War On

Ethiopia decides to really go for it, unleashing warplanes to attack the Islamic Courts Movement that controls most of Somalia in support of that country’s feeble de jure government. The Islamists are being supported by “several thousand soldiers from Eritrea” along with “a growing number of Muslim mercenaries from Yemen, Egypt, Syria and Libya who want to turn Somalia into the third front of jihad, after Iraq and Afghanistan.” The Ethiopian military, meanwhile, has been trained and equipped by the United States, is the class of the region, and appears to be intervening in Somalia with American support:

The question now seems to be if Ethiopia will go into Mogadishu and try to finish off the Islamist military, which many fear could spur a long and ugly insurgency, or simply deal them enough of a blow to force them back to the negotiating table with the transitional government. Ethiopia’s prime minister recently told American officials that he could wipe out the Islamists “ in one to two weeks.”

I still don’t know much about the Horn of Africa (I read this International Crisis Group material but it’s all a bit outdated) but on general principles fear of spurring a long and ugly insurgency seems sound. A war under these circumstances would seem to have a basically religious character insofar as we agree with Jeffrey Gettleman’s characterization that “While Somalia is almost purely Muslim, neighboring Ethiopia has a strong Christian identity, even though it is actually about half Muslim.”