Everything's Sunny in Somalia

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The LA Times' Edmund Sanders has a bleak report from inside Mogadishu, finding that a plan to get rebels to turn in their guns to the Ethiopia-backed government is going nowhere.

At one designated weapons drop-off point in the Somalian capital, bored-looking Ethiopian soldiers milled about with little to do. A second collection site, nestled on a bluff overlooking the Indian Ocean, closed early because "no one showed up," a Somalian government soldier said.

… if Tuesday's turnout was any indication, the government is facing a steep challenge to persuade Mogadishu residents to part with their weapons. The campaign is reigniting long-standing clan rivalries and distrust, which are certain to play a big part in the nation's turnaround.

Neoconservatives and their fellow travellers would argue that this doesn't matter; as Ralph Peters wrote, "Will the Islamic Courts Movement resort to terror and guerrilla operations? You bet. But trust me: They would've preferred to stay in power." But it depends on your view of the problem in Somalia. Did the presence of an Islamic government create, as Peters argues, a safe haven for al Qaeda that we've now smoked out? Or does the scattering of the rebels across the country present a long-term, maybe insurmountable challenge for the West? The victory cheers you're hearing about Somalia don't sound too different than what you heard about Iraq in 2003.

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  1. “Did the presence of an Islamic government create, as Peters argues, a safe haven for al Qaeda that we’ve now smoked out? Or does the scattering of the rebels across the country present a long-term, maybe insurmountable challenge for the West?”

    Are you saying the sollution then is to let the Islamists just stay in power? That doesn’t sound very good to me. The Islamists are determined enemy. Life is hard when you enemy won’t quit. Whether it be in Somalia, Aghanistan, or the Phillipines or whereever, the forces of civilization are going to be fighting these assholes for a very long time. I don’t see short term sollution to it. But any sollution is better than surrender.

  2. Dear John,

    I agree with you! Also, I’m guessing that the “scattering of the rebels” will present a long-term challenge of sorts, maybe, but “insurmountable”? Dave, are you saying that we’ve “lost” the War on Terror? That’s a bit hysterical.

  3. I’ll be first to say it:

    Weigal, quit shilling for the Islamic Courts!

    Now that that’s done….

    John, everything doesn’t have to lead to binary, good/bad solutions. David’s just saying there’s euphoria about Somalia, when the aftermath hasn’t even really set in yet, and no one knows what it’ll lead to. Is stepping back to warlordism in Somalia really in our interest? Is a failed or non-state a bigger threat than a unitary Islamic state? These aren’t questions with easier answers, no matter how much you (and all of us for that matter) wish they were.

  4. “Is stepping back to warlordism in Somalia really in our interest? Is a failed or non-state a bigger threat than a unitary Islamic state?”

    I think a failed state is less of a threat than an Islamic state. Chaos maybe good for planning low level criminal activity but to pull off a big attack you need a place that gives you security and funding that allows for long term planning. You don’t get that with a failed state, you do with state support. Further, I don’t think the alternatives are failed state or Islamic state. There is a third option, which is a non-Islamic state. That is what you want and you won’t get it unless you are willing to risk a failed state by kicking the Islamists out.

    I won’t pretend to know what goes through Weigal’s mind. I think a lot of his posts on the Islamic threat have a wierd vibe to them. Maybe he is right and that throwing the Islamists out will be a bad thing in the long term but it almost reads like he considers that a good thing. I sometimes get the feeling that Weigal would like to see the Islamists win just so he can say I told you so. I wish Weigal would just come out and say what sollution he thinks might work rather than just saying how everything anyone does anywhere to combat radical Islam is a failure.

  5. John – All I’m saying is that the experiences we’ve had in Iraq in Afghanistan have shown the folly of declaring victory in Somalia. We don’t know yet what effect ousting the weak Islamic Courts government will have on terrorism. We really don’t.

  6. What’s not particularly clear to me is why Ethiopia wanted to “help out” the cause of secularism in Somalia. This is not a government that is known for it’s altruism towards foreigners. My only guesses are that they are either concerned about the ICU emboldening pro-Sharia Ethiopian groups or they really do have designs on making southern Somalia a vassal state with sea ports.

    If it was the latter, there’s no better way to keep the larger powers out of it than to whack their common enemy. That could also explain why Ethiopia waited until the old Somali government was almost completely wiped out before they swept in. They let the ICU eliminate the independent warlords near the Puntland border and Jubaland and Hinaan, and almost complete subjugate what was left of Somaliland and Somalia.

    Anyway, I haven’t read anything to suggest that the ICU was even as bad as Iran when it came to oppression, that they were welcoming at all to Al Qaeda and the like, nor even that Ethiopia isn’t possibly worse. I’ll admit that that is overwhelmingly a function of my ignorance, but none of the journalists seem to be much better informed.

    Regarding the failure of the disarmament, three reasons seem to make it an enormous “duh” failure:
    – self-protection in a time of chaos
    – guns are worth years of income on the market
    – Somalis *hate* the Ethiopians

  7. “Regarding the failure of the disarmament, three reasons seem to make it an enormous “duh” failure:
    – self-protection in a time of chaos
    – guns are worth years of income on the market
    – Somalis *hate* the Ethiopians”

    Disarmament never works. At best it has no effect, at worst it disarms the innocent to be preyed on by the powerful.

  8. (Correction, Somaliland was never threatened by the ICU.)

    I’ll stick my neck out. I’ll predict that the defeat of the ICU will lead to either or both:
    – a bloody, oppressive Ethiopian occupation that makes the ICU rule pale, by all standards
    – a resurgence of the ICU only more fundamentalist and violent and less tolerant

    The best scenarios that I hope for:

    – a bloodless Ethiopian annexation of southern Somalia, leaving Puntland and Somaliland as independent nations.
    – integration of the old ICU elite into a new government that becomes a constitutional republic with a heavily Sharia-influenced constitution

  9. Who is this “we” who is victorious in Somalia, last I checked “we” didn’t have anything to do with it, ethiopians and somalis did. Or is Weigel an ethiopian name?
    And if someone, who is not us, has to fight a protracted war in the horn of africa, so what? It is not as if the protracted wars that have been going on there for the previous few decades have had any negative impact on us, save subjecting us to a bunch of Sally Struthers commercials.

  10. “It is not as if the protracted wars that have been going on there for the previous few decades have had any negative impact on us, save subjecting us to a bunch of Sally Struthers commercials.”

    omg. hilarious.

    That’s it: the “Meletary (sic) lawyer pulled a groin on the first routine on his “Struthersize Your Way to Buns of Steel” (on Betamax).

    Looks like he’ll have to resort to spelling lessons for his new year’s risolution (sic).

    Our loss. I’d be he’d be cute as a button in his Kaiser Bismarck outfit!

  11. “What’s not particularly clear to me is why Ethiopia wanted to “help out” the cause of secularism in Somalia.”

    The Islamist Court declared war on and attacked Ethiopia. Ethiopia isn’t “helping out” they are defending themselves.

  12. VM!

    do i need to link you to the donald duck classic “der fuehrer’s face”?

  13. For those of you who want to know more about what has been and is happening in Somalia, I would suggest Strategypage.com, and click on “Somalia”. They have been following events there for some time. David is right that it is probably early to be celebrating, but I think he is wrong to impliedly suggest that we might be better off with the ICU in power, for the reasons John has set forth.

  14. To clarify, once you are at the main page, click on “Wars” at the top, then go to “sub-saharan africa” and click on “Somalia”. Happy reading!

  15. GAH,

    I think that Ethiopia fortified non-ICU Somalia before they got on the ICU hit list. The questions remain: Why did they get involved in the first place? Why did they invade when they still weren’t legitimately threatened by the ICU? “Technicals” really proved to be no match for even shitty tanks.

    Ethiopia’s motives may have been purely ethical causal national defense. It just seems like a stretch.

  16. Translation of this post: Islamists are invincible. We cannot stop them. And I, for one, welcome our new Koran-quoting overlords….

  17. There is a small matter of Eritrea. It has been fighting a small-scale war with Ethiopia and has been supporting the ICU. This appears to at least be partly a proxy action.

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