Let France Do It
Presumably invigorated by our resounding successes in nation-building in Iraq and Afghanistan, the editors of the Washington Post have come down in favor of U. S.-led nation-building as the solution for piracy in Somalia:
Last week’s crisis offers the Obama administration an opportunity to avoid perpetuating past errors. No, we aren’t advocating another massive U.N. intervention in the country backed by U.S. troops. As the Bush administration discovered late last year, there is no appetite among America’s European or African allies for such an operation. But what would be possible is a concerted push to strengthen the most recent attempt at a Somali government — a not-unpromising coalition between moderate Islamists and various clan-based factions. The government needs massive economic aid, training and equipment for an army and coast guard, and help in brokering political deals.
A coordinated international effort to build up a Somali government and security forces would cost many billions of dollars and take many years to pay off. It would consume U.S. diplomatic capital and be domestically controversial — like the nation-building missions underway, at last, in Afghanistan and Pakistan. It is also the only way to end the threats of piracy and terrorism from the Horn of Africa.
I don’t believe the American people have any appetite whatever for new foreign adventures whether they come in the form of massive U.N. intervention in the country backed by U.S. troops or a coordinated international effort to build up a Somali government and security forces. While I agree that the ultimate solution to the problem of piracy off the coast of Somalia is a strong Somali national government, it’s unclear to me under what conditions such a thing might come about and I certainly don’t think that a strong Somali national government is an immediate solution. It will take far too long to bring that about.
The country suffering the most as a consequence of Somali piracy is probably Egypt. Between the global economic slowdown and Somali piracy traffic through the Suez Canal is down 20% from what it was last year at this time. Egypt is highly dependent on the revenues generated by the Canal.
My quick reckoning of sea traffic in the area (and ships that have been harassed by pirates there) suggests that after Egypt the EU would be the primary beneficiary of an end to Somali piracy. So that’s my prescription for nation-building in Somalia: let France do it. Or the EU.
However, I would like to put a question on the floor. What’s the bright line dividing building up a government in a country other than your own and colonialism?