The US Helped Destroy Modern Somalia



Since the 1990s, no government has been able to control the whole of Somalia’s territory. Lurid news reports about piracy and terrorism obscure the fact that big powers like the US have repeatedly intervened in the country’s affairs and worsened its condition.

Somalis watch US soldiers in their multipurpose vehicles in position at a Mogadishu airport, January, 1992. (Peter Turnley / Corbis / VCG via Getty Images)

Western media coverage has often presented Somalia as the classic example of a failed state. For the past three decades, no government has been able to control its national territory.

But news reports about terrorism and piracy have obscured the fact that Somalia is very much a part of the world system. From the Cold War to the “war on terror,” outside intervention by the world’s most powerful states has played a major role in worsening the Somali crisis.

Elizabeth Schmidt is a professor emeritus of history at Loyola University Maryland. Her most recent book is Foreign Intervention in Africa After the Cold War. This is an edited transcript from Jacobin’s Long Reads podcast. You can listen to the episode here.