Debating IR

Probing the philosophical underpinnings of the international system and anything else of interest.


Monday, September 11, 2006


I wrote this during the summer, but i forgot to post it so here goes. I think recent developments have given my ideas some credibility.

This is an interesting article. A militia group has taken control of Mogadishu. The author implies that this somehow means that the fighting for Somalia is over, that the end to the war has come. In my mind however, this is simply another misguided conclusion reached by a media personality with only a weak grasp of international relations and history.

Somalia is widely known to be an anarchic case. After the fall of the legitimate government in the 90s, it was plunged into chaos with various armed groups taking control of "fiefdoms" within the territory widely considered to constitute Somalia. Due to the great powers insistence on territorial integrity, none of these groups were officially recognized and a new fiefdom was created for the interim government to rule, while perpetuating the myth that they were the spokesman for the whole country.

The way the article is written, it implies that by taking control of Mogadishu the Islamic militia will be able to form a fundamentalist Islamic state. I just don't see this as true. Yes, the capital of the "state" has been captured, but to assume that capturing a capital in the modern era of warfare equates to the end of violence is ludicrous. Obviously Iraq has shown us differently, but there is a far better example, Spain. During the Spanish Civil War, the Nationalist governement moved its capital numerous times in order to avoid Franco's forces. The government was not based in territory, but in the group of individuals who were seen to constitute the legitimate government of the state. As long as that group had the will and the power to fight against Franco, the war was not over.

The situation in Somalia could turn out to be similar. As long as the various feudal warlords and the interim government have the will and the power to fight against the Islamic milita, then the prospects for peace and the subsequent establishment of a "state" in place of local anarchy seem dim.