Somalia seems to confirm that Iraq is the model for warfare of the future.
I’ve been watching events in Somalia through the year. Previously, we saw that the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) had taken over much of the country and surrounded the internationally recognized Transitional Federal Government (TFG) in Baidoa, and there was a long seige. Neighboring Ethiopia, no fan of Islamists, donated troops to provide protection for the TFG.
In the last couple of weeks, Ethiopia launched an attack and pushed the ICU into full retreat; they’ve abandoned Mogadishu. At first glance, you might think it’s cause for celebration that the TFG-supported Ethiopian army is routing the al Qaeda-supported ICU militia on the battlefield. Unfortunately, I think it’s just the beginning of a(nother) long period of violence and instability in Somalia.
Clearly, the ICU never intended to fight a traditional war for control of Somalia. If they did, they must be the worst tacticians in military history to have failed so badly in two weeks’ time. They must have planned all along to dissolve into the population and fight a guerilla insurgency, just like events have unfolded in Iraq and Afghanistan. From an objective standpoint, their leaders probably knew it was the only way they could have any hope of defeating Ethiopia’s superior military. (The word “defeat” being used very loosely here, of course.)
Unfortunately, just like in Iraq and Afghanistan, it will take the ICU years and years, perhaps even generations and generations, to “win” a guerilla war. And it all but guarantees that the innocent civilian population of Somalia will not live in any kind of peace for the forseeable future. Way to go, Islamic militants. Way to stick up for the little guy again.
Here’s something I don’t understand about the citizens of Mogadishu: Apparently they have a tendancy to turn into violent looting pyromaniacs whenever someone isn’t there to watch over them. Maybe it’s all that khaf they chew. The outgoing ICU says they left the city in “chaos,” and the incoming Ethiopians say they “won’t let Mogadishu burn.” If that’s the type of people who live in that city, maybe a long period of instability is what they actually want. Perhaps the government should just put a big wall around the city and call it a jail, sort of like Escape From New York.
Thomas Krehbiel writes The Krehbiel Strikes Back, a generally centrist commentary on news, media, politics, and culture.