Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Ethiopia in Somalia: Israel Cannot Be Blamed--But Can It Learn?

This past Monday, Ethiopia acknowledged it had sent troops into Somalia:
Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi went on television to announce that his country was at war with the Islamic movement that wants to rule neighboring Somalia by the Quran.

"Our defense force has been forced to enter a war to defend (against) the attacks from extremists and anti-Ethiopian forces and to protect the sovereignty of the land," Meles said a few hours after his military attacked the Islamic militia with fighter jets and artillery.

...Meles has said his government has a legal and moral obligation to support Somalia's internationally recognized government. He also accuses the Islamic movement of backing ethnic Somali rebels fighting for independence from Ethiopia and has called such support an act of war.
Some have only admiration for what Ethiopia is doing, and are drawing comparisons with what the US has failed to do. Cliff May at The Corner writes:
I’ve just been talking with an FDD researcher who has been monitoring developments in Somalia via Arabic media. It does indeed appear that the Ethiopians are defeating Islamist forces there. Why are they achieving what American forces in Somalia in 1993 did not and what American forces in Iraq today apparently are not?

More “boots on the ground” may be part of the explanation. The Ethiopians are not attempting to have a “light footprint.” They are not worried about whether they will be seen as “occupiers” or whether their “occupation” will be viewed as benevolent.

Secondly, the Ethiopians are not overly concerned about whether their tactics will win approval from the proverbial Arab Street – or the European Street or Turtle Bay. They are fighting a war; their intention is to defeat their enemies; everything else is secondary or tertiary.

Anyone have an alternative interpretation?
Obviously, there is going to be some hearty admiration for a small feisty country that refuses to back down or even stand still in the face of an Islamist threat. Many in the West can only sit and watch and compare the situation with the complacency and in their own countries.

But more than taking the fight to the Islamists in Somalia there is also the refusal to be intimidated by the need for approbation from the West. Of course, no one is going to hold Ethiopia to the standard--double or otherwise--that the US or Israel is held to, but still an outcry and demand for a ceasefire is a certainty.

It is all too easy to try to draw comparisons between Ethiopia today and the Israel of a different time 40 years ago--a charmed time that is gone forever.

But that doesn't mean that Israel cannot take some encouragement from the fact that Ethiopia is demonstrating that timidity and political double-talk are not the only options.

See also: More Lessons For Israel From Somalia: Lebanon

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