_Peacekeeper_ Major Offensive? What’s the Deal in Somalia?
I was saddened but confused by today’s AP headline, “53 peacekeepers killed in Somalia offensive,” and finally cognitively dislocated by the lead sentence:
More than 50 African Union peacekeepers have died in fighting in Somalia since a major offensive against Islamist militants began two weeks ago, officials told The Associated Press on Friday.
Do ‘peacekeepers’ go on major offensives? Is a re-naming needed here, YEAH I think so. Peacekeepers should only be blue-helmeted pacifists like we last saw personing the Lebanon-Israel border, right? More importantly, why is the contingent of African Union troops in Somalia making war, and on whom? Is the U.S. behind it? And is the African Union force a proxy for U.S. interests? Well, yeah of course to those last two.
Why is the U.S. there?
The best way to answer that is to look at who ‘we’ (you and me, if you’re a U.S. citizen) are fighting against. The ‘other’ in this case is Al Shabab (the AP’s “Islamist militants,” they rule most of southern Somalia). So what do they want?
Power – so that Somalia is ruled by Sharia.
[African Union troops and U.S. backed] President [of a tiny enclave in Mogadishu] Ahmed’s introduction of Islamic law has not appeased them.
Al-Shabab follows the Wahhabi school of Islam, which is based on a more rigid and literal interpretation of Islamic texts, rather than mainstream Sunni schools followed by most Somalis.
In areas under their control, they have imposed strict punishments such as amputating the hands of thieves and stoning adulterers to death.
The Islamists also want the African Union peacekeepers, based in Mogadishu, to leave.
In sum, stricter Shariah and foreign troops out. Preventing that, is that why we’re there? And are 2 million refugees and 21,000 civilian deaths since 2007 worth stopping stricter Shariah from happening?
But wait, since the U.S. does all it can to support and preserve Wahhabi-sharia-ruled Saudi Arabia, then preventing a Wahhabi-sharia-ruled Somalia can’t a real motivation for U.S. intervention. Obviously, the U.S. in fact doesn’t give a damn one way or another about Wahhabi-ness.
Take it or leave it, I assume the actual motivation the U.S. intervention is that Al Shabab, like most Islamist political movements, has nationalistic, populist economic instincts and policies. And the U.S. is committed to advancing an anti-nationalist, anti-populist, corporate-ruled globalization everywhere on the planet.
The cost of corporate globalization
So, for Somalia, in practice this means no to advancing the economic interests of Somali citizens, but we will dump agro-global food on you, and highly paid international aid workers to make sad faces and clean up the worst of the corporate globalization mess. Rebecca Macaux and Philip Primeau write on the worst economic result of the Somali experience with corporate globalization generated dependency and poverty:
Somalia entered the 1990s with an economy as nonexistent as its political institutions. This too was the fault of American and Western planners.
Over the years, its markets atrophied as its people grew accustomed to the foreign dole. Somalia’s agricultural industry was undermined by shipment after shipment of crops, which were sold at exaggeratedly low prices to the detriment of local farmers, who simply could not compete.
Without an organic market of indigenous producers, Somalis were forced into a cycle of dependency. How ironic: In the hopes of eliminating starvation in Somalia, we in fact eliminated the country’s ability to feed itself, making starvation all but inevitable.
Bruton: “renounce political intervention”
Somalia should not be treated as a dependent child and, in fact, it does much better economically and begins to solve its problems when outsiders leave it alone. Even someone as establishment as Bronwyn Bruton, International Affairs Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, writes:
The U.S. government needs to change its Somalia policy — and fast. For the better part of two decades, instability and violence have confounded U.S. and international efforts to bring peace to Somalia. The international community’s repeated attempts to create a government have failed, even backfired. The United States’ efforts since 9/11 to prevent Somalia from becoming a safe haven for al Qaeda have alienated large parts of the Somali population, polarized the country’s diverse Islamist reform movement into moderate and extremist camps, and propelled indigenous Salafi jihadist groups to power. One of these groups, a radical youth militia known as al Shabab, now controls most of Somalia’s southern half and has established links with al Qaeda. The brutal occupation of Somalia by its historical rival Ethiopia from late 2006 to early 2009, which Washington openly supported, only fueled the insurgency and infuriated Somalis across the globe.
Bruton restates the above more recently on vimeo, beginning at 4’00”. Revealingly, she sez that over the last 20 years, since the fall of U.S.-backed dictator Barre in 1991, only between 1995 and 2001 did Somalia made economic and social progress. That was the blessed (for Somalis) post-Black Hawk Down interlude when U.S. imperial power left the country alone.
Unfortunately, since 2001 we’ve been supporting ‘our’ Islamist militias, getting Ethiopia to invade, and wrangling African Union military intervention. All of it has just perpetuated the nightmare of permanent war. And, no matter what, Somalis just don’t get with the program. They’ve consistently resisted all the various globalization-subservient quasi-rulers chosen by the U.S.
So, how ’bout it, Somalia!? If you just capitulate you get peace and open borders for international agro-giants to dump their products on you again, but you would _ALSO_ get food aid, at least for awhile, most or some of the time.
In every outpost of the globalization empire, the victims of anti-populist pro-corporately-global-fat-cat economics are saying no. In Somalia they ‘vote’ by supporting (or at least not resisting) the vastly out-gunned and out-international-aided Al Shabab, and are even willing to put up with its excessively Sharia Wahhabism. In the past, though, Somalis have supported much ‘nicer’ enemies of foreign, globalist domination, many of whom were later (rightly) seen as being ‘bought off’ by the West. Again, our intervention and interference leads to no good. We need to leave Somalia alone.