Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Somalia fragmentation and piracy

One of the reasons why I believed that the US decision to support Ethiopia's invasion of Somalia to dispose the ICU regime in Mogadishu is my belief that the greatest threat to US interests is not identifiable, track able and potentially deterrable Islamic leaning regimes that had a limited but real monopoly of force within their regions. Instead it is systemic breakdown of authority and the de-legitimatizing of the concept of a monopoly on the use of force.

The Ethiopian invasion was able through a competent combined arms campaign defeat the very lightly armed and poorly trained ICU forces, and impose in Mogadishu the UN recognized Interim government. However this government was composed of the losing side of a long standing clan based fight in Mogadishu and the rest of Southern Somalia and has not been seen as especially legitimate especially after it has demonstrated an inability to maintain the same level of physical security in the capital that the ICU maintained. And now we have continued fragmentation and dispersion of power with a weak central government that is incapable of projecting its monopoly on force beyond its garrisons.

Somalian piracy is on the upswing again as no current land based power is able to exert its authority over the ports.

Somali pirates captured another foreign cargo vessel off Mogadishu port and seized its crew in the second attack since the weekend along one of the world's most dangerous waterways, a maritime official said on Tuesday.....

On Sunday, pirates hijacked a Japanese-owned chemical tanker off Somalia with 23 people on board. Four other boats -- a Comoros-registered cargo ship, two Tanzanian fishing vessels, and a ship from Taiwan -- are also being held by armed groups.

Without central government since 1991, Somalia's waters have become among the world's most perilous despite calls for international action to patrol them.

Piracy in and of itself is not a significant threat to global trade both because of the limited reach of the Somali pirates and the global policing mechanisms of the world's navies (Robert Farley at LGM has some interesting things to say here on USN force structure), but it is a sympton of general lawlessness and disconnection from global rule sets and norms that overwhelmingly benefit the United States. Furthermore piracy increases the costs of trade to a very poor region, which means far less trade, far higher probabilities of localized famines, and far more support for whichever groups have the social, and fiscal capital to deliver basic public goods and services. Disconnecting Somalia from the global network is only slightly smarter than disconnecting southern Afghanistan.

UPDATE For a good read on the current Ethiopian counterinsurgency 'success' that is unconstrained by us defeatocrats, go read Northman's Fury! [Sorry for only checking this out after I wrote the post :) ]

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