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

Blood from Stones

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Somalia Goes From Bad to Worse
The current develpments in Somalia show that a bad situation can almost always get worse. It also shows the limits of the administration's uncoordinated policy, where the military, State Department and intelligence communities barely talk to each other and clearly are not looking at the same play book.

The Washington Post reports that the always-dubious offer of the Islamist militias, who control most of the country, to open a dialogue with the weak and ineffectual nominal government, had been revoked.

The reason given for this was the entrance of Ethiopian troops, predominately Christian, into Somalia to protect the central government. Rather than dialogue, the Islamists have now declared jihad against the government and its backers.

The statements reflect the predominance of Hassan Dahir Aweys, with strong links to al Qaeda and a public defender of suicide bombers, within the Islamist militias. Others in the militias may not be in total agreement, but so far have been unable to exercise any autonomy from Aweys.

The U.S. government has acknowledged it did not see the Islamist triumph coming, and so far has limited its official response to public calls for dialogue among all parties and the usual litany of ineffective responses often given in the absence of a real policy. The intelligence community came across as ham-handed and inept in its failure to successfully help non-Islamist militias defeat Aweys and his allies. The State Deparment comes across as uninterested, disengaged and unwilling to face the reality of the Islamist threat in the impoverished nation.

Now there is the prospect of a wider regional war with heavy religious overtones in an region that is of strategic importance and already volitle. An Ethiopian invasion is likely one of the few things that could unite a majority of the Somalis on the side of the Islamists who will now look like they are fighting for national liberation. No Ethiopian invasion will likely mean the consolidation of an Islamist regime with ties to al Qaeda and other radical Islamist organizations.

Peace talks would have meant little. The government has no chips to put on the table. It is so weak it does not even sit in the capital. It controls no territory, has no army, protects no infrastructure and is now relying on a foreign power to prop it up. The U.S. support for that process was baffling, given the inevitable outcome.

It might be time to face reality, even as the State Department continues to fumble for a response.

Radical Islamists have now established a base in Somalia, which will benefit al Qaeda, both regionally and on a global level. Afghanistan, when the Taliban first seized control, had many of the same characteristics of the current Somali Islamist militias. People are being shot and beaten for watching the World Cup on television. Shaving is being banned, suspected adulterers stoned and women forced from any form of public life. Seems like we have seen this movie before, and grossly misunderstood how it would end. Can there be enough focus and energy to come up with a policy that avoids a repeat of the same fiasco that cost us so dearly?
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