NELSON INSTITUTE DIRECTOR’S COLUMN ASKS WHETHER SOMALIA SHOULD BE A SINGLE UNIFIED STATE

January 25, 2007

HARRISONBURG—In his weekly column for the World Defense Review, Dr. J. Peter Pham, Director of the Nelson Institute for International and Public Affairs at James Madison University, reflecting to administration policy priorities as outlined in a speech last week by Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Jendayi Frazier, questions whether reconstituting Somalia as a single unified state serves the national interests of the United States.

In her speech at Washington’s Center for Strategic and International Studies, Dr. Frazier listed the priorities as mobilizing international support for Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG), deploying an African stabilization force to the country, and encouraging the TFG to enter into dialogue with moderate Islamists and other stakeholders.

According to Dr. Pham: “In the case of Somalia, our interests are…,first and foremost, sweeping up the remnants of the al-Qaeda-linked terrorists, and, secondly, assuring ongoing regional security and stability—neither of these objectives necessarily requires the TFG nor are they likely to be satisfied by that feckless gaggle of scavengers whose only claim to legitimacy is the self-anointing they administered to themselves during a 2004 conference at a Kenyan resort, the bill for which kaffeeklatsch being borne by Western taxpayers.” Furthermore, “Even if U.S. and European envoys manage to cajole other countries into contributing…the 8,000 peacekeepers to take the place of the withdrawing Ethiopian intervention force, it is beyond delusional to think that such a modest contingent of Africans can succeed where the infinitely more robust UNITAF and UNOSOM II forces, with their 37,000 and 28,000 personnel respectively, failed barely a decade ago.”

Instead, noting the artificial nature of most modern African polities, including that over which the TFG claims sovereignty, Dr. Pham concludes: “ U.S. interests in the critical regions like the Horn of Africa require security and stability, neither of which will be achieved by shoring up inherently illegitimate and, in fact, destabilizing regimes constructed at some international conference center. If one seeks the domestication into international society of the former Somalia, recognize well-deserving (and de facto independent) Somaliland, encourage developments in promising (and already semi-autonomous) Puntland, allow the rest of the land to coalesce as its inhabitants see fit, and definitely give up the idea that the ‘international community’ can somehow impose a state structure that has even the slimmest chance of long-term success.”

To read Dr. Pham’s article, “Coping with Humpty Dumpty,” click here.