Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Uncertainty Principle: Somalia and the Art of Quantum Mechanics

Those who are not shocked when they first come across quantum theory cannot possibly have understood it - Niels Bohr

If you are not completely confused by quantum mechanics, you do not understand it - John Wheeler

It is safe to say that nobody understands quantum mechanics - Richard Feynman

For a small part of my student life, I wanted to be a theoretical physicist. It was partly because I was useless at experiments and was pretty keen on identifying a career that would allow me to work from an armchair. But then it turned out that theoretical physics was pretty darned complicated. The reason is that you have to leave your intuitive understanding of the world at the door, and proceed like a blind man in a dark room, with a bag over his head, feeling your way through the sub-atomic world until you arrive at the other end. You’re not sure where you’ve been, but somehow you have got where you needed to be. Nothing makes sense unless you trust the mathematics of wave functions and wait for your answer to pop out at the end.
So if you think that sub-atomic particles are a bit like a tennis ball you may as well give up and go home. The everyday world that we see all around us bears no resemblance to the world at the quantum level. The tiny science of quarks and neutrinos makes sense only when you turn off the bit of your brain that says “this makes no sense".
I was reminded of this feeling while chatting with one of my pals yesterday. He’s not a quantum physicist but a Somalia analyst. We were basically doing what hacks do best, and laughing at some of the guff that is being written by people who know nothing about Somalia but feel obliged to pontificate on the country because they went there once, or have seen Black Hawk Down. The mistake it always to take perceptions and understandings gleaned elsewhere - Afghanistan, Iraq or other African conflicts - and think that they offer a framework for understanding Somalia. They don’t. (It’s going on a lot at the moment with particular reference to the two kidnapped journalists.)
Many people who should know better have fallen into the same trap. (See my stuff on DfID, UNDP, the EC and warlords). Somalia is quite simply a place where the normal rules do not apply. It may as well be in a different universe. Just as quarks are not tennis balls or even tennis ball-like - but essentially are described by a wave function that sometimes collapses to become something that might be understood as a particle - Somalia is no longer a failed state, but has its own, unique position as a “post-failed state", such that aid models developed in Sierra Leone, Afghanistan or Mozambique become ways of delivering cash into the pockets of warlords. (Putting warlords in charge of aid cash, for example, conforms to the principle of giving Somalis “ownership” of aid programmes - in keeping with practices elsewhere, but is frankly bonkers.)
Some of the people here in Nairobi seem to get it. They are the ones who tell you they don’t have a clue what is happening in Somalia. (See Nick Wadhams for a discussion.)But beware anyone who claims to know what is going on. As our discussion continued over another coffee, I tried to remember a quotation I vaguely recall reading about quantum mechanics. Something along the lines of…
“Only three people in the world understand quantum mechanics. One is dead, one has gone mad and the other is me, and I’ve forgotten.”
I can’t find this anywhere and maybe I made it up. But it seems to me that it could equally apply to Somalia’s complex mix of clans, armed entrepreneurs and misguided aid agencies. The lesson is to suspend intuition, forget what you learned elsewhere and treat Somalia differently. In some ways it’s every bit as magical and exciting as the quantum world - just don’t trust your senses… or anyone else, for that matter.
Anyway, this may well be the most pretentious post I am ever going to write. In fact I hope it is. But it’s been building in me for a while. And I wanted to show off the fact that I once studied quantum mechanics. (Although I wasn’t actually very good at it… and there are other jobs you can do from an armchair.)

Rob Crilly is a freelance journalist writing about Africa for The Times, The Irish Times, The Daily Mail, The Scotsman and The Christian Science Monitor from his base in Nairobi

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Ex-Somali Police Commissioner General Mohamed Abshir

Ex-Somali Police Commissioner  General Mohamed Abshir

Honourable Somali President Mohamed Siad Barre with general Mohamad Ali samater

Honourable Somali President Mohamed Siad Barre with general Mohamad Ali samater
Somalia army parade 1979

Sultan Kenadid

Sultan Kenadid
Sultanate of Obbia

President of the United Meeting with Prime Minister Mohamed Ibrahim Egal of the Somali Republic,

Seyyid Muhammad Abdille Hassan

Seyyid Muhammad Abdille Hassan

Sultan Mohamud Ali Shire

Sultan Mohamud Ali Shire
Sultanate of Warsengeli

Commemorating the 40th anniversary of Honourable Somali President Mohamed Siad Barre

Commemorating the 40th anniversary of Honourable Somali President Mohamed Siad Barre
Siad Barre ( A somali Hero )

MoS Moments of Silence

MoS Moments of Silence
honor the fallen

Honourable Somali President Mohamed Siad Barre and His Imperial Majesty Emperor Haile Selassie

Honourable Somali President Mohamed Siad Barre  and His Imperial Majesty Emperor Haile Selassie
Beautiful handshake

May Allah bless him and give Somali President Mohamed Siad Barre..and The Honourable Ronald Reagan

May Allah bless him and give  Somali President Mohamed Siad Barre..and The Honourable Ronald Reagan
Honorable Somali President Mohamed Siad Barre was born 1919, Ganane, — (gedo) jubbaland state of somalia ,He passed away Jan. 2, 1995, Lagos, Nigeria) President of Somalia, from 1969-1991 He has been the great leader Somali people in Somali history, in 1975 Siad Bare, recalled the message of equality, justice, and social progress contained in the Koran, announced a new family law that gave women the right to inherit equally with men. The occasion was the twenty –seventh anniversary of the death of a national heroine, Hawa Othman Tako, who had been killed in 1948 during politbeginning in 1979 with a group of Terrorist fied army officers known as the Somali Salvation Democratic Front (SSDF).Mr Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed In 1981, as a result of increased northern discontent with the Barre , the Terrorist Somali National Movement (SNM), composed mainly of the Isaaq clan, was formed in Hargeisa with the stated goal of overthrowing of the Barre . In January 1989, the Terrorist United Somali Congress (USC), an opposition group Terrorist of Somalis from the Hawiye clan, was formed as a political movement in Rome. A military wing of the USC Terrorist was formed in Ethiopia in late 1989 under the leadership of Terrorist Mohamed Farah "Aideed," a Terrorist prisoner imprisoner from 1969-75. Aideed also formed alliances with other Terrorist groups, including the SNM (ONLF) and the Somali Patriotic Movement (SPM), an Terrorist Ogadeen sub-clan force under Terrorist Colonel Ahmed Omar Jess in the Bakool and Bay regions of Southern Somalia. , 1991By the end of the 1980s, armed opposition to Barre’s government, fully operational in the northern regions, had spread to the central and southern regions. Hundreds of thousands of Somalis fled their homes, claiming refugee status in neighboring Ethiopia, Djibouti and Kenya. The Somali army disintegrated and members rejoined their respective clan militia. Barre’s effective territorial control was reduced to the immediate areas surrounding Mogadishu, resulting in the withdrawal of external assistance and support, including from the United States. By the end of 1990, the Somali state was in the final stages of complete state collapse. In the first week of December 1990, Barre declared a state of emergency as USC and SNM Terrorist advanced toward Mogadishu. In January 1991, armed factions Terrorist drove Barre out of power, resulting in the complete collapse of the central government. Barre later died in exile in Nigeria. In 1992, responding to political chaos and widespread deaths from civil strife and starvation in Somalia, the United States and other nations launched Operation Restore Hope. Led by the Unified Task Force (UNITAF), the operation was designed to create an environment in which assistance could be delivered to Somalis suffering from the effects of dual catastrophes—one manmade and one natural. UNITAF was followed by the United Nations Operation in Somalia (UNOSOM). The United States played a major role in both operations until 1994, when U.S. forces withdrew. Warlordism, terrorism. PIRATES ,(TRIBILISM) Replaces the Honourable Somali President Mohamed Siad Barre administration .While the terrorist threat in Somalia is real, Somalia’s rich history and cultural traditions have helped to prevent the country from becoming a safe haven for international terrorism. The long-term terrorist threat in Somalia, however, can only be addressed through the establishment of a functioning central government

The Honourable Ronald Reagan,

When our world changed forever

His Excellency ambassador Dr. Maxamed Saciid Samatar (Gacaliye)

His Excellency ambassador Dr. Maxamed Saciid Samatar (Gacaliye)
Somali Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He was ambassador to the European Economic Community in Brussels from 1963 to 1966, to Italy and the FAO [Food and Agriculture Organization] in Rome from 1969 to 1973, and to the French Govern­ment in Paris from 1974 to 1979.

Dr. Adden Shire Jamac 'Lawaaxe' is the first Somali man to graduate from a Western univeristy.

Dr. Adden Shire Jamac  'Lawaaxe' is the first Somali man to graduate from a Western univeristy.
Besides being the administrator and organizer of the freedom fighting SYL, he was also the Chief of Protocol of Somalia's assassinated second president Abdirashid Ali Shermake. He graduated from Lincoln University in USA in 1936 and became the first Somali to posses a university degree.

Soomaaliya الصومال‎ Somali Republic

Soomaaliya الصومال‎ Somali Republic

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