Records of both history and climate data show recurrent droughts have hit the horn of Africa generally and Somalia in particular with regularity. It was a drought induced famine which invited the US humanitarian intervention in the dismal geographic expression called Somalia during the waning days of the George H.W. Bush administration. This adventure in feeding the starving brought with it a bout of mission creep and finally the humiliating withdrawal of US personnel following the ill-advised, poorly planned, and hastily executed failed raid on a chief warlord.
Since then the US has provided aid, humanitarian as well as military, to the Somalian people and their most recent experiment in government, the Transitional Federal Government. The aid has been cut substantially in recent years due to well founded concerns that it might have been benefiting the al-Shabaab gunslingers more than the civilians for whom it was intended. When the Mighty Warriors of the Koran ordered an end to the activities of international aid organizations including the UN, American aid functionally ended along with that provided by other civilized states.
The situation in al-Shabaab dominated portions of the country has grown ever worse. Partially, this is the effect of the drought. But more it has been the result of the combination of ineptitude and brutality which is the hallmark of al-Shabaab's notion of proper governance according to the finer points of Islam. The joining of hunger beyond description and fear of the thugs of Islamic purity has resulted in a flood of refugees pouring into vastly overcrowded camps in Kenya and new rather informal facilities in Ethiopia--a country where famine also stalks the land.
The UN and international organizations such as Oxfam have declared that an official famine exists in large portions of Somalia. Oxfam has pointed the great finger of blame at the US and the European Union, alleging that both entities have been slow and inadequate in their response to the emergency despite ample warnings and importuning.
The Flying Finger of Guilt is misplaced to say the least. The US has increased its food aid to the region, including an additional twenty-eight million bucks worth of food for Somalis. The EU has done likewise. At the center of affairs the UN believes it can successfully negotiate a mode of existence with al-Shabaab which will allow the food and accompanying aid workers to work in the regions they dominate. But this remains an open question.
Dark hints have been made to the effect that the ongoing US effort to counter both al-Shabaab and its close affiliate, al-Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula, are complicating the business of making a deal with the gunsels of al-Shabaab. The necessary inference is that the US should stop its semi-clandestine war with both advocates of violent political Islam. Ironically, Oxfam, the same group which deplores the US drone attacks on al-Shabaab fighters has also mentioned the need to invoke Responsibility to Protect in order to meet the current crisis. Of course, R2P would require a massive military campaign including ground combat forces, but that seems to have eluded the Lofty Minded of Oxfam.
In their orgy of finger pointing at the West, the folks at Oxfam and other NGOs seem to have overlooked a couple of salient facts.
Fact the first: The states of the African Union have contributed not even penny number one to famine relief in the Horn.
Sure, Kenya is taking a hit with the refugee camp, the largest on Earth, but that does not make up for the utter lack of interest in helping on the part of the AU generally. This reinforces the perception that while the AU likes to talk about African solutions to African problems, they are unable or unwilling to do more than talk. Let the West do the heavy lifting seems to be the unstated motto of the Union.
Fact the second: The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (formerly the Organization of the Islamic Conference) has provided no money, no food, no logistics, no nothing. Perhaps the OIC has forgotten that Somalia is a majority Muslim state--a member of the organization. Perhaps the OIC and its over fifty members have forgotten the many strictures regarding the Muslim obligation for charity. Perhaps the OIC is simply too worried about something they call "Islamophobia" and cartoons of the Prophet to notice a few hundred thousand starving Muslim women and children. Or, perhaps the OIC and all its members--some of whom have most of the money in the known universe--simply believe it is the Will of Allah that so many perish so wretchedly, and thus it would be blasphemous at best to intervene with food aid.
The West ought to propose to the OIC the following deal. You pay and we will feed. You fork over some of your petrodollars and we, particularly we Americans, will provide food at fair market price to be distributed in Somalia or the refugee camps. You pay for transportation and distribution. And, if we need to use force to get the food past your fellow Muslims in al-Shabaab, you pay for the bullets necessary.
Of course the money heavy governments of the OIC will not accept this deal, fair as it is. This means the taxpayers of the US and the other civilized states will have to carry the freight for some generations to come. It is both a curse and a blessing that the West has learned through past experience that some things, like mass starvation, are simply unacceptable. So, Westerners will do the heavy lifting while the AU and OIC sit by with folded hands and indifferent expressions.
Frankly, the idea in and of itself flatly rankles the Geek's rear end. Famine should be equally unacceptable to the governments of the AU and, even more, the OIC. The fact that both seem totally unconcerned about the bitter reality of life and death in the Somalia of al-Shabaab stands as stark accusation against not only the two organizations but the religious faith which purportedly provides the foundation of one.