Saturday :: Jun 10, 2006

Chickenhawk Down

by pessimist

The anti-terrorist component of Bu$hCo thinks it has had a pretty good week. Everyone agrees that they got al Zarqawi, so the end-of-the-war-on-terror parties erupted; neo-confidence men boogying down, wearing lampshades, and groping young aides in the dark corners where the K Street mailmen usually ply their 'trade'.

There's just one problem: While Bu$hCo World Anti-terror Inc. won a small battle, it lost a big one:

Somalia's new threat
Jean-Jacques Cornish
09 June 2006

Somalia’s deadly 16-year game of no-hands government has taken an ominous turn, with warning signs that it might become the new Afghanistan.

President George W Bush’s views on the country, expounded in Laredo, Texas, this week, have set alarm bells ringing:

“The first concern, of course, would be to make sure that Somalia does not become an al-Qaeda safe haven. Somalia mustn’t become a place from which terrorists can plot and plan. When there’s instability anywhere in the world, we’re concerned. And there is instability in Somalia.”
Much depends on how Washington responds in the days and weeks ahead. Analysts concur that any multilateral action is unlikely, and that the US going it alone would pose a further threat to the credibility of the UN. But they are not ruling out direct, albeit limited, military action -- a smaller version of what happened in Afghanistan and Iraq.

That's just what we need right now - yet another expensive 'War on Terrah'!

There is no denying this is a huge setback for US policy in the Horn [of Africa], with the defeat of the warlords yet another bruising lesson for the US in a region that has been a painful and expensive classroom for them. The US wants to see Somalia build government institutions and end the factional fighting, US State Department spokesperson Sean McCormack said this week.
The question is whether the US
will continue to back the warlords,
or even escalate its support for them.

If Bu$hCo does increase support, they won't have many supporters. There isn't going to be a 'Coalition':

The rest of the East African region is also showing signs of losing its patience after years of mediation to put the transitional government in place. Kenya has closed the door on warlords, expelling Abdul Rashid Hussein Shiry, who sought shelter after this week’s defeat in Mogadishu.

Whatever support is given, it isn't going to go where it's needed the most:

Military considerations aside, Somalia is sitting on a humanitarian timebomb. The UN reported last week that 1.4 million people -- a fifth of the Somali population -- are in “urgent” need of emergency aid and asked international donors for $326 million to fund aid projects in Somalia this year.

Bu$hCo has a real dilemma on its hands, and it has little to work with:

Fall of Mogadishu leaves US policy in ruins
Xan Rice in Asmara, Oliver Burkeman in Washington and Rory Carroll
June 10, 2006
The Guardian

News of the takeover broke like a thunderclap over Washington.

It has emerged that the Bush administration bankrolled the warlords, who are secular, to gain access to al-Qaida suspects and block the rise of the Islamic militia. CIA operatives based in Nairobi funnelled $100,000 to $150,000 (£80,000) a month to their proxies, according to John Prendergast, an International Crisis Group expert on Somalia who has interviewed warlords.

"The approach - strategy would be too generous a word - was to strengthen [the warlords'] hand in order to try to eliminate the threat posed by these individuals," said Mr Prendergast.

"This was counter-terrorism on the cheap.
This is a backwater place that nobody really wants to get involved in,
so [they] thought, let's just do this and maybe we'll get lucky."
Instead Washington got burned. Amid recriminations, policymakers are asking how did the fiasco happen, and just how bad is it for US interests?
"This is worse than the worst-case scenarios - the exact opposite of what the US government strategy, if there was one, would have wanted," said Ken Menkhaus, associate professor of political science and Somalia expert at Davidson College, North Carolina.
"They didn't realise their limited engagement would actually make matters worse," said Mr Prendergast. "It's ignorance and impecuniousness that have led us to be in a more difficult and disadvantageous position than we were."
There are rumours that Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys could soon take over the leadership of the courts. If that happens, there is the "very real potential for serious violence", according to a Horn of Africa analyst, as it would pit him directly against President Abdullahi Yusuf, who is avowedly against Somalia becoming a fundamentalist state. The courts would struggle to impose Taliban-type rule on a society more wedded to clan than Islam.

Not everyone agrees with the Royal Edict that Somalia is going to succumb to Al Qaeda blandishments:

Robert Rotberg, professor at the Kennedy School of Government and director of the Program on Intrastate Conflict and Conflict Resolution, said the US must try to befriend the Islamists.
"Most of us suspect that if there are any real al-Qaida agents there,
these guys would turn them in for money in a heartbeat."

When a bureaucracy is faced with a crisis, it holds meetings to set the agenda for meetings to plan meetings to schedule meetings to ... ??????

Holding The Meeting

The United States will convene the first meeting of a "Somalia Contact Group" next week in New York to discuss strategy on Somalia, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said on Friday. Officials from the United Nations, European and African countries and other international organizations will attend the meeting to coordinate support for the Somalia transitional federal institutions.

The Meeting Agenda

The interim government has welcomed the defeat of warlords viewed as undermining it, and its ministers have met members of the Islamist side in Mogadishu. The defeat of the secular warlords was largely viewed as a setback for U.S. policy in the region and the Bush administration is looking at new ways of tackling Somalia, which it fears could become a haven for terrorists.

Planning The Meeting

The United States indicated earlier this week it might be open to dealing with the Islamic militia, by saying it would "reserve judgment" on the group loyal to sharia courts that seized Mogadishu on Monday. Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, chairman of the Islamic Courts Union, wrote to the United States and others this week to allay concern Somalia would become a safe haven for terrorists. McCormack said the United States had not yet replied.

Scheduling The Meeting

In New York, Idd Beddel Mohamed, Somalia's deputy U.N. ambassador, called the meeting "a long overdue engagement on Somalia" and hoped it would pave the way for a "peace support mission" staffed by the African Union and neighboring states.

What Next?

U.S. to convene strategy session on Somalia
June 9, 2006

McCormack said a goal of the meeting will be to support Somalia’s transitional government, a weak entity that has no presence in the capital. Its main strength comes from the many foreign governments, the United States included, that support it.

There is really only one way to read this - more war.

Bu$hCo knows nothing about diplomacy. They have to be cornered with no way out before they take the steps they should have taken in the first place. The recent public announcements on the reversal of the administration position on Iran's nuclear program is case-in-point. It took a few weeks, but the efforts of several countries - China and Russia in particular - to manouever the US into a box from which it could not emerge diplomaticlly-unscathed worked. This doesn't mean that the ultimate goal of attacking Iran is cancelled, it just means that the more socially-acceptible method of FIRST trying to talk to the Iranians like human beings is being used.

Whether the effort is sincere or not remains to be seen.

The only reasons the administration has any interest in Somalia is the proximity of the region to the Persian Gulf, and to the new oil fields of Darfur. By getting involved, the administration hopes to find a place at the table between the Chinese and the Germans. Both have already invested large sums in the region, and both are expected to remain there for the foreseeable future, but it isn't clear yet if there is anything left for Sam.

The assumption has to be that there isn't. If there is, all the better, but that can't be relied upon. Better to ensure that no one else is there to share the wealth. That will mean backing the warlords to expel the Islamists.

It would also make it easier to back the Sudanese opposition without appearing to be doing so. It would piss off the Gulf States, who have openly backed the Sudanese government, in a big way (to be felt at the gas pump) if it came out.

About the only way Bu$hCo can staff such an effort would be to hope that the economy slows down enough with this latest Fed interest rate hike to drive even more poor Red Staters into the Recruiting Depots.

Otherwise, a lot of Yellow Elephants are going to get draft notices.

Either way, let's hope that they are finally issued real bullets to use to defend themselves. Their keyboards won't be of much use to them in a land largely unserviced by electricity.

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pessimist :: 8:52 AM :: Comments (2) :: TrackBack (0) :: Digg It!