Surge Then Peace?

Surge Then Peace?

When’s the last time the U.S. fought a war in a foreign land that ended with a better society and government for those people and greater peace for all the world?

Yesterday.

But before that, you have to go back to World War II. But yesterday the U.S. officially recognized the existing Somalia government after 21 years of on-and-off direct conflict.

Although far from tranquil or totally stable there is today a globally recognized Somali government for the first time since 1991, piracy is ending, farmers are planting, schools are open and the economy is growing. None of this since 1991. All this precisely because Obama “surged” our militarism there for the last two years.

He surged a war and won.

Applause?

Them’s the facts, Ma’am. The catastrophe began with Bill Clinton’s cowardly response to Blackhawk Down and then a few years later, the Rwandan Genocide. Clinton escaped a couple close calls with oblivion as President, and I for one think he’s culpable for the last several decades of terrorism in the world. (With a good measure of French obstructionism as well.)

A sweet irony that his wife yesterday was the person in the spotlight recognizing Somali peace.

But Clinton and French responsibility for igniting global jihad had a significant catalyst with the end of the Cold War.

So many African countries were nothing but pawns in the Cold War. They were treated like ivory pieces on a chessboard, spit-polished when they advanced one sides game and ignored to the point of being sacrificed when they didn’t. The frontline battle was in Somalia and neighboring Ethiopia for 20 years before Blackhawk Down.

The U.S. and westerners pulled the puppet strings on Somalia, and Russia with occasional Chinese lace pulled the strings in Ethiopia.

Tens of thousands – maybe hundreds of thousands of people died in regular old tank wars on deserts with no more value than the sand that defines an egg timer. So for 40 years “Somali society” if it still exists was pulled and shoved and bombed and tortured as some unexplained pendulum flinging between good and bad.

The epoch Americans remember most is the one just ended: the epoch of terror when Obama’s surge in Afghanistan forced al-Qaeda principals to flee to Africa. After a short stint in Yemen they went to Somali where their much greater skills and far superior dedication to ideology gave them the tools to conquer the rat pack of warlords that had controlled what had been Somalia with the residue of weaponry left by the end of the Cold War.

The prize in that stealthy battle was the port city of Kismayo, the throne of the pirates, and the loot this provided al-Qaeda rebirthed them with new weapons, new roads, new infrastructure and alas was born, al-Shabaab.

Obama gives no quarter to his enemies. But he doesn’t like public wars. So with more equipment and better technology and not a few real American boots on the ground, America began battling al-Shabaab.

It was just the continuation of the Texas Ranger pulling up his red bandana to disguise his face and sticking his badge in his pocket so he can hunt down the Dallas bank robber who fled into Arkansas. But when it became clear that this clandestine operation wasn’t enough, well, he hired Kenya.

The Kenyan Army invaded Somalia in October, 2011.

Well, that did the trick!

So now the al-Qaeda principals – what’s left of them – have fled into the interior and north of Africa. But don’t worry. The French talk better than we do in that part of the continent, so they’re taking control, now.

I’m of two minds about all this. The world – the whole wide world, including shipping and fishing lanes and air space – it’s all much, much more safe and peaceful today because of Obama’s surge against terror.

But my second mind is whiplashed by the memories of the Cold War, and how we used African societies as pawns in a game that was cruel and devastating to them.

It all remains to be seen. And perhaps my sarcasm is little more than spite of days gone bye.

Perhaps today is better.

#1 & #2: Whites Fight on Black Soil

#1 & #2: Whites Fight on Black Soil

2012 goes down in history as the first time a modern African military defeated then occupied a terrorist state. Somalia fell to Kenyan soldiers. Except that there’s a lot more to it than that.

My #1 top story for 2012 in Africa is the “pacification” of Somalia by the Kenyan armed forces, and #2 is the less obvious reason why. To see a list of all The Top Ten, click here.

The #2 story, the “less obvious reason why” the Kenyans conquered Somalia is the enormous covert military operations by the west, particularly the U.S. and France.

That assistance actually does include boots on the ground, but the Green Berets and French Foreign Legion are stealthy. They’re only rarely seen.

And while their presence has been most notable in the Somali war, they’ve been seen elsewhere, especially in central Africa in The Congo. About a 100 U.S. forces arrived publicly in Uganda for that effort. The French have a lot more in northern Africa.

These two top significant events on the continent last year have enormous implications globally but of course even greater ramifications locally. But I’d suggest that in a worldwide context they are among the top events of the year.

Somalia has been an anarchic geopolitical unit for 20 years. The implosion began when Bill Cinton abandoned a United Nations effort to hold the country together in 1993, what is commonly known in America as “Blackhawk Down.”

The country quickly broke apart into ethnic and clan-based tiny warlord states originally fueled by the weaponry left by Blackhawk Down. That later was sustained by piracy and other black-marketteering. Although two northern parts, Puntland and Somaliland, managed to organize themselves into something more stable and less onerous than the old Taliban Afghanistan, the majority of the country remained ruled by local warlords.

The Russians left Afghanistan in 1989 and shortly thereafter the country was ruled by the Taliban which welcomed the gang of Thugs led by bin Laden. This was a turning point in global power, a specific outcome of the end of the Cold War.

Perhaps the world was so tired of conflict that the west in particular grew inward desperate for periods of no war. Be that as it may, no president in the history of the U.S. has so dropped the ball on world peace like Clinton did, then.

His early nineties retreat from Africa caused all sorts of mayhem, from the Rwandan war to the Nairobi and Dar embassy bombings. He has since apologized, and some of his advisers at the time say he had been distracted from the growing turbulence in Africa by the Monica Lewinsky affair and subsequent impeachment.

I believe that radicals like bin Laden were emboldened by the subsequent mayhem. The Rwandan holocaust preceded by the implosion of Somalia was a calling card to bin Laden. A few years later, he blew up the American embassies in East Africa.

A few years later, he blew up the Twin Towers.

Terrorism reigned.

And so it has ever since. And America’s extraordinary response, the military involvement in Afghanistan and Iran hasn’t worked. Obama knows this. Like suburbs hiring trained snipers to kill deer eating their city park roses, Bush tried to eradicate terrorism with firepower.

All it did was blast it to the sides: Africa. Deer aren’t as dumb as you think. They sense the sniper’s limits and move out. For a while the city park’s roses bloom magnificently, but roses on the periphery don’t do so well.

For example, Somalia. Bush shotgunned Afghanistan, then Iraq, and many of bin Laden’s thugs were routed elsewhere. Not too many years later they ended up in Somalia after a short stint in Yemen. The al-Qaeda became al-Shabaab and conquered the warlord states of southern Somalia. What had been Afghanistan under the Taliban was now Somalia under al-Shabaab.

One and the same.

So Kenya especially began to suffer the same way all the countries bordering Afghanistan suffered. It starts with refugees. That is a problem of enormous magnitude, aggravated in Kenya’s case because the camps were located in its far and remote northeastern frontier.

And quite apart from the strain of such a responsibility economically and socially, the camps become conduits for terrorists to enter Kenya. Shortly Kenyan bus stops and churches were being blown up by suicide bombers.

So a little more than a year ago Kenya announced it would mount a military operation into Somalia. George Bush failed getting Pakistan to do the same in Afghanistan. Obama succeeded with Kenya. At first we all laughed out loud. But we were wrong.

At first the Number One News that Kenya has pacified Somalia seems so good. Part of it is. A multiple generational war is ending. Good, right? Yes, of course when any conflict ends.

Mop up continues, but when the Kenyan army captured the town of Afmadow we knew it would only be days before Kismayo fell to the courageous Kenyans. As it turned out it was months but it did finally fall and today Kenya occupies most of what only a year ago was troubled Somalia.

Today, Somalia has an effective government and the capital of Mogadishu – while not exactly a tourist haven yet – is peaceful. Kenya, on the other hand, is increasingly troubled.

I believe Kenya is too advanced and mature a society to succomb the same way Afghanistan/Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia did. Yes, folks, Kenya is more socially atune and politically savvy than Pakistan. I’m hopeful that the current bombings and other violence will slowly end as the new constitution is cemented with elections in March.

But this is deja-vu squared, no matter how you cut it. We routed world terrorists out of Afghanistan and they feld to Yemen. We routed world terrorists out of Yemen and they went to, and settled in for a quite a while, Somalia. Now that they’re routed out of Somalia?

The unpleasant conclusion is that for the time being, they’re in Kenya, and so Kenya is not a good place right now to visit.

Obama and Hollande seem to think the terrorist can just be chased into oblivion, and oblivion to them is currently beyond Kenya somewhere else in Africa. Are you following what’s happening in Central Africa, today? Or Mali? Or Nigeria?

I’ve been very skeptical about this policy. I’m not sure the west has enough resources to chase every terrorist into oblivion. I wonder if it’s time to let up.

But I’m uncertain. As uncertain as Clinton and Mitterand in 1994 must have been before a million people were slaughtered in Rwanda.

Time to Go Home Now

Time to Go Home Now

Hey chums, time to end the war on terror! We successfully pushed it into Africa! And they’ll do much better once we get the boots out.

The modern war on terror is like suburbanites trying to eradicate deer and geese. Few homeowners are ever hurt by deer and certainly not by geese, but their gardens are eaten and zoysia lawns defaced.

And “everyone knows” of the dog that was bitten by a stag, or the young oak trees eaten to the ground in the precious county forest, or the toddler nipped nearly to death by the hen’s beak, and – horror of horrors – something so truly horrible it must be given an anagram: CWD.

It is precisely the juggernaut of thought about CWD that tips the balance in the county finance committee to hire that sniper to go into the lagoon and start shooting. After all, CWD does exactly what the suburban homeowner wants it to do: kills the deer.

But fashioning goodness from simple reactive evil, the homeowner begins to feel sorry for the poor wasting away antelope. Euthanasia is wrong, but execution is right.

This is so similar to terrorism.

Nine-Eleven did ultimate harm to 3000+ people, but at the time there were more than 300 million living in the U.S., another billion or so in the countries represented in that awful carnage. So the vast, vast majority of human beings were not effected … except by terror.

By the fear it would, somehow someday, happen to them or those close to them.

The war on terror, though, has much realer consequences for all of us. It’s costly, it allows invasions of our privacies not otherwise possible, and it allows a small handful of people – mostly the president – to assassinate foreigners at will.

The last removed power that the war on terror conveys actually effects us directly. Our own behavior changes when our leader can murder at will.

When you think about, it’s worse than horrible. We have grown complacent about murder.

Numerous analysts last week suggested it’s time for America to end the war on terror. It makes a wondrous peace headline just before the holidays but it carries powerful implications for American policy.

Journalists like Rachel Maddow and Fareed Zakaria have been joined by experts close to the government.

The reason for this is pretty simple: the assault on terrorism carried out especially by Obama has succeeded. Like with deer chomping roses, we have exported the problem to our periphery.

Culling deer or blasting away geese has never successfully reduced either an existing regional population or any population trends. But it does move the problem away – to the edges of your existence.

Culling deer in the Chicago suburb of Skokie moves the problem further out from the city into more rural areas, complicating life there a little bit more as a result.

Obama has successfully routed al-Qaeda and with the weekend’s drone assassination of Abu Zaid al-Kuwaiti in Pakistan, the last of Osama’s Old Boys Network is gone.

With the effective fall of the town of Jowhar in Somali last week, al-Shabaab is nearly gone, too. Somalia, which became the dustbin of terrorists worldwide as Obama’s wars in the Afghan region intensified, is essentially now no longer under terrorist control.

It is under the fragile control of countries like Kenya and Ethiopia, that are now carrying the burden of the war on terror.

Even much smaller and more regional groups like the Lords Resistance Army are on the run, presumably from U.S. Special Forces in the deepest central African jungles.

America’s War on Terror – at least as regards America’s land itself – is over.

The strongest argument against ending the war on terror, is that it isn’t eradicated worldwide, and worse, where it still flourishes (in Africa) the powers there are much weaker than us. I.E.: They Don’t Have Drones.

True TDHD but they will be much more successful wiping up the residue than we were. The so-called terrorists are much closer to them ethnically and historically. There is a much greater need to pacify militants and integrate them into society.

Right now you might think that doesn’t look real good: Terrorists hold half of Mali, most of the CAR and are detonating bombs in Nairobi at the rate of about one per month.

But it’s nowhere near the confusion and destruction that Afghanistan was less than ten years ago, or even that parts of Pakistan are today. Nairobi today is probably nicer than Belfast 20 years ago: Africa will take care of itself, much better and quicker if we withdraw.

That leaves … Afghanistan and Pakistan.

It’s been more than a year since we announced we will be out of Afghanistan in little more than another year. Theoretically we never invaded Pakistan. I’m no expert on the region, but I wonder if eliminating drone assassinations would not actually have a positive effect on our security. When we take our boots out, drones will be all that’s left.

So happy holidays, all. Peace is near at hand?

Mission Accomplished Now What

Mission Accomplished Now What

Twelve months ago Kenya invaded Somalia with the expressed goal of taking the city of Kismayu. This past weekend Kismayu fell but there are no celebrations, no parades.

The fall of Kismayu will go down in history as the defeat of al-Qaeda’s first organized state. Until al-Shabaab took Kismayu after the failed Ethiopian invasion of Somalia in 2007, no terrorist organization had a fully fledged government in place.

Over the next five years, Shabaab exerted full administrative control on Somali’s largest port city, estimated at around 200,000 with many modern facilities including a functioning harbor and university. The group imposed Sharia law and imposed a strict if oppressive peace.

Kismayu is the center of pirate activity in the Arabian Gulf and with the fixed taxes Shabaab imposed on the pirates and a burgeoning trade in concrete and fish, and an increasing trade in illicit drunks and weapons, Kismayu became the quintessential Joker’s capital.

It had never happened before. Terrorists had always been in hiding or on the run. By 2009 Shabaab had extended its full authority over at least a third of southern Somali and along all of the Kenyan border. It was now a country only slightly smaller than Britain.

Kenya announced its invasion of Somalia as a response to mounting attacks inside its territory near the shared border, but more because of the growing strain on Kenyan society of the huge Dadaab refugee camp.

The camp is now the largest in the world, and while funded principally by the United Nations, it is a massive and threatening city in the Kenyan desert, larger than all but four of Kenya’s other metropolitan areas. Although there is an undeniable economic benefit to the enormous resources being passed through the country by the United Nations, the net result is probably negative.

When the invasion happened on October 18, 2011, I predicted only bad news. I was wrong. There is much bad news, but there is also some good news.

The Kenyans have suffered many fewer casualties than I expected, principally because their army moved so slowly and carefully, avoiding huge clashes. In fact with time I began to wonder if Kenya had the right formula for modern warfare, actually trumping big powers like us.

But a year ago it was not clear – as it is today – how much the western world, particularly France and the U.S., have been involved. U.S. drones, French warships and even reports of actual special services embedded with the Kenyan troops suggest a massive clandestine effort by the west to assure Kenya’s success.

We know that the Obama administration has deployed special services throughout east and central Africa so it’s likely there are Americans on the ground in Somalia helping the Kenyans. Together with our drones, we’ve probably been involved from the get go.

Such proxy warring is disturbing. It’s unsettling to me, because in theory it means Kenyans are dying to protect me, an American. It’s unsettling because we as Americans (and French, etc.) can now play with fire and not get burned.

The Kenyan mission was very slow and marginally successful day-by-day. African Union Forces which had been deployed in Mogadishu since the earth was created had been totally useless before Kenya began making inroads in the south.

Today, AUF control Mogadishu and a relative peace pervades the city for the first time in a generation. There is no doubt that Kenya’s courage in the south provided peace further north.

There is a new Somalia president, a respected university academic. Aid organizations are returning, and the news Kenya most wants to hear, that soon refugees might be repatriated, is all a collection of very positive news.

But as Jeffrey Gettleman has pointed out again and again, Kismayu freed is the worst Pandora’s Box in Africa.

The warlord society of Somali, empowered by funds and weapons scattered by America’s mousey retreat from Blackhawk Down in 1993, is rivaled only in Afghanistan. These are not people who take kindly to city council zoning rules. There is now a real concern that even the combined military of Kenya, the AUF and newly inaugurated Somali Defense Forces can hold in place what Shabaab did with nothing less than abject terror.

Over the last year terrorist attacks on Kenyan soil have increased exponentially. Tourists have been killed, kidnaped, and grenade attacks on Christian churches have taken hundreds of Kenyan lives, and even Nairobi city has experienced a half dozen terrorist attacks.

None of these were as grand or apparently as carefully planned as the Shabaab attack in Kampala in July, 2010. That attack was specific retribution by al-Shabaab against the Ugandan military, which had been the lead force in the AUF for several years. Kenya was understandably worried it would suffer the same.

It didn’t. Yet the aggregate misery, deaths, injuries and destruction of all the little attacks now exceeds by far the single grand attack in Kampala.

So there are no parades or other celebrations. A milestone, yes, but the story is far from over.

Kenya Great But Don’t Go

Kenya Great But Don’t Go

Good news in Kenya is causing extreme turbulence and many countries are cautioning their citizens about traveling there, now.

It’s heart-wrenching, because Kenya depends so much on tourism. It’s complicated, because the potential for disrupting foreign vacations comes specifically from a series of successes in Kenya’s military operation in Somalia and its growing role in the global war against terror.

Britain, France, Australia and Canada among several dozen other countries all issued new advisories to their citizens this week, indicating that travel to Kenya has become increasingly problematic. (The U.S. did not, and that oversight continues a long history of poor and misleading travel advice coming out of Washington.)

All countries said the same thing: don’t go to any part of the northern coast of Kenya including Kismayu and Lamu, and if you travel to Nairobi city, avoid a number of the poorer areas, specifically named.

The reasons for this stem from two major events this week:

A radical cleric in Mombasa was assassinated in a drive-by shooting. As I wrote at the time Sheik Aboud Rogo was a well-known supporter of al-Shabaab, al-Qaeda in Somali, and one the remaining likely fugitives of a number of high-profile terrorist events.

As I said I believe the shooting was done by the very people Sheik Rogo supports as an attempt to incite violence and disrupt Kenya. It worked. Kenya’s second largest town and only port exploded in violence earlier this week.

Secondly, after nearly a year, the Kenyan military is about to invade Kismayo, the final stronghold of al-Shabaab. It’s Somalia’s modern port, largest organized city and the capital of pirates and terrorists the world over. The economy of Kismayo alone is estimated at ten times that of the rest of Somalia.

This week the Kenyan navy continued an unending bombardment of the port, taking out its airport and confirming the death of at least two major al-Shabaab leaders. The Kenyan air force has been dropping leaflets on the town explaining to citizens where and how to flee once the ground fight begins.

After Kismayo falls, al-Shabaab has nothing left but disparate mostly now ungoverned guerilla fighters, and clearly what they will do is attempt strategic acts of terrorism. The Kenyan coast – where 50% of all its tourist revenues are generated – is within day’s walk of Somalia.

And the poor neighborhoods of sprawling, gigantic Nairobi are perfect hideouts for fugitives. This year a number of grenade attacks have already occurred there that were linked to al-Shabaab.

But if you’re a Kenyan, and despite a lot of civil and political turbulence right now (including several major public sector strikes), you’re incredibly hopeful and aggressively behind the government. The march to the historic spring elections under a new and brilliant constitution will become a model for much of Africa.

But fate has dealt Kenya, with its geography and its rapid development, a terrible roll in the world’s struggle to end terror. It’s stepped up to it, and I think it will prevail.

But as much as I support Kenya and hope for its ultimate success and glory, I cannot do anything other than advise potential travelers not to go there, now.

Sheik Aside

Sheik Aside

Tuesday’s drive-by killing of the jihadist cleric Aboud Rogo in Kenya marks a small if hopeful turning point in the troubled East African coast.

Real evidence will never emerge so we are left to speculation, but blogs, rumors and common sense seem to converge this time: the murder was specifically intended to stoke religious and ethnic violence.

It did at first, but only at first, and the city did not even fire up like Watts in 1965 or Tottenham only a year ago.

This doesn’t mean that the embers remaining aren’t nuclear. But to me it seems a clear indication that Kenya’s invasion of Somalia, the global “War Against Terror,” and Christian/Islamic confrontation has peaked. In a weak and uncertain way, logic tells me things are going better.

Sheik Rogo was a fiery and provocative cleric, openly recruiting young Muslims in his Mombasa madrassa for al-Shabaab. For years he’s been associated with a number of jihadist attacks in East Africa, including the bombing of the American embassy and several high profile attacks on the coast, including the terrible bombing of an Israeli resort.

He was killed Tuesday in a carefully planned and masterful drive-by attack. The attack car which has not been found, the lack of any leads by police, the particular place the shooting actually began, and the high caliber bullets found at the site and not easily available in Kenya, all point to a very carefully organized murder.

The sheik has been confined to the Mombasa area virtually since 2002 when he surrendered his passport to Kenyan authorities. He remained charged with numerous counts of terrorism, and his legal battles in Kenya are legendary.

But he has never actually been brought to trial, and Kenya has resisted extraditing him to the U.S. for instance, for fear such action would provoke Mombasa’s radicals. So instead Kenya did what a western country can’t discipline itself to do: nothing.

African patience was winning out. The sheik’s prominence peaked. His support was waning. In the most virulent political battle on the coast going on right now, a move by a new but powerful Islamic political party to secede from Kenya, the sheik had no involvement. In fact, it appeared he’d been excluded.

Western detractors tried to pin the assassination on America or the Kenyan police, claiming each was no longer tolerant of the protracted legal battles against the sheik. I seriously doubt this. Obama’s War on Terror is going just fine, in part because people like Rogo have been marginalized. Better to have him contained in Mombasa than Guantanamo.

It’s much more likely that the dying powers in Somalia saw the sheik as a sacrificial lamb. Recruits from his madrassa to al-Shabaab are less important, now that al-Shabaab is being routed.

I think the sheik was killed by a sheik. Disquieting, yes, but when the fighting turns inwards the battlefield grows smaller.

Good News Somalia

Good News Somalia

Puntland is a part of northern Somalia which celebrated 14 years of stability and largely peace on August 1 with parades in the capital of Garowe.
Yesterday clan leaders from around Somalia adopted the first truly national constitution in 40 years. All we need now is an end to the global recession.

There is a lot of trouble in Africa right now, and a lot of it is in Somalia. While the 825 delegates prepared to adopt its historic first constitution in 40 years, two suicide bombers were “detonated” by security forces just outside the building in which the clan leaders were deliberating.

A respected Kenyan journalist quipped, “The Somalia constitutional conference ended with a bang!” His column was a very positive and very optimistic view of the situation in Somalia.

In fact, Onyango-Obbo suggested Somalia may be on a path to a representative democracy far superior to the majority of the soldiers in the African Union’s peace-keeping force in Mogadischu who come mostly from Ethiopia and Uganda:

“History is capricious and has a cynical sense of humour. If the constitution, referendum and subsequent election are pulled off, Somalia might have a freer election than either …Uganda or Ethiopia…”

Africa has a way of fooling us about its future, and Onyango-Obbo might be onto something although I think his characterization of a “cynical sense of humor” might just be plan old irony.

The Somali constitution is strictly Sharia-based, and of course that’s not going to go down well with America’s right. But get this. The constitution also allows abortion and bans female circumcision.

There is nothing specific in the Koran, or the Bible, which forbids either abortion or female circumcision. Clerics over the centuries, and the Catholic Church in particular, have added dogma to the original poetry. It is the interpretation not the literal text that is so contentious, today.

What the Somalis may have demonstrated is that you can take almost any ancient code of behavior and reduce it to is most basic moral principles and still create a modern, contemporary society.

So whether it is a Christian society or one based on Sharia law, it’s quite possible to arrive at similar governments in a modern society.

The reluctance to do this, by Al-Qaeda on the one hand or Christian evangelicals at home on the other, is what causes conflict and belies superficial morality as something usually much simpler like racism.

A peaceful and successful Somali nation has a long list of necessary predicates well beyond just stopping suicide bombers from killing legislators. The Kenyan army has yet to displace the pirate kings of Kismayo. There are nearly a million refugees living just outside the political borders in Kenya. And global warming couldn’t have a more dire effect on the people on planet earth than Somalia.

And this cauldron of political, social and even geological and meteorological turbulence seems these last few months to be spreading across much of the continent, after just a few years of such positive progress.

And that’s why I mention the need for the end of the global recession. Everything it seems in the world is economically based. When economies are improving, so do the politics and societies in general. In fact, with improving economies, strategies to deal with global warming emerge more easily.

So read Onyango-Obbo’s positive take on Somali. Cross your fingers for an European stimulus and re-elect Obama. There are a few other things to do, too.

But then in a few years, Somalia in the lead, Africa will turn better.

Peaceful Somalia or Warring Kenya?

Peaceful Somalia or Warring Kenya?

Has Kenya accomplished what the world’s great powers have been unable to do for the last generation: Is Somalia really headed towards peace?

Last week, Kenya successfully routed the insurgents from Afmadow, the last insurgent front before the rebel coastal capital of Kismayo. Today, Kenya’s major newspaper reported that “Al-Shabaab leaders are reported to be fleeing Kismayo, heading back to Puntland or leaving the country for Yemen.”

And all sarcasm aside, America’s NPR asked in a quick headline this morning “Has peace really come to the Somali capital of Mogadishu?” and implied yes, because a new dry cleaning service just opened up there this week.

Before this little business opened up, NPR went on to explain, businesspeople had to get their suits cleaned in Nairobi!

I was very skeptical of “Linda Nchi” the name Kenya has given for the operation, which roughly translates as “Protect the Nation.” Click on the Somali link to the right to read my pessimistic report after report. Will the occupation of Kismayo by the Kenyans – now widely expected – prove me wrong and Kenya right?

Before any mea verbum I have to increase my potential humiliation by also pointing out that America seems to be the principal paymaster (if not quarter master as well), info supplier and stealth assassin of top al-Qaeda and -Shabaab leaders.

Without U.S. assistance, money and assassinations, Kenya probably would have been dead in the mud last fall.

Does this make Kenya the lackey of the U.S.?

Many have argued this since this beginning. But that rude presumption I discount out of hand. One of the greatest motivations for war, or no war, around the world is the incredible cost of the host country’s dealing with refugees from a neighboring country’s violence.

It’s why South Africa continues to prop up Zimbabwe, why China continues to pander to North Korea and why Turkey is so aggressive in its stance against Assad’s Syrian regime. And there is no stronger example than the nearly million Somali refugees that have been taxing the Kenyan government for several years.

And much of this time has been exacerbated by drought.

Without America’s help, I think Kenya would have made the move.

So we won’t call Kenya America’s lackey. But I will insist that America is Kenya’s paymaster, info supplier and stealth assassin. And I don’t think there’s any question that without this assistance that Linda Nchi would not be the success it is, today.

As an American, I’m not necessarily proud of this. As a self-adopted Kenyan, I’m thrilled and scared.

Guantanamo is still open; Afghanistan still bleeds profusely and any day, now, we’re going to see a drone over Syria.

I don’t like war. And let me be practically immoral: I don’t like wars we can’t win.

And the reason America has lost or bungled so many wars, is because the people it fights are locals who have gone to the ballot box with their lives. What right do we have to impose our ideas on others? Human rights? Is our definition of individual human rights, or the UN’s, sacrosanct? Absolute enough to kill someone local who believes otherwise?

No. We are learning better than ever right now that democracy is terribly flawed. What’s the point in democracy if you can be swindled to vote against your true self-interest? It’s so easy it’s criminal. The right wing in America is the most successful brainwasher since Mao.

But it isn’t easy to lay down your life for what you believe.

Josef Kony’s child soldiers were brainwashed, and when they laid down their lives it was a tragedy, not a heroic statement of their beliefs. But the vast majority of al-Qaeda and al-Shabaab fighters are not brainwashed. They may be economically subverted, but I have little doubt that their reasoned beliefs carry them to war.

When they blow up the Twin Towers, we should retaliate, and we did. Because the Golden Rule Analog prevails: If we let you alone, you let us alone.

But the extent that we then go to insure it against happening again, is as insane as the amount of money an American must spend for medical insurance.

America is obsessed with everything being black or white, Left or Right, Progressive or Conservative, and compromise in my generation has become a naughty word. This obsession has led to an inability to discern the truth, a paranoia of failure, a self-cycling decline in happiness. It has taken America to war too many times.

And from my point of view, Obama has not changed that. He has been coopted by America’s obsession with war.

But Kenya, sweet Kenya? Are you really accomplishing what America never could? Have you been crafty enough to use America’s obsession for a war so that you can really win one?

Oh I so hope so. But it isn’t over until the Fat Lady Sings. And as far as I know, the work hasn’t yet begun on the opera house in Kismayo.

Somalia & Peace?

Somalia & Peace?

Painting by Abushariaa.
My text.
Peace may be coming to Somalia. If so, kindly note carefully that the country of Kenya is the first country in a half century to unilaterally establish peace with war.

I seem to remember another country that tried: in Vietnam, in Iraq, in Afghanistan, and oh, in Nicaragua. And her adversaries tried in Czechoslovakia, Poland, Hungary; and other adversaries in Tibet.

None of those worked very well. What’s critically important this time, is that the big failures don’t derail the little success. Listen, please, to Kenya.

Thursday’s peace conference in London is being reported by the western media almost like composers gathering to write a funeral dirge. At first I just couldn’t understand this.

Then it hit me: peace is coming to Somali, not through the bigwigs and their F16s and drones and special operations and decades of failed warring, but because of a slow and methodical and most importantly, little military operation by Kenya that began last October.

Some argue that incessant droughts, western European poaching of its rich fisheries, and the west’s systematic routing of al-Qaeda are the main reasons, but I disagree. They are all important, of course, but the main reason is that a neighbor on its own volition stepped in less as the Terminator and more as the School Mom with a big stick.

None were more skeptical than me. The notion of getting “bogged down” grew literal with early, heavy rains. And it was only reasonable to suppose that no major putsch was possible with such a little force.

But what appears to be the new working military formula, is that putsch is old school. Perhaps necessity structured the Kenyan campaign, so be it. Civilian losses, mostly in terrorist revenge attacks near the border, are subsiding and “pacification” by Kenyan troops as the inch themselves towards the sea seems to be working.

Somalia was too far from Europe to be a cultural center like Alexandria. There were no Lawrence Durrell’s writing about its ancient spirits. But Somalia in the old days was very much of a Mediterranean-like African country: pretty if lazy, modern if low-key, and increasingly self-sufficient.

Above all they were seamen, accomplished fishermen and navigators. As world wars loomed at the end of the 19th century, Britain used the pretext of suppressing a popular local ruler, Abdullah Hassan, to gain control of critical ports accessing the Red Sea.

Similar to earlier jihadists like Sudan’s Mahdi Muhammad Ahmad, Hassan could easily organize the enormous local antipathy to modern western ideas like school for women. The “modern world” was thrust on much of Arabic Africa far too quickly.

After the world wars it was only natural that the former colony would choose the other side of the Cold War, and Somali became a Soviet ally. Even so it prospered nearly as much as neighbors like Kenya who had chosen the West, and education, especially exploded throughout the population.

The end of the Cold War left Somali without a patron. And ideologues like Reagan thought no further than ending the reign of an adversary. A huge vacuum was left in the societies which for a generation had depended upon the Soviets and Chinese.

It was like a calendar flipping backwards in time.

Mogadishu imploded in 1991. Black Hawk Down ended in catastrophe in 1993, and Somali was apportioned by warlords who had been the benefactors of a quarter century of arms buildup by proxy adversaries a half a planet apart.

One can read the history of 1990s Somalia very similarly to General Gordon’s battles in Khartoum in 1884. A century apart, the killing and fighting is placed conveniently far away from the main protagonist, a distant super power trying to impose an alien culture on a local people.

But such analogies probably have little significance, today. Historical imperatives might just have evaporated in the last quarter century. The world is too closely connected, now. Hiphop is just as popular in Mogadishu and Nairobi as in London.

And I am surprised by the Kenyan success. Fighting which brings peace. I hope I am not surprised once again that I was surprised.

War Week 6

War Week 6

Very little of anything happened last week with Kenya’s invasion of Somalia. Some are beginning to see it as an occupation rather than a specific campaign. Kenyan forces continue to decline engaging al-Shabaab in their fortified towns of Afmadow and Kisamyo.

Kenyans at home who have until now been unwavering in their support are beginning to falter: “In the wake of Operation Linda Nchi, there has been anxiety that there is little action in Somalia… If you are excited by war, the one in Somalia has been disappointing,” a leading Kenyan journalist wrote Sunday.

The 5th week of the war included a flurry of diplomatic activity as well as the invasion of Somali by Ethiopia. I had thought these both positive developments. But many African analysts see it differently.

Tanzanian Evarist Kagaruki of Dar’s main newspaper, The Citizen, claims “there are no signs yet to show that support for Kenya was forthcoming. The whole burden has been left to the Kenyan army [and African Union troops that have been there for a number of years as peacekeepers].”

Kagaruki concludes that the Ethiopian invasion won’t help the Kenyan effort, either. He says that “Ethiopia is not the right “partner” in the adventure” because Somali/Ethiopian enmity is centuries deep. He points out that it was in the wake of the last Ethiopian invasion that al-Shabaab gained so much power.

“It is time Kenya wrapped up the campaign before war fatigue sets in,” was the lead editorial in Sunday’s East African newspaper.

But the military insists the campaign is going as planned. Apparently siege rather that engagement is that plan. Friday military commanders claimed that the last five ships that were at the port of Kismayo had departed, and that the Kenyan air force and Navy would now not allow any others to enter.

Other reports said the Kenyan air force was successfully aggressively bombing al-Shabaab positions.

There have been no more terrorist or revenge attacks in Nairobi, but that isn’t true near the Somali/Kenya border, where multiple attacks and skirmishes have left a number of civilian casualties.

This is clear evidence of the strategy al-Shabaab is employing, a guerilla campaign that is quite content to withdraw from the line of battle into the bushes and hills.

And while increased security in Nairobi and Kenya’s main cities may being helped by many arrests of suspected al-Shabaab sympathizers, the military nature of their detainment is not going over well with the Kenyan population, and certainly not with the hundreds of thousands of ethnic Somali living in Nairobi.

So last week’s glimmer of hopeful excitement is gone.

War : Week 3

War : Week 3

It’s clear that a major battle is brewing, but it isn’t at all clear who is going to win. America is worried. Kenyans are growing increasingly anxious. More deaths, including tourists.

The Thursday afternoon killing of a safari vehicle driver in the Shaba Reserve, and the wounding of a Swiss tourist inside, has no clear motive. There is no clear evidence that it is linked to any retribution from those Kenya is fighting in neighboring Somalia.

The safari vehicle was on a routine game drive and was returning to the lodge when several gunmen opened fire. The driver accelerated the vehicle but there was a second batch of gunmen waiting and they pummeled the vehicle with additional gunfire.

The driver was killed, the vehicle rolled over, one tourist was hit by a bullet and one was uninjured. Kenyan Wildlife Service agents at Archer’s Post were first on the scene.

Nevertheless this is exactly the area that I warned was unsafe only a a month ago. Whether these were bandits or ideologue militias doesn’t really matter. Kenya’s rule of law is falling apart as all its resources are funneled to the conflict in Somalia.

Go back and read the hostile comments I suppose understandably left by Kenyans who read that article. But wouldn’t it have now been much better if all had taken heed, and the tourist was now not dead?

Definite links have been established, however, with additional kidnappings around the border area of foreign aid workers, and of a grenade attack on a church in Garissa, a major town not far from the Somali border.

Meanwhile, the Kenyan offensive seems stalled. This is my view, not the view expressed by the Kenyan military, which claims to be on track in its liberation of Kismayo.

The army, though, has not yet even taken Afmadow, a northern town distraction that Kenyans learned was being fortified by al-Shabaab militias, and which they announced they would first have to pacify before continuing the progress towards Kismayo.

In the course of last week, French fired from naval vessels into Kismayo and America launched drone attacks from a base in Ethiopia. Kenya claimed a number of small skirmish victories, but its army does not seem to be moving.

This could be because of new reports of how heavily fortified Kismayo has become. During an African leaders conference last week, Prime Minister Raila Odinga literally pleaded with the west for more assistance.

Meanwhile Kenyan society is growing increasingly anxious with the war.

“The worst case scenario,” writes blogger Abdi Sheikh, is that Kenya gets deeply embroiled in the “conflict for years and disenfranchise both Kenyan Somalis and Somali refugees living in Kenya.”

“Any major mistake will bring the conflict into Kenya,” he goes on, and “may also stir xenophobia against Somalis living in Kenya.”

That may already have happened. Additional police are seen regularly in the densely populated Somali suburb of Eastleigh in Nairobi. New government policies demanding Kenyan Somalis disarm themselves are likely only going to inflame the situation.

Several newspapers reprinted old publications of WikiLeaks documents of American embassy dispatches detailing al-Shabaab recruiting within Kenya.

One thing everyone seems to agree on, which I don’t think is quite as evident as presumed is that “Kenya has taken an action that is irreversible” (Abdi Sheikh). “It has sparked a war with a shadowy group that has no clear frontline. This means those responsible for military action must think carefully not to create new enemies or inflame the conflict further.”

And yet if it isn’t reversible, it may be doomed. Sheikh reminds us, “There has been no foreign military invasion that has ever been successful in Somalia.”

Sharpen the knives for that Turkey!

Sharpen the knives for that Turkey!

In a topsy-turvy world where rain is not good and war is fought in daylight as you sleep, the sum total of the world’s misery explodes, and you prepare for Thanksgiving.

Kenya’s invasion of Somalia will be long and self-destructive unless the west decides to increase its military involvement, or unless Kenya figures out a way to spin failure and go home. For the sake of Kenya, I hope the latter.

The BBC reported today that the Kenyan military chief has conceded that the operation is taking longer than expected. As we well know from our own adventures, this is soldier-talk that the original drawing board was pure fantasy. I said a week ago that we would know today whether the operation was going to achieve some success in a reasonable time or not.

Not.

All we can hope for now is that Kenya will study carefully the history of Ethiopia’s invasion of Somalia five years ago and go home, and hopefully much more quickly than Ethiopia did.

But I doubt that, too. It isn’t just a matter of Kenyan national pride, now, but enough hard evidence emerged last week that we are now certain both France and the U.S. are pushing Kenya hard to do exactly what it’s doing, softening the enemy.

Whether either of those super powers, which are sending occasional missiles from off-shore and drones from secret bases in the area, has a threshold for greater involvement is hard to say. France is never shy about military involvement, but Obama’s reelection could be seriously jeopardized by more overt action.

Today, Kenya’s prime minister told a meeting of African leaders “not to blame foreigners, but ourselves” for the military involvement in Somalia. Hopefully, local Kenyans took that to mean “giving room to the West to intervene.”

The week started miserably when Kenya’s poorly trained air force bombed a refugee camp killing dozens of civilians. “Most of the victims were women and children,” the New York Times Josh Kron reports citing Doctors without Borders.

“Military action risks worsening the effects of famine on the Somali people, and pushing more people ‘beyond the reach of aid agencies’,” the international aid group, Oxfam said Friday.

And there are more and more refugees.

And while the BBC reported today that good if not better than expected rains “have eased the drought“ that news isn’t welcomed. There are so many displaced persons, no crops that have been planted and no plants to hold the water, that the effect of the rain is erosion and disease.

And within Kenya a “Patriot Act,” similar to our own despicable human rights atrocity, is gaining momentum as Kenyans fear retribution is certain.

It is a very grim story to tell, today. I can’t help feeling that it’s our fault, and by “our” I don’t mean the Democrats and President Obama, I mean western society for a hundred a years of selfishness and greed. There is just so much wealth in the world, we can extract natural resources at just a certain rate. There is limited comfort as a result, and we have reached the point that to maintain a modicum of what we historically achieved, much of the world must squander in abject misery and war.

Yes, to use a favorite nonpartisan political phrase, we are blessed… to be here, rather than there.

A Sacrifice So Far Far Away

A Sacrifice So Far Far Away

From far, far away, Kenya is being sacrificed to quell the war on terror. A young and dynamic, growing country with a tremendous future has been thrown to the wolves.

The war in Somalia is not going well for Kenya. The army advance is bogged down, more aid workers and civilians have been kidnaped or killed and many more injured near the front and by two grenade attacks in Nairobi city. The shilling is tanking and local prices are skyrocketing.

But it may be going well for America. Depending on your point of view, of course.

“Several of the missiles fired at jihadist fighters … on the Somali side of the border seem to have been fired from American drones or submarines,” the respected magazine, the Economist reports.

I want to stop al-Qaeda’s terrorism, who doesn’t? But fighting these endless proxy wars is inhumane. Go ahead, fire the drones, but don’t make Kenya the sacrificial lamb.

From the Kenyan border to the stated objective, the coastal city of Kismayo, the path using existing roads and tracks is about 150 miles. After 40 miles, the Kenyan military got bogged down in mud following heavy rains.

Fighting to that point was minimal. Skirmishes by al-Shabaab supporters and guerillas resulted in random and rapid firing by Kenyan troops. At the crossroads of Bilis Qoqani, 45 rebels ambushed the convoy and in the ensuing battle, the first real encounter between Kenya and al-Shabaab, the militants were routed, 9 killed and several Kenyans wounded.

At that point it was learned that an unexpectedly well organized al-Shabaab force was digging in at the city of Afmadow. This is actually north of the planned assault and now means the Kenyans have to confront the militants there or risk being attacked from their flank if they proceed directly to Kismayo.

So while today they are only about 85 miles from their objective, it looks like they must head north for the great battle at Afmadow, first.

And back at home, things couldn’t be worse for the everyday Kenyan. The city’s main newspaper calls it a “Nightmare.”

The world is surprisingly learning that a significant portion of the prewar Kenyan economy was linked to the port at Kismayo that the Kenyan military is now trying to take over.

“Supplies such as sugar, rice, cooking fat and powdered milk” and “even electronic goods and vehicles” come from Kismayo, even though it is controlled by al-Shabaab. Sugar in Kenya’s northeast today costs four times more than two weeks ago.

In the center of the country in Nairobi, the concern is not so much with sugar as shillings. A year ago the shilling traded at about 65-70 for one U.S. dollar. Today it returned to just under 100 after peaking yesterday at 106.

The median interest on a business loan shot up to 20% today, after the government’s request for a $65 million loan from the IMF was answered with only $25 million.

Tourism is being decimated. If everything ends well and Kenya is the super hero, tourism will rebound rather quickly. But that doesn’t look likely to me. I think we’re in a very long period of declining tourism.

More and more Kenyans are beginning to question the war, as I believe they should. “Let Us Rethink Our Somali Intervention” was the lead editorial in today’s Nairobi Star newspaper.

We all want al-Qaeda’s ruthlessness to stop, most of all Kenyans who have lived with it day in and day out for much of their lives. But violent eradication of an entrenched fighting force is not something Kenya can accomplish. If we as Americans have accomplished it in Iraq (which is very uncertain) look at the effort it took. Kenya cannot undertake that.

Obama knows that. Hillary knows that. But their allegiance is to their home. The sacrificial lamb comes from far, far away.

Chant of the Impatient & Vanquished

Chant of the Impatient & Vanquished

Within a week we’ll know whether the Kenyan invasion of Somalia is the true beginning of the end of al-Qaeda or the start of increased instability and terrorism in Kenya. I’m pretty pessimistic and damn mad. But the outcome of the battle of Kismayo will tell all.

Kismayo is a city. A functioning, wealth-producing large coastal city with a proud university and clean streets. It’s the defacto capital of al-Qaeda in The Horn, the center for terrorist planning, administration and growth.

It’s the only true geopolitical epicenter of terrorists in the world. In Kismayo terrorism leaders don’t hide in caves. They go to work in offices. They collect taxes. They use big computers to concoct strategy, to build internet sites, to train young militants in actual schools, to organize and implement arms deals. This isn’t Wajiristan.

And until this moment, Kismayo was untouchable. Since Sunday, planes have bombed the city. Sea-launched missiles hit the city center. The Kenya military is marching towards Kismayo.

Kenya’s major newspaper called the expected encounter “The Mother of All Battles.” Western terrorist experts see it as a “high stakes game for Kenya.”

There is remarkable calm in Kenya. In fact, it’s absolutely ridiculous! The rest of the region and much of the world is overwhelmed by news from the front, including the first two Nairobi city bombings as al-Shabaab begins its guerilla war inside Kenya. But one reading the Kenyan newspapers today has a hard time finding any war reports at all!

The country is in denial. The diaspora is in denial. Even if the battle is successful, the effort is likely to bankrupt the country. Tourism is doomed for the forseeable future. Even political stability, so creatively accomplished for the last four years, shows the first stages of unraveling.

I hate making this prediction, and I really want to be proved wrong. But Operation “Linda Nchi” will fail. It will likely fail the same way Ethiopia failed five years ago when western powers propped up its invasion of Mogadishu the same way they are currently propping up Kenya’s of Kismayo.

Ethiopia – with a far more sophisticated army than Kenya’s – marched into Mogadishu and installed a very weak government then rapidly returned home leaving behind a mess that was supposed to be cleaned up by 8-9000 non-Ethiopian African Union soldiers in a few months. It’s been three years. It’s still a mess.

Even though Kenya’s military is far less sophisticated than Ethiopia’s, I think this is the likely outcome, because terrorists survive by running away, never by making a stand. Their success comes in suicide and car bombs, subway attacks and shoe bombers. They don’t do tanks well.

The west seems to think that we’ve got al-Qaeda on the run. It’s true that an arm’s length list of al-Qaeda leaders have been wiped out by American drones and stealth attacks by the Obama administration. The question is, is it enough that Operation “Linda Nchi” is the nail in the coffin, or just the positioning of another sacrificial lamb.

If the latter, Kenya will become rocked by terrorism for years and years. Unless it becomes the horribly ruthless, dictatorial regime of Ethiopia where you need permission to sneeze on the streets of Addis Ababa.

Kenya doesn’t understand — which America maybe finally does – that a ground war against terrorism won’t work.

Defense against terrorism is critical and can be successful. Diplomacy and sanctions against terrorists works. Stealth raids and maybe even drones to kill terrorists might even work, but war doesn’t work. Kenya was managing all of these things masterfully! Until last week.

My friends in tourism in Nairobi are near panic. Bookings are canceling in the droves. And no one in their right mind would suggest a foreign vacationer visit the country, now.

This is so damn sad. For so long Kenya tread the perfect balance with regards to its chaotic terrorist neighbor, Somalia. It refused to join African peacekeepers in Somalia. It tolerated but repelled incessant incursions into its Somalia border towns. And it quietly assisted the big guys by rounding up terrorists on its own soil.

But then the Somalia famine quadrupled the size of the refugee camp in Kenya at Dadaab to a third of a million people, in less than three months; the world economic collapse bludgeoned the shilling, and finally the spat of kidnapings was just too much for this until now adroit and up-and-coming new world to take.

“We had to do something.”

The chant of the impatient and vanquished.

No War Games on Safari

No War Games on Safari

Today Kenya invaded Somalia. The speed and size of the mission surprised me and I’m sure greatly pleased Leon Panetta. It’s hard to predict the outcome, but one thing strikes me as certain: this is not a time to take a Kenyan safari.

Most news sources reported the Kenyan military operation as a response to a spat of recent kidnapings, and I don’t doubt this has something to do with it. But it could also be a partial excuse for a more globally organized effort against what appears at the moment to be a successful rout of al-Shabaab from Somalia.

The size of the Kenyan excursion is secret, but there were enough eye witness reports on the ground to confirm a major operation. The BBC and AlJazeera (who has a reporter embedded with the Kenyan forces) reported “lines of Kenyan tanks and trucks” and multiple air strikes against an al-Shabaab base about 75 miles inside Somali territory.

The local Nairobi newspaper The Nation reported at least 32 trucks and tanks and London’s Guardian newspaper reported multiple aircraft bombing al-Shabaab positions to the east.

Africa Union forces led by Ugandan soldiers in the last several weeks have routed al-Shabaab from the Somali capital of Mogadishu. The BBC reporter Will Ross said these forces were now working in tandem with the Kenyans, moving south from the capital towards the conflict area where the Kenyans are, headed to what could be a pincer action to rid a large portion of Somali of al-Shabaab.

Last week the Obama administration sent 100 Green Berets into Uganda for deployment further west into central Africa. The statement of deployment claimed a mission totally separate from this conflict, but last night on CBS Panetta said the operation was integrated with fighting terror in Africa.

With Obama’s long list of al-Qaeda captures and kills recently, we know that the al-Qaeda/al-Shabaab power has been significantly diminished. Is this their last hurrah? Might the Ugandans, Kenyans and Americans actually be getting rid of these terrorist organizations?

I wish I felt the answer was a definitive yes, but frankly I think rather it’s a hopeful maybe. I’m no expert historian, but I just don’t see ridding any part of the world of anything, unless the people actually living there do it themselves.

And the Somalis haven’t. The parallels with Afghanistan and even Iraq are substantial. I don’t even believe that Iraq will be stable in ten years. And if I’m wrong and it is, then the question becomes was it worth the 20 years of war and investment we made to make it so?

That’s the greater, global question. But for those of us much closer to the situation, our lives and our businesses are immediately effected. Tourism must go on hold in Kenya, now, until we see what happens.

It’s been widely reported that al-Shabaab has now threatened Kenya. Last year al-Shabaab killed more than 70 people in two simultaneous bomb blasts in Kampala sports bars where patrons were watching the World Cup. They specifically threatened such before it happened because of Uganda’s lead role in the African Union forces in Mogadishu, and immediately then took responsibility. The parallel with Kenya can’t be starker.

I don’t think it will happen in Kenya. I think al-Shabaab is too much of a spent force and now too engaged outside Kenya. And Kenyan security is better than Uganda’s. So my visceral concern for my own Kenyan employees and friends is minimal.

But you don’t take a vacation where you have to keep looking over your shoulder. That’s not what a good safari is supposed to be. So while I’m not expecting trouble, the chance is more real than before, and equal if not better alternatives are available elsewhere, particularly in Tanzania.

Until the battles end and the dust settles, Kenya has become too troubled a place for tourists.