Somalia: State Collapse and the Threat of Terrorism

Since September 11, failed states such as Afghanistan have been viewed as significant security threats. Menkhaus' probing analysis of Somali dynamics in the last decade suggests this is only partially true. Key Somali elites, with few incentives to revive a central government, benefit from the current state of collapse, and such collapse need not be associated with lawlessness or economic stagnation. Indeed, commercial elites have successfully reined in the worst warlord excesses to promote highly profitable pockets of stability, and Somalia has proven to be inhospitable terrain for foreign terrorist groups, who need some kind of complicit central authority for their own security. Perhaps this argument will convince Western decision-makers to once again consign Somalia to the benign neglect it knew before September 11. Rather than try to rebuild a central state in Somalia, a goal he views as too ambitious for the time being, Menkhaus recommends strengthening the groups that are promoting lawfulness and a modicum of prosperity even absent a central government.

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