Tag Archives: Somalia

Third Horseman of the Apocalypse

In the Christian Old Testament, seeking food for self and animals is often a part of the stories. Herdsmen like Abraham moved to find better pastures for their flocks. A famine in Israel sent Jacob and his large family fleeing into Egypt. Lack of rain in the time of the prophets led Elijah to a miraculous encounter with a poor widow.

Obviously, areas with less predictable rain, as in much of the Middle East and parts of Africa, are more likely to suffer famine than countries in temperate climates. Sometimes, however, famine is not caused by weather but by conflict.

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, who follow each other in the book of Revelation in the Christian New Testament, are sometimes depicted as conquest, war, famine, and death. The third horseman, famine, is not the result of weather but of conquest and war. It is human caused.

This kind of famine is afflicting millions of people in the countries of South Sudan, Nigeria, Somalia, and Yemen. In Sudan, they flee power struggles, often over oil revenues or ethnic rivalries. In Nigeria, people flee terrorism. Somalia’s looming famine is partly a problem with lack of rain but is increased by struggles with the terrorist group, al-Shabab.

Yemen, a country in the southern part of the Arabian Peninsula, suffers fallout from rivalry between Saudi Arabia and its arch enemy Iran. The two countries are supporting rival factions that are tearing the country apart. Terrorist groups also have made inroads, as they often do in areas of conflict.

Some relief is possible if food shipments can be unloaded in one of the ports. According to reports, Saudi Arabia has so far been unwilling to allow shipments to the people they are fighting.

The United States has supported Saudi Arabia in this struggle. If we are truly a compassionate nation, we will exert as much pressure as possible on Saudi Arabia not to use starvation as a weapon of war. Else, we will be collaborators in the resulting deaths.

When Ignorance Is Not Bliss But Deadly


We fight a war in a country called Afghanistan that few Americans had heard of before the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Probably no more than one in a hundred of us could have identified it on a map.

The war began as an attempt to destroy the group responsible for the 9/ll attacks, though the  group is more often found in other countries now, like Yemen and Somalia—countries as unfamiliar to us as Afghanistan.

Our lack of knowledge of the countries where we fight has proved deadly. The deaths of American and other NATO troops in Afghanistan by their supposed allies, Afghani soldiers, has risen sharply in the past few weeks. Some of the killings were caused by members of the anti-American insurgent group, the Taliban, who sometimes infiltrate Afghani forces.

Observers contend that the Taliban are not the main reason for the killings, however. They suggest that the American-led NATO troops don’t respect Afghani culture. They burn the Quran, they say, disrespect women, and look down on Afghani society, causing them to be resented by the people they supposedly are protecting.

Americans appear to have little interest in countries outside of their own even when their soldiers die there. Tests of American students indicate a lack of knowledge about other countries. The interests of their parents center on news and literature concerning domestic issues. Foreign affairs are rarely mentioned in political campaigns.

Yet thousands of Americans, not to mention Afghani citizens, continue to be killed, wounded, and traumatized because we decided to fight there. What happens outside our national boundaries can lead us to life and death decisions. Shouldn’t we learn about the rest of the world so we can choose wisely?

Living in a Connected World

In this connected world, when Arab revolutions threaten, gas prices in the United States rise because of uncertainty. An actual disruption of oil shipments from the Middle East would cause an even steeper rise in prices.

If the Euro currency collapses, American banks will be affected, and so will American exporters and American jobs.

As China’s middle classes increase, they will demand the same living standards as American middle classes, raising the price for oil and other commodities.

If drought causes famine in Somalia, the possibility grows that militant Islamists will take over the country, with the potential for bases that could foment terrorism elsewhere, including in the United States.

If corruption persists in Middle Eastern countries, the likelihood increases that citizens will bring in governments, either by revolution or election, directed by Islamists. Islamists often have a reputation of concern for the less well off, as well as less susceptibility to corruption. The new governments may or may not be friendly to U.S. interests.

What happens in distant places affects us, yet Americans remain woefully ignorant of other countries and cultures. A 2006 poll of young adult Americans conducted for the National Geographic Education Foundation, for example, found that six in ten respondents couldn’t find Iraq on a map, even though Americans had been fighting in the country since 2003.

Our elected officials make decisions based in large part on the expressed opinions of voters. If those opinions are not well-informed, the decisions probably won’t be, either.