As I was saying just days ago, Ethiopia and Somalia were approaching a state of war, and 36 hours later it was official: Ethiopia’s prime minister went on TV to say that his country had been “forced to enter into war,” just as Ethiopian jets bombed Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) positions in southern Somalia and Mogadishu International Airport. Merry Christmas.
Those blogs that are commenting on the news put it in simple terms of a struggle against a new Al Qaeda state.
NW Bloggers: “The Islamo-Fascists behind the Islamic Court regime in Somalia are of the same school and stripe as those we are fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq, among other places. They blow up night clubs in Indonesia, and conduct terror raids in the Philippines. The Ethiopians understand that they are in a fight for their very survival. The least we can do is give them material support. After all, they are fighting for us as much as for themselves.”
Clear Politics: “If you do not want to see the holy war developing before your eyes, keep your head down, but if you do see, you will have to choose sides.”
7.62mm Justice: “We need to send support to Ethiopia immediately!”
Our Sovereign Joy: “The Islamists in Somalia have provoked Ehtiopia into war and the pm of Ethiopia saw this attack as absolutely necessary. The Muslims in Somalia have for quite some time carried out a brutal, cold-blooded slaughter of Somalis. This is Islam.”
* The UIC is Islamist and fundamentalist, but it (currently) bears no relationship with international terrorism.
* Ethiopia is historically Christian and Somalia is Muslim, but this is more of a national struggle than a religious conflict. Even if you want to see the UIC fall, in the words of Professor Pham quoted yesterday, “Ethiopia is the worst possible intervener in the Somali situation because of the history between the two peoples.”
* Many Somalis who oppose the UIC may nonetheless join them to combat what is perceived to be an Ethiopian war of aggression.
And what happens if Ethiopia scores an easy win? It’s possible — Ethiopia has an airforce and a real army, whereas the UIC is little more than a well-armed militia. But even if the UIC falls as easily as the Taliban, the so-called “Transitional Government” (backed by the Ethiopia, the US and the UN) couldn’t fight the UIC on its own, has little popular support (which will be reduced to nothing by its involvement with Ethiopia in the current conflict), and it is in no position to provide a real alternative to the UIC. Ethiopia, one of the world’s poorest countries, is likewise in no position to become a caretaker, even if it wins. As bad as it may sound, allowing the UIC to establish the rule of law (even if it is Shariah) may be the best option at the present time.
Yes, it’s real concern that the UIC could provide sanctuary to Islamic radicals if it ever got its act together. And that’s why the US is quietly backing Ethiopia. But the threat of destabilization posed by this is very real, especially in light of Eritrea’s involvement, combined with instability in surrounding areas such as Sudan and Chad. As noted days ago, this could blow up into Africa’s World War II. Painting it in simple terms of civilization v.s. terrorism are asking for trouble.