War on Kids

War on Kids

Somalia has been in war for two decades, but it really looks like the pressures on al-Shabaab (al-Qaeda in The Horn) are forcing the game towards an explosive situation, one that the international community will not be able to ignore. Unless we develop new policies for international involvement, right now, the west is doomed to falling into another horrible quagmire.

Yesterday, Amnesty International released a report detailing that both opposing sides in the Somali war are using child soldiers under 15 years old. Primarily this as well as other information suggests to me that within the next year something extraordinary is going to happen in Somalia which will change the political texture of The Horn, and we better be ready.

According to Amnesty, both the Transitional Federal Government (recognized by the U.S.) and its opponent al-Shabaab are now employing the tactics last used by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in Uganda and the DRC.

The LRA lost in Uganda and much of the DRC, and has fled to the totally unstable Central African Republic in a much wounded capacity. Use of child soldiers in Somali means that both sides are growing exhausted.

It probably means that U.S. and western diplomacy to weaken the bad guys is working, and that therefore such formerly easy necessities as getting guns and ammo is not working.

But it’s been two decades of near incessant, heavy, sustained fighting. Famine
was inevitable.

The war effort is reaching exhaustion, and famine grips the country. Grown ups start to dessert. Men (and women) attracted by violent victories supporting their cherished ideologies pick up and go before they’re defeated or starve to death. 1300 refugees daily have been flooding into Kenya from Somalia for nearly two months.

What’s left?

Crazies who are desperate. And desperate men do desperate things, and that’s the immediate worry. One of the more desperate acts right now is with the others who are left in Somalia: Children. Children have fingers that pull triggers. They’re much more easily convinced to do anything. Hungry children rank a meal as a cherished victory. They’re usually smaller (not always), their aim and reliability is not usually as good, but they’re among the last ones standing. There’s no one but crazies and children left to fight.

The LRA lasted for years, nearly ten years, in Uganda. I don’t think that’s going to happen in Somalia. The point of desperation is too great. Something’s got to happen that changes or redefines somehow the whole messy scene. The international community discarded the DRC long ago. But the international community seems loathe to discard Somalia. The garbage man is al-Qaeda.

Amnesty’s electrifying report details awful war crimes on both sides of the Somali conflict; both sides are coming to the end of the line and getting desperate. Defeats are occurring everywhere, but no victories. With no clear winner, no moral side to fully support, what should we do? Occupy the country like Afghanistan? It’s unimaginable right now, but Somalia left to al-Qaeda is a terrifying prospect.

Yet it seems to me that’s exactly what we have to do: rapid withdrawal by the west. And it would be pointless to withdraw from Somalia if we didn’t also simultaneously withdraw from all the extreme Islamic conflicts of the world. And as terrifying as that might seem, I think it’s less terrifying than what might happen if we don’t.

Let’s get out of Afghanistan with something like a negotiated settlement similar to what happened in Vietnam. Abandon Yemen to the hyaenas. Remove all our special forces and other interests from Somalia and sneak away in the dead of night.

Then, we can lick our wounds, beef up our military, and be willing to draw new moral lines in the sand, if as I would expect countries like Kenya – truly representing their democratic societies – asked us to. No legitimate group of Iraqis or Afghanis or Yemenis ever asked us to send the drones and boots. We can’t just stomp around the world, anymore, telling everyone how to live or presuming that entire societies are culpable for the harm that a handful of crazies inflicted on us.

Get the Osamas, yes, not whole sections of the world surrounding a few bad guys.

We need to reset the playing field and morally refine the rules by which we will fight. That horrible neglect in doing so led us into the quagmire that transformed al-Qaeda from our ally to our enemy. It must be reversed, and quickly before we’re sucked in ever deeper.

Think of the children. As our future enemies.