Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Somalia: Islam meets the Cato Institute

David Seaton's News Links
It turns out that Somalia is an American libertarian's paradise: The same loathing of big government, the same reluctance to pay taxes, the same individualistic spirit... even down to the right (necessity) to bear arms.

Certainly whenever the Republicans wake up and instead of fighting Islam, embrace it, we are going to see some mighty interesting days indeed. DS

People Who Feed Off Anarchy in Somalia Are Quick to Fuel It - New York Times
Beyond clan rivalry and Islamic fervor, an entirely different motive is helping fuel the chaos in Somalia: profit. A whole class of opportunists — from squatter landlords to teenage gunmen for hire to vendors of out-of-date baby formula — have been feeding off the anarchy in Somalia for so long that they refuse to let go. They do not pay taxes, their businesses are totally unregulated, and they have skills that are not necessarily geared toward a peaceful society.(...) Omar Hussein Ahmed, an olive oil exporter in Mogadishu, the capital, said he and a group of fellow traders recently bought missiles to shoot at government soldiers. “Taxes are annoying,” he explained. Maxamuud Nuur Muradeeste, a squatter landlord who makes a few hundred dollars a year renting out rooms in the former Ministry of Minerals and Water, said he recently invited insurgents to stash weapons on “his” property. He will do whatever it takes, he said, to thwart the government’s plan to reclaim thousands of pieces of public property. “If this government survives, how will I?” Mr. Muradeeste said. Layer this problem on top of Somalia’s sticky clan issues, its poverty and its nomadic culture, and it is no wonder that the transitional government seems to be overwhelmed by the same raw antigovernment defiance that has torpedoed earlier attempts at stabilizing the country.(...) American diplomats had mostly shied away from Somalia since the infamous “Black Hawk Down” episode in 1993 when Somali militiamen shot down two American helicopters and killed 18 United States soldiers. But now the Americans are involved again, driven by a counterterrorism agenda and armed with a pledge of $100 million to rebuild the country.(...) Somalis are legendary individualists, and when the central government imploded in 1991, people quickly devised ways to fend for themselves. Businessmen opened their own hospitals, schools, telephone companies and even privatized mail services. Men who were able to muster private armies, often former military officers, seized the biggest prizes: abandoned government property, like ports and airfields, which could generate as much as $40,000 a day. They became the warlords. Many trafficked in guns and drugs and taxed their fellow Somalis. Beneath the warlords were clan-based networks of thousands of people — adolescent enforcers, stevedores, clerks, truck drivers and their families — all tied into the chaos economy. Ditto for the freelance landlords and duty-free importers(...) Not all opportunists had the same agenda. Many in the business community became fed up with paying protection fees to the warlords and their countless middle-men. Business leaders then backed a grass-roots Islamist movement that drove the warlords out of Mogadishu last summer and brought peace to the city for the first time in 15 years. The Islamists seemed to be the perfect solution for the businessmen. They delivered stability, which was good for most business, but they did not confiscate property or levy heavy taxes. They called themselves an administration, not a government. “Our best days were under them,” said Abdi Ali Jama, who owns an electrical supply shop in Mogadishu. READ IT ALL

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