January 12, 2007

HARRISONBURG—In a feature commentary published today in the online edition of the foreign policy journal The National Interest, Dr. J. Peter Pham, Director of the Nelson Institute for International and Public Affairs at James Madison University, continues his observations on the defeat of Somalia’s Islamic Courts Union (ICU) by Ethiopian troops, now apparently supported by U.S. forces pursuing fugitive al-Qaeda leaders who had been given refuge by the Islamists, by discussing the future shape of the Somali state.

According to Dr. Pham, “The United States and other parties interested in the fate of geopolitically important Somalia must heed the historical and ethno-sociological realities of the country and other lessons of the recent past. In Afghanistan, for example, the cupidity of competing warlords, coupled with the ineffectiveness of the Hamid Karzai government, have led to renewed popularity for the ousted Taliban. That scenario could replay in Somalia, where the internationally feted transitional government—really just a collection of wealth-hoarding warlords—fails to command any meaningful credibility or legitimacy and does not reflect the power dynamics on the ground. And rather than attempting to force Somalia’s historically (and currently) disparate clans and regions into some marriage of international convenience, the fragmentation of Somalia—itself, like Iraq, a modern invention which was only held together by brute force—should be seriously contemplated.”

Dr. Pham went on to argue that “the international community must not back the [Transitional Federal Government] unconditionally, which would be tantamount to imposing a regime on the Somali nation—one Somalis clearly have trouble accepting. Fortunately, a model already exists for Somalia, within Somalia”: the Republic of Somaliland, “an African refuge for democracy and stability” which should be encouraged.

The text of Dr. Pham’s essay, “Resurrecting Somalia,” can be accessed online by clicking here.