Learning from Somalia: The Lessons of Armed Humanitarian Intervention

Learning from Somalia: The Lessons of Armed Humanitarian Intervention

Learning from Somalia: The Lessons of Armed Humanitarian Intervention

Learning from Somalia: The Lessons of Armed Humanitarian Intervention


"A fascinating account of the interventions written by senior scholars & policymakers who were involved in the decision-making process." International Peacekeeping "Direct, insightful, & well worth reading. This book traces the beginnings of the Somalia crisis to the UN standoff to the inevitable withdrawal. A must-read!" Donald M. Payne Chairman, Congressional Black Caucus; member of the Subcommittee on Africa


The U.S.-led intervention in Somalia that began with an airlift of food supplies in August 1992, soon followed by a substantial multinational military intervention in December 1992, was the most significant instance of "peacemaking" by the international community in the post-Cold War era prior to the deployment of the Implementation Force (IFOR) to Bosnia in early 1996. The heady promises of Operation Restore Hope and the subsequent bitter disappointments had a resounding and generally corrosive impact on the development of effective international policies and implementation plans for armed humanitarian intervention.

Although it may be an exaggeration to say that the fates of Kigali, Port au Prince, and Sarajevo were decided in the streets of Mogadishu, it is certainly the case that Somalia has had an unsettling effect on the policies of individual Western governments and the UN as they try to cope with the urgent, complex humanitarian emergencies around the world. However, it is doubtful whether the lessons so quickly promulgated from the Somalia experience were actually correct. Ironically, there were a variety of positive organizational innovations and operational lessons learned during the Somalia exercise that have not received nearly enough attention. Learning from Somalia is therefore critical if the world is to know how to better respond to the rising number of potential tragedies that now threaten humanity.

The chapters presented in this book represent a variety of perspectives and backgrounds, including those of humanitarian practitioners and academic experts on Somalia. The views expressed in this volume are the authors' and do not necessarily reflect those of the organizations or agencies with which they are affiliated. The authors do not agree on every issue. Indeed, we deliberately solicited different viewpoints so that the debate over what happened in Somalia could be as comprehensive as possible. Only through such debate will better policy emerge.

Funding for this project was provided by the Ford Foundation, the Center of International Studies, and the Woodrow Wilson School of Princeton University. At Ford, Dr. Mahnaz Ispahani and her colleagues were exceptionally helpful in guidance and suggestions to make the book as useful as possible. We are also especially grateful to Professor John Waterbury of Princeton for his support for this project from the start.

Ambassador Robert Gosende, who served as special envoy to Somalia in March through October 1993, provided the initial inspiration for this project and helped . . .

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