osted this on American Footprints on November 13
Maybe one reason the Bush administration is unable to develop a coherent foreign policy is because it’s stuck in reactive mode, flinching as fresh catastrophes come down the pipe and scrambling to come up with new excuses and rationales for initiatives that—had they worked out—would have been tucked away in the “case-closed” file of foreign policy successes.
Pakistan looks like it might turn into a colossal botch. Certainly, our stated objective for shoehorning Benazir Bhutto back into Pakistan—to broaden the popular base for Musharraf’s regime—isn’t working out. In fact, the exact opposite is occurring.
In the same week, Georgia—home of the Rose Revolution we helped foment—declared its own state of emergency.
And now Somalia.
McClatchy’s Shashank Bengali lays it out:
Last December, Ethiopian forces supported by the American military invaded neighboring Somalia to oust a hard-line Islamist regime that U.S. officials claimed was linked to al Qaida. Since then, the Ethiopians have faced stubborn resistance from fighters loyal to the Islamists, who’ve proved adept at ambushes and remote-controlled bombings.
Ethiopia’s campaign has become an open-ended military intervention besieged by a stubborn insurgency, and Ethiopians recently responded by sending in a surge of reinforcement troops. Human rights groups charge that the Ethiopian forces are carelessly killing civilians.
Today’s word is probably not “Quagmire”; it’s “Meltdown”.
More than 114,000 people fled their homes over the past two weeks, according to United Nations estimates released on Friday. Humanitarian officials said that many more fled over the weekend after Islamists ambushed a convoy of Ethiopian troops and dragged the dead body of a soldier through the streets, triggering a spasm of Ethiopian reprisal attacks.
“Somalia’s worst displacement ever took place in the last few days,” said an official with a Western aid agency in Mogadishu who asked not to be identified for security reasons. “Nearly four districts of the city have been totally cleared out.”
Some 850,000 Somalis — perhaps one in six — are displaced within their own country, the most in years. Fewer than 10 percent of them are receiving any humanitarian aid, and most live in desperate conditions in makeshift refugee encampments scattered around Mogadishu’s outskirts.
The latest turmoil is producing a ghastly conclusion to an apocalyptic year, even for Somalia, which hasn’t had a functioning government in 16 years.
What to do, what to do?
Well, we can certainly point fingers at our proxies the Ethiopians, the hapless African Union, and that ineffectual but convenient punching bag, the U.N.:
“The Ethiopians are becoming impatient, meaning that they now retaliate indiscriminately,” said the Western aid official. “That, of course, leads to more resistance.”
The African Union has deployed a vanguard force of 1,600 peacekeepers, but they’ve been confined to Mogadishu’s airport and seaport. No reinforcements appear to be forthcoming, and last week U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said the situation was too chaotic to send in U.N. forces.
It would be a bit too much to expect the Bush administration to enforce some accountability on the U.S. dingbats who thought it was a good idea to orchestrate an invasion of Somalia by Ethiopia.
Maybe Jendayi Frazier of the State Department, point person for our Somalia policy–who is also blamed for our inept Sudan policy–should answer a question or two.
At least that’s what a highly indignant Sophia Tesfamariam thinks. In February 2007 she wrote in American Chronicle:
[UK Channel 4 News’ Jon] Snow told his listeners “the blueprint for a very American supported Ethiopian invasion of Somalia was hatched” at the US Embassy in Addis Ababa…[Snow] referred to a “UN record of a meeting” that took place sometime in June 2006 and was attended by a US Commander of the Fleet off Somalia, Rear Admiral Richard Hunt, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Jendayi E. Frazier and an unnamed UN official. According to the report, the attendees discussed possible scenarios in Somalia and how to deal with them:
•“…The worst case scenario would result from a total control by the UIC [United Islamic Courts of Somalia] over Somalia…the US would not allow it…”
•In the event of a rapid Ethiopian in and out intervention “…the US would rally with Ethiopia if the ‘Jihadists’ took over…”
•Jendayi Frazier is quoted as saying, “It would be a mistake for the international community to condemn such an invasion”
•An unnamed UN official is quoted as saying, “any Ethiopian action in Somalia would have Washington’s blessing”
[T]he UIC was never a threat to international peace and security, but rather, the threat we now face is the result of the crisis in Somalia that Meles Zenawi [of Ethiopia] and Jendayi E. Frazier have created and are advancing in the Horn of Africa.
Accountability shmacountability. That’s why we have proxies and cutouts.
Instead let’s assert our impotence (and lack of culpability) by engaging in some anguished handwringing from the sidelines (McClatchy again):
Bush administration envoys have called for Somalia’s transitional government to make peace with its opponents, but the Pentagon, which has long worried about Somalia becoming a haven for terrorists, supports Ethiopia’s presence in the country.
Remind me. Who made this mess?