the awkwardness of the U.S.- Pakistani relationship is more top of mind than normal. While I believe Atlanta Influences Everything, I hesitate to make much of some minor meetings. But noting that they coincide with Biden’s meeting with India this week and Blinken’s China visit, I’m willing to put these questions into the ether, for whatever they’re worth for others to contemplate. Because of Ethiopia’s sheer massive population (2nd largest on the continent), it is a force to be reckoned with on the African continent. So too, Pakistan’s shaky relationship with the U.S. and even more perilous economy make it an odd partner with which to seek an economic friendship. Even before its independence, the country of Georgia has been a trade route. And since its independence, it has long played a part in the U.S.’s security in proximity to Russia. Could Atlanta now have a part to play in a proxy war with Russia and China? I hope not.

Back in March, Blinken met with Ethiopian leaders to begin discussions of repairing some broken ties. There was this nasty war with Eritrea and atrocities on both sides have been committed. But, (as the article notes) Ethiopia is interested in restructuring its debt with a loan from the International Monetary Fund. If you think, ‘This is a world apart from us-why should Georgians care?’ I’ll remind folks of the City of Clarkston, which is a federal refugee resettlement area, where asylum seekers from this conflict have sought refuge here in Georgia. This isn’t hypothetical- when my husband and I lived in unincorporated Stone Mountain, my neighbors kitty-corner of my home were Eritrean refugees. 

In what I consider an almost unheard-of anymore American story- my husband, neighbors (old and new), and I met on the 4th of July when the boys of the new family on the street came outside to watch the neighborhood fireworks. While we don’t have kids, our neighbors to the left of our house had two small girls. And who doesn’t like to watch the streamers sail over the Georgia pines? Over sparklers and smoke from the amateur fireworks, the beginnings of friendships were made. Grown over the consultation of repairs of lawnmowers and sharing of recipes, I can’t say we were besties, but some bridges were formed. I find that good manners, hospitality, and mutual appreciation for one’s self-reliance are international languages. 

The ‘repairs’ being made are from when the U.S. broke off aid to Ethiopia as a result of their human rights abuses. And while I’m ALL FOR Georgia’s leaders expanding Georgia’s economic interests in the global economy and U.S. Black folks supporting Africans and others in the African diaspora (particularly as Ethiopia is one of only two African countries that have never been colonized), I’m curious what type of economic expansion we’re looking to foster in the Atlanta area.  

Lockheed Martin IS the largest arms producer in the U.S., and ‘aerospace products’ are Georgia’s largest export, so  I guess we’re finally getting around to fostering our regional economic development. I’m just saying that helping Ethiopia to modernize its military (if that’s what Mayor Dickens is doing- I don’t know) is a little cringeworthy when he’s discussing building a public safety training center as a means for Atlantans to have kinder, gentler, interaction with our first responders. And on that kinder, gentler, experience, the Atlanta Solidarity Fund Three would probably like to have a word as would Tort’s family. Probably more than just a word. Meanwhile, under the threat of legal action, it seems the Interim Municipal Clerk found time in her schedule to approve the petition to place Cop City on November 7th’s ballot.  

Would y’all look at that?!? I am personally looking forward to seeing the Dept. of City Planning send correspondence to the City Council regarding the Atlanta Planning Advisory Board (APAB)’s support of putting the referendum on the ballot after their vote this past Saturday. 

Meanwhile, Atlanta’s place in foreign relations has concerned me more this week. 

The Republic of Georgia has a history of a strong export/import business. Centered in what once was part of the Silk Road between Europe and Asia, the country has always had a strong strategic location for trade. As a matter of fact, when I saw the Governor’s press release, I couldn’t help but remember all the trips to the country a particular friend of mine took when Atlanta firm, Hall, Booth, Smith opened their offices there more than a decade ago coinciding with the import/export business. The Observatory of Economic Complexity indicates that in 2021, Georgia’s biggest export partner is China. They have also specifically chosen not to sanction Russia

Pakistan is a little more tenuous. With the abrupt (and in my humble opinion, shameful) withdrawal from Afghanistan, the U.S.’s hopes for a stronger relationship with Pakistan cooled with the Taliban gaining control of Afghanistan. Again, I do not claim any authority on these topics, yet from the outside-looking-in, this withdrawal seemed ill-conceived and poorly executed. On top of that, President Biden named Pakistan as one of the ‘most dangerous nations’ referring to their nuclear capabilities. It seems odd then, that the Atlanta Mayor wants to host their Ambassador here for a chance to discuss ways to “strengthen ties between Atlanta and Pakistan”

I appreciate that the first question in the comments is “why”?

Why indeed? My guess is U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s previous remarks on the Senate floor tell us more. “…the U.S. should deepen our relationship with India if we want to outcompete the Chinese Communist Party in this century.” And of course, China plays a large part in Ethiopia’s, Georgia’s, and Pakistan’s economies. I’m guessing then that Atlanta’s Mayor is serving as a de facto Ambassador for the Biden admin currently by hosting these meetings concurrent with the Biden admin’s hosting India today. But as NPR acknowledges the Biden admin’s previous focus on human rights makes this India visit “tricky”. 

Further, within these countries are their own challenges, that their people will have to self-determine. While Atlanta has often been lauded by previous generations as the cradle of the Civil Rights movement, the shine that was on that reputation has definitely become dull with the Cop City debacle. I’m always concerned about keeping Atlanta’s nose clean. I’m even more keen on cleanliness when dealing with our own questionable human rights and civil rights violations here at home. The Mayor may be eager to be an Ambassador (and no shame in that game), yet I think I’m not alone in hoping he’ll stay focused on the current job he has. Moreover, a proxy war with China and Russia in Ethiopia, Georgia, and Pakistan seems a shaky at-best foot forward. 

Perhaps Foreign Affairs gives us the best insight:

As U.S. diplomats work with care to prevent the disintegration of the Ethiopian state and to identify the areas in which bilateral cooperation could still bear fruit, they should simultaneously broaden their contacts beyond Abiy and his circle, and redouble their efforts to better understand the most likely scenarios for the future. The formalized national dialogue will not be the only space in which Ethiopians express their aspirations and frustrations. While any change in the country’s overall political direction will likely require the time-consuming process of building new coalitions, the current transactional, short-term approach to the country’s governance is bound to have a limited shelf life.

I’m all for my Governor and Mayor expanding Georgia’s global reach. I tire of comparing our state’s economy to AL and Louisiana’s when we could be comparing it to other countries. As a matter of fact, I’ve found previous Governors and Mayors to be far too shortsighted. That said, all friends aren’t good friends and last time I checked, Atlanta has direct flights to many places around the world. 

My caution to them and you, dear readers, would be this: Remember when you lie down with dogs, you often get fleas.

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