Kenya Mall Attack Shows The Dark Truth About U.S. Foreign Policy

Kenya is once again the scene of an Al-Qaeda terrorist plot, but this time, the plot was executed by the Somali Al-Shabab group. The fact that Al-Shabab strikes back at Kenya showcases the loopholes in U.S.'s international security policies towards failed states.

The U.S. pays Somalia little to no attention on its international relations list of priorities, leaving it to grapple with the challenges associated of a failed state. Following the demise of General Mohamed Siyad Barre's regime in 1990, the U.S. launched a brief Somalia operation and subsequently retreated.

It extends political support to the unpopular and ineffectual Transitional Federal Government. To this day, Somali clans have not conceded to a power-sharing agreement, choosing to live in a defunct central state replaced with numerous regional self-governed territories expressing multiple conflicting identities. The failure to deal with this state of anarchy provides fertile soil for terrorist groups, the likes of Al-Shabab, to preach their doctrine, recruit followers, and jeopardize the security of neighboring states: Kenya and Ethiopia.

Though President George W. Bush launched a global war on terror following 9/11, the U.S. failed to remedy the ills inflicting failed states across the globe, let alone Somalia. The U.S. policy of Debaathification ousted Saddam loyalists from state institutions, but left Iraqi police, army, and security institutions in shambles. The resulting power vacuum was quickly filled by countless groups launching suicide attacks on American troupes and killing thousands of Iraqi citizens, not to mention exacerbating the security conditions of an already failing Iraqi state. Add to that the inability of the U.S. and NATO troupes to build robust security institutions to quell terrorist groups in Afghanistan.

The case of failed states pose a threat to global security due to the ability of militant groups to infiltrate the borders of neighboring states. Somalia challenges Kenya, Ethiopia, and Yemen. Iraq and Syria may light the Middle East on fire, the Kurdistan bombings being a case-in-point. Afghanistan and Pakistan's terrorist swamps may pull their states and those of India, Iran, and Central Asian countries in the mud. 

The U.S. should dispense a policy toolbox to overcome security challenges emanating from failed states that extends beyond reconnaissance intelligence gathering and drone strikes on terrorist havens. U.S. policies ought to consider identity and cultural factors or work to engineer unifying identities without being insensitive to clan, tribal and other unique societal structures. They should also encompass an extensive social agenda that motivates people to pursue education, industrial production, global trade and competition, tourism, and religious and ethnic toleration of diverse backgrounds.

The U.S. ought to work with domestic, regional and international parties to execute international security policies towards failed states. Regional bodies such as the Arab League, African Union, and Association of Southeast Asian Nations may provide technical assistance regarding intelligence, border control, and cooperate on shared security concerns. These bodies may also influence their allies to act genuinely and avoid spoiling security conditions, an act which helps build consensus on policies towards failed states. The U.S. could also persuade the veto members of the UN security council to initiate a special UN body that deals with state building and counter-terrorism strategies from a policy perspective.

These out-of-the-box ideas may seem like wishful thinking due to the improbability of their emergence as a topic for serious negotiation anytime soon. But if the international community of states, led by the omnipotent U.S., does not remedy the root causes sparking acts of terrorism, the world will continue to fall prey to these vicious attacks.

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Joe Helou

Joe Helou is a political researcher and analyst. He holds a BA in economics and an MA in international relations. Some of Helou’s research interests include conflict resolution, global governance of energy, international security risk factors, and public policy as well as topics pertaining to the Middle East and Arab Gulf.

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