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January 09, 2007



pardon the off-topic, but re the Dulaimi sectarian-speech thumbnail, in fact Dulaimi was trying to rebut a specific anti-occupation speech by Dhari. In the Rosen piece and the saturation coverage of it, there isn't any acknowledgement that there even was an opposing position. It's part of the American agenda you might say.

Jay C

"Wouldn't it have made sense to try and combat that narrative, and keep the United States out of the Somalia issue as much as possible, rather than highlight the American role and confirm the al-Qaeda narrative?"

Of course it would, AA: but remember who we are talking about here: this is the Administration of GW Bush: "making sense" usually comes far down the list of priorities, especially when it comes to foreign policy. Although exactly who is expected to benefit from overt US support for Ethiopia's attacks in Somalia is a bit of a mystery to me - I agree with you that it would have been better to remain a behind-the-scenes player in the Horn.


Absolutely. Keeping the US as far away from Somalia as possible was very important for two reasons. First, Ethiopia and Kenya had always had "red lines" drawn around and within Somalia. Accomplishing the tasks of pushing the Islamists out of Mogadishu and keeping them away from Baidoa (as well as their borders) not only contributes to their state security, but adds much credibility to their army and military forces. Although we might be doing Ethiopia and Kenya a "favor" by hitting a suspected al-Qaeda "target," we're not going to make the environment within Somalia any better for the Ethiopian forces who choose to stay within Mogadishu and other areas attempting to hold and secure previously Islamist areas. Second, by attacking Somalia so publicly, the US is only adding to the PR fodder of al-Qaeda. What better recruiting message (or poster for that matter) was this airstrike? There is zero to no border security or control around Somalia so any foreign travel in and out of the country cannot be tracked or halted. This poses much danger for the future of the weak Transitional Federal Government (TFG). The TFG cannot maintain control and security on their own, yet Ethiopia is not willing to stay to ensure security within the country. They don't want to be bogged down in a "Little Iraq." Although the Islamists were pushed out of much of their strongholds, odds are they will make a return through insurgent tactics. The Islamic Courts were conservative, but they were able to provide security, stability and some services to the extent that Somalia hasn't seen in some time. This latest unilateral strike on a country that claims "al-Qaeda" is running loose on their streets is only going to exacerbate world opinion against the U.S.


I disagree with this post and the comments. We have been suffering setbacks in the War on Terror (until this Somalia operation), in part, because of the perception that the US had become timid. This helps correct that perception. The Islamists (and their supporters) need to know that we will mete-out wholesale death upon them wherever they congregate anywhere in the world. Aside from eliminating numbers of them, it keeps their heads down - making efforts to plan and communicate much more difficult for the ones that survive.

Additionally, while the release of the information may make the Ethiopian military look less impressive without us, imagine the perception from other countries: If you stand with the US, we can (with little effort) make your military practically superhuman; if you stand against the US, they may turn the military of a neighbor (take note Syria) into the object of your destruction.

I think the benefits of revealing it outweigh the downside.

Also, Somalia was already becoming Jihadi central without our open involvement. Announcing our involvement does not make much difference.


"Wouldn't it have made sense to try and combat that narrative, and keep the United States out of the Somalia issue as much as possible, rather than highlight the American role and confirm the al-Qaeda narrative?"

Not necessarily. I think that to some decisionmaker or other the domestic, frustration-dissipating benefits of a telegenic strike on the anything that could be claimed as an al-Qaeda target could easily outweigh the costs of perpetuating al-Qaeda's narrative. Just read the commentator above me for an example of those domestic benefits. This is doubly the case if you think it will be assumed that the U.S. is behind the conflict anyway, no matter how much it does or doesn't interfere. I suppose you could even say the narrative has taken on a life of its own (witness the response to the Saddam execution, for instance), which could make whoever's making the decisions jaded along the lines of "we might as well commit the sins we're going to be blamed for".


Brian's comment is a perfect example of Mills' 'crackpot realism', as is Bush's foreign policy. Prof. Lynch's worry about confirming the AQ narrative leaves out the increasing probability that to many Muslims that supposedly fictional narrative is in fact quite real.

Nur al-Cubicle

Could Ollie North is on the ground in Badel, Bankajira, and Aayo, filming the mayhem? You're right, Abu, why is there so much footage of secret operations? Gee, the President has sworn off strategic bogus terror alerts in the US and is whomping Somalia for BIG NEWS.

Tom Scudder

Homais beat me to the point and said it much more dispassionately than I would have (my version would have been: The US felt a domestic political need to be seen to be kicking Muslim butt somewhere, anywhere.


Re. Homais and Tom's point:

So, in another words, one might say that the poster Brian is also right: this War on Terror business is flagging because the folks back home aren't seeing any action, so let's kick someone's behind so that the American public can see that the government is doing something "big."

I wonder whether that's what originally doomed our venture in Afghanistan earlier--once the country was nominally under a friendly regime, the thing to do should have been to combine good police work with reconstruction/relief effort to root out OBL's criminal gang--but since that doesn't generate any newsflashes, we hit Iraq instead to show things blowing up on TV, with all the rotten results we've seen since.

We don't need any more of this kind of stuff...


Concurring with other posters I'd add that the banner Prof. Lynch chose for this blog has a lot to say. Bush's obsesssion with undefined Victory recalls a lot of neo-(i)con Fukuyama's tedious going on about thymos and Hegel. Thymos is always about satisfying appetites, thus Bush as homo Homericus reiterating Victory as the highest good, without a shred of understanding. Harold Bloom writes: "Thymos persuades you to eat or to hack up your enemy, while nous allows you to see and understand".

So where do we from here? On to more and more ultimately unsatisfying victories. Intense, momentary spasms of rubble-making - Af, Iraq, Lebanon, the World; Bush sulking in his tent until someone convinces him to come out and blow up brown people again. It's no accident that this latest escapade in Somalia has the right droning on about '93 - all those Patrocluses finally avenged.


I sense a lot of unhappiness here over the events in Somalia. Is the unhappiness a result of the fact that the US is openly involved - or that it is involved at all?

While I see some merit to arguments that the US should have kept its hand hidden, I do not see any benefit (to the US) in doing nothing to topple the ICU and kill the al-Qaeda in Somalia. If you guys think we should not try to topple hostile governments supporting AQ (and kill the AQ in country) you have a remarkably passive conception of war.

Or should we not be at war with AQ and its supporters?


The American support for the Ethiopian invasion of Somalia is ill-conceived and a tragedy for the people in Central and Southern Somalia. The Islamic movement that this invasion is trying to crush is a grass-roots movement. It is not a branch of Al-Qaeda central. If you believe that, then I presume you also still believe that there is WMD in Iraq. As with any movement, they have strengths and weaknesses. What they were attempting to present for Somalis was a social, political and economic framework for ending the various bloody clan feuds that were being fanned by the warlords and neighboring states, specially Ethiopia and Nairobi. They brought to Mogadishu what the U.S. could not bring to Baghdad, relative peace and stability. The Islamic movement was also dominated by the Hawiye clan of centeral and southern Somalia. The new Ethiopian backed regime is dominated but its rival Darood clan. What Somalis there will get now is a return to bloody inter and intra clan warfare.

The Bush regime strives on American fears and ignorance of Islam and Muslims. This xenophobia particularly plays well with the Republican base. We are a community that can by lynched without remorse for we are all considered evil savages. By virtue of our religion, we are all Al-Qaida suspects unless the Decider decides otherwise. Indeed, this attack serves the same purpose as lynching did in the U.S. It is a message to the Somalis about who is really is in charge of the planet and a message to the Americans that American power is still intact. Even if Bush cannot establish stability, he is reminding all of us that he can definitely overthrow regimes he does not like. Many innocent lives will be lost as a result of this war.


Ayanleh, really?, "lynched without remorse?". That sounds more like what could happen to non-Muslims in Muslim countries.

I hope you are not referring to the treatment of Muslims in America. If anything Muslims in America have been treated with kid gloves. And, the "Decider" you deride has consistently defended Muslims as peace-loving people and Islam as a religion of peace. If anything, the "Decider" is one of your best defenders (in the US). The vast majority of Americans no longer listen to his platitudes. They can see with their own eyes what is happening and have drawn their conclusion. Americans are fed up with militant Islam and its passive enabler, "moderate" Islam.

And, please don't tell me that the ICU were kind-hearted men who bore good will to all. They sheltered AQ types, arrested people for watching soccer, and declared a jihad against Ethiopia at the drop of a hat. Well, they got their Jihad. Good riddance I say.

The commenters here are correct about one thing: that announcing US involvement in the attack will boost American morale. That is a good thing. It is important to have successes to keep the morale up in a long war. Nothing succeeds like success. This is an unadulterated success - for America.

Whether it is a success for Somalia in the long run, I do not know. One thing Bush will not attempt in Somalia is to fix the place. He has been taught (as has every subsequent president) by the rest of the world that you get no thanks for trying to put the place back together after you smash it up. It is easier to simply come back with our Ethiopian friends again in the future if we have to.

You are also right, as I said in my original post, that this is a great reminder that we can definitely overthrow regimes we do not like. Even more importantly, we are not going to be deterred by prospect of post war difficulties because we are not going to waste the effort. You can thank baying liberals all over the world for that one.


Brian, Prof. Lynch is an educated man, a scholar, a man deserving respect. Why do you bring your filth and hate to his (virtual) house? Is it Aipac or white hood? If you want to threaten the Muslims, I'll give you some real addresses where you can strut your pathetic self.

No Preference

If you stand with the US, we can (with little effort) make your military practically superhuman; if you stand against the US, they may turn the military of a neighbor (take note Syria) into the object of your destruction.

This is so . . . 2002. I think the last election showed that most of the American people have learned something in the meantime.


If you stand with the US, we can (with little effort) make your military practically superhuman

Or, he could be talking about the South Vietnamese..boy, what formidable bunch these guys were.....

A response to the earlier claim by the poster Brian: usually, making noise without substance (which this Somalia nonsense is, except for the all the negative consequences, both diplomatic and negative) is a distraction, to draw attention away from the lack of success elsewhere. It's unlikely that any major AQ types are in Somalia, since they are all being coddled by our "friend" Musharraf whose regime is growing fat on US taxpayer dollars. The Ethiopia-Somalia issues go back generations, with much enmity on both sides (or, at least, in theory, making for useful propaganda on both sides)--and showing up drunk, figuratively speaking, where we don't have real business is a mistake in the extreme.


Brian sounds more reasonable-minded than most of the commentators at this point, but his mindset is so different that there's no way he'll ever have a productive discussion here. Sad to say. Brian, I recommend using e-mail rather than the comments so that every discussion you have doesn't get dragged down by the ten kneejerk responses you're going to get to every post. (Just using the phrase "War on Terror" marks you down as nearly hopeless in my book.)

No Preference

Noumenon, in his mind Brian seems already committed to a war against Islam. That's may sound "more reasonable-minded than most of the commentators" to you, but it doesn't to me. Committment to violence as the sole solution to our problems is not wise. It will cause many more problems than it will solve.

Somalia is an "unadulterated success - for America" in the same way that Iraq was on May 1, 2003.

Brian doesn't seem to be able to conceive that the US is part of this problem. Perhaps this is something that most of the commentators here have grasped.

IMO much of what Brian writes simply misses the point. For example, the crocodile tears about Bush's "attempt to fix" Iraq. Bush's plans for the occupation were so poor and their execution so inept and corrupt that clearly he should never be given an opportunity to do something similar again. It's a very good thing that the Bush, and his remaining supporters with mindsets like Brian's, aren't trying to "fix" Somalia.


because the emerging press coverage of US military support for Ethiopia, along with these images of a direct US airstrike inside Somalia, are nicely feeding the al-Qaeda narrative placing Somalia within the wider framework of American assaults against Islam

So? In case you haven't noticed, the US is actually (really, for real, honest to God!) at war with Islamists. Why Al Qaeda has to prove it? Just ask GW Bush, eh? He'll tell you so, no need to smuggle videos out of Pakistan :P



Just using the phrase "War on Terror" marks you down as nearly hopeless in my book.

Then what's the fucking point of this blog? To prove there is no War on Terror? Because in your little fantasy land, we all live ina different reality?


I guess that really IS the point of this blog, isn't it mark? This is a blog for people who want to prove that the last 5 years have been justa big misunderstanding, and we can all just go back to normal any day now. Any day now.


Who are you at war with Craig? Islamists? What does that mean? Go back and re-read the Abu Aardvark archives and you will find that the term describes a wide variety of people, the vast majority of whom you may disagree with, but who you should clearly not be at war with. The blog is Marc Lynch's personal efforts to inform people about the nuances of the Arab media, certain Arab cultural phenomena, Arab public opinion, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Buffy aside, Marc does an excellent job of informing us about these topics and how multi-faceted they are. Arab societies are complex just as your own is. Understanding that complexity is something important not to be lightly tossed aside or else one can end up with much bigger problems than one started with.

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