Saturday, May 13, 2006

Same Old Dealing with the Devil?

The United States foreign policy establishment seems to be up to its old tired and immoral tricks again, settling for the old maxim, "The enemy of my enemy is my friend." This time on the happy streets of Mogadishu, Somalia,, where warlords are fighting Islamists in a new eruption of red.

Via the NYTs:
While the American Embassy in Nairobi called on all parties to cease fighting, the United States government has been accused of backing the warlords, who have fashioned themselves into an antiterrorism alliance, rooting out elements of Al Qaeda in their midst.

"It's a well-established fact for the last few years that U.S. counterterrorism officials and other intelligence officials have been working through Somali partners to fight extremists," said Suliman Baldo, director for Africa policy at the International Crisis Group, a Geneva-based advocacy group that studies wars around the world.

"From the little we know, the U.S. is not supporting the warlords with arms, per se," Mr. Baldo said. Instead, he added, American operatives were paying the warlords to help track down and apprehend those in Somalia suspected of being members of Al Qaeda.

In one episode outlined in an International Crisis Group report last year, American intelligence officers offered a Somali clan leader $4 million if he captured Tariq Abdallah, a suspected Qaeda leader traced to a Mogadishu guest house. When the clan leader's militia launched a raid on the house, however, the suspect (also known as Abu Talha al-Sudani) was not found there, the report said.

The warlords, who say they have joined America's fight against terrorism, are calling themselves the Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counterterrorism. They are led by Mohammed Deere, Mohammed Qanyare and Bahire Rageh, all powerful figures in Mogadishu.

In interviews, American officials declined to detail their relationship with the warlords, and said only that their goal was to support both the fight against terrorism and the recently formed transitional government that is struggling to gain a foothold.

But the president of that transitional government pointed his finger at the United States and said American counterterrorism efforts would work better if they went through Somalia's fledgling government, not through individual warlords.
Islamism is a product of the uneasy and fragmented transistion of many developing countries experiencing the ill-effects of globalization. One of the ill-effects of globalization in places such as Somalia is the ability of warlords to stop the process of modernization and democratization and essentially say to country's population, "Your money or your life."

As Mary Kaldor writes in Old and New Wars: Organized Violence in a Global Era:
The new wars take place in a context which could be represented as an extreme version of globalization. Territorially-based production more or less collapses either as a result of liberalization and the withdrawal of state support, or through physical destruction (pillage, shelling, etc.), or because markets are cut off as a result of the distegration of states, fighting, or deliberate blockades imposed by outside powers, or more likely, by fighting units on the ground, or because spare parts, raw material and fuel are impossible to acquire...Given the erosion of the tax base both because of the collapse of production and because of the difficulties of collection, governments like privatized military groups, need to seek alternative sources of funding in order to sustain their violent activities...The simplest form of asset transfer is loot, robbery, extortion, pillage, and hostage-taking.
So as the president of Somalia's transitional government argues, the best solution is for the United States to go through the transitional government, establish its legitimacy and keep it accountable financially to the U.S. as well as democratically to Somalia's people. The U.S. needs to be concerned more with the long-term goal of stabilizing failed states than the short-term goal of killing Islamists. If the power of warlords is not curbed and a viable, accountable, and legitimate government does not bring order to chaos, then Islamism will only continue to grow as a response to what they consider the vulgar, immoral social order bestowed on it by the dark side of globalization.