from the Boston Globe:
It appears that Ethiopia, long ruled by Christians, does not want to see Somalia ruled by radical Islamists, and is therefore hard at work putting Somalia's warlords back in power. America's role in this conflict has not been adequately explained.
Long antagonists, Ethiopia and Somalia were divided during the Cold War by the ideological fault lines of the American-Soviet rivalry. "During the Cold War a country could be nonaligned, as many were, or it could, as some did, change its alignment from one side to another," Samuel Huntington wrote 10 years ago in his eerily prophetic book "The Clash of Civilizations." Ethiopia and Somalia were classic examples of the latter, abruptly changing alliances. Ethiopia switched from being America's ally to the Soviet bloc, inviting in Russian advisers and Cuban soldiers to help fight Somali rebels.
Today, the fault lines are more cultural and religious, as Huntington predicted. "In the new world order . . . cultural identity is the central factor shaping a country's associations and antagonisms. While a country could avoid Cold War alignment, it cannot lack an identity. The question, 'Which side are you on?' has been replaced by the much more fundamental one 'Who are you?' " Thus Ethiopia sees its war against its old antagonist as a fight against militant Islam, and therefore is helping the old lords of Somalia, who are thought to be more moderate in their religion if not their murderous behavior.
Although these same Somali warlords humiliated the United States during the Clinton administration, the Bush administration is backing them against the Islamists. But, as Jeffrey Gettleman wrote in The New York Times, since the United States became bogged in Iraq, there is the "Africa-wide sense" "that the United States is not the kingmaker it once was."
...The late president Gerald Ford put America's pretensions into perspective when he said: "I just don't think we should go hellfire damnation around the globe freeing people, unless it is directly related to our own national security." He might have added, especially if the hellfire and damnation is going to make us less secure.