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Somalia and Our Tragic Flaw

Our policy in Somalia is but a small part of the absurdly-named “War on Terror”; however, a June 14th New York Times article entitled “U.S. Calls Hasty Meeting to Seek Somalia Solution” provides a good example of the tragic flaw that pervades all of our efforts in the battle against Islamic terrorists:

The State Department is trying to wrest control for Somalia policy from the Central Intelligence Agency, on grounds that an approach that has consisted largely of C.I.A. payments to Somali warlords has been counterproductive.

That reality came into stark relief last week when the American-backed warlords fighting a proxy war for the United States against Islamists believed to be harboring Al Qaeda operatives were run out of Mogadishu by those same Islamists….

American officials have maintained that Islamic leaders in Mogadishu are sheltering Al Qaeda leaders who were indicted in the 1998 bombings of the United States embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

Since that bombing, American officials have been tracking an Al Qaeda cell whose members are believed to move freely between Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia and parts of the Middle East. The American payments to the warlords were intended, at least in part, to help gain the capture of these terrorists.

And this article shows what we’re left with now that the warlords we paid are gone:

Mogadishu is now largely ruled by the Islamic Courts Union, a powerful movement that advocates a strict version of sharia law, including public executions, and has alleged ties to al-Qaida terrorists. The Horn of Africa, say some analysts, has just acquired its own Taliban….

“This is worse than the worst-case scenarios—the exact opposite of what the US government strategy, if there was one, would have wanted,” said Ken Menkhaus, associate professor of political science and Somalia expert at Davidson College, North Carolina.

Not only is this outcome not what the U.S. government had hoped for, but achieving what the government had hoped for—catching a few Al Qaeda operatives in Somalia—would have made scant progress toward ending Islamic terrorism. Similarly, Americans are negligibly safer because of the recent killing of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Even the death or capture of Osama Bin Laden will not substantially reduce the threat we face. Why? Because these popular terrorists are merely pawns, not the primary source of terrorism against the West.

The tragic flaw inherent in the “War on Terror” is its focus on individual enemy combatants. We are wasting money, munitions—and, worst of all, American soldiers—trying to eliminate these combatants while ignoring the states that produce and sustain them (primarily Iran and Saudi Arabia). As long as these regimes and their supporting populations believe that they can triumph over the West, there will be an endless supply of terrorists to fill the sandals of the few that we’re able to track down and kill.

From Iran to Afghanistan, from Palestine to Saudi Arabia, from Sudan to Somalia, we have given militant Muslims cause to believe that Islamic world domination can be realized. While the Bush administration has been trying to fight “terror,” the militant Islamists have scored major victories, including the establishment of new theocracies in Afghanistan and Iraq, the election of Hamas in Palestine, and the furtherance of Iran’s nuclear capabilities. And these victories follow nearly 30 years of American inaction in the face of Islamist threats, hostage-takings, and bombings. When the most powerful nation on earth does virtually nothing to stop a fantasy-driven third world foe, it is not a stretch of the imagination for militant Muslims to feel confident that Allah’s omnipotence is working in their favor.

We must destroy this confidence. To do so, we must abandon the red herrings that are individual terrorists and provide the major terrorist-sponsoring regimes and their supporting populations with the proper, moral consequence for attacking the West: total war.

(For an excellent historical example of the effectiveness of total war, be sure to read John Lewis’ article “William Tecumseh Sherman and the Moral Impetus for Victory” in the Summer issue of The Objective Standard.)

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