Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Stop Dreaming of the Quiet Life, Cause It's the One You'll Never Know

Andrew McGregor has another informative piece, with updates on the ongoing conflict in Somalia. The entire article is well worth the read, and concise enough to invite consumption. Here are some excerpts that track with the themes that I have been focusing on with respect to my ongoing discussion.

First, the familiar use of the terrorism bogeyman to induce the US to provide money, arms and tactical support for otherwise unsavory characters (a pattern that is usually accompanied by subsequent blowback):
For external consumption, Somalia's new Transitional Federal Government (TFG) describes the Somali conflict as a struggle against international terrorism; in reality, much of the fighting is due to historic animosity between some of Somalia's largest clans. In Mogadishu, the Darod-dominated TFG is engaged in a running battle against the Hawiye clan, which were the largest backers of the Islamic Courts Union (ICU), the Islamist government expelled from power by last December's Ethiopian invasion.
Not only have we inserted ourselves in the middle clan-based fighting in Somalia under a dubious anti-terrorism rationale, but we have aligned ourselves with a despotic-leaning Ethiopian regime that has divergent ulterior motives:
The Ethiopian army is preparing new operations against ethnic Somali rebels and their Oromo allies in the Ogaden region, where oil exploration efforts are already underway (Terrorism Focus, June 5). Zenawi describes these groups as tools of the Eritreans in their efforts to destabilize the Ethiopian regime. In response to retaliatory strikes on ethnic Somalis in the Ogaden, the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) has promised to "become more vicious" in its attacks. There is always the possibility that Ethiopia may decide the best way to keep a lid on the resistance is to continue occupying Somalia until the Ogaden and its natural resources are secured, but Ethiopian troops targeted daily by roadside bombs and grenade attacks will have little appetite to stay put.
It's not just Ogaden - and its oil. Ethiopia prefers a weak and divided Somalia for other reasons as well. So enlisting Ethiopia's support to bring peace and stability to Somalia seems like a foolish choice. Even if we don't comprehend the folly, the Somalis do:
The U.S. hunt for largely inactive al-Qaeda suspects in Somalia is proceeding at great risk to its reputation in the area. Its open alliance with Ethiopia and support for the Ethiopian occupation force have created an atmosphere of mistrust in fiercely independent Somalia. Despite enormous material and political costs, not one of the three foreign al-Qaeda suspects alleged to be taking refuge in Somalia (and wanted by Washington for their roles in the 1998 embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania) has been killed or captured.
Let's look at the scorecard regarding this foreign policy endeavor, so far:

Low-to-non-existent benefits in terms of neutralizing known al-Qaeda operatives, while radicalizing the region and increasing support for al-Qaeda locally. Increased instability and violence. Increases in deaths, refugees and human suffering. Our overt support for anti-democratic and belligerent elements. Sharp upswing in anti-Americanism and radicalism.

I believe this is what the Bush administration terms: Mission Accomplished.

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