Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Somalia Test

Jonathan Edelstein has a great rundown of the current situation in Somalia. Looking at it strictly from the standpoint of American foreign policy, this presents an interesting test of our policies toward international terrorism.

In the first place, do we really believe that the Islamic Courts Union is in cahoots with al-Qaida? If not, then our only stake is promoting a popularly legitimate form of stability, which might as well come from the ICU if no one else. However, if as seems likely al-Qaeda does have a horse in this fight, then we need to decide what our policy is going to be toward governments that work with the still undefeated enemies which attacked us on September 11.

I was quite comfortable with President Bush's September 2001 statement that we would make no distinction between terrorist and those who harbor them, and interpret the idea of a "War on Terror" as primarily a campaign directed against al-Qaeda and its related organizations. Osama bin Laden and Co. have killed thousands of Americans, as well as guests in our country and employees at our foreign embassies. They are interested in and seeking capabilities for even more deadly attacks. This cannot be treated simply as a criminal investigation even if the most important tools will often be those of intelligence operations rather than conventional military campaigns.

If, however, we believe that al-Qaeda might be establishing a new shelter under the protection of a de facto government in Somalia, don't we have an obligation to stop it using military force if necessary? Since I don't know the exact situation I'm not actually calling for anything, and certainly the situation in Iraq compromises our ability to respond to such security threats, but what sorts of measures would be justified here, and should be called for if there is confirmation of an al-Qaeda presence and the ICU is unwilling to cooperate with us? Should we support the warlords with special forces and air power instead of just cash? Do we even consider invading Somalia? These are the sorts of things that should be on the table in what I would consider a real war against al-Qaeda.

UPDATE: Gulf News carries a reminder of why I wouldn't back the warlords unless there were clear national security grounds.


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