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July 15, 2010

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Hmmm...let's see.

a lot of Somalis are dead

Dead muslims: win.

we've swelled the ranks of an al-Qaeda affiliated outfit

Continued justification for ever more foreign interventions: win.

increased its prestige and fueled anti-American anger due to the destruction we helped sow.

Ditto.

Of course this was a great triumph in the eyes of conservative foreign policy pundits. On to Uganda!

But seriously, war is no way to go about counterterrorism.

You silly man. War is the way to go about everything, if you're the GOBP.

I'm surprised they haven't tried to bring back the draft.

I'm surprised they haven't tried to bring back the draft

No, no, no. War must be divorced from all costs - be they pecuniary or physical. When too many people have skin in the game there's too much resistance.

Ugh, why on to Uganda? There is so much more room for creating similar disasters in Congo, after all.

why on to Uganda?

That's where the al-Shabaab bombing occurred. But don't worry! The Congo is right next door and thus ripe for a Cambodian-style secret war and/or bombing campaign. The world can't get enough of our JDAMs of love, which goes along with our Gangster of Love persona.

There is so much more room for creating similar disasters in Congo, after all.

Do the kids still say "coals to Newcastle"?

Do the kids still say "coals to Newcastle"

I am aware of this lexical tradition, but it is kind of old timey.

Not to mention the military base we set up in Djibouti to carry out the Somali attacks props up the corrupt government there that is a major trafficker of women sold into slavery...

Uganda provides most of the troops propping up the Somali government, of course.

Splendid little war. Carry on, chaps.

Hey, don't meddle with Uganda right now! It could endanger the until now rather successful kill-the-gays legal process. Civil wars are nice but legal executions of people for 'vice' is even better and will anger the libs even more.


Something that mostly gets missed: Ethiopians are the traditional enemies of the Somalis. The reasons for this are complicated, but here's the big one: back in the 19th century, Ethiopia clawed off a big hunk of Somalia. Sometimes called Ogadenia, it's an Arizona-sized territory, mostly arid, with a population of around 4 million people, almost all ethnic Somalis.

This might have worked out OK if the Ethiopians had treated their new Somali minority well and integrated them. Alas: up until the 1990s, various Ethiopian regimes treated the Somalis of Ogadenia with varying degrees of oppression and contempt. The Somalis, of course, responded with guerrilla movements, insurgencies, and rebellion. At one point in 1977 the government of Somalia actually sent troops over the border into Ethiopia to help the Ethiopian Somalis try for independence; it failed, but you can believe it's remembered in Ethiopia.

I said "until the 1990s" because the current Ethiopian regime -- while dictatorial, brutal, and obnoxious in all sorts of ways -- actually has a surprisingly good track record in Ogadenia; it's given the Somalis there limited autonomy under traditional leaders, and has mostly quit oppressing them. This has gone far (not all the way, but far) towards appeasing their grievances; there are still anti-Ethiopian conspiracies in Ogadenia, but they're fairly small (for now). It doesn't hurt that Somali is currently such an anarchic hellhole that few Ogaden Somalis want to join up, nationalist sympathies notwithstanding. The Ethiopian government may be a brutal dictatorship, but at least it's an actual, more or less functioning government.

On the Somali side, though, taking back Ogadenia -- whether the Ogadenians want it or not -- has become an unquestioned tenet of Somali nationalism. No right-thinking citizen can question it, and all political leaders vie with each other in the intensity of their anti-Ethiopian rhetoric. And as Somalia descended into anarchy back in the 1990s, various leaders decided to show their chops by supporting insurgencies in Ogadenia, raiding across the border, etc. etc.

Ethiopia eventually lost patience with this and invaded. Understand that, from Ethiopia's POV, the invasion wasn't really about supporting one group over another. It was more about throwing Somalia against a wall, hard. The idea was to demonstrate that Ethiopia was strong, Ogadenia wasn't going anywhere, and Somali cross-border fun and games would carry a very high price tag. And arguably the Ethiopians succeeded at this, albeit in a way that generated massive negative externalities for all other players.

Anyway: if nothing else, knowing the history gives you a useful bullshit detector. If someone starts nattering on about the conflict and either (1) never mentions Ogadenia, and/or (2) tries to frame this as a mostly religious conflict (as opposed to a classic nationalist-territorial one that Somali jihadism is making worse), then they're talking crap.

cheers,


Doug M.

Thanks for the excellent summary Doug M. As far as these two points, I have made them repeatedly over the past several years:

Something that mostly gets missed: Ethiopians are the traditional enemies of the Somalis. [...]

Understand that, from Ethiopia's POV, the invasion wasn't really about supporting one group over another. It was more about throwing Somalia against a wall, hard.

To nuance it in a little more detail -- Ethiopians are the traditional enemies of the Somalis, but the converse is not really true. Somalis see Ethiopia as an imperialist power that grabbed a third of their country and that remains a menacing, existential threat. Ethiopians see Somalia as an obnoxious nuisance. A rough comparison might be, say, Georgia and Russia.

A question that hasn't been asked much, but is well worth considering: why didn't Shabbab attack a target in /Ethiopia/?


Doug M.

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