Douglas Farah writes about the dismal situation in Somalia. For those who may not be aware, Islamist forces prevailed in a civil war that occurred in Somalia last year. The plot thickened in December when Ethiopia entered the fray, and in January the US too became involved from the air. But the conflict is far from resolved.
The point of interest here, however, is not specific to Somalia. Farah observes the secret of radical Islam’s success:
The reason is simple, and has been shown in Afghanistan, northern Nigeria, Iraq, Colombia and elsewhere. The Islamists prosper by offering what others cannot or will not deliver: security and a chance to live normal lives. I witnessed this in Medellin, Colombia, where death squads of the ELN guerrillas were welcomed into neighborhoods because they were willing to execute the drug traffickers and make the streets safe.
It never lasts long, but desperation and the lack of alternatives moves people to accept the unacceptable. The Taliban, ELN and UIC in Somalia all quickly showed their true colors by imposing a rule of law that precluded independent thought and action. The cost of law and order became almost as onerous as the cost of anarchy.
But the sad inability of the government, international community, regional powers et al to help provide the same benefits as the Islamists without the same cost is the life breath of the Islamist (or Marxist or fascist) movements.
It’s not a new strategy by any means. Totalitarianism of every shade and color knows how to play on the desperation of the suffering. The question for the civilized world is how do we counter it?
The main problem in pursuing the obvious course of action–let’s just do what they do but better– is that Islamists have the home court advantage. Citizens in First World nations, aside from being ignorant and/or indifferent to the goings on in these turbulent places, are far removed from them culturally as well as geographically. Is it realistic to believe we can play the game they play as well as they do? And in what light would we be seen if we did? To a large extent we already are playing this game in Iraq.