In this month’s issue of the Naval Institute’s Proceedings, I argued that everyday Somalis are increasingly angry at the United States, and by extension the whole Western world, for backing the Ethiopian army that has brutally occupied Mogadishu since the spring of 2007. It’s fascinating, and disheartening, to watch the ways that anger grows and evolves.
While springing from a kernel of truth — the U.S. did and does support Ethiopia’s war — Somalis’ attitudes now enable misconceptions that in turn only exacerbate their attitudes. It’s a feedback loop of anti-Americanism and anti-Westernism, and it’s the kind of thing that turns ambivalent developing nations into hotbeds of extremism, piracy and terrorism.
Case in point: a Somali news site is reporting “Western” fighter jets apparently threatening rural villages while “Western” naval vessels pillage Somali fisheries:
“We really don’t know where these planes are from, but all that we know is that they are from the Indian Ocean side and have caused no damages to the district,” said the district commissioner of Warshiq Abdurahman Moalim Ahmed. …
Likewise the district commissioner disclosed that there is severe drought in the district and added that there was poor harvesting in the district.
“Up to now there is no single syndicate, which stood for the help of these [local] population[s] and there is mass resources pilfer[ing] in the in the Somali waters by Western ferries,” added the commissioner Abdurahman.
While U.S. Predator drones and AC-130 gunships flying from nearby Djibouti are indeed regular (and occasionally lethal) visitors to Somali airspace, the sea “pilfering” is pure fiction. The Western naval presence off the Somali coast is dedicated solely to escorting World Food Program shipments (pictured) and, more recently, tailing a hijacked French yacht. But it’s easy to connect all these dots: orbiting airplanes, starving people, foreign warships. If you’re already mad at Americans for helping Ethiopia invade your country, it’s not not hard to read the worst in everything you observe that appears even remotely Western.