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From London to Mogadishu, Big Changes Are on the Way

Last week, international dignitaries converged on London to talk about Somalia. David Cameron declared the conference a “turning point.” As the FT reports,

Mr Cameron described Somalia as a ‘complex jigsaw puzzle’ and warned there was ‘no single solution’ for restoring stability. But he said the talks were the next stage in a ‘long journey’ that provided a ‘very real opportunity’ for securing change.

Hillary Clinton said “attempts to obstruct progress will not be tolerated.” Somalia, Western leaders would have us believe, is changing.

It’s a familiar pattern. The international community convenes world leaders, and everyone agrees that, yes, Somalia is in a rut. Dignitaries declare progress is coming slowly but steadily. Promises are made. A new, “permanent”, “stable” government is forming. Threats are issued to groups who might oppose the West’s favored politicians.

Soon, elections. They will surely be “free” and “fair”, “democratic” and “representative.” NGO-types will swarm the country, development and democracy monitors will assist balloting. Yet another formerly war-torn African “state” will become “democratic.”

A government will be formed. Critics silenced. Riots? Suppressed. IMF loans will be issued. Maybe oil will be found offshore.

Thank goodness for these conferences. Ordinary Somalians must already be able to see bright changes on the horizon.

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  • LarryD

    I’ve come tho the cynical conclusion that most diplomats are really only interested in keeping the “diplomatic activity” going, to justify their travel and expense budgets.

    They don’t want to fix a problem, and they sure don’t want anyone else exposing their fraud by fixing a problem they haven’t.

  • Kris

    “Hillary Clinton said ‘attempts to obstruct progress will not be tolerated.'”

    Brave words, for a Clinton.

  • Kansas Scott

    I realize that conferences can be simple cover for doing nothing but the tone of this post is a tad too clever for this blog.

    Somalia is clearly a nightmare stuck inside of a tar pit. True, talking about it doesn’t in itself solve anything but it keeps the issue inside of people’s heads for at least a few minutes and it is better than just turning around and walking away. I’ve not seen any suggested solutions proposed by Via Media.

    In January, you did write “In the case of Somalia, the west has preferred to contain the consequences of Somali anarchy (like suppressing piracy at sea) to the herculean task of installing a functioning government in the country.” That’s not much more than just saying “it’s hard.”

    I’m not trying to be hyper-critical. I just think no one has an idea of what to do with Somalia and it doesn’t really add much to mock those who at least talk about it.

  • Cunctator

    I wonder if these governments truly believe all this rhetoric about “democracy”. The way they talk, you would think that democracy is little more than a briefcase that is carried into a country by someone, opened on the desk of a departing dictator, and all sorts of wonderful goodies immediately flow out to a anxiously waiting public. Can they really believe that nonsense.

    650 years to build democracy in the UK (from which the US Constitution came), but Somalia will become democratic in a matter of months?

  • Charles R. Williams

    Colonialism is a dirty word. The alternatives are for some benevolent nation to take control over Somalia or for outsiders to ignore what happens there. The US has an interest in wiping out Somali pirates. As for the rest of the country, it matters nothing to us. Another fact is that pieties come cheap. The next best thing to telling the truth and writing off Somalia is to send diplomats to meetings to babble.

    The level of culture and economic development in some places will not sustain the modern “democratic” nation-state. We seem to be unable to cope with this fact and feel impelled to set up some corrupt local warlord as a government.

  • Kris

    Scott@3: Trouble is that back in them good ol’ days, when the US Secretary of State said something “will not be tolerated”, people paid attention. When such rhetoric is used in cases when it seems obvious that matters will indeed be tolerated, then the pronouncements of the SoS are cheapened, which increases the likelihood of the DoD becoming necessary.


  • Kansas Scott

    Kris@6: To the extent I was leveling criticism, it was at the tone of the original VM post, not yours. I agree that if all people are going to do is talk, they are better off not cheapening that talk by making threats that are not intended to be acted upon.

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