Tuesday, January 02, 2007


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 has been replaced by the much more fundamental one 'Who are you?'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.


Howard said...

My boss is in Ethiopia for a month working with a Christian group (he's Jewish, but is an expert on non-profits). He was excited and freaked about the trip.

I'm actually looking forward to hearing from him soon.

Jennifer said...

Isn't extreme Islam automatically murderous towards women?

Rootietoot said...

The wife of one of my husbands employees is a recent immigrant to the US from Ehtiopea. She is so vehemently opposed to the idea of Islam rule that she supports the role of the warlords. According to her, Islam wants to rule the world, and will stop at nothing to do it.

belledame222 said...

a bit "devil and the deep blue sea," there, though.

i mean, i don't think anyone is going, "yay! radical Islam!" just, you know: yeeeesssh. and: oh, good, here we come to save the day again, that's gotta be nothing but good, especially long term.

little light said...

"Islam" doesn't want to do anything.
Muslims do. And they disagree, a lot.

Sorry. My scholarly specialty, once upon a time, was Islamic studies. My research thesis was on progressive Islam--Muslim feminism, Muslim antiracism, Muslim gay rights activism, and so on--and having looked so hard at that sort of thing and those sort of people, this other sort of thing just breaks my heart all the more.

Palanivel Raja said...
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Rootietoot said...

Well, I phrased it the way she said it to me. I was shocked, but she remains firm in her take on it. She sees Americans as so incredibly self-centered that there is no way we could possibly comprehend what's going on over there. I'm not so sure I disagree with her on that.

Eli said...

I look forward to the glorious liberal secular democracy that Somalia is now sure to become.

Jennifer said...

raping and pillaging, sitting in a tree, raping and pillaging, that's the way for me.

Аркадий Чумаков said...
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Anonymous said...

There is no side or grouping to support in this conflict. The situation from the little I know about East Africa seems somewhere between grim and hopeless.

A question that "we" might raise is, is there any possible chance that a (working) class alternative may emerge?

Iraq had a combative pluralistic workers movement (though partially stalinist) that was destroyed over the last 3 or so decades through Baathist terrorism, war, and sanctions. What's been left is a lumpenized, uneducated populous suspectible religious and nationalist sectarianism. Seems pretty grim there too.

On the other hand we see in South America a large movement headed in a leftist direction. Maybe some comparative political analysis might be helpful.

Rootietoot said...

What I see happening in East Africa is more of a tribal thing, than a religious or philosophical thing.
Racism is alive and well, in Africa. remember the business with the Hutus and the Tutsis? Folk killing each other over the spelling of their last name?

Alon Levy said...

Eerily prophetic book

I'd go with something like, "As insightful as duck quacks." Who needs evidence when you can just claim that democracy and the rule of law are unique to the West?