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December 07, 2008

Comments

publius:

Applying categoricals to our foreign policy is precisely the mistake made by neoconservatives; joining in the chorus decrying 'neoconnery' simply replicates that error.

The neoconservatives made some valuable contributions to our foreign policy debate. I don't think that their central insight - that our long-term interests are best served by spreading freedom and democracy - is incorrect. The reason that they gained such influence was that by the end of the Cold War, it was perfectly apparent that an excessive reliance upon realpolitik had led the United States to support all sorts of odious regimes in repressing their opposition, in ways that damaged our standing in the world and ultimately undermined our security. Would you really disagree with that?

Which is not to deny, of course, that an equally dogmatic privileging of the spread of freedom at the expense of a clear-eyed calculation of our tangible interests wasn't equally destructive. Clearly, it led to results that were as bad - if not worse - than the excesses of realpolitik.

But Somalia provides a perfect example of where a blended approach might have been best. The New York Times piece is a farce; to describe the last regime of Islamists as 'moderate' or its tenure as 'peaceful' is to make a mockery of both terms. (Are we now to romanticize the Taliban rule of Afghanistan in the same terms? It was relatively peaceful; those who ruled then, compared to those currently ascendent within the Taliban insurgency, might be described as a 'moderate' 'old guard.') The members of the Somali regime were fundamentalists; their rule was both bloody and repressive. Moreover, much like the Taliban, their regime gave shelter to genuinely international terrorists, who posed an imminent threat to international security.

The American mistake lay not in opposing the regime; it lay in the manner of that opposition. Sending in the Ethiopians as a proxy force intensified regional tensions, and served to broaden conflict and undermine the legitimacy of the transitional regime they were ostensibly there to support. Other reports have already described the fiasco of the intervention of American special operations forces. We relied primarily on air strikes from AC-130 gunships; TF88 was then sent in to mop-up. That strategy seems to have yielded the usual results from air-focused operations - a low rate of actual targets hit, a high rate of collateral damage, and a blown opportunity to cut-off and surround the bulk of the forces being pursued.

So if Somalia is a cautionary tale, it ought to be about the limits of the use of proxy forces, the danger of relying on air strikes instead of boots on the ground, and the fundamental mistake in expecting that any externally imposed regime can ever obtain legitimacy, or that consensus can be forced at gunpoint. But the neocons are also partially right - it was surely in our national interest to oppose a regime that gave sanctuary to our enemies and brutalized its people.

I don't think that their central insight - that our long-term interests are best served by spreading freedom and democracy - is incorrect.

I disagree with this estimation of the neocons' central insight. For one thing, that view is not unique to them. More critically, freedom and democracy are ultimately about process. Means matter in democracies -- more than ends do. While many neocons claim to support the spread of freedom and democracy, the means they choose to reach that end actually undermine it.

This shows either a fundamental misunderstanding of the central insight, or that the central insight they profess is not fundamentally central to the project.

The neoconservatives made some valuable contributions to our foreign policy debate. I don't think that their central insight - that our long-term interests are best served by spreading freedom and democracy - is incorrect.

Well, yeah: those ideals are generally Good Things: the problem arises when, as is all too often the case, "freedom and democracy" come to be defined as "support American policies" or "favor American commercial interests" Also, the exact methodology of "spreading freedom and democracy" (and to whom) is of more than trivial distinction. Especially when the implements used in said spreading are weapons.

Okay, let me just say that this notion that the Islamic Courts guys were perfectly nice until we radicalized them has the same level of truth to the statement that Hekmatyar and Haqqani are basically decent guys who can be negotiated with or that Ho Chi Minh was actually a democrat until the U.S. foolishly opposed him. Which is to say, not much.

Agree with Jay C, just one of many possible pieces of supporting evidence; the election of Hamas. Freely elected and democracxy in action - heralded by the neocons until the results came in - and then decried by the neocons.

I guess another another piece of evidence would be the neocon plan to put Chalabi in charge of Iraq.

The problem with the neocons is that they are essentially promoters of US imperialism and believers in US exceptionalism. Everything else, all the talk of democracy and freedom and blah blah blah, is just the window dressing excuse making/justification.

Some US citizens might delude themselves by buying into these excuses, but the rest of the world does not. This is the problem.

Neocons = same old pig, different color lipstick.

As a somali, it’s quite interesting and exciting to see non somalis discussing our politics. For far too long the whole world has ignored us as we descended into further anarchy.

Let’s me tell you guys what’s going on in somalia in plain terms. Firstly the pirate problem has taken off from the fishermen versus foreign trawler battles in the 90s. Somalia has no navy to protect it’s waters so we got europeans and asians fishing in somalian waters stealing fish and dumping toxic waste. Naturally the locals and the fishermen complained to the un but to no avail. So the fishermen started to fight back against these ships and now since most of the fish are declining the fishermen cant feed their family and have resorted to piracy.

Secondly the internal wars of somalia is caused by clan politics. Right now somalia is divided into 3. Somaliland, puntland and southern somalia each controlled by opposing clans distrusful of each other. Each clan has it’s own warlords busy killing innocents and looting everything. Remember black hawk down and that nasty warlord mohammed farah aidid? Yep we have got loads of them in somalia.

Now coming to the islamists. The islamists want one thing. A united somalia. They absolutely abhor clan politics and warlords are fearful of them. In 06 they destroyed all warlords in southern somalia, stopped all the killings and lootings. They had their eyes on somaliland and puntland the land of the pirates as well. But because they were an islamic government in nature the united states was frightened. In their infinite wisdom they decided that a chaotic secular warlord infested somalia was better than a united peaceful islamic somalia. So they asked eithopia who ofcourse wants nothing more than a broken somalia so that it can access somalian ports to invade somalia and they will provide money and arms.

What we got was the worst humanitarian situation in southern somalia as many people were killed in the invasion and many displaced. As a result we now have piracy and warlordism back. Clan politics in somalia has has never been greater and security situation worse than before.

2 years from that invasion, the islamists who were the moderates of the ICU have been driven away and a new hardline unyielding faction have been formed. They control most of central and southern somalia and their rallying cry is the liberation of somalia from the eithopian invaders. I know few of my relatives who have joined the ranks of al shabab. They will not stop until every single eithopian has left somalia. As a result of thousands of somalis from as far as northern somalia have joined the jihad to oust the eithopians. After that they will turn their attention to the warlords and the pirates. The governments of puntland and somaliland are worried already because they don’t want a single centralised government and united country. Their primary interest is continue the bloodshed and warefare in southern somalia by warring fractions. But al shabab are adamant that unification of somalia into one country is their final goal and they will not let somalia disintegrate into seperate entities

Anyways that was pretty long from me whew!

Thank God these people weren't running the country during the formative Cold War years.

Jeeze. You're just begging for a Reagan thread... So question - was RR a "neocon"?

I don't think that their central insight - that our long-term interests are best served by spreading freedom and democracy - is incorrect.

This is like describing the central insight of the mafia as "let's start a family business!".

Thanks -

You cannot "spread" freedom and democracy. You can encourage it, but people have to choose it, and take it.

Thanks Yusuf. That was a great comment. By the way, I think that most americans do not understand the background behind the pirate situation. In fact, most americans have a secret romantic affinity for pirates; which might explain our recent problems on wall street ;-)

What I see in your comment that is important re; neocons, is that in somalia - as elsewhere - there is a total disregard on the neocons' part for cultural history and integrity. The neocons see everything through the lense of an idealized america and the universal desire and ability to accept and implement that ideal..... and this is their fatal error.

So if Somalia is a cautionary tale, it ought to be about the limits of the use of proxy forces, the danger of relying on air strikes instead of boots on the ground, and the fundamental mistake in expecting that any externally imposed regime can ever obtain legitimacy, or that consensus can be forced at gunpoint.

Somalia is not a cautionary tale, nor, even, a neoconservative one. Somalia was an exercise in foreign policy realism. The regional power (Ethiopia) was going to invade Somalia and depose the IC (who, contra NYT, were not moderates by any stretch of the term) for a variety of reasons that have nothing to do with US interest or the so-called war on terror. The question was whether the US was going to join its European and African allies in supporting the TFG. The US chose to do so -- and wisely. Indeed, the only people who have backed the IC are a handful of liberal bloggers, led by Matt Yglesias (who at times got basic facts wrong) and our own Eric Martin (who was better on the facts).

True, the US also provided overt political and limited military support for the Ethiopian government's invasion, which no European power did. But it was hardly a US adventure, much less a neoconservative one. And the current state of Somilia -- which is the absense of one [i.e., a state] -- was going to come to pass unless the US bucked its European and African allies and supported the IC.

It may have been a mistake to offer even limited support for Ethiopia. I continue to think that it made the best of a series of bad options because, if nothing else, it strengthen strategic ties between the US and Ethiopia. (Important for a number of reasons that have nothing to do with the matter of hand.) But I've always seen the other side, ably represented by Martin's views. Still, neither side of the argument is based on a recognizable neoconservative viewpoint.

Von "The US chose to do so -- and wisely."

The you go on to sort of contradict yourself. Which is it?

"Still, neither side of the argument is based on a recognizable neoconservative viewpoint."

The neocons - or at least well recognized self professed neocon voices - loudely championed the ethiopian invasion. Ergo, it must have been a neocon viewpoint.

I (still) disagree with von on the merits of the West's support of Ethiopia's invasion of Somalia, but agree completely that it was an example of realpolitik at play, rather than neoconservative ideology.

So they asked eithopia who ofcourse wants nothing more than a broken somalia so that it can access somalian ports to invade somalia and they will provide money and arms.

Yusef, the historical disputes between Ethopia and Somalia played a much greater role than you're letting on. And you're unintentionally misleading an audience that doesn't know that history.

Now coming to the islamists. The islamists want one thing. A united somalia.

You're right that the IC wanted a united Somalia -- a united Greater Somalia.

MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) -- The leader of the Islamic group that controls much of southern Somalia has revived the idea of a "Greater Somalia" that would incorporate regions of Kenya and Ethiopia -- a move that could further stoke tensions with the neighboring countries.

Sheik Hassan Dahir Aweys, chairman of the Council of Islamic Courts, told Shabelle Radio in an interview late Friday that his group would work to unite ethnic Somali peoples, but he did not say how it proposed to achieve a "Greater Somalia."

(http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1P2-1414433.html)

Moreover, all this talk of some mythical period of peace or moderation under the IC is ridiculous. Rather than working with the TFG, the IC was almost continually at war with the TFG. Sharif Sheikh Ahmed may have been the (relatively) moderate public face of the IC, but, as seen above, he was not the sole or most powerful voice in the IC. He was a 30-something year old lawyer .... you're telling me he held even one of the reigns of power in the IC? The Hizbul Shabaab have always been a part of the IC, and they have always been particularly dangerous.

The neocons - or at least well recognized self professed neocon voices - loudely championed the ethiopian invasion. Ergo, it must have been a neocon viewpoint.

David Duke loudly protested the war in Iraq. Ergo, it must have been a racist viewpoint.

Von "The US chose to do so -- and wisely."

To clarify, there were two decisions that the US made that I support: one not so noncontroversial and one very controversial.

1. The not-so-controversial decision was to formally (and publicly) back the TFD over the Islamic Courts. This is the decision that I meant to indicate was "wise". The Europeans, the African Union, the UN, and Ethiopia all supported the TFG and opposed the IC.

2. The very controversial decision was to provide material support for Ethiopia's invasion. (The Europeans provided tacit support, the AU hypothetical support). I still think that this was, on balance, an OK approach. But it was a close call.

I also think that I'm wrong in suggesting that Eric Martin supported the IC on question 1; I think he took the view that we should adopt the EU's position. IIRC, however, Yglesias took the view that we should support the IC against the TFG. I could never see the sense in that.

Van. There is a difference between coveting something and committing something. Eithopia and somalia have been tradional enemies because somalia sees eithopia occupying regions somalia believe belong to somalis because they are inhabited by somalis. There are groups actually fighting the eithopian military called ogaden liberation army in ogaden who want ogaden to join somalia.

The point is at this point in time, people are looking for stability and ICU provided that. Eithopia does not want to see a united stable somalia. It's in their interest to see the fighting continue.

I remember as a kid when during the fight between the somalian army and rebels in 91 the eithopians suppllied all the weapons. That inspite of agreements made by both governments not to destablise each other.

What the eithopians failed to realise that although somalis will always keep fighting each other, nothing unites them quicker than a foreign invader and eithopia is paying the price for that.

You cannot "spread" freedom and democracy. You can encourage it, but people have to choose it, and take it.

Another rare instance of complete agreement between Phil and I. I think I'd have said that you can't give away freedom, but I think the general idea is the same.

thanks avedis,

did you know that somalia loses £300 million as a result of illegal fishing and poaching by foreigners in somali waters. The united nations has done nothing to help somalis protect their coast.

As a citizen of the first country the fledgling United States targeted for "democratization", I would like to propose a really radical idea: most people have their own ideas about how to run their own lives and their own countries, and don't like having other people dictate political choices to them. My ancestors had the strongest maritime power in the world then protecting them, so after two invasions and half a dozen or so bloody battles, their American neighbours got the idea, but it seems clear to me that some (regrettably influential) Americans have never generalized the lesson. You can't make other people adopt your form, or any other form of democracy. The very idea contradicts itself on a fundamental level.

Yusuf -

The point is at this point in time, people are looking for stability and ICU provided that. Eithopia does not want to see a united stable somalia. It's in their interest to see the fighting continue.

I absolutely agree with that -- but that is part of my point regarding why it's wrong to assert that the US is responsible for Ethiopia's decision to invade. Ethiopia was going to intervene in Somalia regardless of what the US did. They prefer either the TFG (which is relatively pro-Ethiopian) or, failing that, chaos.

It wasn't a question of whether Ethiopia was going to destabilize the Islamic Courts. They were going to do it. The question was whether, and to what extent, the US was going to support them.

Yglesias took the view that we should support the IC against the TFG

You keep saying that. It doesn't get any more true with repetition, von.

OK John Spragge, I'll bite. What country are you from? South Carolina?

Read the Articles of Confederation. We rate a mention (I guess they figured after invading us, they might as well issue an invitation).

John is from Canuckistan, I believe. Of course, the reason we didn't win was cause there was nothing worth getting up there. If there had been something that we really wanted, we would have won (smileys all around)

John,

You may appreciate that I always have to say that I'm from the OTHER Vancouver. (U.S.A.)

"Indeed, the only people who have backed the IC are a handful of liberal bloggers, led by Matt Yglesias (who at times got basic facts wrong) and our own Eric Martin (who was better on the facts)."

I'm willing to believe you've convinced yourself that this vile lie is true, despite the plain facts, given your prejudices.

"It may have been a mistake to offer even limited support for Ethiopia."

This is as close as you ever say you've been wrong. It doesn't reflect well on you that this is as close as you get, but it's something, however trivial and morally irresponsible.

It wasn't a question of whether Ethiopia was going to destabilize the Islamic Courts. They were going to do it. The question was whether, and to what extent, the US was going to support them.

Okay, but by supporting them we thereby took on some of the responsibility for the outcome.

"This is why we should stop debating neoconnery in abstract theoretical terms."

Yes. Please define what you mean by a neoconservative. It's the most overused term on the blogosphere.

Okay, let me just say that this notion that the Islamic Courts guys were perfectly nice until we radicalized them has the same level of truth to the statement that Hekmatyar and Haqqani are basically decent guys who can be negotiated with or that Ho Chi Minh was actually a democrat until the U.S. foolishly opposed him.

While that might be true, it is also an attack at straw.

It wasn't a question of whether Ethiopia was going to destabilize the Islamic Courts. They were going to do it. The question was whether, and to what extent, the US was going to support them.

Not just destabilize the IC, but destabilize Somalia. That is Ethiopia's stated and long held interest in the region. It was a mistake to back Ethiopia in this mission, and as a result, we have generated a considerable amount more anti-Americanism (not to mention suffering).

The IC was at war with the TFG, but it also brought relative stability to Mogadishu.

And yes, when faced with chaos and rampant war, people will sometimes opt for an order that is enforced with some level of brutality.

That is why the Taliban is gaining in popularity in Afghanistan again.

I don't think that their central insight - that our long-term interests are best served by spreading freedom and democracy - is incorrect.

No, the central insight is that the US should cease the "unipolar" moment, impose its will on the world via our military dominance and, thus, establish our seat atop the New American Century.

In so doing, the neocons coopted the language of democratic change, but when push comes to shove, they don't care much for it.

As mentioned above, the reaction to Palestinian democratic change has been telling. Plans for Iraqi governance by Chalabi are also revelatory.

As for Somalia, neocons were quite vocal in their support because, again, they tend to cheer any application of US military power which they view as leading to positive outcomes because we, as a nation, are essentially good.

As for Reagan: he was not really a neocon. In fact, neocons were extremely critical of Reagan on two fronts: Reagan's willingness to meet Gorby and Reagan's willingness to pursue nuclear disarmament.

In both cases the neocons took an alarmist, bellicose position - inflating the risks posed by the Soviets and calling for confrontational, non-cooperative positions.

and by cease I mean "seize."

Sheesh, come on coffee, start your magic already.

I do agree that the decision to support Ethiopia was grounded in realpolitik, but the loud and open support we gave Ethiopia, with rhetoric about how the Ethiopians could show us how to run a counter-insurgency, etc. was pure Neocon foolishness.

I think Von is correct that the ICU was a government antithetical to US interests, but I also think we would have been better served by providing sub rosa support to Ethiopia while publicly deploring the violence and calling on all sides to stand down and make way for the TFG.

It's not hypocrisy if you don't get caught.

Yglesias took the view that we should support the IC against the TFG

You keep saying that. It doesn't get any more true with repetition, von.

Wrong, Josh. Yglesias' position was that we should have cooperated with the Islamic Courts instead of backing the TFG. According to Yglesias, "[o]ur clearest concrete interest in this matter seems to me to be the presence of a very small number of people involved in previous anti-American plots in Somalia." (http://yglesias.thinkprogress.org/archives/2006/12/yes_its_policy.php?sortby=toprated. Continuing: "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 ....")

I can understand taking the EU or AU approach -- do not cooperate with the Islamic Courts and get out of Ethiopia's way. But to cooperate with the Islamic Courts, as Yglesias suggested, would have seriously undercut our European and African allies (as well as made a farce of the UN's efforts). It is also highly unlikely to have resulted in capturing any of the anti-US suspects given the ley-lines of power in the Islamic Courts movement. Who were we going to cooperate with? The Shabaab?

Yglesias took the view that we should support the IC against the TFG

You keep saying that. It doesn't get any more true with repetition, von.

Wrong, Josh. Yglesias' position was that we should have cooperated with the Islamic Courts instead of backing the TFG. According to Yglesias, "[o]ur clearest concrete interest in this matter seems to me to be the presence of a very small number of people involved in previous anti-American plots in Somalia." (http://yglesias.thinkprogress.org/archives/2006/12/yes_its_policy.php?sortby=toprated. Continuing: "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 ....")

I can understand taking the EU or AU approach -- do not cooperate with the Islamic Courts and get out of Ethiopia's way. But to cooperate with the Islamic Courts, as Yglesias suggested, would have seriously undercut our European and African allies (as well as made a farce of the UN's efforts). It is also highly unlikely to have resulted in capturing any of the anti-US suspects given the ley-lines of power in the Islamic Courts movement. Who were we going to cooperate with? The Shabaab?

Yglesias took the view that we should support the IC against the TFG

You keep saying that. It doesn't get any more true with repetition, von.

Wrong, Josh. Yglesias' position was that we should have cooperated with the Islamic Courts instead of backing the TFG. According to Yglesias, "[o]ur clearest concrete interest in this matter seems to me to be the presence of a very small number of people involved in previous anti-American plots in Somalia." (http://yglesias.thinkprogress.org/archives/2006/12/yes_its_policy.php?sortby=toprated. Continuing: "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 ....")

I can understand taking the EU or AU approach -- do not cooperate with the Islamic Courts and get out of Ethiopia's way. But to cooperate with the Islamic Courts, as Yglesias suggested, would have seriously undercut our European and African allies (as well as made a farce of the UN's efforts). It is also highly unlikely to have resulted in capturing any of the anti-US suspects given the ley-lines of power in the Islamic Courts movement. Who were we going to cooperate with? The Shabaab?

I dunno.

There were moderates within the IC government, and we would have been better served exploring openings therein and trying to work toward our interests without aiding Ethiopia's mission to destabilize Somalia.

Think of it from a pragmatic perspective.

If our primary objective was to deny a safe-haven for al-Qaeda, we have greatly undermined that goal by:

1. Predictably, created more chaos which allows for such safe-haven.
2. Generated much more hostility to the US and, thus, sympathy for al-Qaeda.
3. Predictably, created more chaos and suffering which creates fertile conditions for radicalization of the local population and, thus, more recruits for al-Qaeda.

Yglesias took the view that we should support the IC against the TFG

You keep saying that. It doesn't get any more true with repetition, von.

Wrong, Josh. Yglesias' position was that we should have cooperated with the Islamic Courts instead of backing the TFG. According to Yglesias, "[o]ur clearest concrete interest in this matter seems to me to be the presence of a very small number of people involved in previous anti-American plots in Somalia." (http://yglesias.thinkprogress.org/archives/2006/12/yes_its_policy.php?sortby=toprated. Continuing: "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 ....")

I can understand taking the EU or AU approach -- do not cooperate with the Islamic Courts and get out of Ethiopia's way. But to cooperate with the Islamic Courts, as Yglesias suggested, would have seriously undercut our European and African allies (as well as made a farce of the UN's efforts). It is also highly unlikely to have resulted in capturing any of the anti-US suspects given the ley-lines of power in the Islamic Courts movement. Who were we going to cooperate with? The Shabaab?

Who were we going to cooperate with? The Shabaab?

No. There were other groups that we should have sought out.

At least initially.

If there was no common ground to be found, so be it. But it was worth an effort.

It should be noted that we haven't killed or captured any of those AQ figures this way either.

Though we have created a massive humanitarian crisis.

I'm willing to believe you've convinced yourself that this vile lie is true, despite the plain facts, given your prejudices.

Gary, please identify each government or international organization that backed the IC over the TFG between 2006-2008. (You will find at least one [anonymous] disgruntled UK leaker who opposed UK policy.)

"It may have been a mistake to offer even limited support for Ethiopia."

This is as close as you ever say you've been wrong. It doesn't reflect well on you that this is as close as you get, but it's something, however trivial and morally irresponsible.

Gary, SFAIK, you've never admitted to being wrong about anything on these here internets. So this is a bit rich.

In any event, although I am frequently err in matters both great and small, this comment wasn't an admission of error. I've been calling the case to support Ethiopia close from the very start. It wasn't an easy call one way or the other. I ultimately agreed with US policy as the (slightly) better of two bad options, but as I've been careful to point out in my debates with Eric, I do think that there is merit in the EU approach.

What the heck is going on with Typepad? I had a response to Gary that apparently got eaten, and my response to Josh quadrupal-posted.

Oh, there's my response to Gary. In hopes that this post won't be eaten as well:

There were moderates within the IC government, and we would have been better served exploring openings therein and trying to work toward our interests without aiding Ethiopia's mission to destabilize Somalia.

Yes, there were moderates. Sharif Sheikh Ahmed was worth a try -- if he had held the reigns of power. But the guy was a 30-year old Libyan educated lawyer. You're telling me that runs the IC? He controls the Shabab?

Yglesias was dreaming to think that cooperation with the IC was an option, absent a complete reform of the IC and a total change in AU, EU, and Ethiopian policy. It was at best evidence of his profound ignorance.

Again: "make no moves" -- the European approach -- had some merit. Supporting Ethiopia also had merit, although, sadly, not from the perspective of actually improving Somalia's fortunes.

But the guy was a 30-year old Libyan educated lawyer. You're telling me that runs the IC? He controls the Shabab?

El/es-Shabab means 'the youth' or 'young people'. So, no, I don't find it unlikely that a 30-year professional might be an influential figure in a group with that name.

I absolutely agree with that -- but that is part of my point regarding why it's wrong to assert that the US is responsible for Ethiopia's decision to invade. Ethiopia was going to intervene in Somalia regardless of what the US did. They prefer either the TFG (which is relatively pro-Ethiopian) or, failing that, chaos.

While in a general sense, whenever we discuss current events like this we are speaking without anything like a decent acquaintance with the facts (press reports concerning national security and exotic parts of the world only having a passing familiarity with the facts, IMHO). But even by that standard, I think you are out limb by being so categorical in minimising the American role in all this. At the very least, whatever you think the Ethiopians did or did not want to do, you need to consider that American involvement in these countries did not begin in the past two years.

Byrningman, leave aside the fact that your speculation re: Sharif Sheikh Ahmed relationship to the Shabaab is completely unfounded and ridiculously wrong. (Google: "Sharif Sheikh Ahmed Shabaab". When I did so five seconds ago, the second entry noted that the actual leader of the Shabaab -- who is not and never was Sharif Sheikh Ahmed -- had declared Sharif Sheikh Ahmed a "dictator" and effectively declared war on him and his forces.)

In any event, if Sharif Sheikh Ahmed Shabaab was the leader of the Shabaab, it would have made the case for opposing the Islamic Court stronger, not weaker. The Shabaab were/are seriously bad dudes.

You're telling me that runs the IC? He controls the Shabab?

I'm saying there were different factions that made up the IC, and that we should have pursued openings with certain factions in an effort to realize our objectives.

Again: we have not realized our objectives using the more bellicose approach, and have actually greatly harmed our interests.

Also, I don't think I agree with the posters above who insist that US policy in Somalia has been a case of Realpolitik. Only, perhaps, in the sense that the policy has been formulated with limited goals and limited means (i.e. Washington is content simply to play the spoiler by aiding and abetting proxies). In contrast, I think Publius' initial contention that the neocon influence was a factor rings true, as the neocons have long since acquired a kneejerk anti-Islamic instinct, and surely the really pragmatic, non-ideological policy would have been to seek a modus vivendi with the 'Islamists', a very diverse coalition who had the non-trivial merits of actually pursuing stable government and national unity.

Byrningman, leave aside the fact that your speculation re: Sharif Sheikh Ahmed relationship to the Shabaab is completely unfounded and ridiculously wrong. (Google: "Sharif Sheikh Ahmed Shabaab". When I did so five seconds ago, the second entry noted that the actual leader of the Shabaab -- who is not and never was Sharif Sheikh Ahmed -- had declared Sharif Sheikh Ahmed a "dictator" and effectively declared war on him and his forces.)

My point was that you are making categorical statements about very complicated, unstable and inherently impenetrable groups without any solid evidential basis, as a simple act of translation indicates that the point you are trying to make is a fallacy. I am 100% certain that a rapid English-language Google search does not qualitatively improve your analysis, as you are likely to find anything more insightful than, essentially, agitprop for a certain agenda. The difference between you and I in this case is that I don't claim anything like the certitude you do.

Today was the muslim festival of eid ul adha. Normally in somalia it's a day of festivities and happiness. But my god in somalia hearing the news of today's sermons just highlighted the problems facing the country. Displaced refugees, war crimes and famine approaching. The islamists rightly told everyone that there is no point in enjoying festivities while the country is currently under occupation by a christian neighbour and people are dying of hunger. My nephew was saying thousands of youngsters motivated by liberation and absolute hatred of clan politics and warlordism have enlisted into al shabab. The governments of somaliland and pirate infested puntland are running scared. This is frankly good news as far as i am concerned. Like abraham lincoln once said a house divided cannot stand. And the selfish warlords who controlled somalia have to be destroyed otherwise we cannot have a rule of law.

The head of the western backed government abdullahi yusuf is a prominent warlord who hails from puntland. It's in his interest to see the islamists destroy so that he continue his corrupt ways.

Me personally i am with the islamists. It's time to destroy clan politics, tribal warfare and warlords. We cannot progress or join the civilised world while we keep fighting each other on the basis of tribes. The islamists will destroy them and bring somalia to a single nation intead of 3 weakling enclaves.

Before any of this is accomplished first, the eithopian invaders must be kicked out. After killing our men and raping our women eithopia has finally blew it with generations of somalians. They will be kicked out along with their puppet corrupt TSG government

van, al shabab are bad dudes to only 3 sets of people. eithopian invaders, somali warlords and clan militias.

As far as i am concerned as a somali, these three people should be destroyed

Yusef, we'll have to agree to disagree on al-Shabaab.

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