March 2, 2008

Kenyan tribe rages at Hillary

From the NY Post, a comic story that's part of a growing trend that nobody expected even a few years ago: the interpenetration of American and Kenyan politics:

TRIBES RAGE AT HILL

By GEOFF EARLE Post Correspondent

February 29, 2008 -- WASHINGTON - Angry tribal elders in Kenya are calling on Hillary Rodham Clinton to "clear her name" over any involvement in publication of photos of Barack Obama wearing a turban and African garb on a trip to his ancestral homeland.

The leaders are planning a protest in their community today, and are turning up the heat on the US government over the incident. The photos appeared nationwide after they were published earlier this week on the Drudge Report Web site with a report that they had been circulated by Clinton staffers. Obama aides blasted the Clinton campaign for "shameful, offensive fear-mongering." The pictures show Obama wearing traditional Somalian garb on a 2006 visit to the Wajir region of Kenya, where his late father was born.

"The US government must apologize to us as a clan and the old man," Mohamed Ibrahim told Reuters, referring to a highly respected tribal elder who is also shown in the photos. "We have been offended, and we cannot afford to just watch and stay silent." He also said it was essential that Clinton "clear her name." …

"He [Hassan] was the right person to perform any such activity like dressing a visitor like Obama with traditional Somali clothes," Mukhtar Sheik Nur, another leader, told Reuters.

The elders said if they did not get an apology, they would demand the expulsion of US troops based near the town of Garissa in their region.

The serious issue is that we actually do have Marines in Garissa, which is on the road (such as it is) to Somalia, as this 2006 article "The Mystery Mission" details. We've been quietly building up our military presence in Kenya for a number of years to attack people within Somalia. We recently sponsored Ethiopia's invasion of Somalia.

Is all this a good idea or a bad idea? Does what happen in Somalia matter much? Are we likely to get drawn into more pointless tribal conflicts, a la Iraq?

Beats me, but it would be interesting to hear the candidates give their views on it. Obama's thoughts would be particularly interesting, since he has strong ties of blood and emotion to the Luo tribe in Kenya. Presumably, he knows more about American foreign policy in relation to Kenya than to any other country, relatively speaking, so hearing him speak about Kenya in depth would be a good test of his foreign policy instincts overall, which remain murky in general.

Personally, I have a bad feeling about U.S. involvement in Northeastern Africa. Places like Darfur and Somalia strike me as of almost zero strategic interest to us, but they're also the kind of places where we could get in and wallow around for decades. But, I really don't know much about the region.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

There are also Kenyans who want Hillary to win. From Nick Kristoff's recent column in the NY Times, "Obama's Kenyan Roots":

"You might think that all Kenyans would be vigorously supporting Mr. Obama. But Kenya has been fractured along ethnic lines in the last two months, so now Mr. Obama draws frenzied support from the Luo ethnic group of his ancestors, while many members of the rival Kikuyu group fervently support Hillary Rodham Clinton."

- Fred

RKU said...

Well, I and all my friends would give Obama *gigantic* support if he'd just promise to bring a bunch of his Kenyan relatives---and their machetes!---over to DC and have them "clean house" at AEI, TNR, and a bunch of other places...

Go Obama!!!

Anonymous said...

Steve -- the Horn of Africa is not going to be the site of large commitments to US troops. At most it will be like Columbia in "Killing Pablo" or Afghanistan (a Special Forces Hunting Lodge, copyright Michael Yon).

Is it wise to be there? Probably. Turning places like Afghanistan or Somalia over to AQ entirely has not worked out well for us. About 3,000 people could tell you that. So too could the thousands of Kenyans and Tanzanians blown to bits at and around our Embassies in 1998 (the plot was carried out with logistical support from Somalia).

Darfur is of course "ceded" to China which is the regime's protector. So it's unlikely absent President Obama (he wants to intervene there) we will have a presence despite it's abundant oil reserves.

The debacle of Israel's IDF in Lebanon shows what happens to all peacetime armies particularly democratic ones. IDF soldiers went into battle with rifles falling apart, no supplies or water, no covering fire, no real close air support, and so on. Tactics were out of WWI direct assaults into machine guns field of fire. Casualties were appalling and the real reason IDF operations largely stopped. The instinct is to spend as little money as possible on training and instead domestic pork.

Having Spec Ops guys with limited but real heavy infantry/air etc support allows us to cheaply find out what works and doesn't. Which is important because unless somehow human nature magically changed at some point we will find ourselves in a shooting war with a real enemy that can hurt us. Though it's likely the human intel gleaned from cooperation with local military (often the only halfway competent forces and indebted to Americans) is priceless in helping to avoid another 9/11.

Cheap at twice the price!

Obama is of course likely to play the Big Man with the various groups that are supporting him. Blacks, Latinos, Gays, etc. Pork barrel politics are always part of American tradition but he might take it just too far. Particularly since expectations are raised to unrealistic levels.

Note: US military presence in Horn of Africa dates back to Clinton (in Djibuti) post Mogadishu and intermittently to Ike's days. It's a natural choke point for Red Sea traffic and whoever has that area can close down a LOT of oil traffic, just like Hormuz. It's also of course a convenient listening post on Saudi and other area governments.

WIlliam said...

If Obama didn't want pictures of him in tribal garb posted on the internet and in the newspapers then why did he dress up in it? He knew he was gunna run for president someday, and by 2006 he pretty much knew it was just around the corner.

My guess is he may feel he's getting a little TOO closelt identified with African politics, and since when is that a good thing for any American politician not in a minority-majority district?

I don't know about any military action, but my guess is that if Obama wins we can expect to see tens of thousands of more "refugees" from Africa in the US and support for more African foreign aid, nominally at the request of some white pol but with behind-the-scenes support from Obama.

The Kenyans know what they'll get from Obama. Do we?

Argent Paladin said...

I'm confused at what exactly the Hillary campaign needs to apologize for. The photo was not doctored. Obama really did dress like that and get his picture taken. How is publicizing it "offensive" to the Kenyans who were with him? I would think that they would be proud, not offended.

Anonymous said...

evil neocon, is that you?

Zimri said...

Somalia and Yemen between them share access to the Red Sea and Suez. The Indian Ocean / Mediterranean Sea route easily falls under "national interest". Whatever major power is tasked with maintaining that route will also have to keep the surrounding area free of pirates and jihadis. So the heartless realist in me is not bothered about our presence there.

Martin said...

"Anonymous said...

Is it wise to be there? Probably. Turning places like Afghanistan or Somalia over to AQ entirely has not worked out well for us."

No, Evil Neocon, allowing arabs into our country did not work out so well for us. What do you propose to do about that? We can occupy the entire f***ing world, and it won't make a damn bit of difference if we let in anyone and everyone from those self-same occupied countries.

Getting involved in Africa is a disaster in the making. What will we do when our army stands between two rival groups bent on genocide? Stop them - by slaughtering thousands, or help one side against the other, and so become complicit in genocide. Africa won't make things better. Africa has never made anything any better. And that goes for Africans too.

Still, "Black Hawk Down" was a really good movie. Soon, we may get to see the sequels. Maybe even a TV series.

braindead said...

I travelled by motorbike from South Africa to Europe in 1994, through the only road in Kenya which goes north, pretty close to the Somali border. That road was in an abysmal state; obviously nobody has fixed it since the British left. Back then you had to travel in convoys together with an army truck. I doubt the soldiers were much good, compared to the South African Defence Force guys (I'd just finished military service so I had an idea), but obviously northern Kenya had been destabilised by Somali gangs. However the impression was it was more about poaching and stealing than Al Qaeda. So if the US is there to prevent poaching and stealing they better get a 500 million man army organised to patrol ALL of Africa. Maybe that’s what Obama’s Africa fund is for?

braindead said...

"IDF soldiers went into battle with rifles falling apart, no supplies or water, no covering fire, no real close air support, and so on. "

Well, unless I'm going senile, I recall the massive artillery barrages of anything south of Beirut weeks ahead of soldiers going in. Basically everything was flattened. Then later they even shot cluster bombs into the place, something which apparently is not so ethical in a civilian infrastructure. As for Beirut, the Hizb. hangout was literally obliterated. The real problem for the IDF was that their supposedly invincible Markava tanks and APC’s were being shot up by cheap and more modern but still outdated Russian RPG’s, basically questioning the role of tanks in their strategy. I think behind the scene there was a serious amount of disbelief how not-even-state-of-the-art Russian RPG’s had trashed their invincible tank force and by extension their doctrine. It’s also a financial disaster: for 1 or 2 cheap RPG’s you lose a tank worth millions. Currently there is a serious amount of research in Germany going into dealing with this problem because these RPG’s and their more modern counterparts have made tank warfare a risky and very expensive proposition and nobody likes to lose multi-million EURO Leopard tanks to a few RPG’s which cost perhaps 5000 USD.

Nah, I guess the IDF got some serious resistance for the first time since the initial Egyptian attack in 1973, and being blasé about their superiority were not prepared for it. No use trying to deconstruct it.

simon newman said...

I doubt an RPG-7 can penetrate the front armour on a Markava, but in an urban area you can hit the tank from above or to the rear. And a big IED from below will disable any tank. Tanks are good for deserts & plains, not for cities.

braindead said...

simon newman:

Sorry, but the IDF seems to think it was a big deal:
http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/112828

And b.t.w, the model which was used in that war by Hezb. was RPG29, not RPG7. In addition to "Metis M", RPG29 seems a problem even for modern western tanks (Centurian, Abrams, Merkava, Leopard).

simon newman said...

braindead - from linked story:
"During the war, 47 tanks were hit by rockets and two were destroyed by roadside bombs, resulting in the deaths of 33"

33 deaths from 49 hits, it's clearly still giving some protection! :) Isn't the Merkava a sort of MBT-APC cross, carrying a squad of soldiers? As such it's clearly still a lot better than a regular APC at protecting the lives of the men inside.

simon newman said...

braindead:
"RPG29 seems a problem even for modern western tanks (Centurian"

You mean Challenger not Centurion, right?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Centurion_tank

Buckaroo said...

Somalia and Yemen between them share access to the Red Sea and Suez.
Hey, you forgot the other local powers: Djibouti and Eritrea ! Clearly the ragtag hellholes in the region are in a position to blockade the Bab-el-Mandeb at will. Which is why they are extracting such high taxes for passage and just laugh at the US 6th Fleet's divebombers that could pulverize their speedboat "navies" in roughly 5 minutes.

The Indian Ocean / Mediterranean Sea route easily falls under "national interest".
I'm sure it falls under some countries' national interest but it's probably not the US. Virtually no trade to/from the US passes through the Red Sea. Of course Europe may be a different issue but I would guess that you wouldn't automatically classify France's problems as ours, n'est-ce pas?

Whatever major power is tasked with maintaining that route will also have to keep the surrounding area free of pirates and jihadis.
I must be even more out of the loop than I thought. Who does this "tasking" you speak of? Is it the UN? The Trilateral Comission? Did the US draw the short straw again on this one?

So the heartless realist in me is not bothered about our presence there.
Will he also cheerfully support us wiping out some civilians as we try to put down the inevitable insurgencies against our presence? Or will he prefer that our guys take extra casualties so as not to offend the tender sensibilities of the "international community"?

Martin said...

"Zimri said...

So the heartless realist in me is not bothered about our presence there."

The heartless realist in you is not there, dodging bullets. He's here, surfing the web. It's a lot easier to be heartless, when you're in little danger of becoming headless.