David Axe has written a pleasant fantasy about US involvement in Somalia over at Wired’s Danger room: Pentagon America Intervenes in Somalia, Quietly (Corrected). It starts out:
Quietly and with baby steps,
the Pentagon’s newest combatant commandthe U.S. is intervening in one of the world’s most tenacious conflicts.
One of the main reasons there is such a violent and tenacious conflict in Somalia is because of US intervention.
This would be a very nice story if it were true. I myself love to hear true stories of US generosity and benevolence. When true, these stories reinforce my love for this country and the constitutional and democratic foundations of its government. Unfortunately, Mr. Axe does not tell a true story. The true part is the US $5 million coming from the US State Department for a Somali security force. Although it will be interesting to see what actually happens to the money and who gets to spend and keep it.
Beginning in late December 2006 the US Ethiopian proxies invaded Somalia and overthrew the only functioning government Somalia had in about 15 years, the Islamic Courts Union, ICU. During the brief rule of the ICU, relative peace and stability returned to Somalia. Under the ICU there was no piracy by Somalis off the Somali coast, documented in this report from Chatham House PDF: Piracy in Somalia. That peace was brutally ended by the Ethiopian invasion, supported by US bombing of the civilian population, creating a worse humanitarian crisis than in Darfur. For more detail you can read a thorough a well documented report by Amina Mire on the invasion and its aftermath here: Menacing Somalia: Unholy Trinity of U.S Global Militarism, Meles’s Ethiopia and Thuggish Warlords.
The Bush administration alleged it was pursuing al Qaeda in Somalia. But as a West Point study cited by Amina Mire points out, al Qaeda was completely unsuccessful in Somalia. The Somali’s did not like them. The US sponsored an invasion, and caused a severe and ongoing humanitarian crisis for nothing, or for no reason that has been honestly revealed.
As Chris Floyd writes in The 13th Circle: Somalia’s Hell and the Triumph of Militarism:
… the extent of Washington’s direct involvement in the ongoing destruction of Somalia, which as we have often noted here, involved not only arming, training and funding the Ethiopian invaders, but also dropping US bombs on fleeing refugees, lobbing US missiles into Somali villages, renditioning refugees — including American citizens — into captivity in Ethiopia’s notorious dungeons, and running U.S. death squads in Somalia to “clean up” after covert operations. (The latter is no deep dark secret, by the way; officials openly boasted of it to Esquire Magazine.)
Now, as anyone not completely blinded by imperial hubris could have predicted, the entire misbegotten exercise has collapsed into the worst-case scenario. A relatively stable, relatively moderate government which held out a promise of better future for the long-ravaged land was overthrown– ostensibly to prevent it from becoming a hotbed of radical extremism. The resulting violence, chaos and brutal occupation by foreign forces led directly and inevitably to — what else? — a rise in radical extremism. Thousands of innocent people have been killed, hundreds of thousands have been driven from their homes, millions have been plunged into the direst poverty and the imminent threat of starvation and disease, unspeakable atrocities and unbearable suffering are arising, as they always do in any situation, anywhere, when a human community is destroyed.
David Axe continues his tale:
Somalia hasn’t had a functional central government in 18 years. Clan conflict, starvation and anarchy have contributed to what the U.S. Army’s top intel agent for Africa called a “vortex of violence” where the fighting at times escapes any rational motivation. That vortex of violence is a hallmark of so-called “Fifth-Generation Warfare.”
The Pentagon’s new Africa Command, more than any other U.S. command, is designed to wage 5GW, according to the command boss, Army General Kip Ward. Since military force often makes the vortex worse, Ward said Africom would “foster continued dialogue and development … enabling the growth of strong and just governments and legitimate institutions to support the development of civil societies.”
Somalia was returned to this vortex of violence by a US sponsored invasion. I think there is no question that military force makes, and in Somalia has made, the vortex worse. The US has been stirring the cauldron of 5GW. Bombing civilians, renditioning captives, and employing death squads are not the same as fostering “continued dialogue” in any lexicon. Yet these are what the US, the Pentagon, the State Department, and AFRICOM, have actually been doing.
You can view some pictures from the invasion of Somalia in Mire’s article, Menacing Somalia: Unholy Trinity of U.S Global Militarism, Meles’s Ethiopia and Thuggish Warlords,
or in these Somalia pictures from the Flickr photostream from Pan-African News Wire.
Added January 17, 2009:
If 5GW has been defined, I doubt what is described here meets the definition of 5GW. I think the following from an article about HTS, the Human Terrain System, is more on target in that regard:
Gates and Patreaus are … to blame for perpetuating the belief that Irregular Warfare and Asymmetric Warfare are different from past Guerilla/Unconventional wars the United States has been involved with, whether fought in urban or jungle terrain (the singular difference being the globalization of insurgent warfare).
As one source put it, “After the takeover in the North of Iraq (the Mosul area) by the Green Beret’s with their trained Peshmerga’s, they were kicked out by General Patreaus, who during that time was the 101st Commander. He did this because it was his Battlespace. Our so called military leaders are part of the problem. That is why we’ve been in neck deep in this whole thing for seven years. Every military commander (Colonels on up to Generals) that are not Green Beret’s are trying to justify their existence in this Unconventional War. The military has even gone as far as creating terms like Irregular Warfare and Asymmetric Warfare (re-inventing the wheel). The term Special Operations Forces in the military is used loosely now because the military wants everybody to be SPECIAL. Besides, if the Green Beret’s were allowed free reign in this war, what would we do with all the MRAPS, TANKS,STRYKERS, and all other sorts of junk that we bought for the rest of the troops that have no business fighting in this type of war? Bottom line is that our military is still set up to fight a Conventional War.”