Friday, January 12, 2007

Somalia: Back to the basics of statehood

What next for Somalia? As this piece notes, when you are at the bottom, anything looks like an improvement:
Nearly two decades of war have reduced this country of 9 million to chaotic destitution, making it less a failed state than no state at all. (The U.S. State Department lists the country's government type as "none.")
But nailing terrorists is one thing; building a nation where none exists is another. "We are starting from scratch," the head of Somalia's new government, Prime Minister Ali Mohammed Gedi, told me in an interview in Mogadishu. Given Somalia's penchant for clan warfare and inhospitableness toward foreign armies--just go out and rent a copy of Black Hawk Down--it's tempting for Western policymakers to wash their hands and wish Gedi luck. But Somalia's strife has repercussions beyond its borders. The country is victim to the worst ravages of man and nature. Instability there has the potential to engulf the entire Horn of Africa in war, with neighboring countries Ethiopia and Eritrea jockeying for influence and pirates using the lawless coast as a base to launch attacks on the freighter traffic headed for the Suez Canal. Some of the Islamists have vowed a guerrilla war against the new government, which they deride as a puppet of Ethiopia and the U.S. On top of all that, a double disaster of summer drought followed by December floods has left more than 500,000 Somalis dependent on foreign aid for their livelihoods.
If the peace can be kept long enogh, the Barnett's SysAdmin forces need to move in. If...

Why try to fix Somalia? It might be argued that Somalia is a "broken window" on the world scene and that fixing it will help the whole neighborhood get better. Others will argue that there is no compelling U.S. interest in the area to justify the expenditure of any time, treasure or personnel to help the broken state...The underlying question is "who benefits" from the status quo and its future. And who will benefit if Prime Minister Gedi can make his effort work...

Time to choose between clans and chaos or nationhood and realtive peace.

UPDATE: UN Security Council is concerned.

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