In Ethiopia We Trust


The Ethiopia-aided war in Somalia, last noted on H&R by Brian Doherty, may be grinding to its conclusion.

Just hours after the Islamist forces abandoned Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia, militias loyal to the transitional government seized the city today in a stunning reversal of fortunes.

According to residents, troops from the transitional government, along with Ethiopian soldiers who had been backing them up, poured into the capital from the outskirts of the city while militiamen within Mogadishu occupied key positions, like the port, airport and dilapidated presidential palace.

"The government has taken over Mogadishu," a transitional government leader, Jama Fuuruh, told Reuters by telephone from Mogadishu's port.

The turnaround has been welcomed by many pundits (especially the hawkish ones) with a cheer like a hungry Journey audience cheering the first piano chords of "Don't Stop Believing." Cliff May is mighty pleased at the Ethiopians and their big brass balls:

[T]the Ethiopians are not overly concerned about whether their tactics will win approval from the proverbial Arab Street – or the European Street or Turtle Bay. They are fighting a war; their intention is to defeat their enemies; everything else is secondary or tertiary.

Say, this "invade with overwhelming force and don't sweat the occupation" business is great! I keep peering into these binoculars I got from an soldier who's about to join the Iraqi "surge," but all I can see is blue skies smiling at me.

The Washington Times actually has a sober take: "The challenge for U.S. policy-makers is to find a formula for the withdrawal of Ethiopian forces while ensuring that al Qaeda allies do not overrun the entire country." And Matthew Yglesias and Spencer Ackerman activate their Wonder Twin powers to deduce just, uh, who was threatening the world from Mogadishu, anyway.

There are Somali groups who've carried out attacks against Ethiopia. And (emphasis added) "some elements associated with the former AIAI are sympathetic to al-Qaida and maintained ties with it, and may continue to pose a threat to U.S. and Western interests in the region.

Now ask yourself how many Somali Islamists are going to sympathize with al-Qaeda once US-backed Ethiopian forces have shattered the closest thing to an effective government that country has had since 1991.

And if you want more Somaliantary (Somalia + commentary) but written words frighten and confuse you, get thee to Bob Wright and Mickey Kaus over at bloggingheads.

NEXT: Who Owns Your Organs?

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. 1. Um, hooray?

    2. Leaving Somalia without an effective government is not a foregone conclustion – like the U.S. in Afghanistan (and unlike the U.S. in Iraq), the Ethiopians went in in support of, and fighting side-by-side with, a local force with a legitimate claim on governmental authority.

    3. Cliffort May is an idiot, who should learn to read the date on an email. Ethiopia isn’t engaged in a global strategy that involves cooperating with European governments and decent-minded Arabs throughout the greater Middle East in a fight against international jihadism. You mean a nation engaged in a localized fight with an immediate neighbor often has greater lattitude to ignore geopolitics than one engaged in a global struggle across dozens of nations, alongside numberous allies? Gee, who woulda thunk it!

  2. I’m highly amused by the number of people who think that Ethiopian forces reaching Mogadishu represents a “victory” or that it offers some sort of strategic lesson. The Ethiopians had AFVs and air support against light infantry without significant anti-armor or anti-aircraft weapons — of course they could reach the capital! The question is what is going to happen over the next several months. Yes, a lot of Somalis didn’t like the Islamists, but there’s no particular love between Somalis and Ethiopians either (the countries have fought a continuous low-level war over the Ogaden border region for decades). “Victory” will be if the Ethiopians are actually able to police the country in a manner that doesn’t alienate the local population long enough for the new government (which has virtually no popular support either) to become functional.

  3. Jack,

    If the Ethiopians have to police the country for longer than a week, they’ve lost. They’ve routed the Islamists and restored what passes for a decent, popular government in that part of the world. They’ve achieved all that they can achieve.

    They need to get out, hope it takes, and be ready to do it again later if need be.

  4. Yay, Mission Accomplished!

  5. Hm. Can Al qaeda fight a two front war?

  6. TPG,

    Al Qaeda seems to be smart enough to pack it in when things go bad in one place, and more on to greener pastures.

  7. As long as U.S. forces aren’t involved, I couldn’t give a shit.

  8. “Now ask yourself how many Somali Islamists are going to sympathize with al-Qaeda once US-backed Ethiopian forces have shattered the closest thing to an effective government that country has had since 1991.”

    Guess overthrowing the Taliban was a bad idea considering it was the only “effective” government Afghanistan had in decades.

    And as to whether the Islamists in Somalia were dangerous… like the Taliban, in of themselves, they were not a direct threat to US interests. As we all know, it was the harboring of other people which proved to be an emormous threat to the US homeland, causing the bloodiest day on US soil since Antitem. Perhaps they weren’t in the same league as the Taliban, but the Islamist government in Somalia was at the very least harboring individuals involved in the Al Qaeda organized embassy bombing.

    So I’m willing to accept whatever chaos results from Ethiopia’s invasion (admittedly not having to live in Somalia makes this easy for me to say), much the same as many of us would be more willing to accept the chaos in Iraq had it had the same connections to Al Qaeda as did the Somalia Islamists.

  9. It’s like Detroit conquering Gary, Indiana. Why bother?

  10. Brian,

    You mean they’re small, poor, isolated, militarily insignificant countries?

    Like Afghanistan?

  11. If the basically self-appointed “transitional government” had any real support, they would have ousted the Islamic Courts Faction themselves. It’s simple enough…no one was getting overt aid, both sides were getting covert aid, and the fundamentalists had the advantage of marginal competence and some discretion in its corruption, which the transitional government does not share.

    Therefore, the Ethiopians will have to continue to back them. Somalia is now an Ethiopian client and, since Ethiopia is an American client, this is seen as a good thing. But the Islamic militia did not leave the country or disband. They abandoned fixed positions in the face of overwhelming firepower, which is only common sense. Spinning it as “game over” is, well…very Bush-like.

    And they have friends beyond like-minded Islamicists. The Eritreans will back them against their traditional enemy Ethiopia, even though Eritrea has its own troubles with Islamic insurgents backed by the Sudan. Or maybe precisely BECAUSE they have their own troubles with Islamic insurgents backed by the Sudan. Sometimes you make friends by discovering a common enemy.

  12. Some scary words being used on this issue…

    “Over thousand Ethiopian troops accompanied by military vehicles slowly moved in to the Somali capital Mogadishu on Thursday. Hundreds of Mogadishu residents could be seen clapping and handing wreath to the Ethiopian troops.”

    “Prime Minister Males Zenawi, who held a press conference in Addis Ababa, said the Ethiopian troops entered Mogadishu. He said the Islamist radicals who are on the run will not be allowed to escape. “We are working with the international community that the radicals should not escape by sea or land”, he said.”

    “He indicated the Ethiopian troops would be withdrawn from Somalia when the Ethiopian government becomes able to handle its security and problems in the country.”

  13. No way this will turn into a larger conflict?

    “Eritrea and Ethiopia have the biggest armies in Sub-Saharan Africa.

    The data, contained in the latest UNDP Human Development Report, are raising more concerns about the situation in the Horn of Africa.

    Both countries have troops in Somalia, fighting on opposite sides.

    Both in percentage and in numbers, Eritrea tops the list. Of a population of 4.2 million, 202,000 are in the armed forces. One in every 20 Eritreans is a soldier.

    Ethiopia holds the second position. It has an army of 183,000 for a population of 75 million.”

  14. Some Somalis have attacked Ethiopia. This is an argument against Ethiopian involvement? Some Somalis, encouraged by their government (which declared a Jihad against Ethiopia) commit an act of war against Ethiopia and Ethiopia is supposed to sit and take it? Wait for some attacks to become many? Wait fr something really big? And of course Mrs. Yglesias and Ackerman seem to believe that no war is justified if it’s going to upset the people on one end of it? In other words, we can never go to wart, ever, against anyone. Perhaps these two should have travelled to Mogadishu (Waziristan, Gaza, London, etc…) to convince the Islamist about it. The poor fools don’t seem to realize that every time they attack (I mean defend themselves against Western agression) they’re just alienating more and more people over here.

  15. “And of course Mrs. Yglesias and Ackerman seem to believe that no war is justified if it’s going to upset the people on one end of it?”

    Matthew Yglesias supported both the Afghan War and, initially, the Iraq War.

    Maybe there’s some other reasoninig buried in there somewhere you could tease out?

    Cripes, I don’t even agree with them, w e, but the invocation of the same reality-challenged “supine pacifist” strawman that’s been thrown around since 2001 sure makes me want to agree with them.

    BTW, it’s “Messers.” Not “Mrs.”

  16. Wait, my bad. I was thinking of Joshua Marshall from TPM. HE supported the Iraq War initially, not Yglesias.

  17. Several Posters and even columnist Brian seem to miss the point of Somalia–the people in Somalia
    deliberately chose NOT to have a western style government in 1991. That is the only “popular” government choice that should be considered. The Somalis are not looking for a “stable” or “nice” government, they are looking to be left alone by the UN and US and now Ethiopia so that they can
    have their own, traditional African way of life. Their decision to NOT have a government was a conscious choice, not a failure due to
    greedy warlords or despite the best intentions of the UN or anyone else…

    IF left alone, the Islamic Courts would be just one judicial system operating withing the country that probably would NOT achieve a majority status, as the more moderate African XEER law system is more universally appreciated over Sharia law.

    AS for the warlords, if they were not kept alive by US funding, and if the UN would stop trying to establish a “government” and allow Somalia to follow its path as a non-Westphalian
    “stateless nation” they warlords would eventually die out.

  18. Cf. On The Steppes of Central Asia by “Matt Stone” (Richard Fuerle).

  19. OK, libertree, how do we get Al Qaeda to leave them alone?

  20. i thought mssrs went out with… well the depression i guess. i grant that mrs was a poor choice, but there’s got to be some better term…. mr’s?

  21. ok, i’ll make a more substantive response to joe, too. I don’t know what mr’s ackerman and yglesias believed or said about either the iraq war or the afghan or any other. I just know what they said here and it was ridiculous. maybe they did have a substantive practical point about how practically, the ethiopian invasion was a bad idea, but what they said here was silly. and dangerous.

  22. This is a glorious victory for freedom over tryanny. Reports just coming out of Somalia today of the atrocities committed by the Taliban-style regime before the liberation are horroifying. Death camps, tortures in the public squares, they even put to death two Somalis for the crime of owning a video store.

    It’s such a shame that so many of my fellow libertarians care only for freedom here in the United States and turn a blind eye for freedom for those overseas.

    Good job United States of America in helping to assist the Somali liberators. Good job George W. Bush! This is one proud libertarian who appreciates your efforts, and recognizes that you are far more libertarian in many respects than some of the self-proclaimed libertarians themselves.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.