Friday, February 27, 2009

hope for Somalia?

The Economist sees "a glimmer of hope" in Somalia if only America would pay more attention. Myself, I'm skeptical, but at least the guys have the credit to lay blame where blame is due:

The original Shabab was shredded by Ethiopian artillery and American air strikes two years ago. The revitalised Shabab is sustained by a martyrdom complex. But its success is also due partly to money: it pays young Somalis to fight for it. It has also benefited from the decision of President George Bush’s administration to isolate moderate Islamists such as Mr Ahmed and to embrace secular warlords with a history of terrorising civilians.

Shabab's numbers have mushroomed and turned a previously fringe group into a force to be reckoned with. Virulently anti-Ethiopian sentiments have given the movement a shot in the arm, and now it threatens to take over the country. But The Economist sees a way forward:

Many Somalia-watchers think Somalis should work out their own political settlement—and that foreigners should keep out. Somehow the Shabab has to be crushed, perhaps bringing some of its more amenable members into Mr Ahmed’s apparently moderate Islamist fold. The Shabab may not be as cohesive as it claims to be. The recent departure of the hated Ethiopians and the Shabab’s own record of bullying the impious and smashing the gravestones of Sufi saints have lost it some support. Its two top commanders, Muqtar Robow and Hassan Turki, may become isolated if Mr Ahmed’s government holds up, especially as many of the Shabab fighters come from the new president’s own Hawiye clan. Thanks to some back-channel talks, some Shabab, including an influential commander in the town of Jowhar, have already changed sides.

Put me in the "foreigners should keep out" strategy, at least physically. However, Mr. Ahmed is probably the best hope for the country, given the success the Union of Islamic Courts had in pacifying Somalia before being conquered by Ethiopia's foolish invasion. So we should support him, I guess... but not too much.

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