Islamists abandon Mogadishu in the face of Ethiopia’s apparently unstoppable conventional assault, leaving the capital back under conditions of clan-based anarchy. It will be interesting to see if the Ethiopians and/or the transitional government try to actually assert control over the capital. This has the rough shape of the result I would have anticipated (conventional success followed by hard-to-solve problems) but I must admit I wouldn’t have believed the Ethiopian military had the logistical capacity to advance this quickly.
Spencer spent some time working the phones in an effort to answer the question of the hour: which terrorists are the Islamic Courts Union harboring. “That’s a good question,” conceded Carl Kropf from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence who didn’t know the answer.
As you’ll see if you read Spencer’s post, there is an answer. The Somali terror nexus isn’t something invented out of whole cloth. On the other hand, it really doesn’t seem to me that there’s much there there. We want three guys, one of whom (Abu Tahai al-Sudani) there doesn’t appear to be any information about other than that we say he’s a terrorist, and the actual relationship between our desire to apprehend these dudes and the question of who controls Mogadishu is pretty vague. They were in Somalia before the ICU took power, and it’s at least not obvious to me why kicking the ICU out of the capital (or wherever they’re being kicked) would bring them to our custody.
The fact that the designated spokespersons for the US government didn’t have an answer at hand to the admittedly good question of what the basis of our policy was tends to indicate to me that the policy is not incredibly well-founded. As recently as the December 20 State Department briefing, Sean McCormack was saying America’s top policy priority was “that we don’t want to see the conflict in Somalia spread to the region . . . we don’t want to see a proxy fight in Somalia,” not anything about Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan. A week later: Proxy fight on!
Because you’re all dying to hear what I have to say about Gerald Ford’s pardon of Richard Nixon:
Forced to choose between intensive inquiry into the idea of swapping Ron Artest for Corey Maggette or else looking further at the Horn of African situation, I reluctantly chose what was behind door number two. Take a look back, shall we, at the December 7 State Department briefing. Sean McCormick got a question: “Sean, on Somalia. The Islamists say that they are sort of less than happy with the UN’s endorsement of this African peacekeeping force and they say that it’s just going to add fuel to the fire. I wondered whether you — were causing sort of a regional war?” McCormick replies, “no.” The questioner wants more: “Do you have any comment?” McCormick elaborates:
Look, this is — this force was authorized as a training and protection force for the Transitional Federal Institutions. Its approval takes place within the context of policy that we believe that the way forward here is for negotiations between the Islamic Courts and the Transitional Federal Institutions. As long as the Islamic Courts perceive that they can continue to back the Transitional Federal Institutions into a tighter and tighter and smaller and smaller corner, there of course is less and less incentive one would expect for them to actually want to negotiate. So I can understand why they may be less than happy about this. But this is a policy that is endorsed by a number of different countries in the region.
The force will be deployed under the aegis of the IGAD countries, which is the Intergovernmental Authority for Development, and it’s an East African regional organization. And the resolution also clearly states that neighboring states: Ethiopia, Kenya and Djibouti will not deploy troops to Somalia. So it actually specifically addresses this idea that somehow this action will directly lead to some wider conflict on the — in the Horn of Africa.
In short, the state of play a few weeks ago was this. Islamists were threatening to overrun the powerless Transitional Government unless an international peacekeeping force was sent in to protect them. So the United States sought to get such a force and, indeed, the UN agreed to authorize one. The Islamic Courts Union said that such a move would lead to a regional war. According to The Washington Post, “the United States accommodated a European request to exclude participation by Somalia’s neighbors, Ethiopia, Kenya and Djibouti, in the new force.” Our stated policy, as McCormick indicated, was to avoid rather than cause a regional war.
Now at this time, Ethiopia had already “sent thousands of troops [to Somalia] to help prop up the government.” Presumably, the deployment of a UN-approved force that would exclude Ethiopian participation (it was to be led by Uganda) would have precluded the Ethiopians from further expanding their ambit of control in Somalia. Thus, the war is launched to pre-empt the deployment of the Ugandan-led force — apparently with American approval contrary to the policy McCormick outlined earlier in December. New Republic editor in chief Martin Peretz approves, citing the prospects for a Jew/Rastafarian/Christian alliance against Islamist influence in East Africa.
The polar bear is in danger of going extinct — and it is our fault.
It’s all well and good that the Bush administration has admitted that climate change is real and threatening polar bears with extinction. But the President has not yet acknowledged that this dangerous warming is due to man-made greenhouse gas emissions. Until then, he can continue doing nothing — and that will mean a future of Hell and High Water.
We can only hope that this is a sign of things to come. If the President makes one New Year’s resolution, it should be to admit in his State of the Union address that we are the cause of the world’s warming AND that we need to regulate carbon dioxide emissions. Then we can get past mourning the polar bear, and start doing something to save it.
UPDATE: For a recent post on the “stunning” loss of Arctic sea ice, go here.
- Bye-polar Kempthorne: Polar bear IS endangered, but “Rule will allow continuation of vital energy production in Alaska”
- New U.S.-Canada MOU on polar bear conservation never mentions sea ice or climate change
- Bush launches Unendangered Species List, phones “Rename the Polar Bear” winner
- More Humor: George Bush, Climate Activist
- Polar Bears “Endangered” by Global Warming
- Must See TV: Ice Ice Maybe (not)
- A meter of sea level rise by 2100?
- Arctic ice loss is “stunning” — total loss possible by 2030, scientists warn
- Arctic sea ice update: 2008 poised to repeat — or beat — 2007
- Arctic Ice shrinks by an Alaska plus a Texas
“The Bush administration has decided to propose listing the polar bear as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, putting the U.S. government on record as saying that global warming could drive one of the world’s most recognizable animals out of existence.”
Seven U.S. troops were killed in Iraq yesterday, raising this month’s death toll to 87. December is now the “second deadliest month of the year” for American troops.
Michael Wallace, a former aide to Sen. Trent Lott (R-MS), has “asked President Bush to withdraw his nomination” for a seat on the 5th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. The withdrawal comes after the American Bar Association, “for the first time in almost a quarter-century, unanimously rated” Wallace to be “unqualified.”
The Pentagon may be preparing for escalation. Army Gen. John Abizaid has requested a “call-forward” force of 3,500 troops to be sent “into Kuwait to stand ready for use in Iraq.” “If we’re going to surge, this makes sense,” a senior defense official said.
Incoming Senate Foreign Relations committee chair Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE) opposes the escalation strategy. “I totally oppose the surging of additional troops into Baghdad, and I think it is contrary to the overwhelming body of informed opinion, both people inside the administration and outside the administration,” Biden said. Read more
Wizards recap up at DCist. Let me just note that I was super-excited about the Darius Songaila signing, but insofar as the alternative backup player is Jarvis Hayes, I’m really looking forward to seeing him play.
I’d forgotten that The New York Sun is so around the bend that they don’t print the term “Palestinians.” Instead, we read that Barack Obama “has faulted the Bush administration for not pushing harder for peace between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs.” Lawyer Alan Solow, a longtime Obama supporter and Jewish Community Center Association leader is trotted out to assure Sun readers that Obama has “been very strong on the defense of a safe and secure Israel.” The article also notes that Obama says “he would tend to support a missile strike on Iran if other methods fail to get Tehran to abandon its nuclear program” which I think is unfortunate.
I was most interested to see the views of Samantha Power, author of A Problem from Hell and a major Obama supporter. Power turns out to have significantly sounder views (none of this nonsense for example) than I had thought. All in all, he looks pretty good assuming he’s not too serious about that whole starting a war with Iran thing.
On Tuesday, a day after an Ethiopian jet strafed the airport in Mogadishu, the capital, the State Department issued internal guidance to staff members, instructing officials to play down the invasion in public statements.
“Should the press focus on the role of Ethiopia inside Somalia,” read a copy of the guidelines that was given to The New York Times by an American official here, “emphasize that this is a distraction from the issue of dialogue between the T.F.I.’s and Islamic courts and shift the focus back to the need for dialogue.” T.F.I. is an abbreviation for the weak transitional government in Somalia.
“The press must not be allowed to make this about Ethiopia, or Ethiopia violating the territorial integrity of Somalia,” the guidance said.
Of course these talking points become less effective when put out in this form. But just remember, “Officially, we haven’t put anybody in Somalia.”