BRUSSELS - The world shows no united will to counteract the endemic internal problems that engulf Somalia amid widespread pessimism over the prospects of any peace process in the country. Meanwhile, this inaction is striking compared to the rush by the NATO and the EU to send naval ships to patrol the pirate-infested waters of the nation.
The world has no appetite for dealing with Somalia's chronic insecurity despite rushing naval ships to patrol the pirate-infested waters of the Horn of Africa nation.
Concern is growing in Europe and Africa over the risk to regional stability from the country dubbed "Africa's Iraq," while Washington has long feared a return to power by local Islamist insurgents could make it a haven for al-Qaeda allies.
But the widespread pessimism over the prospects of any peace process, the lingering trauma from disastrous past interventions, and the need to put out fires elsewhere - from Afghanistan to Congo - have snuffed out any real will to act.
"There are no discussions in NATO on dealing with what is the root cause - which is political instability," an alliance spokesman said of an Islamist insurgency against the forces of the internally divided Somali government and Ethiopian allies.
EU, Pentagon silent
A similar silence rings out in the corridors of the United Nations, the European Union and the Pentagon, still haunted by the death of 18 U.S. soldiers in a 1993 battle.
"I don't know of anyone talking about U.S. military intervention in Somalia," said one U.S. defense official. "We're watching it. But the approach has been strictly hands off. We've got enough things going elsewhere." The U.N. Security Council has formally asked Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to step up contingency planning for a peace force to replace the under-resourced 3,000-strong African Union operation and monitor an Aug. 18 peace deal.
But with opposition hard-liners dismissing the accord and the violence raging unabated, a push by South Africa and Italy for such a U.N. mission has been blocked by Britain and the United States, who argue there is simply no peace to keep.
"At least in Congo there was a political process we could latch onto," said one EU official of the bloc's engagements in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2003 and 2006 before the recent bout of violence.
The inaction is striking when compared to the rush by NATO, the EU, India and others to send warships and patrol boats to protect valuable goods from agile and heavily-armed pirates in one of the world's busiest commercial shipping lanes.
The capture of a Saudi tanker with a $100 million cargo of oil has brought renewed world attention. Since it was seized at the weekend, three more ships have been captured and India's navy has destroyed a pirate boat. NATO - which argues that its patrols have been vital to safeguarding World Food Program, or WFP aid shipments to an estimated one million internally displaced Somalis - says it is ready to examine extending its counter-piracy effort next year. That will run alongside a similar EU operation.
But analysts say the scope is minimal for deeper European engagement onshore. "The anti-piracy operation is a first aid operation," said European Policy Council senior analyst Shada Islam. "At the moment the EU does not seem to have the appetite or the tools or the means to take on a massive exercise like that to try to solve the endemic internal problems of Somalia."
The U.N. Security Council has promised to consider a U.N. peace operation "subject to political process and improvement in the security situation" - a position which risks creating a Catch 22 trap of permanent inaction.
Repeated EU declarations have for months stressed backing for the peace drive under U.N. envoy Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah. The bloc is also helping to fund the AU mission and has earmarked 216 million euros of development aid through to 2013.
"Our action is largely palliative at the moment. We could do more if there was a viable political process - which is not the case here," said the EU diplomat.
The U.S. military has in recent years used aircraft to strike al-Qaeda suspects in Somalia.
Yet if Pentagon officials say privately the prospect of American boots on the ground is very unlikely while President George W. Bush remains in office, many desperate Somalis are pinning their hopes on his successor Barack Obama. But with Obama expected to focus more U.S. military and foreign policy clout on solving the Afghanistan conflict, analysts and diplomats warn against expectations of a quick fix from him either.