Somalia and the future of humanitarian intervention
Authors: Clarke, Walter; Herbst, Jeffrey
Start Page: 70
The American-led operation in Somalia that begin when US Marines hit the
Mogadishu beaches in December 1992 continues to profoundly affect the debate
over humanitarian intervention. The task now is to reevaluate the mission
in the harsh light of the facts, separate and acknowledge the errors unique
to the Somalia mission, and distill some guiding principles for other would-be
interveners. Somalia, as more are now recognizing, was not an abject failure.
The US initiated an operation that helped save an estimated 100,000 or
more lives. However, the operation's end did not come close to being desirable.
Tragically, troops of the US and other countries, who had gone to Somalia
with the best of intentions to help save fellow human beings, lost their
lives. To do better, Americans and others need a much clearer idea of
what humanitarian intervention entails and how they are realistically going
to achieve their goals. Achieving international agreement on the appropriate
methods and force structures to accomplish meaningful humanitarian intervention
will be difficult, but the payoff could save countless lives.
Copyright Council on Foreign Relations Mar/Apr 1996
LEARNING THE RIGHT LESSONS
THE AMERICAN-LED operation in Somalia that began when U.S. Marines hit
the Mogadishu beaches in December 1992 continues to profoundly affect the
debate over humanitarian intervention. The Clinton administration's refusal
to respond to the genocide in Rwanda that began in April 1994 was due in
part to its retreat from Somalia, announced after the deaths of 18 U.S.
Army Rangers on October 3-4, 1993. In Bosnia, U.N. peacekeepers under fire
from or taken prisoner by Serb forces over the last two years were expected
to turn the other cheek for fear of "crossing the Mogadishu line."
This expression, reportedly coined by Lieutenant General Sir Michael Rose,
former commander of the United Nations Protection Force in Bosnia (UNPROFOR),
describes the need to maintain neutrality in the face of all provocation
for fear of becoming an unwilling participant in a civil war. In recent
months, the design of the U.N. Implementation Force in Bosnia has been
shaped by what was purportedly learned in Somalia.
The doctrines of both the United States and the United Nations were also
clearly affected. President Clinton issued a policy directive in April
1994, shortly after U.S. forces left Somalia, that implied a sharp curtailment
of American involvement in future armed humanitarian interventions and
that marked a retreat from his administration's earlier rhetoric of assertive
multilateralism. Similarly, in the 1995 (second) edition of An Agenda for
Peace, the fundamental policy document on U.N. peacekeeping, Secretary-General
Boutros BoutrosGhali expressed less optimism about the possibilities for
intervention than he did in the 1992 (first) edition, largely because of
the United Nations' searing experience in Somalia. Continuing efforts by
congressmen to cut or restrict U.S. contributions to U.N. peacekeeping
are also a direct response to the perceived failures in Somalia.
While Somalia should be an important precedent for international intervention
in the post-Cold War world, it is not clear the right lessons have been
learned. Much of the received wisdom on the intervention is based on patent
falsehoods hurriedly transmitted during the press of events. Moreover,
some individuals and governments have reinterpreted the Somalia intervention
to protect their reputations and interests.
The task now is to reevaluate the mission in the harsh light of the facts,
separate and acknowledge the errors unique to the Somalia mission, and
distill some guiding principles for other would-be intervenors. This much
is manifest: no massive intervention in a failed state-even one for humanitarian
purposes-can be assuredly short by plan, politically neutral in execution,
or wisely parsimonious in providing "nation-building" development aid.
Nations do not descend into anarchy overnight, so intervenors should expect
neither the reconciliation of combatants nor the reconstruction of civil
societies and national economies to be swift. There is an inescapable reciprocity
between civil and military goals. Military commanders cannot expect a failed
state to become inherently peaceful and stable and their efforts to be
worthwhile in the long run without the work of developmental and civil
affairs experts. Likewise, humanitarian workers must recognize that the
relief goods they handle in failed states can become the currency of warlords.
THE NATURE OF THE MISSION
THE MOST common charge about the Somalia intervention is that the mission
changed. The general argument is that the extremely limited U.S.-led intervention
initiated by President Bush to feed Somalis in December 1992, the Unified
Task Force (UNITAF), was a success, but the operation began to founder
when the second U.N. Operation in Somalia (UNOSOM II) took over in May
1993 and expanded the mission to include the rebuilding of basic state
institutions-"nation-building." Former Assistant Secretary of State for
African Affairs Chester Crocker, for example, argues that the Security
Council adopted a "sweepingly ambitious new 'nation-building' resolution"
in March 1993 that marked a major break between the U.S. and U.N. missions
in Somalia. The New York Times echoed many editorial pages when it lamented
that "the nature of the mission changed dramatically in June , right
after Washington turned control over to the U.N." Many commentators now
call for a strict division between humanitarian interventions and nation-building,
largely because of this interpretation of the Somalia case and the belief
that the United Nations tried to take on more than it could control. Richard
Haass, a special assistant for national security affairs to President Bush,
distinguishes between humanitarian interventions, which are intent on "providing
protection and other basic needs," and much more complex endeavors, such
as nation-building, which envision "recasting the institutions of the society."
He suggests that the Somalia mission widened to include nationbuilding
because "policymakers got ambitious.""
The reasons for the rhetorical emphasis on the supposed mission expansion
are complex. Certainly the televised and published images of U.S. troops
fighting hostile Somalis and pursuing General Mohamed Farah Aideed in August
1993 were jarring to Americans who a few months before had seen pictures
of their soldiers providing food to grateful, emaciated people. The Rangers'
disastrous firefight in October prompted many both within the Clinton administration
and those outside who had applauded Bush's decision to intervene to distance
themselves from the tragedy by blaming the United Nations.
President Clinton, when meeting with families of the dead Rangers, said,
somewhat implausibly, that he was surprised the United Nations was still
pursuing General Aideed.2 Those willing to recognize that the intervention
saved thousands of lives have generally focused on the alleged mission
change as a way to salvage some good from a seemingly devastating foray
into a foreign morass. Bureaucratic turf battles have also come to the
fore. The U.S. Marines are associated with the apparently clean UNITAF
intervention, the U.S. Army with the murky and ill-fated UNOSOM II operation,
in which it was the leading military unit. Those contrasting images of
efficacy and defeat have affected the debate on roles and missions sparked
by the current defense cutbacks.
The truth about the mission and how much it changed is much more complicated.
It is not true, as some have charged and the president has implied, that
U.S. troops, including the Quick Reaction Force and the Rangers involved
in the fatal firefight, were under U.N. command. Those soldiers were outside
the formal U.N. command structure. The Rangers were commanded by Major
General William Garrison, a U.S. Special Forces officer who reported directly
to U.S. Central Command at MacDill Air Force Base in Florida. The searches
for Aideed, including the one that led to the Ranger casualties, were all
approved by senior American authorities in Washington.
When U.S. officials in Somalia gave formal control to the United Nations
on May 4, 1993, they had already determined the nature of the follow-on
operation. Admiral Jonathan Howe, who had been the deputy national security
adviser in the Bush administration, was named the secretary-general's special
representative to Somalia and took charge of the operation. The allegation
that the United Nations greatly broadened the mission the United States
had outlined is simply not true. In fact, all the major Security Council
resolutions on Somalia, including the "nation-building" resolution, were
written by U.S. officials, mainly in the Pentagon, and handed to the United
Nations as faits accomplis. Only after the October 1993 firefight did the
United States try to wash its hands of an operation that it had started
and almost entirely directed. As one international civil servant said,
the United Nations was "seduced and then abandoned" by the United States.
The distinction between humanitarian intervention and nationbuilding that
is central to so many critiques of the Somalia operation and intervention
is problematic. The implication of those who support only humanitarian
intervention is that Somalis were starving because of an act of nature.
But the famine that gripped Somalia in 1992 resulted from the degeneration
of the country's political system and economy. Andrew Natsios, who was
the assistant administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development
during the Somalia relief operations, has noted that food imported for
the relief effort became a prized plunder of merchants, unemployed workers,
and gangs of young men. Militia leaders used stolen food aid to amass wealth
for purchasing weapons and keeping followers loyal. "Merchants would actually
request the local militia or bands of thieves to steal more food as their
stocks diminished each day," according to Natsios. The country's entire
political and economic systems essentially revolved around plundered food.
When U.S. troops intervened in December 1992 to stop the theft of food,
they disrupted the political economy and stepped deep into the muck of
Somali politics. By reestablishing some order, the U.S. operation inevitably
affected the direction of Somali politics and became nation-building because
the most basic component of nation-building is an end to anarchy. The current
conventional wisdom that draws distinctions between different types of
intervention and stresses the desire to avoid nation-building may be analytically
attractive, but it is not particularly helpful. How could anyone believe
that landing 30,000 troops in a country was anything but a gross interference
in its politics? The Mogadishu line was crossed as soon as troops were
MUCH OF WHAT went wrong in the Somalia operations can be traced to the
schizophrenia of the Bush and Clinton administrations when confronted with
the fact that any intervention would deeply involve the United States in
Somali politics. Bush at times recognized that reality. Those who claim
that the United Nations changed the Somalia mission should remember his
December 1992 announcement: Our mission is humanitarian, but we will not
tolerate armed gangs ripping off their own people, condemning them to death
General [William] Hoar and his troops have the authority to take whatever
military action is necessary to safeguard the lives of our troops and the
lives of Somalia's people . . . the outlaw elements in Somalia must understand
this is serious business."(3)
His administration, however, disregarded the implications of its intervention.
Bush wanted to get the troops out quickly, perhaps by Clintori s inauguration
the next month. Also, General Colin Powell and his doctrine advocating
overwhelming force and limited objectives so dominated both administrations
that no other vision of the Somali operation could be enunciated.
It is not the case that the United States intervened adroitly in a limited
humanitarian mission only to have the United Nations bungle because it
chose to do nation-building. Rather, the two missions differed fundamentally.
American leaders, in trying to get in and out of Somalia as quickly as
possible, simply postponed the problems that logically followed from the
intervention. The United Nations was left to confront those ramifications
and inevitably found the going rough. It had to address the reordering
of Somali society because no one, especially the United States, would have
been happy if Somalia's strifetorn status quo quickly reappeared.
The American refusal to face up to the consequences of its intervention
was especially damaging to the critical issue of disarmament. Roughly 30,000
in number when they arrived, U.S. troops had more power than anyone and
therefore the greatest capability to disarm the belligerent forces. However,
U.S. officials told the Somali warlords that they could keep their weapons
if they moved the arms out of Mogadishu or into their respective cantonments.
The failure to disarm the warlords was a tragic mistake because a concentrated
effort to remove and destroy the Somalis' heavy arms was possible and would
have sent an early and strong message that the United States and United
Nations were serious about restoring order. Many Somalis fully expected
to be disarmed and were surprised at the inaction of the U.S.-led intervention
force. Ironically, all the Somali factions subsequently agreed to disarm
themselves in the Addis Ababa accords of March 1993. The United States
could have argued that, as an impartial force, it was helping to enforce
an accord among Somalis themselves.
The warlords, always acutely sensitive to the correlation of forces, quickly
realized that their power would not be challenged. They could wait until
the United States and its allies left and then challenge the U.N. force,
which would have fewer arms and a more delicate command and control structure.
Thus it is a mistake to say the UnitedStates succeeded with UNITAF; to
the contrary, U.S. forces made it clear that they would not challenge the
warlords and would stay so briefly that the Somalis had no interest in
hindering their departure.
As the United States drew down its forces, Washington began to appreciate
the need for disarmament. In a speech on August 27, 1993, Secretary of
Defense Les Aspin acknowledged that disarmament of the clans was necessary.4
By then, UNITAF was long gone, and the 20,000 personnel comprising UNOSOM
II had been either shattered by Aideed's attacks or sidelined for political
reasons. The only serious war-fighting forces in Somalia were the i,200-member
Quick Response Force, composed of elite soldiers from the U.S. Army's loth
Mountain Division and several hundred Rangers, who began to arrive on the
day of Aspin's speech. These lightly armed and highly specialized units
were inappropriate for disarmament. However, continuing the American inability
to match means with ends, Aspin denied U.S. force commander Major General
Thomas Montgomery's request for tanks in case the Rangers got bogged down
in their search for Aideed. The administration feared congressional opposition
to the request for increased U.S. firepower.
The asymmetry between U.S. forces and the operation's goals reached its
height after the fatal Ranger clash, when President Clinton finally sent
the military equipment, notably gunships and tanks, that U.S. commanders
had been denied. Under heavy congressional pressure, however, the administration
instructed U.S. forces to adopt a purely defensive posture, end the hunt
for Aideed, and hunker down until the March 31,1994, deadline that President
Clinton had set for American withdrawal. The United Nations was left high
and dry to pursue sharply limited aspects of the nation-building program
designed by the U.S. government 15 months earlier.
American ambivalence toward the intervention manifested itself in other
ways too. The initial plans for Operation Restore Hope--the name Bush administration
officials gave to UNITA--included the activation of eight to ten reserve
military civil-affairs units (about 250-300 personnel) to work with local
governments in Somalia, particularly on rebuilding the police and judiciary.
However, the Joint Chiefs of Staff opposed the idea because the operation
was supposed to last only six weeks. In the end, only three dozen civil-affairs
specialists were sent to Somalia during the UNITAF operation. By contrast,
1,000 civil-affairs specialists were committed to Kuwait City in i after
the Iraqis had been expelled. The United States devoted money and attention
to rebuilding the Somali police force only after the Rangers' battle, but
by then it was too late.
Similarly, there was essentially no development aid or expertise available
during the Somalia operations beyond that for hunger relief.
One senior disaster relief specialist concluded that in Somalia there was
no connection between relief and development.5 Disaster relief specialists
wrote an economic recovery program for Somalia--a task well outside their
expertise because no one else was available. Given that so much of the
economy revolved around the plunder of food aid, the failure to develop
a plan to restore the economy to normal was a grievous error and emblematic
of the mission's failure to address anything beyond exigencies.
The international community should discard the illusion that one can intervene
in a country beset by widespread civil violence without affecting domestic
politics and without including a nation-building component. Attention must
be devoted to rebuilding the institutions whose collapse helped bring on
disaster. Stopping a man-made famine means rebuilding political institutions
to create order. No intervention in a troubled state such as Somalia can
succeed in a few weeks. Unless development aid and external assistance
address the long-term political and economic implications of an intervention,
it is doomed.
These conclusions have implications for force structure. In the U.S. military,
only three percent of civil-affairs officers are on active duty; the remainder
are in the reserves. Military authorities have difficulty calling up these
units because they tend to be comprised of lawyers, small-town mayors,
police officers, and others who cannot be repeatedly activated without
disruption. A larger active-duty civilaffairs contingent would help a military
force engaged in a humanitarian intervention.
WORKING WITH THE WARLORDS
A CRITICAL issue in any intervention is how to promote reconciliation and
negotiate with the armed principals. The challenge is particularly difficult
because promoting long-term reconciliation may mean empowering the unarmed,
while short-term exigencies will require reaching a modus operandi with
the warring factions. This problem has been expressed, somewhat simplistically,
as facilitating reconciliation from either the bottom up or the top down.
Actual reconciliation is always more complex, involving settling of local
disputes that can boil up to the national level and brokering agreements
between major combatants to stop fomenting civil unrest.
In Somalia there was no clear vision of how reconciliation should proceed.
The United States initially saw its mission as short and limited to opening
supply lines so that it would not have to become involved in Somali politics.
Nor did the United Nations have a clear road map for reconciliation. The
short-range objectives of the U.S. involvement meant that it was very difficult
to take many credible steps to promote reconciliation. The expectation
was that the combatants, after years of fighting a civil war, could somehow
resolve their differences in a few months. Given such circumstances, it
was inevitable that groups without large stocks of weaponry would be leery
of collaborating openly and quickly with the United Nations to rebuild
local government institutions.
Both the United States and the United Nations sought to stay neutral. For
the United States, Lebanon--where its role quicklyevolved from mediator
to fighter, ultimately with dire results-obviously was an important influence.
For the United Nations, the precept of neutrality had been a hallmark of
its peacekeeping activities for decades. Instead of remaining neutral,
however, the United States and United Nations ended up enhancing the roles
and status of the warlords. U.S. rules of engagement in Somalia forbade
any interference in Somali-on-Somali violence, despite President Bush's
rhetoric in defining the mission. Most important, the failure to disarm
the major combatants meant that the United Nations in effect sided with
those who had the most weapons, leaving the weak and defenseless to abandon
The intervening forces failed to recognize which Somalis had been victims.
Collapsed states like Somalia are often pictured as reverting to a Hobbesian
state of nature, a battle of all versus all. Much of what appears to be
incomprehensible warfare in Somalia is a struggle for land between the
African farmers in the south and the northern, clan-based nomadic groups,
which are better armed. Most of the victims in Somalia were members of
the Bantu and Benadir clans, sedentary coastal groups who traditionally
live in uneasy coexistence with neighboring ethnic Somali groups, and the
Rahanweyn clan, who work the rich agricultural land in the Jubba and Shabeelle
river valleys in the south and which is the weakest militarily.
The illusion that traditional peacekeeping methods emphasizing neutrality
and impartiality were adequate to handle state failure in Somalia was finally
swept aside when Aideed's forces ambushed a group of Pakistani soldiers
on June 5, ing 24. A bounty was soon put on Aideed's head by Admiral Howe,
and U.S. soldiers, who were meant only to be a backup in the event U.N.
forces ran afoul of the warlord's militias, undertook the increasingly
violent operations to catch him, resulting in the October 3-4 firefight.
In retrospect, it is easy to claim that the hunt for Aideed was a mistake.
But the question was thorny: how should a duly mandated international force
respond to an attack? The precepts of neutrality and noninterference in
internal affairs-usually employed in peacekeeping operations in which the
United Nations arrived after the fighting is over and no one has an incentive
to target the U.N. blue helmets-were of little use. Furthermore, U.S. and
U.N. officials faced the practical consideration that, around the world,
thousands of peacekeepers were in vulnerable situations.
Failure to act against a direct attack in Somalia, the Clinton administration
felt, would put these forces in jeopardy. Finally, U.S. and U.N. decision-makers
recognized that, given Somali culture, a forceful response was needed to
stave off additional attacks.
Given the self imposed limits of the operation, the hunt for Aideed certainly
contradicted U.S. and U.N. policy: why pursue Aideed if the international
force was unwilling to dilute the power of the warlords over the long run?
Even with the threat Aideed posed, would his capture cause Somali society
to instantly reconstruct itself? U.S. and U.N. officials in Mogadishu were
not guilty of expanding the initial mission. They were guilty of not persuading
their leaders that the mission had been so sharply curtailed at the outset
that any later action to alter the balance of power in Somalia would meet
violent resistance. A policy that allowed unarmed Somalis to emerge as
political players and changed the Somali power balance should have been
in effect from the start.
Somalia took years to reach its nadir; it is reasonable to suggest that
it might take years for a fundamental reconstruction. Unfortunately, the
international community lacks the tools to address the long-term political
reconstruction of a country that has no government. The United Nations
since 1945 has basically been a decolonization machine: its primary purpose
has been to proclaim as quickly as possible that every newly independent
country is able to govern itself. The idea that Somalia was not able to
rule itself now or for a long time--went so deeply against the organizational
grain of the United Nations that an approach incorporating long-term reconstruction
was never considered.
For instance, although it was obvious when American troops hit the Somali
beaches that the country was essentially being taken over, no one seriously
considered trusteeship or any similar legal approach; the fiction that
Somalia was still a sovereign state was perpetuated. The United States
and the United Nations had to pretend that Somalia could resume self government
quickly and that pretense almost automatically led them to cooperate explicitly
and implicitly with the warlords.
THE UNITED NATIONS, in taking over the Somalia operation in 1993, clearly
did not have the resources or the ability to do the job the United States
drew up. The errors that compounded the problem have been chronicled: the
United Nations was slow in making appointments, it did not appoint very
qualified people, its decision-making process was often cumbersome (especially
compared with the U.S. Marines), and it made some extremely poor decisions,
as when it delayed helping recreate the Somali police force because it
preferred to have a government in place first.
While some errors like these can and should be quickly fixed within current
U.N. structures; others cannot. There was a widespread expectation that
the end of the Cold War would finally enable the United Nations, after
decades of gridlock induced by superpower vetoes, to assume the full mantle
of peace activities envisaged by its founders. Somalia is the most obvious
case to date of the world organization taking on new duties to build the
new world order. However, the United Nations' capabilities have changed
little in response to these new challenges. Much of the blame can be lodged
with the U.N. bureaucracy, which must be reformed. However, the United
Nations' major donors must also take responsibility for failing to provide
the financial and intellectual leadership needed to accomplish these new
Given the current attitude in Congress toward the United Nations, the world's
powers may not be willing to revitalize the organization to usher in the
new world order that President Bush articulated a few years ago. But the
implications of such a course must be made clear.
As the idea that all the new postcolonial countries can sustain durable
state institutions is exposed as a myth, there will be more Somalias. By
not strengthening the United Nations, the world the United States in particularis
explicitly deciding to tolerate more of the suffering and starvation that
moved President Bush and other Americans to act in 1992. Not to admit that
the alternative to stronger and better-suited international institutions
is the starvation and suffering of millions of people is dishonest. Such
future tolerance of disorder was previewed in Rwanda in April 1994, when
the world, paralyzed by the Somalia debacle, did nothing as the Hutu government
slaughtered upward of half a million Tutsis.
THE FUTURE OF INTERVENTION
GIVEN THE isolationist currents in Congress, it may seem a strange time
to speculate about the future of intervention. However, the pendulum is
bound to swing back as the American public and its leaders show little
appetite for the kind of future described above. Opinion polls consistently
suggest that peacekeeping operations have more support than is commonly
acknowledged in Congress. Also, other countries may intervene (as France
did in Rwanda) from time to time to promote humanitarian objectives.
Three lessons can be drawn from the Somalia experience. First, future intervenors
must understand that there is no such thing as a humanitarian surgical
strike. Although the United States knew that Somali warlords were diverting
massive amounts of food, it did not acknowledge that its intervention would
thrust it deep into Somali politics. To be successful, the United States
will have to discard the fiction that a large military force can or should
be apolitical when it is supporting internationally agreed-upon political
goals. The American idea that Somalia's problems would be fixed in a few
weeks was so at odds even with President Bush's description of the problem
that it was obvious from the beginning that there was no will to see a
solution through. Time estimates for interventions must be adjusted.
This lesson, unfortunately, was not absorbed during the planning for the
operations in Bosnia. Secretary of Defense William Perry recently proposed
a firm deadline of one year for the duration of the mission, presumably
to assuage concerns about getting American troops into a deadly quagmire.
Such a deadline is counterproductive because there is no guarantee that
the political and humanitarian goals can be achieved in a year. Deadlines
only let warlords know how much time they have to prepare for the next
round of ethnic cleansing and related atrocities.
The Somalia experience suggests that Secretary Perry's stated strategy
of sending in a large force that would be drawn down quickly is a mistake,
even though such a strategy might buy some short-term domestic political
support. .his schedule does not address the humanitarian needs on the ground,
whose pace of resolution cannot be controlled by Washington, New York,
or Brussels. Force deployment schedules should be flexible and realistically
applied to the operation's political goals. Reconciliation in the Balkans
will take more than a year. The size and nature of the force should reflect
the stages of the peace process and the level of threat on the ground.
The current description of mission goals in Bosnia by administration leaders
would seemingly prevent humanitarian relief or resettlement of refugees
by the multinational force because these tasks are deemed nation-building.
Yet those activities, which will be handled by international agencies and
private voluntary organizations, must be protected by force. The experiences
of Somalia and the three other major U.S. post-Gulf War interventions (northern
Iraq, Rwanda, and Haiti) demonstrate that at the outset of military operations
humanitarian agencies are exposed to security risks. Responses to urgent
requests by relief agencies for logistical support cannot be cited as evidence
of "mission creep," as was sometimes charged in Somalia, especially when
such requests are predictable and probably intrinsic to mission success.
Other political activities (e.g., assisting in the resettlement of refugees,
protecting emergency food distribution, and securing medical treatment
points) that the U.N. Implementation Force will undoubtedly have to undertake
to meet the humanitarian goals of the mission should not be criticized
as nation-building but supported as precisely those tasks that required
and justified a heavily armed force to be sent in the first place.
Defining a failed state is a second area that needs work. There is understandable
reluctance to proclaim trusteeships, given the term's association with
colonialism. A new term is needed to express the idea that a state's fundamental
institutions have so deteriorated that it needs long-term external help,
not to institutionalize foreign control but to create stronger domestic
institutions capable of self government. The development of an international
political equivalent to American bankruptcy law is not merely an arcane
task for international lawyers. A clear procedure for handling a failed
state and determining that state's relationship to the international community
is essential if the mistakes of the Somalia intervention are not to be
Third, the proper intervention forces must be developed. There has been
much talk about the formation of a U.N. army that could intervene in troubled
areas, but little action. The long-term prospects for such a force remain
unclear. Peacemaking operations call for commanders with skills in politics,
war-fighting, and the complex interaction between the two. The Somalia
experience suggests that any force from one country or a group of countries-must
have units trained in executing complex political-military operations.
Civilaffairs officers did important work in Kuwait City and Port-au-Prince,
and they could have done so in Mogadishu, as Australian units did in parts
of western Somalia. Such a force would have to include units devoted to
psychological operations and intelligence. Few militaries other than America's
have such units, which are necessary to interact with the local population
and promote reconciliation.
SOMALIA, AS more and more are now recognizing, was not an abject failure.
The United States initiated an operation that helped save an estimated
l00,000 or more lives. That accomplishment stands out starkly amid the
general apathy with which the world has greeted the major humanitarian
crises of the 199os. However, the operation's end did not come close to
being desirable. Tragically, troops of the United States and other countries,
who had gone to Somalia with the best of intentions to help save fellow
human beings, lost their lives. Achieving positive results in Somalia would
have been exceptionally difficult under the best of circumstances. However,
the UNOSOM II mission was doomed from the outset because the United States
set the United Nations up for failure by refusing to confront the important
tasks that could have been accomplished only by a highly trained force
at the beginning of the operation. This arduous mission brought many critical
U.N. administrative weaknesses to the surface, and the U.N. forces were
unable to recover from the precipitous American withdrawal. To do better,
Americans and others need a much clearer idea of what humanitarian intervention
entails and how they are realistically going to achieve their goals. Achieving
international agreement on the appropriate methods and force structures
to accomplish meaningful humanitarian intervention will be difficult, but
the payoff could save countless lives.
l Richard Haass, "Military Force: A User's Guide," Foreign Policy, Fall
1994, pp. 26-27. 2"Ill-fated Raid Surprised, Angered Clinton," The Buffalo
News, May 13,1994, p.6
3 George Bush, "Humanitarian Mission to Somalia: Address to the Nation,
Washington, DC, December 4, 1992," U. S. Department of State Dispatch,
vol. 3, no. 49, December 7, 1992.
4 Les Aspin, "Remarks Prepared for Delivery by Secretary of Defense Les
Aspin at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Washington,
DC, August 27,1993," News Release, Washington: Office of the Secretary
of Defense, p. 5.
5 Charles Petrie, "The Price of Failure," paper presented at the conference,
"Learning from Operation Restore Hope: Somalia Revisited," Princeton University,
April 21-22, 1995, p.10.
WALTER CLARKE was Deputy Chief of Mission, U.S. Embassy, Somalia, during
Operation Restore Hope and is now an independent consultant on military
affairs. JEFFREY HERBST is Associate Professor, Woodrow Wilson School,
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