Friday, July 23, 2010

Seat of the Shah, Part 1

Yesterday for tomorrow...

From Somalia: African Union Head Blasts Lack of Somalia Response, dated July 23, 2010:

African Union head Jean Ping has blasted the international community for neglecting the crisis in Somalia and only seeking to intervene when their interest is threatened by piracy and international terrorism.

Actually, Ping's comments are a little off-base. We tried to intervene for humanitarian reasons two decades ago; we declared war on chaos and suffering, and chaos and suffering won.

Of course, there is the age-old concept that if a nation's national security is not threatened, a nation should probably not use troops; our national security was not threatened, but Americans are basically good and generous people (many people in the world are), and we wanted to help the Somalis out, so we sent in troops to try to stabilize the country and feed the people - that'll learn us!

Jean Ping was speaking in Kampala on the sidelines of the meeting of African Union ministers. The summit of heads of state is expected to come out strongly in favor of a more robust intervention policy for Somalia.

Ping's harshest criticism was for the permanent members of the UN Security Council. But he did not spare Africa either, saying the recent Ugandan terrorist attacks blamed on Somali Islamists has resulted in certain countries increasing direct military or logistical support for the African Union military Mission to Somalia.

"We have been requesting UN Security Council to intervene in Somalia, but have gotten no result," said Ping, "So we have decided to help our brother country ourselves, despite a lack of means."

If the African Union - or any African entity - emerges as an effective unifying and stabilizing force in Africa, that will dramatically change the global power dynamic; Africa has great mineral wealth, including significant oil reserves, and other natural resources, and, if unified and organized, could become a major power astride the world's major shipping lanes.

Real trouble if it should be organized and unified under militant forms of Islam...

Somalia will be the key issue at this summit, Ping believes.

Guinea-Conakry has already announced that it will immediately contribute one ready- to-deploy battalion. East and Horn of African Countries under the regional Inter-Governmental Authority on Development have committed to deploy 2,000 troops including one battalion from neighbouring Djibouti. Algeria will provide transport logistics.

Al-Shebab in Somalia claimed responsibility for this month's Kampala attacks whose final death toll was 82. Ping said that the summit will not only discuss more promises of troops and material, but also change the mandate of the African Union Mission.

Somalis will be authorised to allow the troops to use force to enforce peace if necessary, as all of them now agree that there is no peace to keep in Somalia anyway.

Along the lines of militant Islam prospering in Somalia, we consider Somalia: Obama's Next Big Headache, dated July 18, 2010 by Greg Beals:

The Obama administration has to get serious about dealing with Somalia and the Somali Islamist jihadist group Harakat Al-Shabaab. The July 11 bombings in the Ugandan capital of Kampala, which killed 76 people, should have sent the administration a clear warning signal. The messages are both blunt and subtle, and the administration needs to get those messages and respond appropriately.

The terror attacks were well planned. Shabaab has now shown that it can strike beyond Somalia's borders and engage in bombing campaigns through Somali diaspora networks anywhere in East Africa and probably also in the U.S. But the more subtle message is this: Shabaab leadership calculates that Uganda will retaliate with ever increasing brutality against civilians in Somalia's capital, Mogadishu -- thus bringing more cadres into its ranks, including support from the United States.

Goading their opponents into overreacting in a form of asymmetric warfare designed to win the world's support by losing on the battlefield... shades of Vo Nguyen Giap?

So far the Ugandans have been playing into their hands. The attacks have already inspired Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni to invite African neighbors to join Uganda and Burundi in sending more African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) troops, ostensibly to protect that country's feeble Transitional Federal Government. But many within the African Union have been clamoring for these troops to undertake offensive operations. Uganda wants as many as 20,000 international forces, compared with the 6,000 currently stationed in the Somali capital.

The Ugandan and other contingents of the African Union forces in Mogadishu seem more bent on revenge than anything else. In Kampala the government is rounding up Somalis regardless of evidence and throwing them in jail. In Mogadishu officials are violating international humanitarian law. "They're killing lots of civilians right now," one U.S. diplomat with information on the current situation in Somalia told The Root. "At the moment, I am afraid they are going to drive a wedge between themselves and the civilian population."

AMISOM forces now threaten to live up to the reputation of their predecessors. In 2006 Ethiopia led an invasion into Somalia. More than 16,000 were killed, and 1.9 million were displaced as a result. Not surprisingly, Somalia's civilian population hated the Ethiopians, who eventually lost the conflict. More civilian deaths now will breathe new life into Shabaab at just the moment when its popularity among Somalis has reached an all-time low.

We hear about Somali piracy and Somalia as a base for terrorists, but we don't often hear the other side of the story: foreign fishing vessels fishing Somali waters and depleting fish stocks, foreign vessels dumping hazardous waste in Somali waters... Somalis have a right to be angry over these infringements on Somali sovereignty, and just because Somalia does not have an effective government to deal with this does not give foreigners the right to essentially rape Somalia like this.

Yes, this will be a headache for Obama, or perhaps for his successor if the problem simmers for the duration of Obama's Presidency (hopefully only until January of 2013, and not January of 2017).

One thing is for sure, though: neither Obama (our first President of partial African descent) nor the rest of the Washington crowd knows even what the questions are in Africa, much less what the answers are.

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