Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The 90s are back to haunt us again

The next time someone gets all nostalgic for the 1990s, please do me a favour and punch them in face. We are led to believe that they were a better time, the Cold War had ended, we weren't yet living under the threat of terrorism, the economy was doing well, there were record surpluses (nothing warms my heart quite like governments turning profits) and it was the golden age of the United Nations. All of which is great, if you happen to be partial to fairy tales. Because the 1990s that I recall were an absolutely horrific decade, filled with genocide, civil wars, the ignored threat of terrorism and failed or failing states.

Which brings us to.... Somalia. Remember it? The country on the Horn of Africa with no functioning government since 1991. The West decided to get involved in the early 1990s, but then we learned the hard way that it takes more than food aid to solve a nation's problems, went home and pretended that Somalia never existed in the first place. Funny thing is, despite our best efforts to erase the memory of failed states, they have a nasty habit of reminding us that they exist.

Yesterday, an Islamic militia took control of Mogadishu. People are already making comparisons to the Taliban. Now, as little faith as have in humanity, I would like to believe that we're not actually stupid enough to sit idly by while they let Al Qaeda set up training camps in Somalia (though really there is no historical foundation for this belief). But clearly the threat posed by this new development cannot be ignored.

Perhaps we could take this as further evidence of the fact that, while the costs of being involved in the world are high, the costs of sitting by while states fall apart are potentially much higher.

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