As a critic of the intervention in Iraq, and even of its milder sequel in Libya, I am a big fan of what David Cameron is doing on Thursday for Somalia. This time there are no troops massed on the borders or air strikes, just a conference at London’s venerable Lancaster House, which in colonial times regularly saw countries made and unmade.
For those who might not have noticed because Somalia is an unintentionally well-kept secret, he is hosting Somali and international leaders in an effort to begin to sort out the country’s future. And Somalia needs sorting. It has a violent civil war, the remains of a famine, a government whose writ does not run beyond the capital, a thriving piracy industry off its coast and terrorist training camps on shore.
The case for investing in Somalia conflict prevention today is Afghanistan in 2001. It country had a growing internal conflict, a massive drug industry and there was evidence that it was harbouring terrorists. But Afghanistan remained a second tier issue for the rest of the world. Until 9/11 and the attacks on America it was crowded out by other problems. Afterwards it sparked the costly and destructive war on terrorism that is still with us, and has had profound consequences for the US and its allies, as well as for Afghanistan and its neighbours.
Solving Somalia’s problems won’t be easy but bravo, Mr Cameron for trying. Continue reading »