Hillary Clinton has recently called for more effort on the part of the West in the War on Terror’s Horn of Africa region by issuing threats of sanctions and more military troops in the region recently (ht John Glaser).
The threats of sanction, which libertarians consider an act of war, have been issued to states who don’t cooperate with the West in their efforts to eradicate al Shabaab, an Islamic group linked to al Qaeda that controls much of the southern territory of Somalia and, until recently, sections of Mogadishu as well.
The underlying argument put forth by the West is that the Somali state itself, a creation of the West, needs to be upheld and maintained by an inclusive, democratic regime in order for stability, prosperity and an end to terrorist activities to take place in the Horn of Africa.
This is tactic is incredibly wrong, and instead of accomplishing the West’s stated aims, actually contributes to its continued failure.
The main problem is not terrorism, lack of democracy or stability in the region. These are all symptoms of the main problem in the Horn of Africa. The main problem in Somalia is Somalia itself.
Somalia was created by European imperialists almost a century ago and was divided into an Italian section (the southern part) and a British section (the northern part), and in 1960 the two colonial territories merged to become the Republic of Somalia.
Since the merger, the Somali state and all its factions have been in constant friction with all them vying for control of the central power structure once centered in Mogadishu. The communists gained control of the central power structure in 1976 and you can probably guess what happened for the remainder of its rule (until 1991).
Today, some of the regions in Somalia have claimed independence from the Somali state, and are actively maintaining their own self-governing (and democratic) regions. This process has created peace in the northern region of Somaliland. In other parts of the Somali state, many other regional governments have steered clear of Mogadishu and have set up self-governing states that are simply biding their time until the war between al Shabaab and the Western-backed Transitional Government ends.
These non-secessionist regions have pledged to work with Mogadishu and the West to rebuild Somalia, but none of them are interested in working with the Western-backed Transitional government. They have all expressed a desire to work with al Shabaab, though. It is pertinent to note that the unionist factions do not want to work with the Western-backed Transitional government because they see it as morally corrupt and incapable of catering to the interests of Somalis.
What these unionist factions are not doing is calling for a nationalist government. They are more than willing to work with the West, with their African neighbors, and with their Arab neighbors to rebuild Somalia and peace in the Horn of Africa. However, these unionist factions believe that they should be the ones playing the central role in rebuilding Somalia.
So what they West is confronted with is a highly fractured state that it created. Unfortunately, the West is incapable, it seems, of accepting a Somali state that does not conform to their standards of a regular nation-state. What the West wants to build in Somalia is not a federal republic, but a unitary nation-state where power flows downward from Mogadishu and into subservient regional governments.
If one has ever studied the conquests of the Aztec or Incan empires (or even the conquests of Alexander the Great), one should not be surprised that the West is aiming for this unitary nation-state, rather than a federal republic composed of still smaller republics. Such a structure would make it impossibly hard to control the Somali people.
What the West wants from a centralized, unitary nation-state is not so much a real, organic democracy, or prosperity for the Somali people, but rather a tool for furthering its aims at pacifying the Islamic world. To Western policymakers, a Somali federal republic means a republic with Islamist factions in it.
Hillary Clinton and her team offers to the public a message that conforms to the demands of all peoples everywhere: Freedom and democracy. But this façade is far too reminiscent of the Spaniards of old in that it purports to want to bring something to a people but in reality is really aiming to bring something quite different: namely the imperial urge to dominate.
There is some hope, though. After the West’s blatant hypocrisy was put on trial after refusing to recognize the election of Hamas into power in the Palestinian territories, it has grown softer to the idea of democratically-elected Islamist parties. One can see this change of mind in the blessings it has bestowed upon the elections in Tunisia and Turkey, as well as the calls for fairer elections to be had in Egypt and Iran.
If the West truly wants to eliminate large-scale terrorism, and help to bring about democracy and prosperity in the Islamic world, it would do well to work with the Somali people in establishing a federal republic that conforms to the Somali people’s wishes. This means not threatening others to stay out of the affairs of the Somalis. This means recognizing the secession of Somaliland and bringing it into the world of international states. This means not supporting foreign troops from places like Ethiopia or the African Union. This means not supporting a brutal regime that is far too willing to sacrifice lives and freedom in exchange for favors from the West; the West needs to let the Transitional government run its natural course (which is to dissolve forever) by ceasing all aid to it.
This means taking into consideration the various nuances associated with Somali culture, like ethnicity, tribal identity, and regionalism. What would we think if a Texan tried to establish Texan-style democracy onto the rest of us with tanks, bombs, and soldiers?!
Finally, if the West wants to accomplish its stated aims, it needs to let the Somali people begin to govern themselves and recognize that freedom can never be imposed from above. Sometimes this means that states fall apart. This doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Just look at Czechoslovakia. Or the Soviet Union. The key to these velvet divorces was that there were no foreign powers involved in trying to keep these states together when the people within them did not desire to be part of the same state any longer. This, together with the fact that the international community quickly recognized the sovereignty of these “divorces,” led to swift and mostly amiable relations between the factions involved.
I am hoping amongst hope that somebody will bring up the Balkans and the Caucasus so that I can further develop this theory on the blog.