View Full Version : A Lesson From Somalia

01-11-2006, 09:15 AM
11 Jan. Washington Post Op-Ed - A Lesson From Somalia (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/01/10/AR2006011001180.html).

... There are many flaws in comparisons between Somalia and Iraq, but one similarity should not be forgotten. If the United States is not careful, our troops will find themselves in the middle of a full-blown Iraqi civil war. This could make President Bush's talk about "victory" -- he used the word at least 13 times in his speech on the war yesterday -- seem hollow.

No one is more aware of this than our military commanders, which is why attention must be paid to comments last week by Lt. Gen. John R. Vines to the New York Times, and to an important news story by Jonathan Finer in the Jan. 4 Post.

Vines praised the large turnout in Iraq's Dec. 15 election but noted that the "vote is reported to be primarily along sectarian lines, which is not particularly heartening." The new government, he said, "must be a government by and for Iraqis, not sects." He added: "As the government forms, if we see indicators that there are purges of competent people to be replaced with ideologues in the security ministries, that would be disturbing. If competent commanders were to be replaced by those whose main qualification is an allegiance to a sect, that would be of concern to us."...

Link to Finer's 4 Jan. article - Iraq Wants U.S. Choice Out as Chief Of Brigade (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/01/03/AR2006010301373.html).

01-11-2006, 01:34 PM
While Iraq might slide into a civil war,or simply dissolve along ethnic or religious lines with an exceptable level of violence associated with such a break-up; the comparison between it and Somalia is a weak one. Regardless of how many war-lords or clans present in Somalia, most still viewed themselves as Somalis, and simply used civil war as vehicle to gain control or power in the country. In Iraq, the majority of Kurds and Shia do not see themselves as Iraqis. First, we must understand that a basic restraint we operate under is that nothing we do or say can give people an indentity they do not want or believe.

Tom Odom
01-11-2006, 02:29 PM

You are on the mark. Somalia is one of the few (if not the only) country on the African continent that is ethnically one. The basis for peace or conflict in that setting is the clan or extended familial group, not the ethnic (Kurd versus Arab versus Turkomen) or religious (Shia versus Sunni versus Chaldean Christian) schisms of Iraq.

Somalia is the most ethnocentric country I ever visited, meaning the Somalis as a people are quite unified in their disdain for outsiders, regardless of origin. I tried to get that across to senior leaders in 1992 when we were gearing up for Restore Hope; I did not succeed.