Varieties Of Roguishness

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THE PLANK JANUARY 17, 2007

Varieties Of Roguishness

I'm no lawyer. So I don't know whether Ethiopia's U.S.-backed invasion of Somalia violated anyone's sovereignty or not. James Kirchick argues it didn't. Maybe he's right. But I still agree with the thrust of John's original column: The United States seems to be engaged in a lot of roguish behavior here. In November of 2006, after all, the UN Security Council passed a resolution on Somalia with the following language:

Emphasizing its willingness to engage with all parties in Somalia who are committed to achieving a political settlement through peaceful and inclusive dialogue, including the Union of Islamic Courts. ...

Urging both the Transitional Federal Institutions and the Union of Islamic Courts to unite behind and continue a process of dialogue...

Endorses the specification in the IGAD Deployment Plan that those States that border Somalia would not deploy troops to Somalia;

So here you have a UN resolution urging a dialogue between the internationally-recognized "transitional" government (which had virtually no domestic legitimacy) and the Islamic Courts Union, as well as a call for a peacekeeping force that expressly would not include Ethiopian troops. Now at the time, many observers--including John Prendergast of the International Crisis Group--warned that even this resolution was too inflammatory. Still, this is what the world community was doing, at the behest of the United States, in order to avert a regional war. But then Ethiopia invaded anyway and the U.S. turned around and backed its ally to the hilt, reportedly offering military assistance since day one.

Maybe this is all perfectly "legal" in some sense. And maybe you can argue that backing Ethiopia's invasion was a good idea on the merits (here's reason to think otherwise). But it's difficult to see how it doesn't undermine the international order in some way when the United Nations is pushing for a diplomatic resolution and suddenly the United States and its ally decide to "solve" the matter through military force. Am I missing something?

--Bradford Plumer

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