The World’s Policeman Must Maintain Peace in Somalia


The American military has a responcibility to maintain order in Somalia (Courtesy of Julia Comerford/The Fordham Ram).

By Edward Sheehan

On Jan. 20, dozens of fighters for al-Shabaab, a Somali-based jihadist group with ties to al-Qaeda, were killed in an American airstrike. This came days after a vicious al-Shabaab attack on a Nairobi, Kenya hotel complex that left 25 dead. Rather than inspiring some relief that these vicious groups were killed, the airstrike brought a general sense of unease to the discourse.

After all, many people were only vaguely aware of U.S. involvement in Somalia. A few individuals tweeted vague statements about endless war and drone strikes, then moved on to safer ground.

While I am not a supporter of some of our current conflicts, the worst of the lot being our pointless slog in Afghanistan and our grotesque aiding of Saudi war crimes in Yemen, I fully support our war to fight off Islamist militants terrorizing the innocent people of Somalia.

The first thing to understand is that al-Shabaab is not a representative of the Somali people. Many Somalis are followers of Sufism, a mystical, charismatic version of Islam. Al-Shabaab, on the other hand, follows Wahhabism, a puritanical form of Sunni Islam originating in Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia has spent the last 40 years sending troublesome young Wahhabis off to every hotspot in the Islamic world to make trouble for someone else. This influence has impacted places from Chechnya to Thailand, from Nigeria to Syria and from Somalia to Pakistan.

Al-Shabaab is largely the paramilitary wing of the Islamic Courts Union, run by young Somalis who were bitten by the Wahhabi bug while studying abroad in Saudi Arabia, with additional volunteers in hardened throat-slitters from Chechnya and the occasional dysfunctional problem child from the West.

They have survived only because the beleaguered “government” in Somalia has been paralyzed by the crippling Clan System that governs the country. Perhaps this is esoteric. After all, Saudi Arabia is, depressingly, an ally of the United States, and all this stuff about Wahhabism and Sufism is a tad confusing. But there is still a real reason that al-Shabaab should be stopped, and it’s what this group does to the region.

Al-Shabaab manages to combine the most evil impulses of both al-Qaeda and ISIS. It has carried out a long and bloody string of terrorist attacks — including a mass shooting in a Nairobi shopping mall with 62 fatalities — and car bombings in Somalia, Kenya and Uganda.

Beyond those horrors, al-Shabaab also controls and governs territory of its own, and their rule is an absolute horror for anyone unlucky enough to live under it. Details are sketchy, as al-Shabaab territory is not exactly a safe area for journalists, but al-Shabaab has been kind enough to release some videos of its exploits.

Al-Shabaab lacks the production values and flair of ISIS, but the content of the videos is pretty similar: beheadings and stonings (al-Shabaab seems particularly fond of stoning allegedly adulterous women to death).

This is a cruel and brutal group that is terrorizing a generally kind and gentle people, and I, for one, believe we have a moral duty to stop them.

Like it or not, the United States is a superpower, and we might as well use our powers to do good. Somalia is a disaster in large part because we cut and ran 25 years ago, after a few of our troops were killed in a minor urban skirmish.

It is our moral duty to help the ordinary people of Somalia against these butchers.


Edward Sheehan, FCRH ’22, is a history major from Needham, Massachusetts.