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Deadly Developments in Somalia

Exclusive: Deadly Developments in Somalia
Molly McCarroll
Author: Molly McCarroll
Source: The Family Security Foundation, Inc.
Date: June 30, 2006

After more than a decade of fighting in Somalia, a victor in the vicious civil strife appears to be emerging – a hardline, fundamentalist Islamic party that could ultimately set back America’s war on terror.  Was there something we could have done to stop this development and will we pay the price for our distraction in the years to come?


Toxic governments don’t grow out of thin air.  They need a friendly environment in which to thrive.  They demand assorted preexisting qualities in order to take root.  They find nothing so hostile as a healthy society and instead seek out weakness and instability to insinuate their deadly tentacles into the deepest reaches of power.  Once they are in place, they have all the resources of a functioning state at their reach, albeit in the inevitably stifled form of an improperly aligned government.  They are stabilized by the inertia that inevitably accompanies the status quo and any adversary that would seek to undermine their leaders and their ideology begins from a far weaker position than before that fateful moment when they seized power.


The totalitarian state, that demonic twentieth century innovation that perfected what the French Revolution had begun, was the world’s last and deadliest incarnation of a toxic government.  Whether they grew amidst the social stratification and economic stagnation of tsarist Russia or amongst the confusion and humiliation of Weimar Germany, they combined the technological innovations of a rapidly changing world with the ideological crutches of a vertiginous population to worm their way into the gaps of government.  In retrospect, it is easy to imagine that a well-timed military strike or a discerning covert operation could have averted the unimaginable devastation and incomprehensible cost of rooting out what could once have been prevented.


The twenty-first century proves the world has not yet learned its lesson.  Tyranny is not dead, but it has a newfound cloak of cultural respectability.  Pockets of anachronistic secularism dominate the globe from Cuba to China, but tomorrow’s totalitarianism wears a religious face.   In 1979, a handful of Iranian students served notice on the world that a new day had dawned.  Nearly 30 years later, their theocratic heirs still taunt and torment the free world.  In the 1990’s, a party of young Afghans seized by a single-minded thirst to build heaven on Earth completed the totalitarian vision that the Soviet Union could never quite realize.  After nearly five years of war, the combined might of the world’s best militaries hasn’t yet been able to free Afghanistan completely from the reach of the Taliban’s iron fist.


In both cases, it is simple to imagine how much better things would have been had someone had the courage, the foresight, and the mandate to stop these growing nuisances before they developed themselves into real problems.  It would not have necessarily meant war, but only an honest confrontation of those social ills that made revolution easy and appealing.  Yet the West, including the United States, was too bound up in the future of the shah to see the growing appeal of a movement that would not subvert the proud Persian heritage to an alien and uncomfortable culture.  No one noticed that the Afghan strength and spirit had been too devastated by years of instability and deadly conflict to resist an onrushing tide that at least promised stability.


To be fair, even if any of the warning signs were heeded, there is no guarantee that the resulting tragedies could have been avoided.  Mustering the political will to act would have been difficult, as all preemptive policies are.  But it is not impossible at least to hope that we would learn from these failures and do better the next time.


Unfortunately, we don’t appear to have done so.  Such a development is occurring right now in Somalia.  After more than a decade of devastating civil war, a fundamentalist Islamic party is in the process of seizing power.  Its leaders claim to have no intentions of establishing a regime on the Iranian model, but there are many forms that a sharia state can assume, few of which are kind to basic human rights.  If the radicalization process continues as one would expect, Somalia could easily turn into a terrorist haven along the lines of Sudan. 


This is not a reflection of popular Somali will, but the result of a protracted conflict between strong men, the result of which the Somalis will accept as a preferable alternative to more death and uncertainty.  With a history of razed villages, dead children, and devastated economics, the stability of even a theocratic autocracy earns a certain sort of appeal.  Averting this outcome would not necessarily have required more soldiers sent in retaliation for Mogadishu, but a concerted effort and enduring attention toward the social insecurities that allowed warlords to pursue their deadly aims while America’s focus was elsewhere.  A viable police force, economic infrastructure, and public services could have stopped these frightening developments in their tracks.  Let us only hope that we will not have traded one dictator in Iraq for a new one in Somalia.  Surely this is not a trade any of us would have made.


Molly McCarroll is the Editorial Director of FamilySecurityMatters.org and a graduate of the Institute of World Politics in Washington, DC.


The opinions contained in this article are solely those of the writer, and in no way, form or shape represent the editorial opinions of "Hiiraan Online"



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