In 1991, I watched Somalia disintegrate. It was not just the breakup of a state, as we were to see in the former Yugoslavia and the former Soviet Union. It was the complete collapse of the state structure and the devolution into “warlordism.”
Some part of me thought that the United Nations or some other global body would intervene to reinforce the Somali nation-state. That did not happen. In the public mind, the intervention by the United States associated with “Blackhawk Down,” was theoretically a humanitarian operation, but it did nothing to play the role of the honest broker in bringing the conflicting sides together. As a result, Somalia lay in shambles, subject to external rape; pirating; conflicts among warlords; foreign invasions; brief moments of calm; and ultimately the rise of jihadist terrorism.
Through all of this it has felt that much, if not most of the rest of the world could give a damn.
It would be bad enough if Somalia were the only country to disintegrate. Yet, it has not stopped there. Ironically, as long as global capitalism can continue to find ways to operate in these collapsed nation-states, no one seems to lift a finger. To add insult to injury, when external forces help to accelerate nation-state disintegration— as in Iraq and Libya— the perpetrators throw their hands into the air and blame the people on the ground for somehow not grasping basic principles of governance.
In the case of Libya, whether one supported or opposed the regime of President Qaddafi, the NATO intervention in the midst of the civil war quite apparently contributed to not only the overthrow of Qaddafi but the collapse of the Libyan political system. There was no cohesive leadership to replace the Qaddafi regime, and guns started flowing not only within Libya, but throughout much of North Africa. Disputes between factions within the anti-Qaddafi movement have now evolved into a proxy war for different countries in the Arab World along with the introduction of jihadist terrorists.
In all of this there is nothing approaching self-criticism by the U.S. and/or NATO. There is no suggestion that, having directly contributed to the disintegration of the Libyan state, the USA and NATO might have some obligation— if not legal, then certainly moral— to work with the African Union and the United Nations towards
a peaceful reconstruction of the country. This is especially ironic given that the African Union attempted to mediate a resolution to the political conflict that resulted in the overthrow of Qaddafi, and NATO ignored this effort.
As a result, NATO and the USA walked away and no lessons were learned, making it infuriatingly odd when one hears Congressional Republicans suggest or call for war with Iran. What would one think would be the impact(s) of the collapse and disintegration of the Iranian state in the world in which we find ourselves?
In a country— the USA— where history is denigrated in favor of myth, perhaps there are those who feel that such questions need not be asked…and answered.
Bill Fletcher, Jr. is the host of The Global African on Telesur-English. He is a racial justice, labor and global justice writer and activist. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and www.billfletcherjr.com.