Somalia and Famine: Déjà Vu

Tens of thousands or perhaps hundreds of thousands in danger of starvation according to several United Nations agencies. Where? In Africa, in Somalia exactly. Sounds familiar? Yest, it happened before, in your lifetime if you are over 20. That’s famine, of course. It occasioned an ill-planned US intervention that ended in disaster with this country running with its tails between its legs. Now as then, the famine’s cause is not Mother Nature’s sudden anger. It’s man-made through war and possibly a deliberate tactic of war. (I am not sure of the last one.)

If you are only about twenty and the name “Somalia” sounds familiar, it may be because that’s the country from which pirates prey on international shipping. Some operate hundreds of miles from shore and take large ships and their crews to ransom. Speaking of tails, the major powers combined plus China, Turkey etc have not had what it takes to put an end to this. The country that has acted most energetically so far appears to be India. Once, just once, the US Navy blasted some Somali pirates out of the water (Or one pirate). It won’t happen again: too decisive, too normal, too rational, too politically incorrect.

One thought leads to another. So, now, I am on to political correctness. Until 1960, Somalia was under British administration with different administrative formulas for the north and the south of the country. Does anyone remember famines under British colonial rule? Is there any record of famine under British rule? Was there any famine? In the sixties most of sub-Saharan Africa was freed from European colonial rule. With a small number of interesting exceptions (interesting exceptions), “freedom” has been an unmitigated disaster for those countries. This is the case in spite of billions upon billions in foreign aid. I mean that both quality of life and the life chances of ordinary people have worsened since Europeans stopped “exploiting” those countries. Life chances include such things as dying as a baby of easily preventable infection or of hunger. Public commentaries on this horrible state of affairs are rare because the people in that part of the world are mostly black. It would be racist to point out the obvious: They have not been able, by and large, to manage their affairs as well as the colonizers managed their affairs for them.

Somalia itself does not seem to me, subjectively, a country that worth respecting as an independent entity. I mean the country, the polity, not the people. People everywhere are brothers. Aside from famine and piracy, it’s the kind of country where nearly 100% of little girls are subjected to violent and grotesque sexual mutilation. (You can find pictures on line if you have a strong stomach.) Violent jihadists are fighting for control of the country with brave but inadequate troops from the African Union. That’s another manifestation of political correctness, of course: It’s OK for black soldiers to kill black Islamist extremists at great cost in blood to themselves. It would be unseemly for soldiers with white faces to do the same with minimum casualties.

Of course, we have to help again. You can’t let people starve to death. Yet, there is blackmail involved; we all know it. One small step in the direction of calling off the blackmail is to name things accurately: Black Somalis are, through their actions, causing black Somali babies to starve to death. They are savages.

I hope my Libertarian friends (capital L) who are on a “no war at any cost, in any case” kick are paying attention to developments in Somalia. It’s a country with truly minimal government. That’s a fact neither they nor libertarians (with a small l) like me can ignore.

About jacquesdelacroix

I am a sociologist, a short-story writer, and a blogger (Facts Matter and Notes On Liberty) in Santa Cruz, California.
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11 Responses to Somalia and Famine: Déjà Vu

  1. Bruce says:

    Is there an African nation that is in better shape since independence from colonial rule? I can’t think of one.
    It’s worse for everyone, including the whites, who have been stripped of property and murdered. All we are told is how wonderful a man Nelson Mandela is. Queen Obama visited him during her recent visit.
    The British outlawed the horrible practice of female genetal mutilation (FGM) in 1946 in the Sudan. It never really stopped and as you note, it’s made a big comeback. Where are the feminists? They’re too busy making sure women here feel empowered and good about themselves.
    The whole story in Somalia is a mess and a tragedy and I’m grateful to be here.

  2. thecrackshotcrackpot says:

    Dear Dr. J.:

    You should know better than to spread such mischievous information on colonialism and it’s role in Africa. From the 15th century to the mid-19th century “colonies” in Africa, India, Asia, and elsewhere consisted largely of European forts and small outposts where rent was paid to a local polity in exchange for a place to set up shop and trade. This is the general trend of the first three centuries of European expansion. There are always exceptions to the rule, of course.

    Europeans came to dominate the regions often associated with colonialism not because of a lust for power or dominance, but because local polities often used the Europeans as tools to further their own ends, and because Europeans often proved useful in settling disputes between two local parties. That is, Europeans came to govern because of Realpolitik and convenience.

    Initially, when the Europeans were drawn into local wars (often very, very reluctantly), they were only able to offer light support to their allies. But over the course of three centuries the Europeans got better at warfare and technological progress and everybody else stayed the same. I think this may have had to do with protectionist measures taken by local polities, but I’m not sure. Anyway, European hegemony often meant carving up the territory of a local polity into shards with the goal of ensuring that one faction would be played off against a few other factions (largely because Europeans were still not powerful enough to govern the colonies directly). Then the Europeans placed the newly-created jurisdiction into a larger, European-governed, European-created colony. This process took hundreds of years, and was by no means purposefully undertaken by European strategists in their magnificent capital cities. The “stamp of approval” from European parliaments came only after the Napoleonic Wars, and it wasn’t until the mid-19th century that we actually see official, large-scale colonies being claimed by European governments.

    I think it is also pertinent to note that European colonialism was hardly ever a hands-on endeavor, even during the heyday of colonialism (which, incidentally, lasted maaaaybe 100 years). The Latin states could be considered exceptions to the rule, and Belgium certainly was, but for the most part European colonialism was fairly even-handed when it came to governing. Where colonialism was brutal and despicable, we find Europeans trying their hand at central planning. One of the most nefarious results of this central planning came in the form of creating large colonies out of much smaller polities.

    What we are seeing today throughout most of the post-colonial world is the fragmentation of these large colonies into their previous spheres of influence. There is plenty of government in Somalia – from Ethiopian troops to AU troops to Western aid – but its purpose is horrifically off-base. Should we really be trying to preserve an artificial state? Such a policy is, after all, what the socialist dictators of the sixties tried to do when they seized power.

    One doesn’t have to sit off to the side and watch the horrors unfold. We could take the lead by recognizing the independence and sovereignty of sub-states in these larger post-colonial states that are trying to break free. Why not recognize Somaliland or Puntland as free, independent states?

    • jacquesdelacroix says:

      Well, crackshot:, thanks for the history lesson but I don’t see where we disagree or what “mischievous information” you refer to. Am I right that there were no famines in Somalia either under Italian colonial rule or under British rule later? Is it true that there were no famine in French-ruled sub-Saharan Africa for whatever time that rule lasted and however you define “rule.” Isn’t it true that the same can be said of British-ruled Africa in general?

      Those are three “Yes/No” question?

      • thecrackshotcrackpot says:

        Haha! Of course you are right. I agree with you on the famine points, but that is not what I was trying to convey. My question is: were there any famines prior to “official” colonial rule?

        That is, I think Africans ARE capable of governing well, and that the West can play an active role in African life (and vice-versa), but I don’t think reviving the “official” colonialism of the mid-19th century is a good way of bringing this about.

        We can be active in recognizing the failure of these artificial states, and we can be active in diplomacy and trade, but I don’t think that trying to maintain the status quo of the post-colonial world’s political geography is a smart (or humane) way of helping out our brothers.

      • jacquesdelacroix says:

        Crack: I am not sure I want to argue but I guess you are forcing me. I am going to do it half-assedly. .

        You seem to have bought for good the liberal “good black man/bad white man” fairy tale. In black Africa, before the European powers imposed more or less direct rule, I mean in the 19th century, there were few well-run states except for short periods. Slaving and yes, cannibalism, were common. Despotism, most of it bloodthirsty, was the rule in the well-run states. There was no Magna Carta. The European colonial powers imposed a kind of rough and sometimes brutal order. Order is the central ingredient for decent lives for ordinary people. There was rough treatment of local populations and increases in life expectancy and no famines. (In most places, all it takes to avoid famines is free passage of foodstuff from one area to another. Large colonial polities, the British, the French, provided this.)

        The idea that the colonial power drew the borders of the African states across ethnic groups ignorantly or even maliciously is largely a lazy man’s politically correct explanation for the horrors going on there today. Please, think of three things:

        1 The fifteen year- old bloodbath in Somalia is all between Somalis. Those are people who speak the same language, who have the same religion, who even look alike.

        2 Most modern African states are hardly more ethnically fragmented than say, France was in 1850, or India today.

        3 The most constant, predictable varieties of savagery in sub-saharan Africa almost certainly have nothing to do with whatever the colonial powers did. The mass sexual mutilation of little girls certainly does not.

        My main point remains: If Somalia or Sierra Leone reverted to British rule, the average citizen’s life would become much better in very short order, his life expectancy would length immediately. And how about the disaster that is Pakstan?

        I believe there is no return to pre-colonial decent government because it never existed, or not much

  3. thecrackshotcrackpot says:

    Ouch! I don’t see any political correctness in my argument. I was just asking if there were any famines prior to “official” colonial rule…

    I am well-aware of pre-colonial history in Africa. I know about the despots who kept a brutal and sometimes bloodthirsty order. I know that there was no Magna Carta anywhere on the continent. I have visited the slave trading and holding sites of Ashanti raiders in northern Ghana. They are haunting. I am not blaming Europeans for creating the mess in Africa today. That blame lies with the socialist ideology harbored by the European-educated aristocrats who led the post-colonial world to independence. However, colonialism is a very important player here, and the socialists who led the revolutions were popular and well-liked figures for a reason.

    19th century (and late 18th century) France saw a lot of bloodshed. I’m sure very little of it was ethnically charged. Which foreign power stepped in and imposed order on France? Or better yet: which foreign power created France?

    Nobody intervened to help the hapless French during their troubles, and it’s a state that is doing fairly well today. Perhaps nobody stepped in to help the French out because they could not afford to do so? That is, they didn’t have much in the way of superior manpower or technology. Certainly, we can gauge from the lesson of Iraq and even Afghanistan that our military technology and manpower is not sufficient to govern hostile, overseas populations (to say nothing of Britain!!!).

    The French did go on a rampage however. This can be avoided in Africa through a concerted diplomatic effort on the part of Western powers. China and Russia will balk at the idea. They are oppressing too many minorities themselves. We should take the lead. Recognize independence and trim where needed. We give Africa a fresh start, flex our leadership skills, and piss off Russia and China all at the same time.

    My argument has nothing to do with political correctness. I just don’t see how working against the grain is going to help Africans out. And I certainly don’t see how adopting 19th century tactics from states that largely lost their place at the top due to “robust worldwide presences” will make the United States (or the rest of the world) a freer and more prosperous place to live. Europe is still trying to govern other places. And the Balkans are still a shithole.

    We have played an active role in trying to maintain Somalia’s viability as a state for the past 20 years and nothing has come of it. Except for death, famine, and destruction. This is not our fault, but we are making life more difficult for the movers and shakers of the region to get things done on the ground. It is apparent that large swathes of Somalia’s population don’t want to be a part of Somalia. Why should they have to be?

    Speaking of political correctness (one thought leads to another…), Europe has a big problem with immigration. By and large, when people immigrate to the U.S. there tend to be no grudges toward the republic amongst individuals who come here. People immigrating from former colonies that have spent a lifetime being indoctrinated by socialist or Islamist propaganda on the evils of European imperialism, on the other hand…

    Bombing and invading other states may stop the bleeding for a while, but the wounds never get cleaned. They just fester.

    • jacquesdelacroix says:

      OK, Mr Crack: Your argument is well informed and sophisticated. It may owe nothing to political correctness after all. Too bad it sounds as if it did. The point I was trying to make is that contrary to a widespread view (that you may not have been pushing), the former colonial powers. ofrthe “West” in general are entirely responsible for black Africa’s long calvary. I think that’s completely wrong of course, except for the inadvertent export to those parts of half-baked socialist ideologies.

      You argumentation deserves better treatment than I can give it now. At least, the intelligent readers of my bog will have been exposed to it.

      I don’t know what you mean when you refer to Iraq. It was a war of choice. It was expensive in every way. It was not very well conducted. Yet. the Bush administration set out to impose representative government there by force there and it did. You would have trouble finding more representative government in the whole semi-literate Arab world. Few want to admit it except Fouad Adjami, but Bush’s Iraq is the wellspring of the Arab Spring.

  4. thecrackshotcrackpot says:

    I might believe you, but you’d have to explain why the riots in Europe and the sudden distaste for corruption among politicians in India are separate cases from the Arab Spring.

  5. Pingback: Seeing the Forest for the Trees: Humanitarian War and the Omnipotent Expert « Notes On Liberty

    • jacquesdelacroix says:

      On Christensen’s windy commentary “Somalia and Famine.”
      It seems to me that you shouldn’t have to point “arrogance” out. It should be obvious. If it’s not, it’s not much by way of arrogance. By the way, somewhere along the way I gathered the impression that “arrogant” is what the losers often call the winners. All subjective, of course.

  6. Pingback: Is It Time to Reject African States? | Notes On Liberty

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