Sunday, April 19, 2009

Somalia: The 18 year case study for Anarchy

Anytime I find myself debating possible solutions to the suffering and plight and the third world with some of my left leaning friends, they struggle mightily to conjure up any resolution that does not include military force. Economic sanctions tend to cause the most damage to the most vulnerable people, while food drops and aid payments often find their way back to the oppressors. When there exists political instability amidst economic disparity, the alleviation of the suffering of the citizenry is virtually impossible without landing some boots on the ground to impose order.

Sadly, civil wars are uncomfortably commonplace in Africa, where poverty is rampant even at the best of the times. Civil war only serves to magnify the suffering of the common folk. Be it the Rwandan genocide in 1994 (estimated 800,000 killed), Idi Amin in Uganda in the 70s (estimated 300,000 dead), a decade of turmoil in the Congo as left nearly 5.4 million people dead, Charles Taylor and his two civil wars in 1989 and 2003 killed an estimated 200,000 people; and so on and so forth.

But perhaps the most illuminating example of civil war induced anarchy is Somalia. When President Barre was overthrown in 1991, the country plunged into a bloody conflict that is still being fought today. In the immediate aftermath of the 1991 coup, an estimated half million people died in a famine prompting the United Nations to spring into action in concert with the USA in Operation Restore Hope. The first President Bush committed the troops to go in, and then passed the football on to Bill Clinton. Less than a year later, Slick Willy withdrew American troops after 18 died in Blackhawk Down. A withdrawal that when viewed through the prism of hindsight deserves the moniker Operation Extinguish Hope.

I suppose the question that we should be asking ourselves is do we want to change the world? It is a noble endeavour to be sure; as no moral human being wants to stand idly by while innocent women and children are suffering and dying needlessly. It is as they say; evil prevails when good men fail to act. The strategy that we have adopted since the days of Live Aid has been to dump money and food on the continent. What has changed? There are certainly scattered success stories in Africa, but by and large trillions of dollars and 20 years later, what progress has been made?

I support trying to make a difference and striving to make the world a better place. But before I present my solution, I must qualify that I unequivocally reject the theory of Karl Marx that all warfare is class warfare. I subscribe to the theory that some people are just evil; who for whatever the reason lack a conscious and are capable of the most heinous acts. Morality is not perfectly correlated to salary. Evil acts are not restricted to the impoverished. History can provide countless examples of the wealthy engaging in morally empty and arguably evil behavior. Sadly, the willingness to cross the line between right and wrong can at times be profitable. It is a type of sociological evolution that encourages the “evil gene” to flourish, but it is imperative that those of us who value civilized society are steadfast in our resolve to fight evil.

The solution to these civil wars and rescuing countries like Somalia from the abyss becomes apparent if you watch the film Shake Hands With the Devil. We need to send in Blue Helmets, an international force skewed to African membership, and loosen the rules of engagement. If they are willing, I’d suggest putting that force under the command of Romeo D’Allaire and Colin Powell, and start killing bad guys. The nation building model that would be best suited for individual situations is a conversation for another day. As a former Registration Officer for Elections Canada, I’m actively working on some ideas.

To those who would cite Blackhawk Down as proof that military intervention is ineffective, there is insufficient evidence to support that claim. 160 elite American soldiers in a two day battle against thousands of Somali militia men, inflicted a casualty rate in the neighborhood of 50 dead Somali militants for each dead American. Clinton withdrew the American forces 3 days later, so we have no idea what good we could have accomplished had we stayed. What we do know for sure is that the withdrawal has left that country in worse shape. This perpetual state of anarchy has created a lawless society which is now making headlines on a daily basis for rampant piracy. I am also not optimistic about the pending rise to power of the “Islamic Courts Union”, now that Ethiopia has withdrawn its forces from Mogadishu. Islamic and Courts are two words that make me very squeamish when placed in sequence.

What I don’t know is the willingness of the United Nations forces or the appetite of the citizens of Western Democracies for the use of military force to at least attempt to make the world a better place. Because what he have been doing has not been working, and either we strengthen our resolve to alleviate suffering in the long term, or we just wash our hands of these failed states and mount a few rocket launchers on civilian freighters passing through the Gulf of Arden.

“Those who make peaceful revolution impossible make violent revolution inevitable” - JFK

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