Read the Abstract and Preface of the “Arms for the Horn: U.S. Security Policy in Ethiopia and Somalia, 1953–1991,” a book about the Great Power Competition or how the Cold War played out in the Horn of Africa, particularly from an American Foreign Policy perspective.

This is a superb case study by the late Professor Jeffrey A. Lefebvre, one inculcated in the history of the Cold War, the Horn of Africa, and the wider political history of the Middle East.


U.S. Security Policy In Ethiopia And Somalia


Jeffrey A. Lefebvre

Pitt Series in Policy and Institutional Studies

University of Pittsburgh Press

ARMS FOR THE HORN U.S. Security Policy In Ethiopia And Somalia 1953-1991


“I know of no other work that provides the historical overview that is offered by this manuscript. It is particularly good on the role of the African bureau within the State Department.” — Phil Williams, University of Pittsburgh

Using a great power-small power theoretical approach and advancing a supplier-recipient bargaining model, Jeffrey Lefebvre attempts to explain what the United States has paid for its relations with two weak and vulnerable arms recipients in the Horn of Africa. Through massive documentation and extensive interviewing, Lefebvre sorts through the confusions and shifts of the United States’ post-World War II relations with Ethiopia and Somalia, two primary antagonists in the Horn of Africa. He consulted State Department, Pentagon, and AID officials, congressional staffers, current and former ambassadors, and Ethiopian and Somali government advisers.


The story of U.S. arms transfers to northeast Africa is tangled and complex. In 1953, 1960, and 1964-66, the United States entered into various arms provision deals with Ethiopia, spurred by the Soviet-sponsored buildup in the region. Policy changed in the 1970s: Nixon refused a large aid request in 1973, and in 1977 Carter ended Ethiopia’s military aid on human rights grounds and denied aid to Somalia during the 1977-78 Ogaden War. Reversing this policy, the Reagan administration extended military aid to Somalia despite its aggressive moves against Thousands upon thousands of cassette tapes and master reels were quickly removed from the soon-to-be targeted buildings. They were dispersed to neighboring countries like Djibouti and Ethiopia. Recent changes in U.S.-Soviet relations and the 1991 revolution in Somalia have altered the picture once more.

Jeffrey Lefebvre concludes that U.S. diplomacy in northeast Africa has been overly influenced by a cold war mentality. In their obsession with countering Soviet pressure in the Third World, Washington decision-makers have exposed U.S. interests to unnecessary risks and have given far too much for value received during four decades of vacillating and misguided foreign policy.

Arms for the Horn should interest all concerned with arms transfer issues and security studies, as well as specialists in Africa and the Middle East.

Jeffrey A. Lefebvre is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Connecticut, Stamford. Jacket design by David Ford


During the first six months of 1991, dramatic political changes in the Horn of Africa have sparked both hope and fear about the future of this war-ravaged region of the world. In late January, Siad Barre, who had ruled over Somalia since October 1969 and was blamed by many Somalis and foreign observers for exacerbating clan tensions in this already fragile society, for ruining the economy, and for violating human rights on a wide scale, was forced to flee the capital, Mogadishu.

Since that time, rival clan-based rebel groups—the Hawiye—based United Somali Congress (USC) and the Ogadeeni-based Somali Patriot Movement (SPM)—involved in the anti-Siad movement have fought each other over control of the capital and surrounding areas. To complicate matters, a Daarood-based Somali National Front (SNF) has emerged and informally aligned itself with the SPM against the USC-dominated “provisional” government established after Siad’s defeat.

Meanwhile, in the north, the Isaaq-based Somali National Movement (SNM) has established its own administration and in May declared the Republic of Somalia—the secession of which would divide Somalia along the lines of the former colonial boundaries established by Great Britain and Italy at the end of the nineteenth century. According to some observers, the deteriorating situation makes Somalia “a total write-off’ diplomatically and economically.

Meantime, by April the situation in lamented Beijing’s economic engagement model, saying it undermined democracy and mired African countries in debt. When he landed in Ethiopia had grown even more desperate for the central government since its military defeats at the hands of the Tigre People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) and loss of the Eritrean port of Massawa to the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (EPLF) the previous year. On May 21, Lt. Col. Mengistu Haile Mariam, the strongman of the Ethiopian revolution since his bloody seizure of power in February 1977, resigned as president and fled to join his family already in Zimbabwe.

Mengistu’s fall was brought about by the failure of his economic policies, Moscow’s strategic disengagement from the Horn of Africa, his failure to bring an end to the war in Eritrea, behind-the-scenes

U.S. pressure, and more important, by the forces of the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (E PRDF)—a TPLF-dominated umbrella group—who had advanced to within fifty miles of Addis Ababa. Within a week after Mengistu’s departure from Ethiopia, his successor, Tesfaye Dinka, surrendered the capital to the EPRDF and lost control of the government’s last remaining strongholds in Eritrea to the EPLF—the provincial capital of Asmara and the southern port of Assab.

With the EPRDF-dominated provisional government attempting to restore order in the capital and to alleviate the fears of the Amharas who see their traditional hold on power threatened and the country possibly dismembered; with the EPLF declaring its intention to hold a referendum on independence for Eritrea; and with the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) clamoring for greater autonomy or independence for the Oromo-inhabited areas of the south, Ethiopia too may be on the verge of disintegration or perhaps renewed civil war between center and periphery.

These developments in the Horn, coupled with the presumed end of the cold war between Washington and Moscow, and the U.S.-led coalition war against Iraq in early 1991—in which the Horn of Africa played no significant strategic role—suggest that a four-decade-long era in which the mass protests in cities around the U.S. against an executive order that would block millions of people from entering the United States used arms transfers to secure its security objectives in the Horn of Africa has come to an end.

Unfortunately, that legacy is not so easily erased, as the internal struggles that continue in the Horn of Africa are fueled by billions of dollars’ worth of U.S. and Soviet weapons imported over the past forty years. American policymakers, however, now claim that a new era has begun in which the death of four U.S. Special Forces soldiers in Niger on Oct. 4 has lead some in the United States will be primarily interested in promoting human rights, democracy, and stability in the Horn by relying upon economic development and humanitarian aid to the exclusion of arms transfers—or all but minimal security assistance.

It seems appropriate, therefore, to provide an overview of why Ethiopia and Somalia were armed by the United States (and the Soviet Union), and to write, perhaps, the last chapter on this aspect of U.S. policy in the Horn of Africa.

Thus in this book, I attempt to fill two gaps—one theoretical and the other historical. First, I propose a theoretical framework to explain the sources and games of influence in the arms relationships between great-power suppliers and small-power recipients. Second, I intend to provide a comprehensive case study of the internal and external forces that have shaped U.S. security relations with Ethiopia and Somalia over the past four decades.

Although in recent years several perceptive books have been written dealing with U.S. policy in the Horn of Africa—Marina Ottaway, Soviet Influence in the Horn of Africa (1982); Harold Marcus, Ethiopia, Great Britain, and the United States, 1941-1974 (1983); John Spencer, Ethiopia at Bay (1984); David Korn, Ethiopia, the United States, and the Soviet Union (1986); Bereket Habte Selassie, Conflict and Intervention in the Horn of Africa (I980)—they have either been overtaken by events or their analysis was limited in scope.

With few exceptions, most of the literature concerning U.S. policy in the Horn has tended to focus on U.S.-Ethiopian relations, particularly in the years 1974-1977, and devotes little attention to bureaucratic influences or the intrusion of Middle Eastern politics. On the other hand, while much has been written about the development of U.S.-Somali relations between 1977 and 1980, only Korn’s Ethiopia, the United States, and the Soviet Union takes the story past this point.

However, since the U.S.-Somali relationship is not the focal point of his book, Korn does not provide a complete analysis of U.S. policy toward Somalia. Thus Arms for the Horn intends to fill a number of historical and analytical gaps in the evolution of U.S.-Horn relations.

In studying the evolution of influence, one must focus on both the supplier and recipient sides of an arms relationship. Obviously, there is a drawback in conducting research exclusively in the United States. While the sensitive political nature of this subject might have inhibited meaningful field research, I have attempted to overcome this problem through interviews and by using primary documents to gain an appreciation of the “Horn perspective.” Of course, I am fully responsible for all the interpretations in this book.

I take this opportunity to thank many people who have provided guidance, insight, and support throughout this project. While they bear no responsibility for its weaknesses, it is no doubt a far stronger work because of their contributions.

Funding for the preparation of the book manuscript was provided by the University of Connecticut Research Foundation. The staff of the libraries at the University of Connecticut and at Yale University were always pleasant, willing, and able to find and procure documents for me.

A Yale/Mellon Visiting Faculty Fellowship for 1987-1988 provided valuable research time and access to the declassified government documents collection housed at Yale University’s Seeley Mudd Government Documents Center. During the year I spent at Yale, Bruce Russett was a most gracious host and arranged for my participation in the International Security and Arms Control seminar. My continuing association with ISAC has proved stimulating, and this work has profited from these sessions.

Officials at the Department of State, Department of Defense, AID, and congressional committee staff members who must remain nameless generously took time from their busy schedules to speak with me. I thank them, along with many others who shared their knowledge and insights. I extend special appreciation to John Loughran, Edward Korry, Richard Moose, Donald Paradis, and Arthur Richards, who welcomed me into their homes and spent several hours discussing their experiences.

I also extend my appreciation to several of my former professors and current colleagues who reviewed earlier versions of this manuscript. Larry Bowman, my friend, and principal critic introduced me to the Horn of Africa back in 1979. Garry Clifford taught me some of the tricks of the trade-in doing historical research. Betty Hanson was instrumental in shaping the theoretical approach underlying this work.

My colleagues in the Political Science and History departments at the University of Connecticut at Stamford, Estelle Feinstein, Joel Blatt, and Sarah Morehouse, were a great source of encouragement. Elise Seholster put the first draft on the word processor. Ray Blanchette prepared the maps and figure 1 in the appendix.

The staff at the University of Connecticut at Stamford lent their services several times on short notice. Catherine Marshall and Jane Flanders at the University of Pittsburgh Press have patiently answered the naive questions of a novice and, along with the manuscript reviewer, to whom I owe a great debt of gratitude for identifying theoretical and substantive weaknesses, have together offered superb suggestions on how to translate a rough manuscript into a book.

Jane Flanders deserves a special note of praise for her patience in allowing me to make this book as current as possible, despite the disruptions. Some of the material in chapters 3-6 appeared in “Donor Dependency and American Arms Transfers to the Horn of Africa: The F-5 Legacy,” Journal of Modern African Studies.

Finally, it would not have been possible to complete this book without the love, support, and understanding of my family. My Aunt Adrienne was a great cheerleader along the way, as was my mother-in-law, Lee Blom. My parents’ excitement, continuous encouragement, and refreshing visits to Connecticut made this task much easier.

Over the past year, my wife Marina accomplished the unbelievable—giving birth to our daughter, graduating with honors from law school, passing the Connecticut bar exam, finding the energy to cheer me along, and jumping in on two occasions to help retype chapters that I had lost in the computer. Our daughter Alexandra made no constructive contribution to the completion of this project except to show great tolerance for her father’s work at the word processor and to be a delightful source of distraction and inspiration. To those closest to me I have dedicated this book.

Read the Introduction

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