When Ethiopia ruled the world

Christmas 2006 and Santa brings the American right an unexpected Christmas present – the invasion of (nasty, Islamic) Somalia by (nice, Christian) Ethiopia. Times were tough in Iraq, so the cheerleaders of military force were glad of the opportunity to get out their pom poms and strut their stuff for an army that really knew how to put the boot in.

Why, they asked over at National Review (bastion of US conservatism), is Ethiopia so successful at vanquishing Jihadi foes, when the US has so much trouble? Was it a more sophisticated approach to counter-insurgency? Greater understanding of cultural drivers? No – it was because they were prepared to fight like real men untramelled by the Geneva conventions.

Ethiopians are “not worried about whether they will be seen as “occupiers” or whether their “occupation” will be viewed as benevolent,” Cliff May reckoned. Neither are they:

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.

James Robbins, meanwhile, was also in thrall to the Ethiopian’s use of of ‘maximum force’, dismissing those who warned this was a war that the Ethiopians would never win. John Miller, meanwhile, wanted Ethiopian troops airlifted in to kick some Iraqi ass, while Cliff May headlined a piece: “WHY EUROPEANS AND ARABS ARE ROOTING FOR THE ISLAMISTS IN SOMALIA.”

(Oh and don’t forget daffy old Kathryn Lopez who was all weak at the knees as she warned the world not to ‘mess with Ethiopia’.)

So how did it go then? Here’s today’s editorial from the FT:

Before Ethiopia invaded with Washington’s blessing, Somalia barely registered on the global jihadi radar. Two years later, the conflict is a significant mobilising force. Videos seeking recruits and financing for Islamist militias fighting the Ethiopian-backed transitional government have proliferated on jihadi web sites. Fighters from Zanzibar, the Comoros islands and as far away as Pakistan have been drawn to the insurgency. Ethiopia’s intervention has bolstered extremist elements that the US and other western powers hoped – against the advice of most experts at the time – that it would contain.

In recent months, hardline al-Shabaab militias have gained control over much of southern Somalia. By contrast, the transitional government that Ethiopia stepped in to install can claim influence over the town of Baidoa and only parts of the capital, where roadside bombs explode daily. Ethiopian troops are bogged down fighting an insurgency that gains strength from their presence, while the government they support shows no signs of becoming more effective. It is a familiar scenario for the US and its allies in Iraq and Afghanistan. Ethiopia however, has announced its decision to cut its losses and withdraw by the end of the year.

Nowadays of course, the Somalia is largely forgotten by the American right – all the posters of Ethiopian troops have been torn down from right-wing bedrooms. But they still think their foreign policy prescription was the right one – and that Bush has left the world a safer place….