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January 28, 2009

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Okay, what is the source of the leftist myth that the Haqqani Network, Hekmatyar, and the ICU are really decent guys who would be happy to work with the U.S. if only we would give them a chance? It's certainly not true, so I'm guessing it's wishful thinking.

Some might argue that simply because ...

Hmmm...I think I know at least one of those "Some".

"Okay, what is the source of the leftist myth"

Since you're the first person to mention it on this blog, you are.

I don't think the American pundits, left or right, know what they are talking about. That's not really their fault, I suppose, but I wish they (and you) would be less certain.

It's too bad (although not surprising) that the OAU was unwilling to step up and provide some order in Somalia. The Ethiopians would have been happy to see it. Maybe a different US policy would have made a difference, but I doubt it.

I have to say that an Islamist Somalia worries me.

In general, American influence in Ethiopia is a (very modestly) positive influence.

America was pretty popular in Africa even under Bush, and of course the new administration has good will to burn.

Okay, what is the source of the leftist myth...

I'm not sure of the source, but like Gary, I've never encountered that claim before. If you could point out an example, I might be able to trace it back to the source.

That's not really their fault, I suppose, but I wish they (and you) would be less certain.

What I am certain of is that this adventure has turned out horribly for the Somali population, and that the US has achieved none of its stated goals. In fact, if our stated goals are taken at face value (and I see no reason why they shouldn't be), we have made matters worse.

Do you doubt this?

And generally, my point is that it is so hard to be "certain" about positive outcomes from the application of military force, and that because such positive outcomes are so rare, and because military force leads to immense suffering, that we should carry a presumption against employing them.

Mine is the position of the less certain.

It's too bad (although not surprising) that the OAU was unwilling to step up and provide some order in Somalia.

Unwilling or unable? I can't imagine the OAU could have succeeded under the circumstances.

The Ethiopians would have been happy to see it.

Doubtful. This would go against their stated interests in the region.

In general, American influence in Ethiopia is a (very modestly) positive influence.

I didn't actually doubt that. That's not what I wrote. What I wrote was that we should have tried to discourage Ethiopia from invading Somalia, and used our aid as leverage.

America was pretty popular in Africa even under Bush, and of course the new administration has good will to burn.

To make the obvious point, Africa is a continent. America is pretty popular in certain regions/nations within that continent - in part due to Bush's laudable anti-AIDS measures (one of my favorites of his admin's policies).

On the other hand, America lost standing in North Africa under Bush, and has also lost standing in certain countries in the Horn of Africa (see, ie, Eritrea, Chad and Somalia).

We have zero goodwill to burn in those North African/Horn nations mentioned above.

Okay, what is the source of the leftist myth that the Haqqani Network, Hekmatyar, and the ICU are really decent guys who would be happy to work with the U.S. if only we would give them a chance?

Interestingly, it was the Reagan administration that first viewed Hekmatyar as a "decent guy who would be happy to work with the US:

For years Hizb-i-Islami fighters have had a reputation for being more educated and worldly than their Taliban counterparts, who are often illiterate farmers. Their leader, Hekmatyar, studied engineering at Kabul University in the 1970s, where he made a name of a sort for himself by hurling acid in the faces of unveiled women.

He established Hizb-i-Islami to counter growing Soviet influence in the country and, in the 1980s, his organization became one of the most extreme fundamentalist parties as well as the leading group fighting the Soviet occupation. Ruthless, powerful, and anti-communist, Hekmatyar proved a capable ally for Washington, which funneled millions of dollars and tons of weapons through the Pakistani ISI to his forces.

And this, from the Reagan years re: Haqqani:

During the anti-Soviet war, the U.S. gave Haqqani, now considered by many to be Washington's most redoubtable foe, millions of dollars, anti-aircraft missiles, and even tanks. Officials in Washington were so enamored with him that former congressman Charlie Wilson once called him "goodness personified."

Damned Leftists and their credulity!

http://obsidianwings.blogs.com/obsidian_wings/2008/12/by-eric-martin.html

Okay, what is the source of the leftist myth that the Haqqani Network, Hekmatyar, and the ICU are really decent guys who would be happy to work with the U.S.

I'm guessing The Wizard of Oz.

To try to be at least a little objective about the matter of Somalia and the Ethiopian intervention of 2006, there are some basic flaws in the arguments on both sides.

On the one hand, after reading Eric's commentary on Somalia in these columns for the past two years, I think he is (and always was) just a tad overoptimistic about the level of real "stability" the late ICU government was likely to provide to the "country" - and also about the prospects (moot point now) of the ICU making or allowing Somalia to become a safe haven for Islamist extremism, whether officially supported or not. And, whether or not an ICU-run government could be rationally negotiated with by the outside world on the issue or not.

On the other hand, though, the supporters/cheerleaders for the Ethiopian invasion have been, IMO, tragically and thoroughly proven wrong as well. What was lauded by the starboard commentariat at the time, as a Great And Heroic Blow Against The Evil Radicalislamofascistalqaedaterrorists has been proved, fwiw, to be just another bloody exercise in region s--t-stirring by the local bully. And all, as von ceaselessly reminded us in these hallowed pages, in support of the "legitimate" Somali government: legitimate, that is (was) to everyone but the Somalis: and whose entirely predictable demise has left the land, yet again, in virtual anarchy.

I think we should call a moratorium on arguments over who was "right" or "wrong" about Somalia policy: or at least tie them to suggestions as to what can be done going forward.

I don't necessarily disagree Jay C, but it's important to realize that the burden of proof needs to be shifted to the supporters of military action to prove that it will be/was worth the costs.

A lot of death and destruction was unleashed, and we had a hand it. Somewhat unfairly, we are perceived as more directly behind Ethiopia's actions, but then, we have sort of acted to create at least the plausibility of that perception.

Regardless of how great the ICU was, about 1 million people have fled Mogadishu after Ethiopia's invasion. They left because the situation became so horrendous that becoming a refugee in the Horn of Africa became the more attractive option.

That seems to suggest that, yes, life was actually better under the ICU. Far from perfect, but then you would concede, I never even hinted at that.

Eric (@ 4:33): quite true: but then, if not from you, where DO all these "leftist myths" about Somalia get started? (joke)

But on a more serious note, the supporters of the Ethiopian invasion intervention seems (AFAICT) to have mostly missed the main point - or two, really:

One: An invasion they supported to forestall the possibility of an Islamist government/terrorist haven in Somalia has resulted, rather, in the near-certainty of that happening.

Two: There is still no credible plan - by anybody anywhere, apparently - to stabilize Somalia.

An invasion they supported to forestall the possibility of an Islamist government/terrorist haven in Somalia has resulted, rather, in the near-certainty of that happening.

I'd go even further, and argue that the invasion empowered the extremists vis-a-vis the moderates.

Oh, this will help our image in the Mideast no end.

Eric,

Haqqani and Hekmatyar's cooperation was always along the lines of "the enemy of my enemy" sort of approach. Post-Taliban, there's been little if any indication that they'd be willing to bury the hatchet in exchange for anything other than NATO's throwing in the towel in Afghanistan.

More importantly, to more calmly make the point I wanted to in my first comment, it's simply not true that the ICU was a group of people who were forced into radicalization by U.S. backing of the Ethiopian invasion. There leaders were affiliated with Al Qaeda from the get-go. They were sending out the call to Islamic extremists to join the jihad back in 2005, and they were allowing Al Qaeda training camps to be established in the parts of Somalia that they controlled well before the Ethiopian invasion.

If one is discussing what went wrong with the Ethiopian invasion and occupation of Somalia, it helps to have premises that are correct. The idea of ICU "moderates" is pretty close to out and out false.

Haqqani and Hekmatyar's cooperation was always along the lines of "the enemy of my enemy" sort of approach. Post-Taliban, there's been little if any indication that they'd be willing to bury the hatchet in exchange for anything other than NATO's throwing in the towel in Afghanistan.

True, but I didn't say anything different.

More importantly, to more calmly make the point I wanted to in my first comment, it's simply not true that the ICU was a group of people who were forced into radicalization by U.S. backing of the Ethiopian invasion.

True, but I didn't say anything different.

There leaders were affiliated with Al Qaeda from the get-go. They were sending out the call to Islamic extremists to join the jihad back in 2005, and they were allowing Al Qaeda training camps to be established in the parts of Somalia that they controlled well before the Ethiopian invasion.

Certain of their leaders were, certain not. Do you have links re: the training camps?

The idea of ICU "moderates" is pretty close to out and out false.

Are you saying that there were no relatively moderate factions in the ICU? Factions that would have been more amenable to cooperate on some level/less open to al-Qaeda?

That I would disagree with.

But never did I allege that the ICU were moderate as a whole.

"it's simply not true that the ICU was a group of people who were forced into radicalization by U.S. backing of the Ethiopian invasion."

Could you quote who on this blog said that that was true?

Thanks!

(If not, are you in the habit of responding to people with statements made by someone else, somewhere?)

Fantastic article Eric, very accurate and percise.

Eric, I think that I'm going to have to apologize. Having re-read your post, you had a lot of nuance that I accused you of not having. So, *clears throat* I was wrong.

That said, I still don't buy your contention that ICU could have been nudged closer to our camp after their takeover of most of the country.

As for the information on previous AQ involvements with the ICU, whatever one thinks of his politics, Bill Roggio has had lots of coverage on Somalia both on his own website and in the Weekly Standard. Again, it may be easy to sneer at his politics, but he did call the Awakenings about six months before the American media in general caught on, so he's worth listening to.

A lot of the stuff I was discussing about AQ and the ICU's previous involvement came from this particular discussion.

That said, I still don't buy your contention that ICU could have been nudged closer to our camp after their takeover of most of the country.

Again, I think I was more nuanced. It wasn't a contention. In fact, I didn't give the gambit a high chance of success. I said:

There was an opening, before the invasion, to try to engage the ICU and work toward furthering the stability that had been brought to the capitol, Mogadishu, and for securing greater cooperation from the ICU with respect to US anti-terror interests...I wouldn't rate the odds of success in terms of winning over the ICU on all fronts as particularly high, but it was worth a shot given the enormous costs of Option B - war (more on that below).

I would note that hoping to court certain elements in the ICU is likely our only option now, as well. The only difference being, a highly poisonous well, a lot of corpses and massive refugee flows.

As for Roggio, I'm mixed. Sometimes he does good work, but sometimes he's rather sloppy - and his sloppiness always seems to militate in favor of the conservative/militaristic party line. I've never seen him make an error that favored the liberal/anti-war side of an argument.

As one example, he has long confused Iran's role with respect to ISCI (fka SCIRI) and Sadr - which favored the Bush team's preferred narrative (actually, his analysis shifted to match Petraeus' outreach to Sadr at one point).

http://tianews.blogspot.com/2007/12/in-through-out-door.html

I also think that evidence of al-Qaeda links emanating from the Weekly Standard and/or Roggio will forever have to be taken with their proper grains of salt. They only have themselves to blame for their loss of credibility - mostly stemming from all the Iraq nonsense.

On the other hand, more neutral groups with better records for accuracy (Jamestown, ICG) have suggested that ties to al-Qaeda have been exaggerated.

http://tianews.blogspot.com/2007/06/stop-dreaming-of-quiet-life-cause-its.html

Ethiopia even began lobbing charges at Eritrea realizing how useful such charges can be in terms of garnering our support:

http://tianews.blogspot.com/2007/09/when-we-become-proxys-proxy.html

somalia is free from the oppression and tyrannay of occupation.

The warlords, the eithopian war criminals and the quislings have been purged from our country thanks to al shabab and other resistance forces.

The south is peacefil again. We just need to clean up the last remaining warlords and their eithopian allies from the country.

2006 stability is coming sooner as every day passess by.

Eric right that proof burden should is on war supportors. That is true with all situation where predictability on one side and uncertainty on other.

Other point is U.S. only look weak with back Ethiopia then Ethiopia lose. Number first rule of force is you should be sure you're will win. U.S. have more influence by courts islamic before try and fail with Eithiopia invasion.

But Yusuf an Somalia situation in 2006 is not good with begin to. Place was garbage before Eithiopia come.

rick's nuts,


you have no clue. the place was garbage. i think you will find that the place turned to garbage when the ethios invaded.


the islamic courts brought peace in 2006. learn your history.

Ethios made place was worse true but it was still garbage before. Islamic courts slight better than absolute anarchy. But that not say much. Place have been garbage ever since Barre dethroned. But he bad was to. Somalias is good people but place is garbage.

ricks nuts,

you still don't get it.

is the islamists brought peace and stability in 2006. kicked all the warlords fighting, tribal thugs, caln militias.

open trade and free enterprise. the airports were open. Buisness flourished and commerce ensured.

Until america and eithopia decided to fuck somalia once more.

Good thing is, eithios learned their lesson And america failed to have a proxy in somalia

Business never thrive in Somalia because they stupid mud people who live in hut. Garbage.

Today's update:

Pumped-up mobs poured into the scarred streets of Mogadishu, Somalia’s capital, once again on Saturday, but this time they were demonstrating in support of the government, not against it.

Thousands of cheerful Somalis sang, whistled and hoisted up posters of Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed, the moderate Islamist cleric who was just selected as the beleaguered country’s new president. There was even a pro-government rally at a Mogadishu soccer stadium.

“It’s good to give a chance to the Islamists,” said Mohamed Wehlie, a teacher in Mogadishu. Sheik Sharif, he said, “is the sort of man who can make a change, and we really need a change.”

To many Somalis who have survived relentless cycles of rebellion, displacement, famine and war, Sheik Sharif’s victory was the best news they had heard in years. Although the government he leads is locked in a battle against hard-line Islamist militias, which still control large parts of the country, many Somalis seized on the news as a window of hope, a possible path out of the violence.

The exit in December of the transitional president, Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed, an unreformed warlord widely reviled for his warlike ways, and the selection of Sheik Sharif, 45, a cleric who is generally respected as being scholarly and temperate, are seen as an opportunity to bring together Somalia’s warring factions and end 18 years of chaos.

The Somali Parliament, after an all-night session in neighboring Djibouti, voted overwhelmingly for Sheik Sharif early Saturday morning.

And so on.

rick nuts,

i won't reply to your racist tirade against me and to fellow somalians and insult fellow posters on here.

My advice to you is go and check your self in a mental institute to get rid of all that hatred and anger.

I said Somailias good people. I knows Somalias in US. I just think it primitive place full of bad things. People stupid because noneducated not because race wrong. You do have be stupid to support fundamentalist religion. That almost definition of stupid. Place is garbage. I from Armenia. Armenia garbage to. That why I left.

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