While beefing up military support, he also needs to reach out to moderate Islamic militants.
The Horn of Africa is a hotbed of pirates, Islamic radicals, warlords, refugees, and, lately, foreign armies trying to influence this killing field. The epicenter is Somalia, a Muslim land largely in chaos since 1991 and – this is the big worry – a possible nesting ground for Al Qaeda or its allies.
President Obama has taken on this trouble spot directly, as he has Afghanistan. He's beefing up US military aid and training for Somalia's besieged government, which can barely hold onto the capital, Mogadishu. And on Thursday, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton held a high-profile meeting with the country's elected president, Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed.
Mrs. Clinton boldly declared that Al Shabaab, the Islamic militants that are close to toppling Mr. Sharif, sees "Somalia as a future haven for global terrorism." A victory for them – much like the 1996 takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban – might also destabilize nearby countries, such as Kenya. She noted the group's attempt to recruit followers abroad and its alleged plot for an attack in Australia.
Such Bush-like talk and Mr. Obama's expansion of military aid sets down a marker for the US president to rid Somalia of the threat from Al Shabaab and its fellow foreign fighters.