Here goes Somalia again. In the news for predictably the wrong reason. As if the daring rescue of the MAERSK Alabama did not serve as an awakening call that the days of “Black Hawk Down” were over, Somalians in their stubborness to the facts of naked power once more wrongly decided that capturing an American would lead to heavy ransom. As Jessica Buchanan and her Danish counterpart were being extracted from, what should have been the secret hideouts of the inner most regions of Somalia, many Somali armed kidnappers lay dead from the bullets of a more determined and sophisticated rescue team having overwhelming firepower and technology at its disposal. As a result of these encounters, labeling Somalia as the African nation invoking the most number of direct U.S. military involvement in conflicts on the continent is becoming an indisputable fact. It therefore makes sense to provide a general overview of the Somalian history justaposing occurances to the times that the U.S. has had to get involved in the politics of this country, which history shows has always had a very strong Islamic influence. The point of the Islamic mention is in no way intended to give the impression that the U.S. would be wrong for doing business with Muslim countries, otherwise U.S. involvement in trade with countries such as Saudi Arabia would make no sense. However, the concept of what constitute a country’s vital interest hardly sets up the U.S. as a country that would be a major player in the landscape of Somalia other than the actions of kidnappers and pirates that are serving to draw the actions of the U.S. into this country as a magnet would do to an iron rod.
As earlier mentioned, the backdrop of a Somalia discussion is one which draws a picture of a nation whose people have always been in a warring posture especially from the time that its status as a significant trading center was superceded by the advent of Islam. With time, Puntland, one of several ancient names of Somalia, gradually became an Islamic center from which the religion would spread to other parts of Africa. From ancient to contemporary times, Somalia has been a fulcrum for religious rivalry, European experiment of its later policy of colonialism, and the political incapicity to chart a peaceful means by which transition within government could occur without the resort to the uncivilized acts of the destruction of life and property. Added to this, not too impressive history, is the fact that, like a number of African countires, Somalia is endowed with uranium and largely unexploited reserves of iron ore, tin, gypsum, bauxite, copper, salt, natural gas, likely oil reserves https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/fields/2111.html that, for reasons related to internal irreconciliable and unabating internal confilcts may never be explored and exploited. All of these added together indeed presents a picture of a country that is not so poor as one that is irredeemably mismanaged to the detriminant of its population that may have well soared over the last estimate of 9.9 million taken over three decades ago. It would seem therefore rather unshocking to suggest that war, and the fluidity of its nature, has prevented demographers from taking a national census since 1975 to determine what is the actual population of Somalia.
Without the ability for international economic development to harness its resources, the lack of a centralized government since the overthrow of the last ‘legitimate’ govenrment of Major General Mohamed Siad Barre, and a strong Islamic influence pointing to a general attitude of confrontation with the west; Somalia has become a hotbed for the worse that Africa has to offer in terms of a general willingness to confront the west – mores specifically, the U.S. Indeed, since the beginning of the 21st century there has been three major such occurances that can be pointed to. These are: the UNOSOM II operation commonly known as ‘Black Hawk Down’, the MAERSK Alabama widely known for the manner in which the Navy Seals took out the abductors of Captain Phillips and his crew, and the Jessica Buchanan rescue particularly associated with the State of the Union congratulations President Obama offered to his success proven Defense Secretary, Leon Panetta. Based on these three occurences, one would argue, at first glance, that the score reads: 2-1 in favor of the U.S. However, because Farah Aidid, a major obstacle to the search for peace at the time, was eventually eliminated, and that the U.S. refused the temptation of using overwhelming force to ensure the success of the U.N. mission, the idea of a single victory for the destructive forces of Somalia should be regarded as suspect. Ultimately what the pirates, highjackers, or (Islamist) warlords have not come to grips with yet is that the reign of their terror is quite impossible to be extended beyond the boundaries of Somalia. More importantly, vis-a-vis the U.S., the notion that humanitarian gestures would be surreptitiously transformed into a ‘hostage for cash’ situation would be laughable if it did not involve a group of people who, it would seem, pay no attention to the fact that the leap of technology has made their designs doomed for failure from day one. Interestingly, one would think that the quest for internal peace should be easier to pursue than the alternative – trying to target an enemy, especially one that is mightier than you may ever conceive. Assuming the latter to be the case, it remains puzzling to note why this basic understanding has not yet caught on in Somalia? Is there something they know that the rest of the world doesn’t?