Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on African Affairs, has been a well-spoken advocate for Somalia for a number of years. Today, he sent a letter to the White House calling for broad, long-term engagement with the volatile East African country.
Senator Feingold commended the president’s leadership on the swift military action that enabled Maersk Alabama captain Richard Phillip’s rescue, but rightly pointed out that piracy in Somalia, "is a symptom of the state collapse and instability on land; thus, any military actions we take will only be stopgap measures."
Feingold linked the decline in piracy in 2006 to the strength of the central government under the Council of Islamic Courts. "Without replicating the repressive rule of the Courts, we must keep in mind that establishing a central governing structure in Somalia is critical to resolving, not just stopping, the problem of piracy," he wrote, adding that strong U.S. support for a new unity government must be a key component of the U.S. strategy currently under review.
In closing, Senator Feingold urged the president to put the current popular interest directed at Somalia to good use.
We have a unique opportunity with the current level of attention to Somalia’s waters to focus on developing a strategic approach that incorporates the broader problems facing Somalia.(…) If we do not take this critical step, we will continue to see Somalia’s historic instability manifest itself in piracy and growing extremism, both of which pose serious security threats in the region and around the globe.
Laura Heaton contributed to this post.