Tuesday, April 21, 2009
I had an email exchange with someone researching Somalia today, and I thought the discussion might benefit readers of this blog. I have withheld the person's name and just posted the conversation as questions and answers: Q: If nation building is not an option, to what capacity can or should the United States get involved without further tarnishing its reputation in the area and antagonizing the Somali people? A: Nation building is an option in the long term, but not the short term. Until it is a viable option, the United States should continue to provide humanitarian assistance that is distributed by international organizations like the World Food Program and NGOs and quietly support the new Somali government of national unity. Together with other members of the international community, the United States should identify ways that it can help this government establish a police force and eventually a national military force. The United States should be prepared to step in quickly with development assistance as soon as the security situation allows. Q: If the United States is already seen as a collaborator with Ethiopia, who should be the "face" of Somali reconstruction? A: The face of Somali reconstruction should be the Somalis themselves supported by either the UN or a coalition of donor countries who are willing to help fund the reconstruction effort. Somalia's neighbors should remain on the sidelines politically but take steps as appropriate to support the establishment of a moderate Somali government. Q: What alternative policy can the United States adopt to secure its interests in the region? A: I don't see an alternative U.S. policy, but one that supplements the policy suggested above. The United States should continue to maintain good relations with Kenya, Ethiopia, and Djibouti and explore ways to improve relations with Sudan and Eritrea. The goal is to encourage all of these countries, in addition to the African Union and Arab League, to play a constructive role in Somalia. The United States should deal with Somalia in collaboration with other interested countries so that responsibility for Somalia is an international responsibility, not an American undertaking. The United States should not see Somalia solely in the context of counterterrorism, which it did until early 2008. This approach damaged U.S. goals and interests in the region. Counterterrorism should be only a part of the policy, not the entire policy. The primary goal is to help establish a broad-based Somali government that is friendly with the United States and has tolerably good relations with all countries in the region. Image: http://www.wfp.org/.