I think it's worth pointing out that this critique is no different than a conservative or right-wing libertarian responding to a criticism of modern state capitalism by snorting, "oh yeah, and how did the Soviet Union turn out, ya Marxist?" It's intellectually dishonest. It's lame. It's -- perhaps most damningly -- just plain unoriginal, returning "About 210,000 results" on Google. And it's a damn weak attempt to hang around the necks of those who would dare imagine a world where people are free to organize and live in communities not subject to the coercive interference of an outside, centralized power, a failed state -- Somalia -- that has been torn apart by decades of Western state intervention...
Back in July I summed up thoughts about Somalia that I've posted in a dozen places previously. Somalia ain't anarchy; the phrase I used was "enforced chaos." It's Caesar in Gaul, it's France in Italy, it's America in Latin America or damn near anywhere else. Pick your precedent.
But... And this is where I'm crass and kneejerkily contrarian. Anarcho-friendlies may well ask themselves how they avert the gangs-and-thugs-and-Mad-Max scenario. It is plain as day that Somalia has suffered from foreign intervention. It is plain as day that it is not an anarchist paradise. It is not plain, however, that anarchy must turn its eyes away from Somalia, as we have nothing to do with that.
Nobody wants to be associated with failure, or atrocity, or bad things. Everybody wants to say that they would never support something that would lead to something bad. Rightists have nothing to do with Hitler. Liberals have nothing to do with Vietnam. Socialists have dodged the Soviet Union how many times, and yet the fact remains that a great many institutional socialists supported Stalin up until it was no longer popular. The fact is that libertarians must face the Chicago School's advice to men like Pinochet. Ayn Rand nuts should figure out where they stand on HUAC. And if that means that anarchists must learn from Somalia, so be it.
Because if you ever fucking impose "a world where people are free to organize and live in communities not subject to the coercive interference of an outside, centralized power," then you must articulate how you avoid local despotism (or acknowledge its possibility and dismiss it as acceptable) or articulate how big, bad, angry neighbors aren't going to come in and fuck your shit up. It's that simple.
Somalia had anarchy. It experienced devolution, secession, and popular institutions take the place of a centralized entity. And yes, it swiftly passed to enforced chaos. Nevertheless, it remains highly relevant for anyone who wants to see the leviathan fall.