Foreign involvement in local wars seems to be ending worldwide in spite of the possibility that withdrawing these powerful forces recharges terrorists.
Americans worried that ending the Afghan war infuses the Taliban with new power are joined by Kenyans and other of Somali’s neighbors as foreign forces retreat from fighting al-Shabaab.
Over the last four decades the “war on terrorism” grew exponentially. America led the charge and America’s reactions were hugely disproportionate to the incidents.
This is not to diminish the reality of 9/11, but a two-generational-long war in Afghanistan that stirred a pot which then erupted with a Syrian civil war and new terrorists like ISIS was not a measured response.
Black Hawk Down resulted in 19 American soldiers lost but Clinton’s response to it was enormously disproportionate. It ultimately contributed to the Rwandan genocide, mass bombings throughout Kenya and Uganda and the creation of a huge new Kenyan military that must now be supported interminably by the U.S.
Black Hawk Down killed 19 soldiers. But Clinton’s response created the endless Somali conflict with terrorism.
The over-reaction to these two and dozens other incidents during my life time didn’t suppress terrorism, it emboldened it. The long view widely held today recognizes that terrorism can only be reversed locally, not by foreign military involvement.
So we’re leaving Afghanistan and other foreign military forces are leaving Somalia. Nail-biting all around. Can we expect anything but new terrorism inroads?
Well to tell you the truth maybe not, but at the same time we can’t continue decades of over reaction which has only made things worse.
Today the terrorist group al-Shabaab controls a quarter to a third of Somalia, but the fact is that for the moment it seems like its power is decreasing. This was exactly the case with the Taliban in Afghanistan when American forces first announced their departure.
The moment is notable not so much as an indication of success fighting terrorism as an excuse for foreign forces anxious to leave. Many experts argue terrorists intentionally created these inflection points precisely to give foreign forces the excuses they needed.
Today Strategic Intelligence reported that shabaab “has suffered huge setbacks over the past weeks. In central Somalia alone, the jihadist group has lost dozens militants in army operations.”
A loose collection of UN and African Union forces (AMISOM) entered Somali in 2007. A year later Obama created the Kenyan Army that would ultimately deal the greatest blow to shabaab 3-5 years later. AMISOM assumed the role of policeman conceding the principal combatant role to Kenya, just as NATO did to America in Afghanistan. Great western military wizards thought this would do the trick.
It didn’t. Kenya left, al-Shabaab returned.
U.S. forces depart. The Taliban returns.
When great military forces like 100,000 American combat soldiers or a newly created Kenya Army enter a terrorist domain there is usually an immediate denigration of terrorist control.
But it never lasts. Never. Locals begin seeing the “terrorists” – most of whom in the beginning are as foreign as the foreign armies fighting them – as local revolutionaries opposing the foreigner. Recruitment soars. Populism and patriotism produce new power.
The invader’s battle mission shifts from retribution for bombing a New York building to sustaining womens’ rights, children’s education and freedom of speech. Unable to conquer and colonize, invaders justify their presence with the moral rectitude of human rights.
This puts them on a par with the terrorists, who justify their presence with their own moral rectitude, usually of strict Islamic law. Who is to say which is correct? Well, the percentage of locals in the terrorist organization ends up being much higher than the percentage of locals in the armies of the foreign invaders.
In a poll of locals willing to put their lives on the line, terrorists win.
Either you fight for principal or you fight for retribution. Our fights for retribution were so disproportionate that now there’s no alternative to staying without espousing principal. But what about the principal of self-determination? A U.S. or AMISOM or Kenyan soldier is not a very good “self” for Afghanistan or Somalia.
So we wave goodbye and let them destroy their humanity. But that’s what they want. And so long as they don’t export it to us, violating our own self-determination, everything will be just OK.
There’s something wrong with this.