Thursday, November 21, 2019
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A rebuttal to Michael Rubin’s recent writing on Somalia

By Shamsa Birik

This recent article by Michael Rubin, a resident scholar at the conservative think tank American Enterprise Institute branded the President of Somalia as one who “apologizes for, if not one who endorses terrorism”.  This is a problematic, unjustified and malicious claim that is meant to undermine Somalia’s attempts to institute a legitimate government and disqualify it in front of the eyes of the international community.

First of all Somalia’s attempt to institute a credible State is taking place in the age of a diminishing multilaterism, global financial austerity, political uncertainties and a general decline in support towards liberal democracy. Key proponents of democracy like the European Union has demonstrated a clear lack of Strategy for Africa beyond migration while the United States “America First” foreign policy means that countries like Somalia receive bread crumbs in terms of foreign aid budget.

President Farmajo

Post 9/11 global politics has certainly not made the situation easier. The proliferation of “new wars” and rise of terrorism has made Somalia’s quest to establish a strong state a precarious endeavour. Somalia Security Sector reforms have taken longer than expected not as a result of “willingness” from the Somali side but essentially due to a minimal funding. The existence of Al-shabab, has if anything been the Trojan horse in Somalia’s state building project. Out of all this, one thing particular sticks out like a sore thumb, the homogenous understandings of al-shabab particularly by foreign analysts like Rubin. These analysts often overlook certain aspects of the group like their intentions, interests, causes and clan dynamics. Defeating Al-shabab is a much more complex endeavour that even countries who have perfected their statecraft would not have had easy solutions let alone a fragile state like Somalia.

Sceptical analysts like Rubin have the intent of throwing the baby out with the bath water by throwing cautionary tales of non-engagement with States like Somalia. He only comes short of branding Somalia a “rogue state” or an “adversary”. Crucial perspectives are lost when such writing pops up in major global newspapers.  In his book “Dancing with the Devil: The Perils of Engaging Rogue Regimes” he dismisses the need for dialogue, diplomacy and provision of incentives as a pathway to dealing with rogue states. His analysis is not aimed at transformation of the current order that can bring about change but is rather one of disruption of the rules of international engagement. He further notes “diplomacy imbues rogue leaders with respectability and rewards both bluster and terror”. He summarises that what rogue states lack is the “sincerity” and “willingness” to abide by agreements and international norms. This claim is a far cry from what the United States is practicing under the Trump administration.

In the article he tries to use this same theory of “non-engagement” to discourage current US engagement and support to Somalia, underscoring that the problem lies with lack of “willingness” from the Somali side to address the problem. He even goes as far as suggesting that “it is time for the State and Defense Departments to consider a periphery-first strategy: consolidating security, stability, and good governance in Djibouti, Ethiopia, Somaliland, and Kenya and then partnering with local leaders who live among their own people”. This proposed Strategy is one of isolation and abandonment of the support currently being provided to the Somali government. We should not under estimate dangerous discourses propagated by known neo-con analysts who lack historical depths into Horn of Africa issues.

This latest vitriol from Rubin is not only meant to discredit Somalia’s current government but its purpose is to encourage an isolationist policy that will further alienate the country and roll back the democratic and security gains made.

Shamsa Birik
Email: [email protected]

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Reference
Somalia’s president is no ally against terrorism By Michael Ruben
Excerpt From: Michael Rubin. “Dancing with the Devil.” iBooks.


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