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The Ethiopian Confusion December 27, 2006

Posted by publicpolitics in Ethiopia.
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Former warlord Mohammed Dheere, who ruled Jowhar before it was captured by the Council of Islamic Courts in June, led the Somali government troops as they drove into the city, said resident Abshir Ali Gabre.”

Mohamed Olad Hassan

Somalia’s Islamic Courts rose to power in part because people were tired of the lawlessness, chaos, and arbitrary tyranny resulting from the ruling combination of weak central government and local warlordism. Ethiopia’s invasion of Somalia is likely to exacerbate the chaos and create a new refuge for terrorists out of nearly thin air.

By most accounts, the Islamic Courts did have the virtue of imposing some semblance of order in the areas they controlled. That rule of law (Sharia) is not one I would find congenial, nor would most proponents of liberal democracy. But Somalis may not be liberal ( in the institutional sense, not the doctrinal one), and while people may want the right to elect leaders, that desire does not always lead to liberal democracy. Illiberal theocracy is in fact a possible preference of peoples, and such has been the outcome of popular elections all over the world and all through history. Think early Sandinistas, or the popular wave that brought Islamic theocracy to Iran.

The United States is supporting Meles Zenewe and the Somali transitional government on the theory that Somalia has some necessary connection to al- Quaeda., and on the very dubious assumption that any Islamic government (except Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, oddly enough) will inevitably draw jihadist fighters and act as a haven to them. This is a prime mistake, and it is much more likely, as recent calls from Somali Islamists for foreign fighters indicate, that a nascent movement under attack , as the Islamic Courts now are, will be a more fertile ground for terrorists than a nascent movement. With dreary monotony, the self- fulfilling logistics of war against the weak have now kicked in, so it is probably the case that as the militarily challenged Islamists go into formal retreat and cities are occupied by invading foreigners, the war will be taken to the foreigner, in the form of terrorist acts within Ethiopia itself, particularly in Addis Ababba.

As if this situation were not confusing enough, Ethiopia’s military strategy adds another addled layer. According to the above cited AP report, Ethiopia’s declared intention is not to defeat the Islamist forces, but to drive them back to their bases. Given the military superiority of the Ethiopian forces, aided as they are by several governments, this is probably possible, although it will not be easy. Then we will have warlordism in some areas, with a post-invasion legacy of hatred, fury, and jihadist zeal in the Islamic bases. Thus, what will probably emerge is an infrastructural disaster: a new and unstable brew of kleptocratic regional banditry, a humanitarian refugee disaster, and an armed , hateful bunch of theocrats, cornered and seeking revenge.

Tags: Dheere | Abshir | warlord | version | troops | RULED | return | RESIDENT | link | Government | DROVE | CAPTURED | article | Somalia | somali | Politics | Mohammed | Mogadishu | june | Jowhar | ISLAMIC | Courts | Council

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