Ryan K. Rilee
Honors in History:
Humanitarian Intervention in a Dissolute Somalia
Between 1991 and 1995 the United Nations intervened in Somalia, which, lacking a legitimate state system, was ravaged by starvation and violence. The fall of Siad Barre's dictatorial regime in 1991 resulted in a political vacuum in which competing faction leaders was well as rogue warlords and their militias fought for power and the effective control of Somalia. Most of these efforts were at the expense of the Somali people. The international community took notice and the United Nations intervened on behalf of Somalia's civilian population. The UN planned to alleviate the suffering of the starving Somalis, end civil violence, and foster the reconstruction of Somalia's social and political structures. While efforts by the United States and others succeeded in ending mass starvation, attempts at ending violence and initiating reconstruction were considerably less successful. As the international community saw images of its troops engaging and dying in real combat with Somali militias, various national governments, led by the U.S., began to disengage. As a result, the UN's Operation Restore Hope failed and all occupying forces were withdrawn by March of 1995. Many have argued that the failure of the Somalia mission stems from a failure to understand the fundamentals of the Somali clans-based value system. Under this premise, the essay entitled "Humanitarian Intervention in a Dissolute Somalia" attempts to outline various periods in Somalia's social and political histories and examine the international mission in these contexts. The essay concludes with some lessons that can be learned by reevaluating the nature and resolve of the international mission to Somalia.