Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Somalia: A New Kind of Dilemma

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Somalia: A New Kind of Dilemma

Article excerpt

THE tragedy of Somalia presents the incoming United States administration and the world today with a new kind of dilemma: what to do about a nation-state that has totally disintegrated.

The world has seen famine, the breaking up of a nation, and civil war before, in neighboring Ethiopia. Liberia, another African nation, is ravaged by a civil war along tribal lines, not unlike Somalia. Lebanon is divided into bitterly contesting religious factions. In Bosnia, following the breakup of Yugoslavia, a presumptive new nation is being carved up by two outside predators, Serbia and Croatia.

In each of these situations, however, some semblance of authority exists with whom outsiders can seek to negotiate a political settlement. That does not appear to be the case in Somalia.

In that unfortunate country, all semblance of national authority has disappeared, and the region is divided into at least four domains of callous, tribally based war lords - not unlike the China of another era. No other contemporary situation is quite comparable. Despite illogical colonial boundaries, divided tribes, and fragile political systems, the disintegration that besets Somalia has not spread to other African countries.

In another era the problems of a Somalia would be the concern of a colonial power - or ignored. But today the dramatic, rapidly transmitted images of the dead and dying stir the global conscience. The victims of Somalia's disintegration cannot be left to starve, and the United Nations, with the support of major countries, seeks to provide relief.

The provision of such relief proves extremely difficult when warlords seize supplies to feed armed marauders, unmoved by the disaster befalling their fellow Somalis. What can the world do?

In Ethiopia, following the collapse of the Mengistu regime, sufficient authority remained in Addis Ababa to work out a political settlement. The situation there is far from settled, but shows signs of improvement. In Lebanon, neighboring Syria has imposed a fragile stability. In Liberia, a West African peacekeeping force seeks to restore a semblance of order. In the former Yugoslavia, political leadership exists that is capable - if it so wishes - of moving to greater stability. …

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