President Donald Trump should terminate the co-belligerency of the United States with Somalia in its war against Al Shabab. Its government is clannish, illegitimate, and staggeringly corrupt. it has the ignominy of having been listed as the most corrupt nation in the world by Transparency International for ten consecutive years. And it is irrelevant to the national security of the United States.
Somalia is not some faraway country of which we know little. We know from experience it is dysfunctional beyond cure.
On December 4, 1992, President George H.W. Bush dispatched 28,000 soldiers and marines to Somalia on a professedly humanitarian mission. Somalia had plunged into anarchy after the 1991 overthrow of military dictator Siad Barre. Mr .Bush’s starry-eyed endeavor was occasioned by Mr. Bush’s utopian quest to summon into being a New World Order in which imaginary angelic and deliberative forces would predominate.
While our initial military intervention was under a humanitarian banner, mission creep followed the inauguration of President William Jefferson Clinton. He made the captures or killings of Somalian war lords like Mohammed Farah Aidid an American objective despite the absence of any credible Somalian government to support, i.e., we began fighting for the sake of fighting.
On October 3, 1993, a contingent of 160 U.S. Army Rangers and Delta Force operators traveled in helicopters and armed vehicles into the heart of Mogadishu to capture Aidid and other leaders of his militia. The raid proved disastrous. Two U.S. Black Hawk helicopters were downed. A battle ensued in which 18 Americans were killed, 73 wounded, and hundreds of Somalis died. Congress terminated funding for United States military personnel in Somalia as of September 1994.
Shabab is a largely indigenous terrorist organization. It has never perpetrated a terrorist act in the United States. We midwifed Shabab in 2006 by stupidly supporting an invasion of Somalia by Ethiopia, a longstanding enemy. The two nations have fought periodic wars over the Ogaden region for at least seventy years. It speaks volumes that Shabab’s first terrorist attack was directed against Ethiopian soldiers on March 27, 2007.
The United States reintroduced troops into Somalia to fight Shabab on the tenuous legal theory that it was an associated force of Al Qaeda, and was thus fell within the congressional 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force against persons complicit in 9/11. The fact that Shabab did not exist until 2006—and thus could not have been involved in the 9/11 terrorist abominations—did not dissuade either President George W. Bush or President Barack Obama.
At present, our troops in Somalia confront imminent threats from Shabab only because of their deployment on the front lines. Approximately 200 to 300 American Special Operations troops work in tandem with soldiers from Somalia and other African nations like Uganda and Kenya to conduct more than a half-dozen raids per month. But as Bismarck would not risk the bones of a single Pomeranian grenadier for the Balkans, President Trump should not risk the life of even one American soldier for a clod of dirt in the Horn of Africa. This month’s death of a Navy Seal during a raid on a remote Shabab compound was unpardonable.
Civil war in Somalia erupted in 1991 fueled by five major clans with no vision of nationhood after the overthrow of Siad Barre. The clans burned humanitarian aid to prevent its distribution to rivals. Puntland and Somaliland seceded. Piracy flourished off Somalia’s Red Sea coast. At present, the anemic and wobbly Somalian government controls little more than the capital Mogadishu. Real power is splintered among clan-based war lords and Shabab.
A smart President—like a smart businessman—knows when to cut his losses or cease squandering resources. President Ronald Reagan withdrew American troops from Lebanon in 1984 after 241 U.S. service personnel died in a Beirut marine barracks in a terrorist bombing. Their mission—to bring peace between Israel, Lebanon, and Palestinians—was a fool’s errand from the outset. Similarly, we will never rid Somalia of Shabab unless and until it becomes a real country—which could take centuries or more. President Trump should follow President Reagan’s example and leave.
Without an American military presence in Somalia, Shabab will be held in check by the African Union, Uganda, and Kenya. It will not threaten the United States. It never has.
President Trump should remember Lord Chesterfield’s wisdom when our military-industrial complex predictably bugles to him that Shabab is a cornerstone of international terrorism that must be combatted by United States troops:
"A strong mind sees things in their true proportions; a weak one views them through a magnifying medium, which, like the microscope, makes an elephant of a flea: magnifies all little objects, but cannot receive great ones.”