Detsch 1

Andrew Jackson Detsch V
The Archipelago State: Perceptions of State Failure and Alternative Systems of
Governance in Somalia
The Elliott School of International Affairs
Faculty Advisor: Professor Paul Williams
Graduate Mentor: Janene Sawers

ABSTRACT

State failure intends to diagnose a particular reality: states “fail” when consumed
by internal violence and when ceasing to deliver basic political goods to their inhabitants.
Though Somalia is considered the most appropriate archetype for this phenomenon, the
ineffectiveness of nation-building efforts since the fall of Mohamed Siad Barre‟s
government in 1991 demonstrates the tragic limitations of this diagnosis, and the need for
a new method of evaluation. Utilizing Somalia as a case study, this report interrogates the
viability of the state failure diagnosis based on four analytical lenses: geography, politics,
history, and terrorism. Current analyses unjustly focus on the last fifty years, the only
period in Somalia‟s history in which it has resembled a nation-state. In reality, the
country‟s political borders are merely a geopolitical expression. In seemingly ungoverned
spaces, sub-state actors dominate the provision of violence and political goods because of
Somalia‟s extensive nomadic and clan-based heritage. The lessons of Somalia are clear:
we can avert future failures in nation building by creating realistic political goals
calibrated to development.
I. INTRODUCTION

Picture a country cleaved into a rightward arrow, an expanse of plateaus, plains,
and highlands populated by pastoral nomads, city dwellers, pirates, and Islamic
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extremists. Is this what a failed state looks like?
States are the basic currency of international relations: almost all academic,
journalistic, and political analyses use them to synthesize the dense networks of
economic, military, and social relationships that span the globe. Assuming that the world
is made up of an unbroken chain of continuous states makes a convenient point of
departure for understanding international relations. In that vein, state failure attempts to
diagnose a particular reality. Advocates of the paradigm contend that countries cease to
function when consumed by internal violence, forcing them to halt delivery of basic
goods and services to the inhabitants within its political borders.
That expanse of plateaus, plains and highlands, Somalia, is patient zero for state
failure. Since the collapse of Mohamed Siad Barre‟s military junta in 1991, it has
assumed the identity of a lawless pariah state. This image has been cemented in our
imagination with its inglorious five-year streak atop the Failed States Index, the calamity
of the Battle of Mogadishu in 1993, and the subsequent descent into piracy, intermittent
famine, and civil war. Al Qaeda-led attacks on American embassies in Kenya and
Tanzania in 1998, and on the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon in 2001
unjustly established Somalia‟s reputation within U.S. policy circles as a “moral
catastrophe and…security threat,” even though the plans had emanated from elsewhere.
1


1
Paul D. Williams, "State Failure in Africa: Causes, Consequences and Responses,"
Africa South of the Sahara 39 (2010): 22.
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If political, social, and economic turmoil is the status quo, how can Somalia not
be considered a failed state? Even opponents of the state failure paradigm must concede
that the reputation Somalia has developed is not entirely unjust. Two-thirds of the
country remains outside of federal government control, and piracy continues to plague
the Gulf of Aden off of the coast of Puntland. The Al Qaeda affiliated terrorist
organization Al-Shabaab, while neutralized by African Union peacekeepers, continues to
hold back urban and cultural renewal by staging attacks in Mogadishu.
But a state cannot fail where it has never existed. In Somalia, traditional sub-state
structures have always dominated political life, with a thirty-year intermission between
1960 and 1991. With little international presence on the ground, the historical memory of
the Mogadishu incident remains the dominant caricature of Somalia in government,
media, and academic circles, extrapolating a misconstrued perception to encompass
reality. Subsequently, United Nations-brokered curatives have not worked because
Somalia‟s anomalous shape, history, political structure, and patterns of migration have
led its citizens to call on clans and kinship groups to preserve the peace and deliver
political goods instead of the state. Although violence has persisted in some areas, many
of these non-federal entities have proven stable.
II. METHODOLOGY

State failure presents an inaccurate depiction of post-collapse Somalia based on
the lenses of history, politics, and patterns of settlement. Furthermore, it does not
represent a hospitable host for terrorism, as post-9/11 estimations may have suggested.
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The borders of Somalia are supposed to be clear: the five points of the Somali star
traditionally refer to the boundaries of the state. In its modern iteration, it is bound by the
Ogaden to the west, the Arabian Sea to the east, Djibouti to the north, and Kenya to the
south. However, closer scrutiny reveals that the country‟s political borders are merely a
geographic expression. Mohamed Siad Barre‟s attempts to create a unified Somali
national identity were an abject failure: almost no Somalis identify primarily with the
state.
Sub-state actors, including clan and kinship groups, dominate the provision of
violence and political goods and behave just like functioning states. Somalia is an
archipelago of these political communities, including the Hawiya and Darod in the south,
the Ishaak and the Dir in the North, Somaliland and Puntland.
Somalia has been inhabited for 1,400 years. In only thirty-one of those has there
been any semblance of a modern state. By extrapolating the collapse of its government in
1991 and the subsequent failure of state building efforts over its entire history, we have
distorted the way that Somalia really works.
Finally, lacking a corruptible government structure, and hosting a unique blend of
tribes, clans, and ethnic groups, Somalia has proven an inhospitable area for terrorist
operations.
III. STATE FAILURE

State failure is defined as the dissolution of a monopoly of violence and the
failure to provide goods and services to a specific national population over a delineated
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territory. The paradigm emerges from the writings of Max Weber, who contended the
existence of the state was contingent on “a monopoly on the legitimate use of force
within its borders.”
2

The increasing influence of non-state actors in international relations has
expanded the range of the definition. Robert Rotberg, a leading modern proponent of the
paradigm, defines a failed state as a territory characterized as “tense, deeply conflicted,
dangerous and bitterly contested by warring factions” and “hospitable to and harboring
non-state actors – warlords and terrorists.”
3

The prevalence of Al Qaeda and other Islamic extremist groups in Afghanistan
and Pakistan in the late 1990s created a linkage between ungoverned, collapsed and
failed states and the emergence of terrorism. In Somalia, the emergence of Al Shabaab
only underscored this trend.
But the state failure paradigm fails to explain how troubled states really behave. It
puts an extreme emphasis on parameters of security while ignoring substantive issues of
economic capacity. Furthermore, its expectations for nation-state development are
unreasonable for many countries: Sudan, Somalia, Afghanistan, and Congo, for example,
have not only been set back by internal failings of governance, but long periods of
colonial influence.

2
Max Weber, The Vocation Lectures: Science as a Vocation, Politics as a Vocation
(Cambridge, MA: Hackett Publishing Company, 2004), 15.
3
Robert Rotberg, “The Failure and Collapse of Nation-States: Breakdown, Prevention,
and Repair,” in When States Fail: Causes and Consequences, ed. Robert I. Rotberg
(Princeton, NJ: University of Princeton Press, 2004), 27.
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Expectations of the Nation-State

Nation-states are expected to provide two essential services to their citizens: a
basket of political goods, and security. Measuring state solvency reflects the standard of
living inside the country. For example, the United Nations Human Development Index
utilizes metrics for life expectancy, education, and income to rate nation-states from
“least developed” to “most developed.” Successful governance is largely equated with
the capacity of state and society.
On the other hand, a failed state lacks the capacity or willpower to provide
political goods to the entirety of its population, and either chooses to favor factionalized
elites, or neglect its citizens absolutely. This can precipitate the dissolution of the state, if
a government fails to provide basic services or to collect tax revenues to pay its federal
employees.
4

Proponents of the state failure paradigm contend that security is the most critical
aspect of nation-state operations. Declining economic metrics, such as gross domestic
product (GDP), gross national income (GNI), and purchasing power parity (PPP) are
often considered indicators but not causes of state failure. The state‟s primary role is as
an arbiter of communal conflict: preventing the manifestation of enduring and consuming
violence, and mediating demands for shared power or autonomy.

4
Nicolas Van De Walle, “The Economic Correlates of State Failure: Taxes, Foreign Aid,
and Policies,” in When States Fail: Causes and Consequences, ed. Robert I. Rotberg
(Princeton, NJ: University of Princeton Press, 2004), 95.
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Christopher Clapham characterizes five monopoly powers as critical to the
function of a successful state:
- the right to monopolize control of the instruments of violence;
- the sole right to tax citizens;
- the prerogative of ordering the political allegiances of citizens and of enlisting
their support in war;
- the sovereign right to adjudicate in disputes between citizens;
- the exclusive right of representation in international society.

By that framework, the failed state lacks a neutral, violent authority to maintain
equilibrium. The natural result of state failure is anarchy: individuals cannot cope with
violence without public assistance, necessitating sub-state alliances based on ethnic,
racial, and ideological groupings.
5
The centralized state has the right and obligation to
order and manage the political allegiances of its citizens: essentially, it must control and
be the arbiter of forces of national self-determination.
6

The Characteristics of a Failed State

The state failure paradigm is heavily focused on security. Whether states succeed
or fail largely depends on the imposition of brute force, coercion, and capital controls.
However, this understanding leaves significant margin for error: a government may lose
legitimacy to a sub-state or non-state actor, yet remain solvent by maintaining a
monopoly of violence. In contrast, peaceful areas of a state‟s territory may be weakly

5
Nelson Kasfir, “Domestic Anarchy, Security Dilemmas, and Violent Predation: Causes
of Failure,” in When States Fail: Causes and Consequences, ed. Robert I. Rotberg
(Princeton, NJ: University of Princeton Press, 2004), 66.
6
Christopher Clapham, “The Global-Local Politics of State Decay,” in When States Fail:
Causes and Consequences, ed. Robert I. Rotberg (Princeton, NJ: University of Princeton
Press, 2004), 57.
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controlled by central government actors, or be administered by a semi-autonomous
substitute.
State authority is only valid if respected by a majority of the citizenry in question,
and is mostly contingent upon its ability to maintain a monopoly of force and deliver
political goods. As legitimacy erodes, nominal borders become irrelevant and sub-state
groups within its territory begin to seek autonomous control.
7
Somalia has no
unanimously recognized authorities to run the state, perform its day-to-day functions,
control flows of migration and emigration, and maintain an appreciable level of security.
8

Therefore, Somalia cannot be considered a state at all. It is a mere geopolitical
expression, where sub-state actors compete over territory and political dominance in the
absence of a state apparatus.
Critique of Nation-State Expectations in Somalia

The state failure paradigm assumes that a functioning state should be the status
quo in international relations. Rotberg, for one, argues that political goods can only be
delivered to a population once an “appreciable measure of security” has been established

7
Robert Rotberg, “The Failure and Collapse of Nation-States: Breakdown, Prevention,
and Repair,” in When States Fail: Causes and Consequences, ed. Robert I. Rotberg
(Princeton, NJ: University of Princeton Press, 2004), 17.
8
Walter S. Clarke and Robert Gosende, “Somalia: Can a Collapsed State Reconstitute
Itself?” in State Failure and State Weakness in a Time of Terror, ed. Robert I. Rotberg
(Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 2003), 27.
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in a particular location.
9
In Somalia, even that most basic measure does not apply, where
many actors administer security and the provision of political goods.
Orthodox measures of state failure leave no space for partial successes and
failures. With the end of the interim mandate in February of 2012, Somalia‟s transitional
federal government became permanent, as President Hassan Shiekh Mohamud took
office in Mogadishu. Though the government does not possess the capacity to govern
large areas of territory in Southern Somalia on its own, it is the first centrally recognized
authority that the country has had since the fall of Mohammed Siad Barre in 1991. While
Mohamud‟s government cannot be expected to be the sole source of political authority in
the country as it would be in a developed nation-state, the recent successes of central
governance in Somalia and the relative reemergence of Mogadishu as an urban center are
undoubtedly impressive.
Why, then, is the state failure definition supposedly misappropriated in Somalia?
After all, the long term success of the federal government project is largely dependent on
external forces: the whims of international aid, and the African Union Mission in
Somalia, a peacekeeping mission which pits parties such as Ethiopia, Kenya, and Uganda
against the insurgency. Even then, their motives are questionable: each side seems eager
to perpetuate the vacuum of governance in Somalia to their own advantage.

9
Robert Rotberg, “The Failure and Collapse of Nation-States: Breakdown, Prevention,
and Repair,” in When States Fail: Causes and Consequences, ed. Robert I. Rotberg
(Princeton, NJ: University of Princeton Press, 2004), 27.
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As Nicolas Van De Walle correctly notes, civil war, genocide, and other
situations in which public means of security have failed “can still occur in states that have
not „failed.‟”
10
Somalia is one such case: in many places where violence and crime have
prevailed, it is because of the imposition of it by a superior party upon an inferior, not
because of the failure of the state apparatus as a whole.
IV. GEOGRAPHY

At its core, Somalia resists the conventions of a state. Historically, its boundaries
were negotiated by colonial administrators and “had little or nothing to do with „ethnic‟
fault lines, linguistic demarcations, religious affiliations, geographical landmarks or other
such „natural‟ lines of cleavage between territories.”
11
In that respect, Somalia is not an
anomaly. Indeed, few countries are nation-states in the strictest regard: like many of its
neighbors, it is not an independent territory equated with a politically united people.
12

The state system fails to understand situations in which local structures of
governance supersede their national counterparts. Somalia is not the only country where
localized forms of governance exceed the central government in terms of overall
importance, but is it a natural victim of false equivalency: state failure theory has a
natural tendency to aggregate diverse states and their differentiated problems,

10
Nicolas Van De Walle, “The Economic Correlates of State Failure: Taxes, Foreign
Aid, and Policies,” in When States Fail: Causes and Consequences, ed. Robert I. Rotberg
(Princeton, NJ: University of Princeton Press, 2004), 94.
11
Sankaran Krishna, “Boundaries in Question,” in A Companion to Political Geography,
ed. John Agnew, Katharyne Mitchell, and Gerard Toal (Malden, MA: Blackwell
Companions, 2003), 320.
12
Martin W. Lewis and Karen E. Wigen, The Myth of Continents: A Critique of
Metageography (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1997), 8.
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encouraging generic and impertinent policy prescriptions.
13

Somali Political Geography Post-Siad Barre

The state failure paradigm assumes that the collapse of Siad Barre‟s central
government in 1991 did away with the entirety of political structure in Somalia. But in
the vacuum of central governance, non-federal entities such as the Republic of
Somaliland, Puntland, the Bay and Bakool regions, and the Banaadir Regional Authority
popped up all over the map and have proven relatively stable.
The failure of a successful central government to emerge in post-Siad Barre
Somalia is not strictly due to gaps in security, economic, and political capacity, but
naturally occurring geographic differentiation. Sixty to seventy percent of Somalis trace
their heritage to pastoral nomads, and the country traditionally has had no stable,
hierarchical political units.
14
The economy, dominated by agriculture and the livestock
trade has survived, grown, and continued without the presence of a central government.
15

Somali national identity is inherently territorial and cultural, based on concentric clan and
kinship groups, preventing majority unification and the emergence of a static “citizenry”.
As a result, Somaliland and Puntland have historically enjoyed a relatively formidable
degree of autonomy from Central Government authority.

13
Charles Call, “The Fallacy of the „Failed State,‟” Third World Quarterly 29 (2008) 8:
1493.
14
I.M. Lewis, Understanding Somalia and Somaliland: Culture, History, Society (New
York: Columbia University Press, 2011), 3.
15
Peter D. Little, Somalia: Economy without State (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University
Press, 2003), 77.
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Despite its varied political geography, modern analysis artificially imposes the
boundaries of a state upon Somalia. But it is foremost a “geographical expression” of
component regions, much of which has developed “political and economic systems
independent of Mogadishu over the past twenty years.”
16
Somalia is in fact constructed of
an archipelago of semi-autonomous entities, epicenters of power that serve to administer
authority communally. Across the breadth of Somalia, there exist thousands of competing
views of the state.
V. HISTORY

The state failure paradigm is predicated on a particular conception of the state.
The modern state model emerged from the signing of the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648,
consummated after the end of the Thirty Year‟s War, which plagued the European
mainland for the first half of the 16
th
century. Though the peace did not endure, notions
of state sovereignty and national self-determination did, affirming basic expectations for
government control in a “successful” nation-state.
This conception of the state does not apply to Somalia. The country‟s history
stretches back to the Roman occupation of its peninsula through the period of sultanates
and lucrative foreign commerce that proceeded the Berlin Conference and the “Scramble
for Africa” of the late 19
th
century. Only during the rule of Siad Barre, who attempted to

16
Kenneth Menkhaus, Somalia: State Collapse and the Threat of Terrorism (Adelphi
Series) (New York: Routledge, 2004), 15.
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impose a system based on pan-Somali nationalism, has there been any semblance of a
modern state.
The Modern State Model

While the Westphalian peace is identified with the emergence of the modern
state, it did not become mainstream in Europe until the 18
th
century after the victory of
Maximilian Robespierre‟s Fourth Estate in the French Revolution.
17
Subsequently, the
rise of England to become a global superpower on the strength of its superior naval force,
utilizing the „blue water policy,‟ enabled the promotion of the ideal of the state as a
“general public guardian” of a private property regime throughout Europe and around the
world.
The origins, nature, and fundamental tasks of statehood are hotly disputed,
particularly when considering less-developed states in Africa, including Somalia, many
of which appear in the Failed States Index. However, unlike Europe, where major
political and economic powers competed across contiguous space and legitimately feared
the sanctimony of their territoriality, states were not contiguous throughout the rest of the
world.
18
Where bastions of authority did exist, they were mainly confined to core areas,
and their legitimacy waned in peripheral areas of sovereign territory where tribes, clans,
barbarians, and other non-government actors reigned supreme.

17
Benno Teschke, The Myth of 1648: Class, Geopolitics, and the Making of Modern
International Relations (London: Verso Books, 2009), 9.
18
Christopher Clapham, “The Global-Local Politics of State Decay,” in When States
Fail: Causes and Consequences, ed. Robert I. Rotberg (Princeton, NJ: University of
Princeton Press, 2004), 17.
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Max Weber‟s 1919 essay, Politics as Vocation, created the modern standard of
state authority in the early 20
th
century as Europe crawled out from underneath the
geographic, economic, and political wreckage of World War I. Weber argued that the
modern state was a “compulsory association which organizes domination.”
19
The concept
of a “monopoly of violence” underscored state construction throughout the duration of
the century and would prove critical as decolonization became the global status quo after
World War II.
This model was incorrectly extrapolated to states in the developing world,
including Somalia which emerged from the colonial yoke. Our modern misunderstanding
of state failure owes itself to this historical incongruence, layering Western conceptions
onto states with different geographic parameters, cultural maxims, and furthermore,
giving them the same expectations of development as countries that have honed
democratic practices for decades, if not centuries.
The Origins of the Somali State and Colonialism, 600-1960

A state organization has had little utility in Somalia for much of its history.
Loosely populated and originating from a complex mess of regional, colonial, and clan
influences, it is largely defined by contact, conflict, and expansion.
20
The coastal cities of
Mogadishu, Zeila, and Berbera developed at a much faster rate than their inland
counterparts, becoming epicenters of maritime commerce early in the 7
th
century, as

19
Max Weber, The Vocation Lectures: Science as a Vocation, Politics as a Vocation
(Cambridge, MA: Hackett Publishing Company, 2004), 4.
20
Mary Jane Harper, Getting Somalia Wrong? Faith, War and Hope in a Shattered State
(London: Zed Books, 2012), 45.
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Yemeni, Omani, Indian, and Ottoman traders ventured there for spices, coffee, and
myrrh.
Somalis were an industrious, yet nomadic people: livestock was, and remains, the
staple of their economy. Despite adequate demand for Somali goods, a lack of luxury or
extractive resources made the coastal enclave less attractive for exploitation than its
neighboring states. As a result, economic and urban development barely spread beyond
these cities, and connections between them remained relatively weak, enabling the
emergence of differentiated patterns of governance.
Nonetheless, Europe‟s enterprising colonial powers drew Somalia into the
“Scramble for Africa” in the late 19
th
century as England, Italy, and France pushed into
Kenya and Ethiopia, constricting the north and southward migration of Somalis. Holding
a military base across in Aden, across the Red Sea from Somaliland, Britain signed off on
a series of treaties with local clansmen, establishing a protectorate there in 1889. This
was not accepted by all, and warlords such as Seyyid Mohamed Abdulle Hassan led
indigenous charges against British „usurpers‟ – creating an ideal of Somali nationalism –
that all countrymen could be united beyond ties of lineage and blood contract in
nationhood. By the time Seyyid‟s resistance collapsed in 1920, the colonial powers had
effectively split the Greater Somali nation into five parts: the Northern Frontier District,
the Ogaden, British Somaliland, the French Somali Coast, further fragmenting the dream
of Somali nationalism.
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Historian I.M. Lewis traces the origins of modern Somali self-determination to
1946, when British Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin unveiled his plan to “form a state on
the basis of Somali self-determination” under United Nations trust, administered by
England. But London‟s power was clearly waning on the world stage: the United States
had emerged from World War II as the world‟s pre-eminent military power, and seeking
to court influence with King Selassie of Ethiopia in hopes of establishing a military base
in East Africa, teamed with Russia and France to nix the plan. In 1950, Somalia became
an Italian trusteeship – losing control of the Haud, the Ogaden, and the Reserved Areas –
further tarnishing Britain‟s reputation there.
Independence and the Pan-Somali Experiment, 1960-1991


Source: University of Texas, Austin

Independence was achieved in 1960 as the British Somaliland Protectorate and
Somali Youth League forged a lively parliamentary democracy, buffered by substantial
amounts of foreign aid. This would serve as a linchpin of state-building strategy: an
ambitious five year development plan was eagerly launched in 1963 at a cost of $95
Detsch 17
million, half of which was already accounted for.
21
Later that year, the Somali National
Congress rejected a package of Western military assistance valued at $8.8 million in
favor of a larger Soviet package, linking Somalia‟s fortunes with the success of the
Soviet Union in the Cold War. A period of relative stability in central governance was
quickly stunted by the assassination of President Abdirashid Ali Sharmake on October
15, 1969, in an act of revenge supposedly related to a clan dispute. Six days later, the
military entered the capital, and General Mohamed Siad Barre took power, leading a
Supreme Revolutionary Council of military commanders.
Siad Barre created an aid-dependent, socialist state and quickly set about trying to
institute a Marxist revolution based on the scientific eradication of tribal loyalties:
instituting a standardized Somali script and literacy program. The nation would
henceforth be led under the banner of the mantra “tribalism divides, socialism unites.” It
was a dictatorship in everything but name: sustained by Russian aid, Siad Barre, hoping
to forge his name in history as the father of the state, faced the impossible task of
attempting to manage Roman Catholic and Islamic populations within an atheist,
Marxist-inspired state.
With the country rallying behind him, even though economic conditions
drastically deteriorated in 1974 and 1975 during the worst drought on record up until that
point, Siad Barre took an unprecedented move in 1977: he would attempt to reunite

21
I.M. Lewis, Understanding Somalia and Somaliland: Culture, History, Society (New
York: Columbia University Press, 2011), 175.
Detsch 18
“Greater Somalia,” linking up with the indigenous rebels of the Western Somali
Liberation Front to recapture the Ogaden from Ethiopia, which had recently been
weakened by a coup d‟etat. As the Somali military remained weak and somewhat
divided, Siad Barre distributed thousands of small arms among militiamen to assist him
in the fight.
The bold military stroke backfired horribly: the Soviet Union switched sides in
the regional skirmish, providing vast amounts of military aid to Ethiopia and forcing the
aggressors out. The United States came to the aid of Siad Barre, but was not particularly
enthusiastic in its support. Whereas Leonid Brezhnev‟s regime in Moscow sought to
protect and insulate the dictator, Washington and Mogadishu were an awkward pairing
based on significant ideological, political, and economic divergence. Their failure to
promote the dictator, or control the spread of arms across the countryside to militia
groups, which began during the Ogaden campaign, further undermined Siad Barre‟s
popularity and he attempted to keep his diffuse country in one piece.
Despite his efforts to consolidate “Greater Somalia,” clan loyalties still
superseded any superficial allegiance to the Somali state: when groups such as the
Majeerteen of Puntland protested, Siad Barre responded by poisoning their wells. Despite
his upbringing in Somalia‟s plurality Hawiya clan group, the regime‟s complicity in the
torture of its citizens and increasing crowds at refugee camps created enemies on all
sides, constantly at the throat of Siad Barre, paving the way for the failure of the state.
Detsch 19
The divide and rule tactics practiced by the dictator enabled clan fissures already deeply
entrenched in Somali society to further define its body politic.
Siad Barre‟s toxic relationship with his American clients ultimately sealed his
fate. In 1988, Western donors began to rapidly withdraw aid from the regime, enabling
the institutions of its government, long starved of resources, to atrophy further, leaving
schools, roads, and basic infrastructure on the verge of collapse.
The “Failed State”, 1991-2012



The narrative of Somalia after Siad Barre‟s 1991 demise is the most familiar one:
images of the country broadcast to the outside world showed a prototypical African
disaster zone – replete with war and hunger – and a graveyard of state building
initiatives, particularly after several substantive efforts on behalf of the United Nations
Operation in Somalia (UNOSOM) went nowhere. While the establishment of the
Transitional Federal Government (TFG) from the Nairobi Accords of 2003 brought new
administration to Mogadishu emanating from the international community, their reach
barely extended into the outer reaches of the capital, evidenced by persisting rates of
violence there. The rise of Sunni Islamists groups which challenged local bastions of
Detsch 20
power in the south during this period of time, including Al-Shabaab and the Supreme
Council of Islamic Courts (SCIC) lent credence to the idea that lapses in central
governance would rapidly lead Somalia into oblivion and create a major haven for
terrorist activity on the Horn of Africa.
This narrative was certainly convenient but ignored the truth: Somalia is a
geographical anomaly that resists modern analyses of state construction or failure. Most
of the country is situated in a hot, arid mid-latitudinal climate crowded with camels,
cattle, sheep, and goats, grounding its economy primarily in the livestock trade and the
cultivation of farmland, particularly among citizens situated along the country‟s two main
waterways: the Shabelle and the Juba.
22
Nomadic affiliations dominate the demography –
living in such an unforgiving environment has made constant movement an economic
necessity for most.
The Somali political experience is representative of a pastoral society alien to
linear, hierarchical patterns of authority described in the Westphalian model – national
borders and the idea of a country mean little, and the customary decision making process
is democratic “almost to the point of anarchy.”
23
As a result, central authority never
emanated from Siad Barre or the TFG, as it would in a classic, Westphalian state: these
were just structures layered on top of existing clan loyalties. Despite this, communities
that were geographically extracted or cut off from state authority consistently sought to

22
Mary Jane Harper, Getting Somalia Wrong? Faith, War and Hope in a Shattered State
(London: Zed Books, 2012), 27.
23
I.M. Lewis, Understanding Somalia and Somaliland: Culture, History, Society (New
York: Columbia University Press, 2011), 43.
Detsch 21
devise sub-state organizations that could provide core functions of governance, especially
basic security.
24
Repeatedly, over the course of its history, Somalia has shown that entire
towns, communities, and regions can exist in relative and ongoing tranquility.
A New Authority Emerges, 2012-Present

In August of 2012, Sunni Islamic al-Shabab militiamen announced that they
would be withdrawing from Mogadishu, pointing not only to the success of AMISOM
peacekeeping operations, but increasing respect for TFG authority within the zone of
control. The group had consistently undermined government authority to a staggering
effect, confiscating humanitarian aid for use as a recruitment tool during the 2011 East
Africa drought. Later that month, as the TFG mandate expired, Somalia held elections
for the first time since 1960, electing former University of Somalia chancellor Hassan
Sheikh Mohamud on a platform of national reconciliation by federal parliamentary vote.
Though Somalia will not resemble a functioning Westphalian state at any point,
proponents of Weberian metrics, fearful of ungoverned spaces that provide safe haven for
terrorist groups connected with Al-Qaeda, have begun to cow to the emerging narrative.
VI. POLITICS

Somalia‟s checkered history points to an irrefutable truth: it is an archipelago of
political communities, including the Hawiya and Darod in the south, the Ishaak and the
Dir in the north, Somaliland and Puntland. These communities are invisible on a political

24
Kenneth Menkhaus, Somalia: State Collapse and the Threat of Terrorism (Adelphi
Series) (New York: Routledge, 2004), 74.
Detsch 22
map of the world. But in politics, they hold real power: delivering security and political
goods, just like a functioning state. In Somalia, politics do not function as they would in
a normal state.
The collapse of the state is not a collapse of political authority. Historically
speaking, the state is not where Somalis have ever gone for security or the delivery of
political goods. Governance works without government: while the power of the federal
government is growing, it does not dictate much socially or economically.
Who wins, who loses in state failure?


Source: UNHCR

The collapse of the state apparatus has not been a losing proposition for all
aspects of Somali society. The persisting collapse of the state enterprise is exploited and
perpetuated by its most powerful and elite members. Stronger clans, some of which
possess paramilitary capabilities attempt to dominate weaker clans throughout southern
Somalia.
25


25
Kenneth Menkhaus, Somalia: State Collapse and the Threat of Terrorism (Adelphi
Series) (New York: Routledge, 2004), 84.
Detsch 23
In the absence of a central state that existed after the Siad Barre regime collapsed
in 1991, the divide-and-rule tactics of the dictator had a lasting effect in cementing power
relationships in Somalia. Weaker clans, such as Rahanweyn, who control valuable and
agriculturally fertile riverine territory, favor centralized governance. Many believe that
only a legitimate, neutral monopoly of violence could insulate their gains, especially as
the Marehan clans continue to make gains against them in the Gedo region.
The collapse of central governance in Somalia has also enabled the business
community to promote radical liberalization of the economy to ensure lucrative profits.
Siad Barre‟s attempts to install a regime of central planning gave way to free trade,
floating exchange rates, and an economy devoid of any government intervention or
protectionism. Markets are almost entirely deregulated and state-owned companies have
been either looted, destroyed or privatized.
26
With no import taxes on goods coming into
the country, exporters can resell foreign goods at an extremely high profit margin.
Somali businessmen also levy the only effective taxes in the country, arbitrary fee
rates on transportation services, including checkpoints at roads and airports, commissions
which enable them to maintain private militias. Dominant clans benefit in business from
kinship relationships. Though business partnerships serve to buttress corruption endemic
throughout Somali society, they also create extensive commercial ties, transcending clan
and conflict. This network of economic cooperation relations has proven apt in managing

26
Peter D. Little, Somalia: Economy without State (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University
Press, 2003), 14.
Detsch 24
conflict in the vacuum of central governance and preventing the prevalence of foreign
influences in Somalia, not limited to terrorism.
Somali View of Government

Whether Somalis support the federal government largely depends on where they
sit. Dominant tribes that have been particularly successful in the post-Siad Barre vacuum,
such as the Hawiye, who control much of the political and economic life of Mogadishu
and the rest of the south, see federalism as little more than a “veiled attempt” to rob them
of the gains that they have achieved in political equilibrium. Minority groups, such as the
Darod and the Dir often favor federalism to establish parity among the disparate factions
of Somali society.
Centralization is still regarded with suspicion throughout most of the country.
Where governance is successful, such as in Somaliland, it is viewed to occur in spite of
government. The revival of state structure is widely considered a “zero-sum game” with
very high stakes.
27
Any attempt at state building in Somalia faces the near-impossible
challenge of convincing factionalized elites to give up their positions of power, and has
had the inevitable historical impact of producing “instability and armed conflict” among
rival segments of the population. The project is further undermined by the threat of
patronage politics: the factions that gain control of a central government may attempt to
utilize the resources of the state, especially the military to dominate the rest.

27
Kenneth Menkhaus, Somalia: State Collapse and the Threat of Terrorism (Adelphi
Series) (New York: Routledge, 2004), 28.
Detsch 25
These suspicions are largely grounded in the final years of the Siad Barre regime.
After Somalia‟s defeat in the Ethio-Somali war of 1974, the government sought to
aggregate more and more power and privilege for affiliated clan groups. In order to do
this, the dictator gutted the resources of the state apparatus, compromising the ability of
his government to provide political goods, and hastening Somalia‟s descent into full
collapse and chaos. Furthermore, this deliberate action, and the perception that the
government was focused on the needs of an elite few and not the state at large, drastically
undermined the legitimacy of the state as a whole.
Somalis fear that the reemergence of the state apparatus would have the same
effect: benefitting a narrow group of unscrupulous leaders and ruling elites. A new state
could resemble a highly structured extraction racket, designed to exploit its constituents
for political and economic gain, resulting in civilians losing their homes, and forcing
many into an endless cycle of migration and displacement.
28

Downward Trends in Violence

Still, the “loose constellation” of business enterprises, city-states, villages, towns,
and pastoral land that constitutes Somalia has enjoyed declining trends in violence since
the United Nations intervention in 1993. Though intermittent conflict still occurs
throughout the country, some regions, such as Puntland, were almost entirely free of civil
war over the course of the last decade. State collapse has not led to endemic conflict.

28
Robert Rotberg, “The Failure and Collapse of Nation-States: Breakdown, Prevention,
and Repair,” in When States Fail: Causes and Consequences, ed. Robert I. Rotberg
(Princeton, NJ: University of Princeton Press, 2004), 90.
Detsch 26
With the exception of attacks staged by terrorist organizations, violence has
largely been pushed further and further down the food chain to within clan groups. Clan
elders have served as successful diplomatic envoys, “working out cooperative relations
on policing banditry, smuggling and the spillover of local disputes” across local and
international boundaries, utilizing radios and mobile phones to communicate.
29

In many clans, systems of protection and resource agreements based on blood
payments have largely been abolished in favor of cooperative relationships. Increasingly,
the paradigm of inter-clan relationships has shifted away from conflict and toward
cooperation.
VII. WAR ON TERROR

Somalia came under scrutiny as a potential safe haven for terrorist activity in a
dangerous time. The attacks of September 11
th
on the World Trade Center and the
Pentagon coincided with a growing fear within the U.S. Department of Defense that
ungoverned spaces could offer terrorists lawless sanctuaries, bases, and staging grounds,
that presented little risk of detection.
30
With technology and Wahhabi money driving the
“democratization of violence” globally, places such as Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen,

29
Kenneth Menkhaus, Somalia: State Collapse and the Threat of Terrorism (Adelphi
Series) (New York: Routledge, 2004), 28.
30
Ibid, 71.
Detsch 27
and Sudan, where governments often had little or questionable authority harbored a
disproportionate amount of terrorist actors.
31

Somalia‟s inclusion into the grouping of potential host states was not an accident:
it met a number of criteria that made it an area for concern. An impoverished society, it
offered ample space and a potentially corruptible population that had already spawned
indigenous movements of political Islam.
32
This amplified fears that Somalia could easily
be “bought off” by the highest bidder.
Again, this theory is part and parcel of the unfortunate, but inescapable tendency
of the state failure paradigm to aggregate differentiated states. While Somalia‟s vast
swaths of ungoverned space seem to suggest it would be an inviting host for international
terrorists, it has proven surprisingly resistant to militant Islam, as opposed to quasi-states
for two reasons: its lack of capacity and connectedness.
Quasi-State vs. Collapsed State Hosts

Any long-term safe haven for international terrorists, as a staging base of
operations or otherwise, requires a modicum of capacity: uninterrupted open space for
training, corruptible government agencies for access to privileged information and
monetary resources, and a base of recruitment readily accessible to the local population,

31
Fareed Zakaria, The Future of Freedom: Illiberal Democracy at Home and Abroad
(New York: W.W. & Norton Company, 2007), 16.
32
Kenneth Menkhaus, Somalia: State Collapse and the Threat of Terrorism (Adelphi
Series) (New York: Routledge, 2004), 67.

Detsch 28
such as the education system. Utilizing these resources, terrorists build infrastructure
within societies, latching onto institutions already in place.
While corruption within Somalia‟s business class is certainly endemic, there is no
central place for aspiring cells to locate corrupt officialdom. Elites fear that ties to
terrorist organizations, such as Al Qaeda, could make them a target for counterterrorism
operations, especially with American forces and predator drones stationed at Camp
Lemmonier in nearby Djibouti, undermining their economic flexibility in the state
vacuum.
The establishment of a successful base of terrorist operations also depends on the
connectedness of the area and the local population to the rest of the extremist universe. In
that regard, Somalia‟s inutility as a terror cell is further compounded by its weak ties to
Wahhabi groups on the Arab Peninsula, many of who are major financiers of global
terrorism. Somali sheikhs, clan elders, and the bulk of the population have traditionally
rejected Wahhabism and its practitioners as foreign, and largely dismiss the objective of
Al Qaeda and its affiliates to establish a global Sunni caliphate.
Typically, local structures of governance, including clan groups, have frustrated
the ability of puritanical Islamists to control any substantial pocket of Somali society.
Attempts of Al-Itihaad al-Islamiya, Somalia‟s “Islamic Union” organization with ties to
Egypt‟s Muslim Brotherhood, to take up residence in Luuq Province in Southern Somalia
largely failed over the course of the 1990s, as their recruits, based of Marehan clansmen
Detsch 29
not loyal to the Gulf brand of Islam, were quickly dispatched by Ethiopian forces.
Subsequently, the dismantling of Al-Shabaab at the hands of African Union peacekeepers
and U.S. drones in August of 2012, pushing the Al Qaeda affiliate far outside the reaches
of Mogadishu, demonstrated the uphill struggle Islamist organizations continue to face.
The education system, typically a prime target for terrorists in quasi-states such as
Pakistan, is much more difficult to locate and penetrate in Somalia. The country is
eighty-three percent illiterate, and its primary avenues of education, television and radio
networks, are already controlled by business elites resistant to puritanical Islam. Radical
movements appear to face the difficult task of “establishing or expanding Islamic schools
and relief centers,” into a resistant population.
Though there is “modest but growing Somali complicity in terrorism,” it is most
likely to serve as only a short-term haven for foreign terrorists or a transshipment zone
into Kenya.
33
But the increasing assertiveness of AMISOM forces in the region makes
the prevalence of terrorism in Somalia, over the medium-term, an unlikely notion.












33
Kenneth Menkhaus, Somalia: State Collapse and the Threat of Terrorism (Adelphi
Series) (New York: Routledge, 2004), 70.
Detsch 30
VIII. INDICIES


Increased interest in failed states, emanating from their centrality to policy
debates on terrorism has led to the development of multiple metrics to evaluate them,
including the Fund for Peace‟s Failed States Index, the Ibrahim Index of African
Governance, and the Brookings Institution‟s Index of State Weakness. But these metrics
suffer from failings in data collection, standards that promote false equivalency between
disparate countries, and a lack of deployed personnel to inspect standards of governance
on the ground.
These indices have unfairly burnished Somalia‟s reputation as a failed state based
on secondary source material, reinforcing a disparate paradigm in a place where local
structures of governance have always been dominant.
Issues with Data Collection

State failure metrics measure state strength across a range of sub-categories
largely based on Westphalian parameters. The Fund for Peace, which produces The
Detsch 31
Failed States Index measures state strength across twelve sub-categories grouped under
four criteria: security threats, economic implosion, human rights violations and refugee
flows. The Ibrahim Index measures African states on the basis of eighty-eight indicators
grouped into four broad categories: safety and the rule of law, participation in human
rights, stable economic opportunity and human development. Both are composite indices
that combine governance indicators and multiply each by one hundred in order to rate
them. No category is assigned a significantly greater weight than any other: they are
equally and adequately assessed. While this results in a clean statistical calculation, it
perpetuates the problem of false equivalency: incorrectly suggesting a correlation
between different challenges in different countries.
As a result, this metric penalizes states that are economically disadvantaged and
at lesser stages of development: it is no coincidence that twenty of the twenty-five worst
performers in the Failed States Index are situated in the Middle East or Africa. Though
the Fund for Peace has attempted to assuage this problem by creating a capacity index “to
test the assumption that states manage pressures better when they have open societies
with strong state institutions,” the discrepancy between any such statistic and the reality
on the ground is vast.
The data included in most state failure surveys is not primary source: neither the
Fund for Peace nor the Mo Ibrahim Foundation has personnel on the ground in Somalia
to measure it. Somalia‟s reputation as the foremost failed state on earth is based upon
secondary source material. In some cases, regional experts are taken out of the picture
Detsch 32
entirely: for the Failed States Index, a computerized risk analysis program analyzes
thousands of open-source articles and reports, ranking the world‟s countries by likelihood
of collapse according to commonly appearing keywords. This may be an effective
method of producing a statistical calculation, but it ignores the cultural, social, and
political nuances that are imperative in governing any country.
Such an index is hardly relevant when central authorities are not the ones in
question. It fails to acknowledge the success of some actors within the state, who receive
greater relative autonomy and perhaps economic benefit from the collapse of central
government actors, such as Somaliland in Somalia, Kurdistan in Iraq, or the federally
administered tribal areas of Pakistan.
Somalia has topped the index five years running – a testament to its reputation as
the worst state on earth. However, this is surprising given that in the first two years of the
study, 2005 and 2006, when security conditions were broadly worse over the breadth of
the country than they are today, it ranked 5
th
and 7
th
, respectively, before moving up to
3
rd
in 2007. Seven of the top ten states over the past three years come from Africa.
This means that the Failed States Index has an imprudent and unrealistic statistical
bias towards isolated incidents of violent crisis: Sudan has consistently ranked near the
top of survey because of conflict along its fractious border with South Sudan.
International military intervention is a large part of the criteria, however, international aid
is not. This is troubling: because of a lack of reasonable economic data emanating from
many of these countries, North Korea generally is branded as more stable than most of its
Detsch 33
counterparts in the top twenty-five, despite a consistency of reports suggesting the
country is on the brink of total economic collapse and famine.
False Equivalency

Ranking troubled states such as Pakistan, Sudan, and Somalia together utilizing
the same metrics assumes that the conditions of violence that they endure are similar
despite their political, economic, social, cultural and historical disparities, which vastly
influence their governmental structure and governability. However, it cannot rightly be
said that the effects of “state failure” upon the daily life of a general population across
cultures can be the same, and can range from immense to negligible depending on several
factors, including “how much control the state has previously exerted over its citizens, or
how far the inhabitants happened to live from the capital city and other major urban
centers.”
34

While there is rough consensus among organizations charting state failure,
including the Fund for Peace, the Brookings Institution, and others about the majority of
cases that are classified as failed, there is differentiation on the precise order in which
they rank. There is wide disagreement regarding strong, tyrannical, and elitist central
governments presiding over economic decay, such as Zimbabwe and North Korea. While
the idea that troubled state can be ranked side-by-side on the same index is useful for the
purposes of provoking academic debate, it is confusing for the policymakers who are
attempting to rectify the situation on the ground.

34
Paul D. Williams, "State Failure in Africa: Causes, Consequences and Responses,"
Africa South of the Sahara 39 (2010): 1.
Detsch 34
IX. CONCLUSION

State failure intends to diagnose a particular reality. A fledgling government
overwhelmed by internal violence begins to prey on its own people by using brute force,
group favoritism, and other predatory tactics.
But a state must first exist in order for it to fail. Throughout Somalia‟s history,
powerful sub-state structures have successfully resisted the imposition of the state,
imposing monopolies of violence and delivering political goods on their own. Even
during the rule of Mohamed Siad Barre, these structures prevailed throughout most of the
country, as the dictator struggled to unify Somalia around a singular national identity.
Today, most Somalis remain fiercely loyal to their tribes, families, and local
communities, identifying primarily with those groups. Therefore, the failed state
diagnosis is not helpful in Somalia. Its development has constantly been interrupted by
colonialism, Cold War politics, and outside intervention, yet it is expected to function
like a well-established constitutional democracy.
The diagnosis of state failure in Somalia is also based on our inability to
understand how it really operates. Because of its unique history, geography, economics,
and politics, it will probably never resemble a solvent Westphalian state. Its mistaken
inclusion into the universe of countries associated with the war on terror made the state
failure label and top-down curatives highly attractive to U.S. policymakers. In Somalia,
state builders “will need to get some idea of the nature of the disease before rushing to
Detsch 35
the medicine cabinet” to reach for a remedy.
35
That is the essence of why Somalia has
consistently been given the wrong, top-down style antidote. The international community
has little, if any understanding of the nature of the disease.
America‟s experience in attempting to establish a democratic state in
Afghanistan, an objective constantly set back by a proactive Taliban insurgency, external
pressures from Pakistan, and a rigid tribal structure should be instructive for the future of
a Somali state. Any solvent state system in Somalia will still face the issues of ongoing
piracy, and endemic corruption within factionalized elite parties and clan groups.
To remove the label of state failure from Somalia is not to forgive it for its ills.
On an objective level, it faces real problems of internal violence, civil strife, internal
displacement, and crime. But since 1991, there has been almost no international presence
outside of Mogadishu to witness it, other than U.N. and African Union-led peacekeepers.
For any real change to occur in Somalia, an effective non-military presence will be
needed.
Governance has a natural ebb and flow in all countries, and Somalia is no
exception. Establishing it as patient zero for state failure betrays the way in which states
really work. Lifting the label will allow us to arrive at the policy remedies Somalia
actually needs.



35
Kenneth Menkhaus, Somalia: State Collapse and the Threat of Terrorism (Adelphi
Series) (New York: Routledge, 2004), 77.
Detsch 36
X. RECOMMENDATIONS

The task that the international community faces in Somalia is enormous. It is a
costly, dangerous, and complicated foreign policy project with little hope of significant
short-term payoff. The United States and its allies are necessarily limited in their
involvement by the impatient nature of their domestic politics, and the state-based
framework through which they view diplomatic relationships. Achieving progress toward
any semblance of stability through the federal government alone will be impossible. The
question the international community will have to answer in stabilizing Somalia is
delicate: how does it approach sub-state actors, including clans, militias, and
businesspeople that dictate politics in Somalia through the prism of nation-state relations?
Succeeding in the project of state building in Somalia will require more than just
changing the failed state paradigm. The units, tools, and rules that have governed the
international response to Somalia also need to be changed. Continuing to measure
Somalia by disproportionate units of state strength will consistently cause peacekeepers
to misunderstand the project and aim for unrealistic goals. Solely utilizing military tools
as a curative will not allow for the establishment of successful lines of communication
between Somalis and their government. Finally, the United States and other interested
countries need to change their rules of diplomatic conduct to allow for more open
communication with sub-state actors.
Changing the Units of Measurement for State Strength

Detsch 37
Changing the units by which state strength is measured in Somalia will be vital to
the future of the state. Metrics such as The Failed States Index erroneously compare
Somalia against the most developed countries of the world, including Japan, the UK, and
the US, on the basis of Westphalian parameters for success. But Somalia is a place where
the state has not worked. It does not make any sense in policy terms to evaluate Somalia,
a society of nomadic clans and sub-state structures in terms of internal displacement and
government legitimacy.
The long-term solution that emerges in Somalia must be built upon reasonable
expectations for both what the Somalis can tolerate and maintain and what the
international community can reasonably provide. The international community likely
does not have the money or political willpower to invest in a long-term central
governance project. What will likely have to emerge is a federalist structure, based
roughly on clan units.
Certainly, history has shown that any experiment based on partition is a tough pill
to swallow. But in Somalia, partitioned areas have proven reasonably stable. Somaliland
and Puntland, mostly drawn on clan lines, have each seen declining violence since the
end of the Somali Civil War in 1993, proving that the federalist approach can be
successful, despite abject fears of government throughout society. In attempting to
administer the entire country, the federalist approach must be extrapolated to the south.
Federalism is not an attractive solution. It is necessarily piecemeal and
patchwork, and invites uneven development and security conditions. But the margin for
Detsch 38
error in a centrally governed system is much greater, contested at higher stakes, and faces
serious peril. Election violence emanating from experiments with democracy in Iraq and
Afghanistan served to undermine the legitimacy of the entire system. The same mistakes
could set back Somalia even further.
Utilizing Diplomatic Tools of State Building

Any project of nation building is delicate, requiring trained human capital that is
learned in the culture, history, and politics of the study population, and that has the
flexibility to operate throughout the country.
The tools that have been utilized by the international community in state building
operations in Somalia are insufficient to the task. The United States has recently been
committed to a “light-footprint” approach, utilizing Predator drones, flying from nearby
Camp Lemmonier in Djibouti, to fire upon Somali jihadists. The AMISOM peacekeeping
operations, led by Ethiopia, Kenya, and Uganda, working in completely separate units,
also focus almost entirely on eliminating al-Shabaab extremists.
Drones and peacekeeping troops are well suited to counterterrorism operations,
but they are inadequate resources to commit to the task of state building in Somalia. The
misapplication of these forces shows the vaunted interest of the U.S. in a misconceived
notion of preventing Somalia from becoming a terror satellite, and the attempts of the
East African powers to exploit the Somali vacuum to their own advantage. Long-term
stability will require a total change in these attitudes.
Detsch 39
An international diplomatic presence, commencing with the reopening of
embassies in Mogadishu, including the British embassy in 2013, is a useful start. If they
come out from behind the blast walls, diplomats, anthropologists, and human terrain
analysts can succeed in the task of state building. Intelligent, trained risk takers who can
communicate with sub-state actors are needed to enlist in this operation.
The reluctance of the international community to utilize highly trained and
expensive human capital in places like Somalia is understandable: the security risks are
particularly damning. But Somalia, and other state building projects like it, require
seasoned professionals who understand the terrain, the people, and the politics, and who
are able to work around them.
Rethinking Rules of Communication with Sub-State Actors
For state building to be successful in Somalia, the United States and the
international community must retool their diplomatic rules to enable greater
communication with sub-state actors within the law. Fundamentally, the international
community must change the way in which states are recognized to reflect the reality of
Somalia.
Although this would represent a drastic doctrinal change, the U.S. has attempted to
deal with sub-state actors within the parameters of the law before. The Al Anbar
Awakening in Iraq and the TNC in Libya have proven that lines of communication
between American diplomats and their sub-state counterparts can be reasonably fluid.
Talks between the State Department and the Syrian National Coalition, negotiating the
Detsch 40
delivery of non-lethal aid into Syria, are currently ongoing.
To a lesser extent, the U.S. has already tried to adapt its rules to the parameters of
governance in Somalia. USAID‟s “dual track” policy to provide development aid to
Somaliland and Puntland was a fine start, showing that relief could be effective in
reviving infrastructure, government capacity, and supply chains for critical goods, such
as livestock and agriculture.
36
Now, after the expiration of the TFG‟s mandate, this type
of assistance and communication needs to occur on a regularized schedule.
Why Does Somalia Matter?

Why does it matter that Somalia has been mistaken as patient zero for state failure
and why should the international community continue to invest in it? Certainly, the
hands-off approach in Somalia: halting the drones over Mogadishu, and ending aid to the
Somali Government and the African Union Peacekeepers seems more attractive, at face
value, than the alternative.
Letting Somalia fail would betray both the proponents and the opponents of the
state failure model. State failure is not only a failure to explain places where the state
does not work. It is an insufficient answer to the toughest challenge of our age:
integrating the periphery into the core of globalization.
The international community has a chance to create a pillar of lasting regional
stability. Somalia sits at the physical heart of a burgeoning East Africa region, where the

36
“USAID under the Somalia Dual Track Policy,” last modified July 2011,
eastafrica.usaid.gov/.../USAID_under_the_Somalia_Dual_Track_Policy .
Detsch 41
youth-dominated and rapidly urbanizing Uganda, Ethiopia, and Kenya all sit. Stabilizing
it will be critical to ensuring long-term economic growth, limiting security competition,
and integrating the entire region into the rest of the global core. This is not only a
national security imperative, but an economic imperative, and why the state building
project in Somalia must be realized.



































Detsch 42
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