Re-Envisioning Peacekeeping: The United Nations and the Mobilization of Ideology

By François Debrix | Go to book overview

3
From a Hopeless Situation to Operation
Restore Hope, and Beyond: Suture,
Ideology, and Simulation in Somalia

REALITY-FILM-IDEOLOGY

Somalia was a John Ford—not an Oliver Stone—movie. —SIDNEY BLUMENTHAL, “WHY ARE WE IN Somalia?”

With cameras switched on in nose cones, a high-tech machinery of war had been launched into the emptiness of the sky, heading toward a land without people, in search of a cartoon version of evil. —TOM ENGLEHARDT, THE END OF VICTORY CULTURE

The United Nations intervention in Somalia from January 1992 to April 1995 offers itself to us as a movie. Reading Somalia as a cinematographic fiction is not only made possible by the explosion of visual media that this post–cold war intervention triggered. 1 It is also influenced by the actors themselves, the level of reality at which their actions take place, and the staged scenarios that they try to follow. In fact, Somalia is one of the first locations where the United Nations has actually been given the opportunity to demonstrate its acting talents. Reinvested by George Bush's post–Gulf War vision of a New World Order, the United Nations has been given in Somalia a chance to perform as an undisputable “international actor, ” as a symbolic and legitimate power to be reckoned with as the century draws to an end. In Somalia, the UN's task is not simply to mobilize strategies of visual surveillance and panopticism (as was the case in North Korea and Iraq). It is rather to show the international community that

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