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Ethiopia Vows to Dam Nile River


Ethiopia today dismissed Egypt’s talk of “war” as psychological intimidation and vowed that construction on what will become Africa’s largest dam will continue regardless of threats. Dina Mufti, a foreign ministry spokesman, said that Ethiopia was “not intimidated by Egypt’s psychological warfare and won’t halt the dam’s construction, even for seconds.” This comes only a couple days after Egyptian politicians called the Ethiopian dam a threat to national security; the Egyptian Foreign Minister swore that his country wouldn’t give up “a single drop of water.”

There is little chance that Egyptian posturing could lead to actual armed conflict, but this international tug of war is an interesting demonstration of the fact that even the Muslim Brotherhood understands Islamism is not enough to maintain public support in the face of a decaying economy. The Brotherhood would like to divert Egyptian eyes from the economic wreckage all around them, and a nice Ethiopian threat to the Nile can work wonders.

But this is a nationalist issue, not a religious one (although Ethiopia’s traditional Christian identity certainly doesn’t hurt the Brotherhood’s cause). As with Egypt’s other thorny economic and political problems these days, the dam issue brings up an important question: where does the Arab world go when Islamism fails? Liberal nationalism and socialist nationalism have both failed the Arabs. What comes next?

[Image of the Nile in Cairo courtesy of Wikimedia]

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  • Pete

    You know, it is one thing that the Arab countries combined cannot effectively deal with Israel, a modern state, fully supported by the U.S.

    But if Egypt, the largest and most prominent country in the Arab, world cannot deal with a backward basket-case like Ethiopia, the shame will be intolerable.

  • Corlyss

    The first modern water war?

  • wigwag

    “What comes next” (Walter Russell Mead)

    My guess would be complete collapse in Somalia-like fashion.

    • Corlyss

      Don’t bet on it with the Chinese there. When they became interested in Sri Lanka, they buttressed the government forces to dispatch the Tamils in short order, to the loud horrified wails of the UN, under whose aegis the miserable generation-long war would have gone on for another generation at least.

      • wigwag

        Good point

  • oogabooga

    What does Mead mean by “liberal nationalism”, when did the Arab world have it, and why did it fail? This is a genuine question, not a criticism.

  • Anthony

    “Where does the Arab world go when Islamism fails? Liberal nationalism and socialist nationalism have both failed the Arabs.” WRM, its not solely religion or region that constrains but historical political and economic institutions (inclusive or extractive) and neither Ethiopia nor Egypt (despite China’s efforts) will look different long term dam or no.

  • Corlyss

    Did anyone catch the Egyptian officials open mike comment that Ethiopia was not the enemy, the US and Israel were.

  • ljgude

    To continue Corlyss’s earlier point – the Chinese are certainly very actively pursuing a colonialist policy in Africa and have been for some time. The negative side of colonialism has been so emphasized in the West that we seldom see it can have a stabilizing effect. I’ve seen Zimbabwe up close and personal and Mugabe has destroyed his country and gone into debt to do it. To guess who? That’s right, the Chinese. Arabs are different than Black Africans, but there is a state worse than suffocating colonialism and that is total breakdown. I’m not advocating colonialism but if Chinese colonial interests dictate that they stop the Egyptians and Ethiopians from slaughtering each other that’s fine with me.

  • solomon

    bunch of idiots are commenting here. get a life

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