Merchant of Death
Money, Guns, Planes, and the Man Who Makes War Possible

Blood from Stones

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Somalia: The Next Step?
Ethiopia's quick dispatch the Council of Islamic Courts in Somalia has opened the way for the next step, which is seldom any easier than the first: rebuilding shattered institutions while providing the security that brought the Courts the support that propelled the radical group to power in the first place.

The new government is in a very difficult position-beholden to a foreign power that will soon be resented as an occupying force, little leverage in negotiating with the different clans and warlords, and unknown in most of the country.

In addition, the new government faces the prospect of a prolonged conflict with the rump of the Islamist movement, and the strong possibility that the remnant will receive support from Islamist movements around the world, including al Qaeda. This group, now scattered, will be able to regroup, as the Taliban has, if the new government cannot or does not act decisively to meet the inflated expectations of a restless and anxious population.

One of the keys will be international support and recognition, with support clearly tied to the government's willingness to take the necessary steps to rebuild a nation that has been without a central government for 15 years.

It was the Court's ability to provide security for businesses, ordinary citizens and international trade that created the atmosphere where their excesses were tolerated. If the new government cannot provide that in the very near term, it will fail one of the first, most crucial tests in many people's mind, and support will erode.

The Courts also provided a semblance of a working judicial system, under sharia law, where the cycle of impunity could be challenged and broken. Again, the new government must fill that void, or risk rapid popular disenchantment.

It is a huge challenge for a government that has done little to prove itself capable of meeting the enormous challenges that it faces. The international community cannot afford to ignore the situation, waffle in its objectives or allow the situation to drift indefinitely.

Ethiopia, at great national cost and considerable risk, took a step of self defense by bearing the brunt of the military side of the equation. But it is severely limited in its ability to assist in the long-term efforts to make sure the threat does not re-emerge in short order. If the international community does not work hard to make the new situation vialbe, the Islamists will be back, and sooner than expected.

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