Thursday, April 12, 2007

Peacekeepers with No Peace to Keep

Somewhere along the crooked path that runs from the collapse of the Soviet Union that signaled the emergence of the United States as the world’s lone superpower to the seemingly intractable conflict in Iraq that has dashed dreams of facile democratic transformation in the Middle East there emerged the belief that if only the international community would line up behind the requisite multilateral peacekeeping force, the vexing conflict du jour—whether ethnic cleansing in the Balkans, genocide in Sudan, or clan-based civil war in Somalia—would be magically resolved. Of course, this wishful thinking withstands rigorous scrutiny no better than morning mists survive the light of day, as the ongoing failure to resolve the security crisis in Somalia proves.

All of which, however, does not prevent members of the international community, including the U.S. government, from continuing to engage in what is essentially “faith-based” global politics, especially in the Horn of Africa.

Last Saturday, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Jendayi E. Frazer became the highest ranking U.S. official to visit Somalia since the ill-fated American-led, United Nations-sanctioned, attempt to resuscitate that carcass of a state in the early 1990s.

According to the official announcement by State Department spokesman Sean McCormack, Dr. Frazier’s visit “highlighted the U.S. commitment at the highest levels to support the efforts of the Somali people to take advantage of their historic opportunity to achieve stability and security.” The problem with this declaration is that one is rather at a loss to produce evidence of any such “efforts” by any Somalis other than a brave handful of civil society leaders like Abdulkadir Yahya Ali and Abdi Isse Abdi—and both of those two have paid for their troubles with their lives. In fact, Dr. Frazier had to call upon the leaders of the self-proclaimed “Transitional Federal Government” (TFG) of Somalia, including “President” Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed, Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi, and Speaker of Parliament Adan Muhammad Nuur (a.k.a. “Madobe), in the provincial hamlet of Baidoa since their “regime” is not particularly welcome in the onetime Somali capital of Mogadishu. And the parliamentary leader is enjoying his office because his predecessor, Sharif Hassan Sheikh Adan, was ousted in January precisely for making an effort at national reconciliation by entering talks with moderate Islamists.

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