A War We Can’t Win

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Long before 9/11, Washington regarded East Africa as a fertile playing ground for terrorists. Osama bin Laden spent half a decade in the Sudan during the 1990s, and the 1998 embassy bombings in Tanzania and Kenya highlighted the vulnerability of American targets in the region.

But anarchic Somalia, whose government collapsed in 1991, has always been Washington’s principal concern. Policymakers fear failed states, because they assume that sooner or later the security vacuum will offer a safe haven for terrorists. Somalia has been especially worrisome because of the persistent terror activity in the region, and also because of a perceived Somali hatred of America, which stems from the Black Hawk down incident of 1993, in which the bodies of American soldiers were dragged through the streets of Mogadishu. That episode is poorly understood but has nevertheless made a lingering impression in Washington.

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