Tuesday, December 26, 2006


Bush to Blame: this week's chapter - Ethiopia & Somalia

A matter that is sure to get increased play in the weeks to come: Ethiopia Steps Up Attacks on Somalia

“Ethiopian warplanes attacked the airport in Somalia's capital, Mogadishu, on Monday in another major escalation of fighting between the Ethiopian-backed Somali government and the Islamic Courts movement that in recent months has taken over much of the country.”

Apparently because Post writer Stephanie McCrummen isn’t sure we can follow the significance of what’s going on over there, she helpfully makes use of “analysts”.

Analysts believe that Ethiopia's offensive is intended to force the movement back into negotiations by changing the situation on the ground.”

“But some analysts have expressed fear that Ethiopia's military calculation is seriously flawed…”

“Although some analysts believe al-Qaeda may exert influence over some military and political leaders within the Islamic movement…”

“…a claim that regional analysts believe is exaggerated.”

And this being the Washington Post, predictably:

Analysts said the current crisis stems from another failure of U.S. policy in an increasingly vulnerable region.”

Ah yes, even when we’re not there, we manage to screw it up.

But despite the constant references to “analysts”, only one manages to go on record here: former Clinton Administration official and reliable current administration basher, John Prendergast. He thinks:

"All this could have been averted," Prendergast said. "If the U.S. joined a serious diplomatic effort aimed at finding a compromise between Ethiopia and the Courts, negotiations could have had a much better chance.”

I know Mr. Prendergast was a big part of the success the US enjoyed in Africa in the 90’s – Sudan, Rwanda, Mogadishu - but that just doesn’t make diplomatic sense. The High Courts are NOT the government of Somalia and the US should not seek to legitimize it in this way. And what kind of compromise should the parties seek? Ethiopia, not unrealistically, sees Somalia as a potential launching spot for terrorist actions against itself should the High Courts establish an unfettered stronghold within Somalia.

“Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi has maintained, however, that this is a war of self-defense and that dialogue has only bought the Islamic movement time to expand its control.”

Whether he is right or wrong – and giving the Islamic movement the benefit of the doubt here doesn’t strike me as a winning tactic – any compromise on his part would only come across as appeasement and on the wrong side of history.

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