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December 28, 2006

Comments

Conceding that Trevino is better informed and probably right on the facts (yet, mysteriously, still disagreeing "with the general thrust of [Trevino's] commentary")

How does agreeing on general facts yet disagree on the wisdom become mysterious?

When, exactly, did our rather tepid support for Ethiopia's takedown of Somalia's increasingly dangerous and reviled Islamist government become transmuted into "helping Ethiopia do whatever it wants"

This isn't even remotely what he said.

It takes an efort of wil to believe that Trevio might be right about someting, but may be he is.

I think the tail wags the dog fear that MI invokes is real in general, but might not apply in this case. There are lots of examples of the US using proxies to achieve goals that turn out to be different than the ones intended. Backing the Taliban all those years ago is a notable example. However lessons learned can be overlearned and misapplied.

I know very little about Somalia. I have the vague idea that much of the support for the Islamists comes from the failure of the not-Islamists to govern with any effectiveness. I thought people were turning to the Islamists for protectionn from government violence and corruption. Am I wrong?

This isn't even remotely what he said.

Did Yglesias not write that our tepid support for Ethiopia's campaign against Somalia "accomplishes little for the United States unless American interests in the Horn are simply defined as helping Ethiopia do whatever it wants, which is precisely the tail-wags-dog scenario that worries me"? (Emphasis mine.) And is that not a stunningly foolish comment, given the demonstrable facts regarding all the good that it does for American interests that have nothing to do wityh "helping Ethiopia do whatever it wants"?

Also....

Maybe I've missed something, but it seems that Ethiopia is pursuing a course that is the best interests of it, the Somalis, the United States, the rule of law, and the world community.

....you might want to hold off on the rosy assessments. It only been, what, a week since the invasion. Come back in a year and see what's happening on the ground then.

I probably will never understand why it would have been right to support the Ethiopian government in 2001 or 2002-- just not today.

Because in 2001-2 the U.S.'s moral authority hadn't decayed to a dangerous degree that might have allowed freedom of action to do this, says the commenter. Was clear to me.

They run the gamut from nakedly ad hominem ("Trevino is a genocidal bigot, with a brain, mutant moralism, and connections that make him more reprehensible and dangerous than the Steyns and Hewitts")

Hey! No bashing bob mcmanus, I'm getting him for cheap.

The ordinary levers of power and military and diplomacy were not magically altered

maybe not. but these days, the people on the local ends of those levers are spectacularly bad at using them.

Yet, Trevino happens to know something about this -- and he happens to be right. Waving one's hands while incanting "the Iraq War" won't change that.

a person only gets to be wrong a certain number of times before the rest of us are relieved of taking seriously anything he/she says after that. call it the marketplace of ideas. Trevino's been selling rotten apples for years. you'll understand if some of us don't want to try his kumquats.

Because in 2001-2 the U.S.'s moral authority hadn't decayed to a dangerous degree that might have allowed freedom of action to do this, says the commenter. Was clear to me.

What does the US's moral authority have to do with anything? Ethiopia also has the backing of the African Union and at least the nominal support of the UN.

Did Yglesias not write that our tepid support for Ethiopia's campaign against Somalia "accomplishes little for the United States unless American interests in the Horn are simply defined as helping Ethiopia do whatever it wants

Yes, but then you went on to write this meant
helping Ethiopia do whatever it wants", which is a distortion, Yglesia's point being a bit more sophisticated. ie. the United States is allowing the Ethiopian interest to guide it's policy, and they may not correspond precisely, or at all over the long term.

What does the US's moral authority have to do with anything?

Rallying resistance is now much easier and effective. It's not about being "right", it's about being "effective".

You may not agree, but that was the commenter's point, which you said you didn't understand.

At least Trevino acknowledges that Yglesias "is, unlikely [sic] the bulk of his fellows in the leftosphere, neither intrinsically ignorant nor obscene." That was nice of him.

You may not agree, but that was the commenter's point, which you said you didn't understand.

I confess that I still don't understand it. Assume the US has lost moral authority. How does that relate to this circumstance? Are we trying to rally the world to the Ethiopian cause? Put together a multinational force to confront the Somalis? It's not that I disagree; I just don't get it.

(No need to keep on trying, though. Perhaps I'm just dense.)

At least Trevino acknowledges that Yglesias "is, unlikely [sic] the bulk of his fellows in the leftosphere, neither intrinsically ignorant nor obscene." That was nice of him.

FTR: Saying that Trevino is right, here, is not an endorsement on the way he expresses his rightness.

Are we trying to rally the world to the Ethiopian cause?

No, it's more about the effectiveness of those that would rally the world against the Ethiopian cause. And this goes for diplomatic arenas and the battlefield.

They run the gamut from nakedly ad hominem ...

a tactic which Trevino apparently can't go more than a sentence or two without indulging in. my god, did you actually read that rant of his ? he simply cannot make a point without trying some kind of backhanded insult. and of course, he ends with a shot at the patriotism of his political opponents. a real class act.

"Maybe I've missed something, but it seems that Ethiopia is pursuing a course that is the best interests of it, the Somalis, the United States, the rule of law, and the world community."

Matt isn't confident of this position. Your argument (and Trevino's) seems to ignore the many, many things about this course that could make it worse for the Somalis, the United States, the rule of law, and the world community.

Yeah, um, von, you're right and you're not. MY's point, I think, is that when we work through proxies because they're doing one thing that we like, we get stuck with all the unintended consequences and other things that we don't like. That's because the people we support are proxies, not puppets, and they have agendas of their own.

We're in general agreement that stopping this particular Islamist government from taking power is a good thing for America. So if Ethiopia stops that from happening, excellent. But that doesn't occur in a vacuum. What if Ethiopia decides they need to stick around a while to keep law and order, maybe commit a few abuses, maybe take over a little territory. Now we're on the hook for that too, in some sense. We have no effective way to divorce ourselves from the situation when Ethiopia inevitably goes beyond what we're hoping they'll do.

Consider the way we employ Israel as a proxy in the Middle East. They're the good guys, sometimes they do major dirty work for us like taking out Iranian nuclear facilities, that's great. But they have their own agenda, and sometimes they do things we don't particularly agree with that don't help advance our national interest, and all of a sudden it's like "mean old U.S.-Israel axis, look at the terrible thing they did."

I don't think I agree with MY's flat condemnation of proxies - what is the alternative, applying our military directly in every situation? - but his point is valid. From where I sit, though, the problem he identifies often amounts to the lesser of two evils.

Slightly off topic, but not completely so...

Can anyone give me an example of a proxy war that the US has ever been involved in that has, net/net, been beneficial to us?

Thanks -

I don't think I agree with MY's flat condemnation of proxies - what is the alternative, applying our military directly in every situation? - but his point is valid. From where I sit, though, the problem he identifies often amounts to the lesser of two evils.

Yes, there is no free lunch -- in anything -- and it often is a choice between the lesser of two evils. But this is not some theoretical MY's proposal was to support the Islamists so we could negotiate with them. Mine is to support Ethiopia. I still like my side.

Can anyone give me an example of a proxy war that the US has ever been involved in that has, net/net, been beneficial to us?

The War on Christmas?

But this is not some theoretical MY's proposal was to support the Islamists so we could negotiate with them.

Um. What?

I've seen posts where MY suggested negotiating with the Islamists. Nowhere have I seen him advocating that we *support* them. You gotta cite for that?

Also: I guess that lunch Trevino and MY had a few years ago didn't go so well.

Also, the other point Matt is making is that supporting Ethiopia because they're fighting Islamists who can be vaguely (if at all) tied to supporting terrorists is stupid, which in fact it is.

I stopped reading Yglesias some time ago out of a vague exasperation with his endless hair-splitting and intellectual circumlocutions.

As for Trevino, I can't see him committing genocide, and the bigotry is expressed so exquisitely that it seems a mere facile turn of phrase, but there is something about a guy who doesn't stop at calling others "ignorant and obscene", which normal people like me are happy to admit to, but feels the sniffing need to add "intrinsically" to the mix.

Reading Trevino is like opening a dictionary and being bitten by a puff adder.

As for Ethiopia, with three days left in 2006, I'm falling behind on getting up to speed on the last three murderous tragedies in recent times, so I'll try and do a little homework on the issue in the New Year.

"The War on Christmas".

That is funny !

FTR: Saying that Trevino is right, here, is not an endorsement on the way he expresses his rightness.

And yet you wonder why someone would respond to him with an ad hominem?

The War on Christmas?

Jingle Bells delenda est!!

But this is not some theoretical MY's proposal was to support the Islamists so we could negotiate with them. Mine is to support Ethiopia. I still like my side.

I think that's a pretty unfair characterization of MY's position. What he argued is that if the Islamists have control, we can negotiate with them to turn over terrorists. I didn't see where he argued that we should PREFER the Islamists to have control, let alone that we should support them.

All I took MY to say is that supporting a proxy like Ethiopia has a downside and we should be wary of it for that reason. Your post seems to argue that there's no downside, Ethiopia's goals are perfectly consonant with our own, why worry? If all you meant to argue was that supporting Ethiopia is a mixed bag but seems to be our best alternative, I'd probably agree with that.

There's really no dispute that the Ethiopians are the good guys in this scenario...

Whaaa? You mean the same Ethiopia run by a gang of criminal warlords? The same one that is ranked 106th on the Economist's democracy index? The same Ethiopia that arrested nine thousand people for protesting electoral fraud?? The same Ethiopia thar routinely threatens or imprisons human rights activists and journalists? The same Ethiopia whose invasion is being supported by the freedom-loving nation of Saudi Arabia?

How are these the "good guys"?

...pursuing a course that generally aligns with our national interest...

Ah.

Reading Trevino is like opening a dictionary and being bitten by a puff adder.

Shoots, scores. Brilliant.

And what, pray tell, is wrong with a proxy war?

Hmmm. Think about why, if I had a beef with you, it would be wrong for me to hire someone to kill your wife. Does that make it a little clearer?

Yes, there is no free lunch -- in anything -- and it often is a choice between the lesser of two evils.

Can I ask an obvious, perhaps naive, and maybe even stupid question?

Why do we -- the US -- care who prevails in a dust-up between Ethiopia, the nominal government of Somalia, and the Islamist Courts Union who have established de facto rule in the southwest of Somalia?

What is our interest?

How does victory for Ethiopia further that interest?

Why do we need to have a dog in this fight?

I've read Yglesias' posts, as well as Trevino's, as well as von's post and comments here. It remains astoundingly unclear to me what is in this for us, other than an increasing entanglement in situations we do not understand, cannot control, have no natural interest in, and will derive no benefit from.

If anyone has a good answer and has the patience to spell it out for me, I'll appreciate it.

Thanks -

Why do we -- the US -- care who prevails in a dust-up between Ethiopia, the nominal government of Somalia, and the Islamist Courts Union who have established de facto rule in the southwest of Somalia?

The simple answer is that we believe an Islamist government in Somalia would, or would be more likely to, give safe harbor and support to our terrorist enemies like al-Qaeda.

MY is rather skeptical of this belief. For Trevino, it's a given that all Islamist governments fit this profile by definition. But anyway, that's the case in its simplest form.

von:

I've seen posts where MY suggested negotiating with the Islamists. Nowhere have I seen him advocating that we *support* them. You gotta cite for that?

Seconded. Straw man excludes middle.

Meanwhile, since you're having so much trouble understanding this concept as it applies to strange scary people far away, here's the same problem expressed in terms of familiar scary people nearby.

The NYPD and various DAs do not ask the Gambinos to suppress the Genoveses (or vice versa). This is not because the Gambinos would not be more efficient than the police at suppressing the Genoveses (or vice versa). The Genovese problem would indeed go away in short order if the NYPD supported, or even ignored, Gambino efforts to make it go away.

Furthermore, despite the adversarial, indeed openly hostile relationships which prevail between NYPD and both families, there are periodically negotiations between each family and NYPD, as well as between the families.

There are many many reasons why, despite the inefficiency, NYPD does not simply hire one crime family to deal with another. There are also reasons why they sometimes negotiate with the families.

If you can come up with even a few of those reasons by yourself then no further explanation should be needed. If you find even the crime family metaphor inexplicable then your best bet is to keep hollering about how you don't understand. People more patient than I will eventually enumerate dozens of reasons, using simple, carefully constructed declarative sentences.

Reading Trevino is like opening a dictionary and being bitten by a puff adder.

Beautiful and poetic. Bravo, bravissimo!

BBC News reports that Somali warlords are starting to fill the power vacuum left by retreating UIC forces:

Earlier, as the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) withdrew its fighters, Somalia's clan militias began reasserting their presence - raising fears of a return to the clan warfare which racked the city for years before the Islamists brought a measure of security.

The BBC's Mohammed Olad Hassan, in the city, said clan militiamen seized key buildings - like the airport and old presidential palace.

As for a protracted Ethiopian military presence in Somalia:

In Ethiopia, Prime Minister Meles Zenawi said: "Our mission in Somalia is very very limited... we are not there to reconstruct Somalia economically, politically or otherwise. We are there to remove the threat of the Islamic Courts militia on Somalia and Ethiopia."
It is unclear whether forces under command of the Transitional Federal Government can maintain law and order after Ethiopian troops withdraw (nor if the UIC's retreat will soon be followed by a vicious guerilla campaign - and how that would affect the withdrawal of Ethiopian forces). At the very least, the presence of AU and/or UN peacekeepers may be required to prevent a return to anarchy, if not the spread of conflict throughout the Horn of Africa.

Gary has been covering the invasion in depth, FYI. This Foreign Policy interview with regional scholar Ken Menkhaus (conducted before the current Ethiopian military campaign began) is also informative.

The simple answer is that we believe an Islamist government in Somalia would, or would be more likely to, give safe harbor and support to our terrorist enemies like al-Qaeda.

Thank you for this simple and straightforward answer. My guess is that this is, in fact, the rationale in play. It is also, frankly, not without merit.

Here is my thought about this.

Assuming we are open to tolerating explicitly Islamic states at all, the best possible way to move political Islam away from fanaticism, terrorism, and violence is to allow it to participate as a legitimate player. If the people that live someplace want to be governed by an explicitly Islamic government, let it be so. A few things will happen.

One is that the population will quickly figure out if they like living under sharia or not.

Another is that the government will be faced with the concrete, frustrating, mind-numbingly quotidian demands of governance. They will have to make the trains run on time. Their idealistic rhetoric and millenarian claims will be balanced, and sobered, but the need to actually make constructive things happen.

Another is that asymmetry as a military strategy will no longer be available. They will have a return address.

So, I say, give political Islam it's shot. If the people of southwest Somalia actually want to live under sharia, mazel tov. Maybe it will be just fine.

If they give safe harbor or support to people who want to kill Americans, we make it very clear that this displeases us, and that our displeasure may result in a cost to them. And then, if necessary, we follow through.

If they don't give safe harbor to our enemies, we deal with them like we deal with every other nation in the world. Some of those nations live like we do. Some don't. Not our hash to settle.

In the meantime, we stay the hell out of tribal knife fights and don't get involved in situations where our best possible outcome is the lesser of two evils.

If we are not, in fact, open to the existence of explicitly Islamic states at all, IMO we're in for a generation or two of stupid, pointless conflict, with no particular upside for anyone.

Thanks -

"When, exactly, did our rather tepid support for Ethiopia's takedown"

Von, how long have you been following the situation? Because it sounds as if you have no idea what you're talking about. Are you ignorant of the fact that the U.S. has been arming and training Ethiopia's armed forces for years, that the "Transitional Government" of Somalia exists largely to please the U.S., and was almost completely funded by the CIA, that U.S. surveillance has been guiding the Ethiopians, and that the Ethiopian escalation was clearly to pre-empt the authorized UN intervention which specifically forbade Ethiopia and Somalia's other neighbors from intervening?

I've been following this for years; did you just read about it last week?

"There's really no dispute that the Ethiopians are the good guys in this scenario,"

This is just completely ignorant; good guys? You don't even name Meles Zenawi, but you say not just that he's a good guy, but that there's no dispute about it?

"Why wouldn't we offer them a modicum of help for their efforts?"

Because we have a long record of supporting butchers, and it tends to actually be remembered by the people on the ground, even if people in the US don't know anything about their country except an article once in a blue moon.

Hey, why not support the Shah of Iran and SAVAK? He's an ally! Why not lend a hand to Pinochet, or Efrain Ríos Montt, or Omar Torrijos, or Policarpo Paz García, or Manuel Noriega? All good friends who fight our enemies!

Why not help out that nice Catholic Mr. Diem? What could go wrong?

"And what, pray tell, is wrong with a proxy war? Other than achieving our national objections without actually risking our lives or lucre, that is?"

Possibly because those "proxies" have actual lives and children of their own. And when they wind up slaughtered by a monsterous dictator, or oligarchy, we've supported with treasure, they tend to, you know, hate us and want to kill us.

But why not help out these folks in Afghanistan fighting against the Soviet Union? They're on our side, fighting the Soviets! What could go wrong?

Good to see you've learned the right lessons of history, and 9/11. We should go right on funding proxies. It will always work out for the best and we shouldn't even ask questions, it's so obvious!

"Maybe I've missed something"

I'd look into that. And in this case, I'd specifically look into the history between Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, the Ogaden, the CIA, and the region in general. Get back to us after you've read up on it, and have a clue what you're talking about.

"Ethiopia is also fighting against a regime that seized power illegally, oppressed the Somali people, and closed schools so it could use child soldiers against the advancing Ethiopian forces"

Now tell us what you know about the Ethiopian regime without Googling or checking sources: just off the top of your head, right now, tell us about their recent history, and we'll see if you're qualified to be offering advice on the topic.

(Gary: still marvels at people who offer advice on war and peace, life and death, without an effing clue about a country.)

"It really doesn't change, does it?"

Apparently not.

"Ethiopia also has the backing of the African Union and at least the nominal support of the UN."

Wrong.

"Are we trying to rally the world to the Ethiopian cause? Put together a multinational force to confront the Somalis?"

The latter: yes. If you are unaware of this, you are not competent to comment. You even link to Matthew's post that explains it, but apparently haven't read it.

Russell: "What is our interest?"

Look at a map. Also, what was our interest in Afghanistan in the Nineties?

Reading Trevino is like opening a dictionary and being bitten by a puff adder.

Perfect except for one small quibble. That should be a thesaurus, as a dictionary actually attempts to define its terms.

"Gary has been covering the invasion in depth, FYI."

Nah; very shallowly, just the recent highlights, and not even bothering with the past day or two, due to a combination of stuff going on with me (like my right foot swelling up to unwalkable yesterday), and the fact that it's major news now, which I tend to link to less, anyway.

Russell: "My guess is that this is, in fact, the rationale in play."

I think the State Department briefings of the last couple of years, and all the posted policy positions, and endless articles on Somalia/Ethiopia in recent years were a clue.

Respectfully, I don't understand what it is about foreign policy that makes people opine when they don't know anything about the given topic. It never occurs to me to chime in with what I think about sewing, or plumbing, or whether a particular version of string theory is correct, with my "guess."

Yes, this is a grumpy and rude observation by me, but it's a longtime bafflement. I don't get it.

Asking questions is another matter. I'm ignorant of 99%+ of human knowledge; asking questions is always good.

"If we are not, in fact, open to the existence of explicitly Islamic states at all"

This is a hypothesis that doesn't seem remotely supported by the facts (have we lately been attacking Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Eqypt, Jordan, Oman, Qatar, the UAE, Morocco, etc., etc.?) so I'm unclear why it's offered.

lj: Also, I'm torn between 'puff adder' and 'swamp adder' myself, at least with respect to the piece in question.

von: I was going to write a longish response, but Gary wrote it for me. The Ethiopian regime is a horrendous dictatorship, which, as Gary said, it's absurd to describe us as giving only 'rather tepid support' to. The Baidoa government is a bunch of warlords whom we are inexplicably supporting. The Islamic Courts movement seems to be a loose collection of people, some of whom are awful, and some of whom just seem, oddly enough, to want some sort of law and order.

It is very much in our interest for Somalia to acquire an actual government, which the Baidoa government is not. It is very much not in anyone's interest for this whole region of Africa to get into a regional war, which our current course of action is now risking. It is profoundly not in our interest for us to be identified with any bunch of thugs and dictators, which our present policy ensures. All these things being the case, I'd much rather we try to work with the ICU than back either Ethiopia or the Baidoa government.

And "what's wrong with proxy wars" -- ?? -- well, nothing, as long as our proxy is, say, Switzerland, and they're fighting against, say, Nazi Germany. That's fine. But our proxies have a more checkered history than that. Gary mentioned some of the obvious cases; I'd just add Mozambique, where Grover Norquist spent some of his formative years supporting people who used to nail people alive to trees, and force children to kill their parents. Our guys. Yay. Kids in Mozambique are still getting their limbs blown off by some of the roughly half a million unexploded land mines that that proxy war left behind. Or we might consider Angola, which has only begun to recover from a civil war between our proxies and the Soviets'.

I mean: what could possibly be wrong with that? What could possibly be wrong with plunging other countries into wars because we imagine that we're playing some sort of super chess with Real Live Pieces? And how could it possibly harm our interests to be identified with brutal thugs? After all, we scarcely remember any of them! So how much harm would they have done?

Preemptively: "work with the ICU" does not equal "support the ICU." Similarly: negotiating with one's hateful landlord, as opposed to paying a hit man to take him out, does not equal "supporting" one's landlord.

Respectfully, I don't understand what it is about foreign policy that makes people opine when they don't know anything about the given topic. It never occurs to me to chime in with what I think about sewing, or plumbing, or whether a particular version of string theory is correct, with my "guess."

I'm guessing that this is because the number of people who might pop up with an actual knowledge of hems and patterns or sump pumps is greater than those who might have some idea what the capital of Somalia is.

"If we are not, in fact, open to the existence of explicitly Islamic states at all"

This is a hypothesis that doesn't seem remotely supported by the facts (have we lately been attacking Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Eqypt, Jordan, Oman, Qatar, the UAE, Morocco, etc., etc.?) so I'm unclear why it's offered.

First of all, somewhere along the line we garbled the distinction between Islamic and Islamist states. We might not all agree on what that distinction is, but I think there is one.

More significantly, there does seem to be an ideological divide on the issue of whether Islamist regimes should be permitted to exist at all, and Trevino appears to be on the other side of that divide. Hence, the reason it was brought up.

But why not help out these folks in Afghanistan fighting against the Soviet Union? They're on our side, fighting the Soviets! What could go wrong?

Am I a really, really bad person if I think we did the right thing by supporting the opposition in Afghanistan, 9/11 notwithstanding?

There's really no dispute that the Ethiopians are the good guys in this scenario, pursuing a course that generally aligns with our national interest (e.g., keeping Somalia from turning into a breeding ground for Islamist terrorism) -- and a powerful regional player to boot.

I urge you to read Michaela Wrong's excellent book, I Didn't Do It For You about Eritrea and Ethiopia's mistreatment of that nation (with the assistance of much of the rest of the world including the UN) and you'll get an idea as to why Ethiopia is not exactly admired by its neighbors.

I'm torn between 'puff adder' and 'swamp adder' myself

Can I put a vote in for cream pie?

I'll certainly cop to the fact that - without Google - I don't know a lot of things about a lot of places, things, ideas and yes, culture (pop and classic flavours) off the top of my head*.

Fortunately, I do have Google. Going to the country reports of HRW and Amnesty is always good first step.

*That said, I've always been able to remember the capital of Burkino Faso is Ouagadougou.

"I'll certainly cop to the fact that - without Google - I don't know a lot of things about a lot of places, things, ideas and yes, culture (pop and classic flavours) off the top of my head*."

Oh, me, too. I'll be the first to cop to the fact that I have a terrible memory for specifics if I don't have access to Google; catch me on the street, and I'm not apt to remember numbers of any sort, and some spellings, and a variety of other specifics; my head tends to function as an index for the basic facts and ideas and notions, and some clues where I can double-check specifics when it comes time to make cites; I don't have an eidetic memory (although I did just remember how to correctly spell "eidetic" -- but I also double-checked the spelling to make sure I was right).

I would never fault anyone for making use of Google for that, or for actual study and learning; that would be crazy.

I just have an issue with people who think their opinion of something is something everyone should hear, when all they know about it is a handful of recent newspaper articles. It's pretty rare that that sort of opinion is insightful, or correct, or remotely original, or worth hearing at all.

I don't think my opinion, to cross threads, of what's going on with global warming is worth anything to anyone, including me, for example. I have no training in the subject, and haven't done anything I'd call serious study of the topic; I've read the same hundreds of popular articles everyone else has read, and that's all.

So all I know, really, is the argument from authority on that topic, and a few of the supporting arguments thrown out. But I'm not competent to evaluate if those supporting arguments, and the evidence, is actually correct. I don't have the math, and I don't have the science. I don't have the background. My opinion on the topic is worthless.

If I said "well, it seems to me that global warming clearly is/is not happenning, and clearly is/is not due to X degree of human influence," well, I wouldn't know what I was talking about. (Which is why I'm not so dumbass as to go around making pronouncements on the topic, as if I did have that knowledge that I don't.)

The difference between me and DaveC is that I know that my opinion on that topic is uneducated and worthless; whereas DaveC has yet to reveal the source of his education and qualification to make pronouncements on the topic.

Or, alternatively, I do know something about the Vietnam War, and I know for a fact that DaveC obviously doesn't.

I got drilled into me from my reading as a child, very early -- maybe from sucking down Asimov and Gamow and other science writers when I was 6-7 years old -- that there are knowledgeable opinions (worth listening to), and ignorant opinions (not worth listening to).

The latter, obviously, I have a bit of a problem with. Personally, I'd think people would be embarrassed to make pronouncements when it's clear they don't know what they're talking about.

I just have an issue with people who think their opinion of something is something everyone should hear, when all they know about it is a handful of recent newspaper articles.

You know, for some people talking about things they don't know a whole lot about is a social thing. It's a step up from chit-chat, particularly since when talking about things they don't know in great detail it will often happen that someone else *will* know about the subject in more detail, and they'll learn something.

"It's a step up from chit-chat, particularly since when talking about things they don't know in great detail it will often happen that someone else *will* know about the subject in more detail, and they'll learn something."

Yeah, but just reading will accomplish the learning without having to spew lots of bullpuckey to annoy the people around them.

But, then, for me to not want to put up with intense and continuous annoyance for social purposes, when I could be pleasurably reading instead, is hardly inconsistent or unusual.

(When I first met the love of my life and fell in love with her, she was the girl who was always sitting in the corner, reading, while the group was socializing. This was, to me, intensely attractive.)

Am I a really, really bad person if I think we did the right thing by supporting the opposition in Afghanistan, 9/11 notwithstanding?

The problem is not so much that we supported the opposition, the problem is after they kicked out the Russians, we didn't follow up with any support. Of course, we did the same thing with the Viet Minh, and a step removed, the East Timorese, and I'm sure Gary could give a dozen more examples off the top of his head. It's not just supporting the 'right' side, it's actually following thru on that support and making that support more than stinger missiles.

(When I first met the love of my life and fell in love with her, she was the girl who was always sitting in the corner, reading, while the group was socializing. This was, to me, intensely attractive.)

So, I guess this means that you are not going to be finding anyone here very attractive.

I'm torn between 'puff adder' and 'swamp adder' myself, at least with respect to the piece in question.

well, it is on Hugh Hewitt's blog, so i lean towards 'swamp'... though, as a long-time TBogg reader, i think 'Hugh Hewitt' and 'puff' are words that go together well.

Reading Dave Barry's "How I Win Arguments" might apply here:

Suppose you're at a party and some hotshot intellectual is expounding on the economy of Peru, a subject you know nothing about. If you're drinking some health-fanatic drink like grapefruit juice, you'll hang back, afraid to display your ignorance, while the hotshot enthralls your date. But if you drink several large martinis, you'll discover you have STRONG VIEWS about the Peruvian economy. You'll be a WEALTH of information. You'll argue forcefully, offering searing insights and possibly upsetting furniture. People will be impressed. Some may leave the room.
The Red vs Blue Internet Primer PSA (warning, YouTube) is also apt, especially the Discussing Politics section.

They tore me a new one over at Ezra's today, also. Liberals, and not-liberals both angry at me:Does that make me a centrist?

After Tac shut down, and Domenech self-immolated, I really thought Trevino was gone. and it was a shock to see the name again.

But it has been a good day. Well, 'cept for the dogs getting skunked.

I really thought Trevino was gone

Trevino is never gone. He merely deletes from the internets his body of work every two years.

I think he believes the phoenix is a real animal.

"I'm torn between 'puff adder' and 'swamp adder' myself"

I lean towards black adder. Any nominations for who gets to be Trevino's Baldrick?

Any nominations for who gets to be Trevino's Baldrick?

Hugh Hewitt? Ben Domenech?

That's cruel, and I wouldn't want to even hazard a guess

"So, I guess this means that you are not going to be finding anyone here very attractive."

On the contrary, I'm willing to bet that everyone reading these two sentences is, at the moment, reading. (Probably most are sitting, though a handful might be standing.)

"It's not just supporting the 'right' side, it's actually following thru on that support and making that support more than stinger missiles."

Actually, it's not very hard at all to make the case that the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan, lousy a regime as it was, was a better regime for its people than the Taliban. In fact, I'd like to hear the opposing case.

Now, the fact is that we see virtues in the way the Afghan War contributed significantly to the collapse of the Soviet Union, but that's a separate topic from whether the Afghan regime was better -- more "right" -- for its people than the eventual Taliban.

This was another case of the "proxies" -- and it's truly morally admirable of Von to be completely indifferent in his words to the lives of such people, to their fate, their children, their spilled blood, so long as it's not our "lives or lucre" -- having to suffer and die, in the hundreds of thousands -- for our geopolitical satisfaction.

Does that make the Islamist resistance to the People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan (and their rather ugly regime) more "right" than the communists? Not clear to me. (Although I was rather fond, back in 1980, of the way "Babrak Karmal" sounded like a cookie; I even made a joke in a fanzine article about it.)

Yeah, but just reading will accomplish the learning without having to spew lots of bullpuckey to annoy the people around them.

You may wish to consider a) that your preferences are not universal and b) that the learning is not the only, or necessarily even the primary, motivation.

von: And what, pray tell, is wrong with a proxy war?

I stopped reading here.

Gary: Babrak Karmal, as a name, wasn't nearly as funny as the SLORC. Or so I thought.

What Nell said. I don't imagine Von would favor one on our soil.

Gary, true about reading, but we have to write something for you to know we are here. Regardless, nice to see you back.

SLORC is good and is only enhanced by the fact that you can have palindromic names in Burmese

Josh: "You may wish to consider a) that your preferences are not universal and b) that the learning is not the only, or necessarily even the primary, motivation."

I thought I covered that in the following paragraph from the one this responds to.

"Gary: Babrak Karmal, as a name, wasn't nearly as funny as the SLORC. Or so I thought."

I always thought that the SLORC was more of a fun-to-say than a funny. (And Babrak Karmal more of an amusing than a funny.) But these are utterly subjective matters.

It's a shame that Karmal was out of power two years before the State Law and Order Council came to power, or we could speculate as to whether Babrak Karmal and the SLORC had ever had diplomatic contact.

Alas.

LJ: "Gary, true about reading, but we have to write something for you to know we are here."

Of course, in fact lots and lots of people here have all sorts of intelligent and knowledgeable things to say about the topics at hand, and much besides.

Gary -

Look at a map.

This is a hypothesis that doesn't seem remotely supported by the facts (have we lately been attacking Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Eqypt, Jordan, Oman, Qatar, the UAE, Morocco, etc., etc.?) so I'm unclear why it's offered.

Respectfully, I don't understand what it is about foreign policy that makes people opine when they don't know anything about the given topic. It never occurs to me to chime in with what I think about sewing, or plumbing, or whether a particular version of string theory is correct, with my "guess.

I know where the Horn of Africa is, and why its location is significant.

I am aware of the many Islamic nations with whom we have friendly relations. The statement you respond to was something of a straw man, offered as a rhetorical counter to sentiments frequently expressed by the likes of Joshua Trevino. I'd have thought that was evident in context, perhaps it was not.

I know very little about the history and dynamics of the current conflict between Ethiopia and Somalia. More than nothing, as it turns out, perhaps even more than you know about sewing, plumbing, or string theory. But, admittedly, not much.

What little I do know leads me to believe that we are, once again, taking sides in a situation where it will not be to our, or perhaps anyone's, benefit for us to do so. More stupid, bloody geopolitical chess, is how it strikes me. I could be wrong.

In any case, that leads me to offer my puny opinion on the matter because, like most or all matters of foreign policy, it is, in fact, of far greater moment to me than either sewing, plumbing, or string theory most likely are to you.

If by any chance all of this seems like I'm politely telling you to get off your high horse, you read me right.

Thanks -

I don't imagine Von would favor one on our soil.

I suspect you are right; but I also suspect von feels that if any other country were in a position to conduct a proxy war on our soil, they probably wouldn't ask von whether he favors it. It's an argument kinda based on the assumption that everyone else is pretty blatantly looking out for their national interests.

Slightly OT: I didn't realize Mogadishu was considered one of the only living examples of Anarcho-capitalism

Steve,

Agreed, but one should not be quick to approve actions that have the potential to inflict suffering on others and precious little on you.

There is no greater failure in human interaction than war. The eagerness of some to embrace is very disturbing.

What worries me is that so many Americans who consider themselves "libertarians" are content with the state to rush into wars. Mass death and destruction is the one thing they seem to trust the government to do efficiently.

Randy Paul: I don't imagine Von would favor one on our soil.

I dunno; I'm certainly envisaging the BCS Championship game as one.

SOD: Mass death and destruction is the one thing they seem to trust the government to do efficiently.

Not just efficiently: morally. Which says all that needs to be said about their morals.

What Nell said. I don't imagine Von would favor one on our soil.

Of course not. As I've made clear, I'm in it for the national interest: "I don't need to be a global citizen/'cause I'm blessed by nationality." (I somehow doubt that Bad Religion intended their words to be turned around like that, but they haven't yet appeared to complain.) That's the old meaning of being "reality based". (Although I'm not opposed to living in a starship under the command of a benevolent Picard, if one should appear.)

Moreover, that the Somalis also disfavor their current state of war, proxy or otherwise, is pretty much beside the point. The war is occurring. It has two sides. One of the sides is almost totally in the right and the other is almost totally in the wrong. Yglesias favors siding with the wrongdoers so we could negotiate with them. I think that's a pretty silly view, given that Somalia combines (1) an agressive fascist states with plans to expand with (2) an Islamist state that freely welcomes jihadists. If the last, say, whole of human history has taught us anything, the likely result of such a combination will not be hugs and puppydogs.

Gary:

"There's really no dispute that the Ethiopians are the good guys in this scenario,"

This is just completely ignorant; good guys? You don't even name Meles Zenawi, but you say not just that he's a good guy, but that there's no dispute about it?

I wrote: "good guys in this scenario" (emphasis added), not "good guys" generally. There is a difference between the two points, and it is not a small one.

The ICU were fascists? I don't think you know enough about them to say that. Aggressive? Maybe aggressive towards whacking their rivals in Baidoa, but towards Ethiopia? Not until it became clear that Ethiopia was the only thing supporting the Transitional Government, indeed the only thing keeping it alive. Ethiopian support and troops were in Somali territory long before Baidoa came under attack --- the speed and ferocity of the Ethiopian attack should be more than enough proof of that. Some rhetoric from the ICU's Glenn Reynolds isn't a casus belli for the type of invasion Ethiopia has launched --- indeed, this sort of operation shows months of planning, and must have been in the works since before the ICU laid siege to Baidoa.

Welcoming foreign jihadists? How many actually showed up, a few hundred, the same as showed up for Iraq? Don't pull that UN report, either --- those folks must be getting their info from people chewing a LOT of khat, because they also reported hundreds of Somalis heading up north to fight for Hizbullah in the recent war with Israel. They must have been the ICU's secret Invisibility Brigade, given that no one credible actually managed to see any.

Jonathan Edelstein seems well informed on this one, and is extremely extremely worried. I am not well informed, but God knows I have more in common with how he sees the world than Trevino.

As I've made clear, I'm in it for the national interest

Why is it in our interest to sponsor, in any way, Ethiopia in this situation?

How is it good for us, or for anyone other than (maybe) Ethiopia?

Where is the evidence that the ICU is sponsoring Islamic terrorism?

Specifically, where is the evidence that that ICU is sponsoring terrorists or terrorist organizations that are any threat to the US?

I followed Trevino's link citing "non-Somali jihadists" entering Somalia "in significant numbers". Here's what I found:

In Kismayo, a strategic seaport captured from the government by Islamic militia in September, residents saw several foreign Arab fighters disembarking from ships

What's "several"? Fifty? Twenty? Ten? Five?

Your cite on Somalis welcoming "Islamist fighters from around the world" does indeed yield a call from one Yusuf Mohamed Siad Inda'ade for help from outside Somalia, for help fighting off the Ethiopian army. Not exactly a call for global jihad, and apparently also not a call that was endorsed by the ICU.

Where is the compelling interest that calls for US involvement here? I hope you'll forgive me if I say this smells like another adventure in "clash of civilizations" B.S.

Thanks -

And communists were infesting all of proper society...THEY WERE EVERYWHERE!!!

This is why we kill indiscriminately and carelessly...to save the world from the murderous and immoral Reds!!!

We only kill bad guys!!!!!

-----------------

Is this the “mature and realistic” approach to the world for the sober pragmatist partial to libertarianism? What the hell did they learn in Political Philosophy 101?

SomeOtherDude: At least some of them learned that being a grown-up is hard work and it's a lot easier to relax and give up morality. You still get to use big words if you want to, and you can write ever so many clever essays, but at the end of the day there's no responsibility because it'll all be about who's got the biggest sticks and dicks.

von: I followed your links above (the ones about Somalia, not the ones to Matt's commenters), and here's what I saw:

(a) the 'welcoming foreign fighters' link cites someone from the ICU:

"Ali Mohamed Gedi, the Somali Prime Minister, said yesterday that thousands of foreign jihadists were fighting alongside the council's local militias - a claim most analysts believe is exaggerated."

It doesn't sound particularly trustworthy as a statement about how many foreign fighters there are. As a statement about whether any would be welcomed, it's worth noting that it dates from Dec. 23, when Ethiopia was in Somalia. I'm not sure that the willingness to welcome people, however dreadful, to help defend one's country after it has been invaded shows much of anything.

(b) The 'declared jihad' quote:

"Radical Muslims controlling much of southern Somalia yesterday declared jihad, or holy war, on Ethiopia after accusing its troops of capturing a town taken by the fundamentalists last month.

The 750 Ethiopians were among forces loyal to the Somalia's weak, transitional president, Abdullahi Yusuf. They seized Buur Hakaba without firing a shot early yesterday."

Again, it's worth mentioning that jihad was declared after Ethiopia invaded. Likewise, the next comment (greater Somalia).

I'm not saying anything one way or the other about whether Ethiopia was right to invade; just noting that there is, to my mind, a very big difference between displaying various forms of hostility after one has been invaded, and displaying it without provocation. The first looks a lot more like self-defense to me, and self-defense, Islamically inflected or otherwise, does not imply any more general hostile intentions.

I remain puzzled about why you think Matt Y advocates "supporting" the ICU, as opposed to merely negotiating with it.

Also, for the record: I am also confused about why one would think that backing Ethiopia is in our interests. I'm serious about this. When I reflect on the history of the Cold War, I see the US tending to overreact to the emergence of leftist regimes in various parts of the Third World (note: I am not talking about E. Europe here), and deciding that we had to back thugs in proxy wars instead of either leaving them be or trying to find some way of ameliorating their worst features and luring them into our orbit.

These proxy wars, and the related tactic of mounting coups against them and supporting the dictators that we helped advance to power, did not serve our interests, as far as I can see. Was the gain from having the Shah in place really worth it? The gain from the coup in Guatemala? What on earth did we get out of our proxy wars in Angola and Mozambique? And then, of course, there's Vietnam, where we could just have allowed elections to go forward in the 50s, but decided that allowing Ho Chi Minh's likely victory would be contrary to our interests. Ha ha ha.

In all these parts of the world, we not only caused immense damage to the people who lived there, we also did immense damage to our own interests. (Possible exception: southern Africa, where people seem to be more forgiving than I would have been.)

I think it's both simplistic to react this way to any government that looks as though it might be Marxist/Islamist, and short-sighted to place the threshold at which we think we need to intervene so very low.

I just saw that Tim Burke, who knows about this stuff, has weighed in:

"The best thing I can suggest is staying a long distance away save to exercise direct and massive power at the few sites where our unmistakeable direct interests are involved. E.g., what I would suggest is that we contact the Islamicists in Somalia, say “As long as you don’t shelter people directly tied to al-Qaeda, we have no dog in this fight”, and mean it. If they do shelter individuals that we have a strong, unambiguous and unquestionable interest in, do your best to hit them directly. Don’t feed weapons and support to the Ethiopians, who are at best unreliable allies.

The alternative is yet another blow-back situation, where we try to perform sensitive surgery with blunt instruments and find ourselves shocked! shocked! that it rebounds against us. The truth is that the power states can apply consciously is nothing against either the complicatedly unconscious or ungoverned power of global economic and social institutions or against the power of local social histories. The sooner we recognize the narrow band within which deliberately applied state and interstate power actually produces meaningfully predictable results, the better off we’ll be. That’s not the “realism” of Kissinger et al, which basically translates to “We don’t want to worry about moral arguments”. The neoconservatives and radicals are right to reject that. It’s the realism of history and society, about understanding what kind of instruments state and interstate policy are, and the outcomes to which they meaningfully correspond."

I'm thinking I remember Mr. Bush -- and Ms. Rice -- speechifying all about how 9/11 made us realize that never again can we be cynical and back dictators against their people just because the dictator is on our side, and how from now on we're all only about supporting the democracy, and how the "realists" who supported the friendly dictators were wrong and their policy was gone forever.

But here's Von arguing for a murdering dictator.

I do want to say that I think being concerned about the (now defeated in the urban areas, in case everyone hasn't noticed; either it will turn to guerilla war, or it won't, and we've been arguing for naught) ICU is perfectly valid; but I have a lot more questions than answers, as regards the depth and commitment -- or lack thereof, of any actual threat of the ICU towards the world outside Somalia. And I have been carefully following the area, and situation, among many others, since, well, at least 1991.

"As I've made clear, I'm in it for the national interest: 'I don't need to be a global citizen/'cause I'm blessed by nationality.'"

Ever explained to a Canadian, von, that you don't value their lives the same as real people's lives? That when one of their soldiers dies in Afghanistan, well, you just downright don't really care as much as you do about a real American's death, since, after all, you're blessed by being an American?

Excellent way to be an ambassador for America to the world, I must say. This blog is read all around the globe, and here you are to say to everyone -- all those people you might want to have on your side in the "global war on terror," and buying American goods, and thinking positively of America -- "hey, world people! I don't value your lives as much as I do that of Americans! I'm not a world citizen! I'm an American! But I sure hope you can die in a proxy war against folks I conceive of as my enemies, even though I really don't know anything about them!"

Yep, excellent p.r. judgment there, chief. Many thanks!

Gary: I agree with you about the concern. As far as I can tell -- and I've been following it, but not in real depth -- they are loosely organized, and some of them are genuinely worrying, and some of them are not. The ones that are not, moreover, are something we ought to be happy to see: namely, someone creating something resembling governance in Somalia, and governance that at least initially had some sort of legitimacy, unlike either the Baidoa government or an Ethiopian occupying force.

Obviously, there's a very bad precedent for this: the Taliban. But it's not clear to me that there's any reason to assume that something in the nature of faith-based attempts at local governance will go the way of the Taliban. And if not, it would have been (I think) worthwhile to try to see what we could do to prevent it by means other than having the country invaded by a rather hateful proxy.

Although this crowd is no good at that sort of thing, so perhaps we should have just followed Tim Burke's advice.

Certainly gives America First a new meaning...

I would guess that there's a lot of right-wing concern that an Islamist organization in the Horn might turn out to be another Hamas, competent at administration and reliably honest as well as popular and strongly ideological. That would in a lot of ways be much more of a threat to their interests than another Taliban.

Yglesias favors siding with the wrongdoers so we could negotiate with them.

I'd like to second (or third or fourth) the calls for a cite for this. This is, quite frankly, libel.

I'd also like to note that as the hours tick by here it seems more and more the evidence that Ethiopia is totally in the right is rather blatant, and empty, spin. This is another thing where the Iraq War has devastated the ability of America to act on the world stage, the words of the U.S. government being now met by default almost universally with skepticism.

I'd also like to know from the Trevino's and Von's what the end game of this is supposed to look like. As I mentioned high above, the Islamists have left Mogadishu, but that's today. What's going to come tomorrow?

Ever explained to a Canadian, von, that you don't value their lives the same as real people's lives? That when one of their soldiers dies in Afghanistan, well, you just downright don't really care as much as you do about a real American's death

Speaking from experience, most Americans - present company excluded - don't know there are Canadians in Afghanistan. Or even that Afghanistan is still going on.

Ever explained to a Canadian, von, that you don't value their lives the same as real people's lives?

I think most people in the world understand that their lives are not worth as much as an American's. Which might be a partial clue as to the cause of some of the anti-American activities which seem so popular these days.

Ah, the MBFs at Bizarro World have weighed in on the question at hand.

To illustrate the balance of value of American-to-non-American life, I quote from Shake Hands With the Devil by Romeo Dallaire, head of UNAMIR during the Rwandan genocide:

As to the value of the 800,000 lives in the balance books of Washington, during those last weeks we received a shocking call from an American staffer, whose name I have long forgotten. He was engaged in some sort of planning exercise and wanted to know how many Rwandans had died, how many were refugees, and how many were internally displaced. He told me that his estimates indicated that it would take the deaths of 85,000 Rwandans to justify risking the life of one American soldier. It was macabre, to say the least.

Hilzoy: everything you said. And I almost wrote in my last comment something more or less identical to what Tim Burke wrote, which I could have written at any time in the past few days, except I'm too lazy (or pained, or distracted, or muddle-headed, or lacking in energy, or all of the above).

I also have in the back of my head a piece annotating various bits of the news stories about Somalia, including of yesterday and today, with "I suspect CIA here" and "classic CIA maneuver, that," save that absent specific proof, I'd be apt to come off as well, someone given to that sort of thing. Though, in fact, I almost never am; this is merely one of those very rare cases where the CIA hand, overall, is completely clear (and reported), and it's merely a matter of quibbling over specifics and waiting for the eventual memoirs/leaks.

But stuff like "bombings" that seem to largely be just enough to get reported as such, without much more damage reported, and the local proxy leader rushing to tour the conquered capital, and the like, are classics. There's a touch of Operation Ajax here (not that the ICU is in the least democratic, of course!; I simply mean technique-wise; I'm not making any other parallels), and I recommend a certain amount of reading between the lines.

You guys are being a little too hard on Von w/r/t valuing lives. In the purely ethical, we-are-all-human-beings sense, of course the citizens of one nation should not be valued more highly than the citizens of another.

But in the arena of pursuing a nation's interests via its foreign policy, why shouldn't an American value American lives more highly than non-American lives? More to the point, why shouldn't we expect our government to do so? I expect the government and citizens of every nation in the world to value their own people's lives more highly than others'. It's just human nature.

Besides, everybody knows the Canadians have it coming. They're the reason Eric Cartman has such a potty-mouth. Not to mention, they bombed the Baldwin compound. Bastards!

Ever explained to a Canadian, von, that you don't value their lives the same as real people's lives?

Don't we all know the response by now, even if we don't agree?

"Every nation in the history of the world has valued the lives and well-being of its own citizens above the lives and well-being of others. They only care about pleasing other nations to the extent those nations have the ability to harm them militarily or otherwise. Indeed, America is a shining star in historical terms, when it comes to taking into account the interests of nations and populations that it could safely ignore."

"...about understanding what kind of instruments state and interstate policy are, and the outcomes to which they meaningfully correspond." ...Tim Burke

Well I think neo-cons and radicals differ with liberals on the possible breadth of the "state" and the necessary or useful distinctions made between state and private actors.

Example:Whether Samantha Power (currently helping Obama) visits nations looking for help on Darfur as a US gov't employee, private actor, representative of an NGO, or under a UN umbrella may be important or not; each situation would have its advantages and disadvantages. Her independence or influence would be alternatively useful or not, depending on the specific circumstance.

I would in general prefer that Power work under a UN umbrella; but I am not willing to say that being President Obama's State Dept emissary of issues of genocide is in principle or practice a bad idea.

Similarly I can't deny that the secret help certain American organizations got from the Comintern didn't do some damage when or if revealed; but if the Soviet expertise helped the organizations become effective and successful it may have been worth the cost. One has to look at results.

I expect the government and citizens of every nation in the world to value their own people's lives more highly than others'.

For decades, Canadians have supported our peacekeeping efforts, and have risked their own lives to protect the lives of strangers without any tangible benefit to themselves or their nation.

But Canadians are communists, it is well known. Did you know they have waiting lists for hip replacement surgeries?

More apropos:

http://tinyurl.com/y4rpya


Anti-Ethiopia unrest erupted today in Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia, a day after Ethiopian-backed forces captured the city.

Hundreds of Somalis flooded into the bullet-pocked streets to hurl rocks at the Ethiopian soldiers, light tires on fire and shout anti-Ethiopian slogans.

“Get out of our country!” they yelled. “We hate you, Ethiopians!”

But a few hours later, thousands of Mogadishu’s residents came out to warmly greet Ali Mohammed Gedi, the prime minister of Somalia’s transitional government, which relied on Ethiopian might to drive out the Islamist movement that once ruled the city.

Mogadishu, apparently, is a city of mixed signals. While some people are relieved to see the Ethiopian troops, who seem to be providing much needed security, others are suspicious and angry. The viewpoint often sharply differs by clan, an ominous sign of the re-emerging tensions that have dominated this city for so long and plunged it into anarchy.


Did you know they have waiting lists for hip replacement surgeries?

Short waiting lists. My sister just had one done.

It works better if it's an active link. And if you use a "tinyurl," it prevents everyone from seeing where it goes to without first clicking.

It's also worth pointing out that it's Jeffry Gettleman, given all his other reporting from Somalia.

Jeffrey, that is.

Also: quoting without using quotation marks, or in a case of such length, blockquotes, is also a very bad practice, as you give the appearance of having written the material yourself.

I should, incidentally, note something that's bothered me since I first read von's post, which is that I didn't particularly agree with his characterization in his very first sentence:

Matt Yglesias -- following post after post protesting our nominal assistance to Ethiopia in its intervention in Somalia [...]
It seemed to me that Matt, at least in his early posts, was more questioning, than "protesting."

ThirdGorchBro: I expect the government and citizens of every nation in the world to value their own people's lives more highly than others'. It's just human nature.

Unfortunately, so many Americans lack your understanding of human nature, and expect the governments and citizens of every nation in the world to value American lives more highly than their own. I am thinking specifically of the issue of American soldiers killing Iraqi civilians (and others - let's not forget about Nicola Calipari) and then seemingly expecting the families of their victims to forgive and forget immediately, whereas when American civilians are killed, you get Americans still getting steamed about it five years later. (And going from the sublime to the ridiculous, there's also this post from a British writer about the beginnings of the American war on tourism, which points out ascerbically that telling non-Americans they should be happy to suffer for the US doesn't actually work...)

Canadians are human?

To assist those who are not reading the links, Yglesias:

The best way to obtain those suspects would have been to try to cooperate with the ICU in securing custody over them. Having us instead back Ethiopia's regional ambitions is a good way to serve Ethiopian policy goals, but accomplishes little for the United States unless American interests in the Horn are simply defined as helping Ethiopia do whatever it wants, which is precisely the tail-wags-dog scenario that worries me.

He also repeatedly suggests that the Ethiopian incursion is wrong and supporting it is bad US policy.

You're going to have to go a bit further than that, von. How does cooperating with the ICU to secure the suspects constitute supporting the ICU?

He also repeatedly suggests that the Ethiopian incursion is wrong and supporting it is bad US policy.

Are you honestly suggesting that that means he's supporting the ICU?

Let me be the first to point out that we are still searching in vain for the place where Yglesias says we should back the ICU against Ethiopia. Isn't it apparent that saying we should cooperate with the ICU in capturing terrorists is something completely different?

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