Thursday, June 25, 2009

Somalia Policy: Trapped in Nation-State Paradigm

The Obama administration is sending a shipment of small arms to the Somalia Transitional Federal Government. This is a symptom of the Nation-State Paradigm that I have previously discussed. As I pointed out in my earlier post, the Transitional Federal Government is a government only on paper. It has ambassadors and ministers, but it cannot even control their capital, Mogadishu. Its sovereignty power only extends to the few tribes represented by the ministers.

We are giving weapons to the Transitional Federal Government because we are bound by the International Traffic in Arms Regulations, a law passed by Congress. ITAR says that we can only give weapons to the official government of a country. We cannot give weapons to a particular tribe in Somalia, for example, because we would be violating the sovereignty of Somalia, nevermind that the TFG does not have any trapping of sovereignty in the first place.

Right now, Somalia is a collection of principalities, with dynamic borders. The TFG of today may very well disappear tomorrow, breaking apart into its component tribes. These tribes stood up the TFG because we can only give money and weapon to an official government. They're sticking together only to milk us out of money and weapons.

We need to cut the TFG loose. As it is, we are backing a lost cause. If we need to recognize anybody, Somaliland and Puntland are more worthy candidates than the fictional TFG. Our goal in Somalia should be supporting the islands of stability in sea of chaos. If we want to support certain tribes in the TFG, we should channel our aid directly to them, instead of going through the middlemen of the TFG. We need to stop imposing our outdated Nation-State Paradigm upon Somalia and start recognizing reality.


Nobody said...

Sharp posting. In fact, I bet that any honest looking into the subject would reveal that mixing idealism and abstract legitimacy principles with real politics in most cases was either responsible for manufacturing new conflicts or for prolonging the existing ones.

Jimmy said...



One of the dangers with the legalistic paradigm in foreign policy (International Criminal Court, UN, et al) is that the institutions assume the Nation-State paradigm. These transnational, non-state actors, ironically, are unable to deal effectively with the criminal or disruptive non-state actors (Mafias, terrorists, et al).