The West has interests in seeing Somalia restored to statehood.
For over 20 years, Somalia has been continuously ravaged by civil war and botched international attempts at reinstating a functioning government capable of not only administering the country, but also of defending it from the regional warlords and growing presence of Islamist terrorist organizations. Now, in 2012, Somalia can longer even be considered a traditional nation-state; the Somali people are living in abject poverty, piracy has become a career path, the African Union sends its soldiers to fight and die for regional security, and the West forgets that more than the Indian Ocean needs to be patrolled if the Horn of Africa is to be stabilized, that, indeed, intervention can be legitimate.
For some years now, Somalia has been divided into three virtually independent states: Somaliland in the north, Puntland in the northeast, and Somalia proper in the south. Given the current state of affairs, not to mention the ethnic and political and economic climate of the three regions, it is virtually impossible to unify all three distinct regions at this time. Indeed, the West’s and the African Union’s interests do not necessarily revolve around this political objective. Instead, it is the Somalia region in the south that demands the most attention, given the danger posed by the al-Shabab organization and its other Islamist terrorist allies, most notably al-Qaeda. The Western public should stop playing coy by claiming that interference in regional affairs is necessarily detrimental to any effort at restoring stability to a region.
Anyone blaming neo-imperialism for intervention (be it military or otherwise) is often the most hypocritical, as he or she tends to forget that human rights and regional stability are in and of themselves interests to be defended. The case of the military intervention in Somalia should be used as a model for future missions. The current peacekeeping/making mission in Somalia, under the name of “African Union Mission to Somalia” (AMISOM), was a regional initiative, and quickly sanctioned by the U.N. Security Council. The advantages of having regional powers tackle regional military problems are many, the main one being that eastern African militaries will necessarily understand far better the eastern African ethnic, political and geographic landscapes than would a Western army.
The official mission of AMISOM was thus to extend and protect the Federal Transitional Government. Truthfully, however, it is more of a limited mission to curb al-Shabab operations in the south and attempt to curb the threat of a spill-over in terrorist activities. Already, participant African nations have been hit by terrorist bombings, the most violently hit being Uganda. Though these African nations are fighting for their own direct interests, they are just as much fighting for ours. The West does not need another hotbed of Islamist terrorist training grounds, nor does its moral sensibilities accept the suffering of the civilian population forced to face famine at the hands of al-Shabab, which denies Western food aid to the population on account that the famine has been “exaggerated”.
We will become morally bankrupt if we continue to assume that military intervention is always a neo-imperialist practice. True, there have been many violations of trust and misuse of power over the past decades, but that must not prevent the fulfilment of potential humanitarian missions that serve our global interests.