Somalia and US Peacekeeping

The desire for an organization that would help the international community “avoid future conflicts” and the recognized need for a global body that would “promote international economic and social cooperation” led the powerful states emerging from the rubble of WWII to develop the United Nations. The newly formed United Nations “represented an expression of hope for the possibilities of a new global security arrangement and for fostering the social and economic conditions necessary for peace to prevail” (Mingst and Karns 2). The need for mutual cooperation amongst the states following the second of the global wars was vital to the reconstruction of war-torn Europe, and for the development of a new world order. This attempt at cooperation was not the first of its kind. According to Mingst and Karns, “The UN’s Charter built on lessons learned from the failed League of Nations created at the end of World War I and earlier experiments with international unions, conference diplomacy, and dispute settlements mechanisms” (2). Despite this “experience” in mutual cooperation, the founding states still faced many problems in the security arena due to the advent of the Cold War.

In order to effectively deal with security issues facing the UN, the Security Council turned to “peace-

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keeping” as an alternative to armed aggression. According to the United Nations Department of Public Information, “Peacekeeping was pioneered and developed by the United Nations as one of the means for maintaining international peace and security” (1998), and the UN deals with particular problems through “the prevention, containment, and moderation of hostilities between or within states through the use of multinational forces of soldiers, police, and civilians” (Mingst and Karns 3). This was a very different approach to quelling conflicts that had never before been practiced. Peacekeeping was “a creative response to the breakdown of great-power unity and the spread of East-West tensions to regional conflicts” (Mingst and Karns 3). Before the Committee on Foreign Relations of the United States Senate, John R. Bolton, Senior Vice President of the American Enterprise Institute, stated further reasoning for the evolution of peacekeeping. He notes:

‘Traditional’ U.N. peacekeeping evolved when it became clear that the broad intentions of the Framers of the U.N. Charter were rendered largely meaningless by the onset of the Cold War. U.N. involvement in international crises, far from being the central dispute-resolution mechanism envisioned by the Framers in Chapters VI and VII, became episodic and incidental to the main global confrontation between East and West.

Since “Cold War tensions have subsided, peace has been threatened by resurgent ethnic and nationalist conflicts in

many regions. As a result, U.N. peacekeeping operations have grown rapidly in number and complexity in recent years. While 13 operations were established in the first forty years of U.N. peacekeeping, 28 new operations have been launched since 1988” (UNDPI 1998). The following map shows the many regions of the world in which the United Nations has become involved in a peacekeeping mission:

Due in part because of the extraordinarily limited dimensions within which U.N. peacekeeping was feasible, a clear set of principles evolved to describe the elements necessary for successful U.N. operations. These rules would become the standard from which future U.N. peace-keeping missions would be drawn.

The first criterion for a U.N. peacekeeping mission was consent. According to Bolton, “All of the relevant parties to a dispute had to agree to the participation of U.N. peacekeepers in monitoring, observing or policing a truce, cease fire, or disengagement of combatants” (2000). This agreement must not only grant the U.N. the right to intervene in the state’s internal affairs, but also detail the “scope of its mission and the operational requirements for carrying out that mission” (Bolton 2000). A nation-state, at any time, could withdraw its consent at which point the U.N. forces would withdraw. One example of revoking consent occurred in “May, 1967, when Egypt insisted on the withdrawal of the U.N. Expeditionary Force (established after the Suez Canal Crisis of 1956) from its territory along the border with Israel” (Bolton 2000). U.N. forces were forced to leave, and as a result, the Six Day War followed.

A second requirement was the notion that the U.N. forces would not take sides in the conflict. Bolton states that

…U.N. peacekeepers were [to be] neutral [amongst] the parties to the conflict, not favoring one or another of them. It was understood to be elemental that the United Nations could not ‘take sides’ in a conflict without itself becoming involved in the very situation it was trying to stabilize or resolve (2000).

Remaining neutral, however, would prove to be difficult as we will witness further along in this work. To ensure the U.N. forces neutrality, the peacekeepers were “almost always only lightly armed, or unarmed, and they frequently depended on the cooperation of the parties to a dispute for logistical support or cooperation” (Bolton 2000). Lacking the appropriate offensive capabilities would deter possible outbreaks of aggression on the part of the peacekeeping forces. According to Mingst and Karns, “Peacekeepers use military force only as a last resort and in self-defense. This precedent was a response to the difficulties encountered in the Congo in 1961 when the Security Council authorized the United Nations Operation in the Congo (UNOC) to use force to prevent civil war and to remove foreign mercenaries in that country. The use of force – even limited force – is fraught with political and legal controversy” (79). As a result of the limited military

capabilities, the U.N. peacekeepers “had no right of enforcement, and their missions were deliberately non-coercive, not intended to compel any party to accept a particular settlement. U.N. rules of engagement, through long-established practice, provided for the use of force essentially only in self-defense” (Bolton 2000).

The use of force by a U.N. force would be questioned in future peacekeeping endeavors. U.N. involvement in Somalia would prove to be one such example of the problems experienced by the occupying forces. Somalia has been described as the textbook example of a “collapsed” or “failed” state. Throughout the period of intervention, those involved in “restoring hope” – from the military and civilian sides – no doubt understood too little about the sources of state dissolution and the respective roles of the Somali clan system, colonialism, and Cold War geopolitics in the horn of Africa.

Prior to British and Italian colonialism, “there was no common Somali identity or centralized control over the territory of what became Somalia. Although more homogeneous than other countries in Africa – with a common ethnicity, language, culture, and religion (Islam) – Somalia’s geographical area was occupied by nomadic

pastoral groups, organized predominately by paternal kinship” (Weiss 71). The continually moving population made establishing a centralized governmental body difficult and there was no recognition of a “hierarchical system”. This lack of a controlling body led to conflict among the indigenous peoples. Thomas G. Weiss states that conflict was “common among lineages, especially in competition for land and resources necessary for survival. But there were conflict resolution mechanisms within the lineages, known as the ‘xeer,’ which prevented the escalation of conflicts by inhibiting the excessive economic stratification in society” (71+). He goes on to say that, “The spread of Islam modified conflict management by adding a mild form of the Shari’ah Islamic Law. Acts of vengeance were diminished through the concept of the ‘dia,’ or the payment of ‘blood money’ compensation to the victim by the violator” (Weiss 72). Despite the lack of a governing body to enforce laws, social institutions were there to control behavior.

While the basis of organization was direct lineage, groups were also structured by subclans and then clan families, each predominantly associated with sometimes overlapping geographical areas. The six overarching major

clan families are the Darod, Digil, Dir, Hawiye, Issaq, and Rahanwein. Traditionally, lineages continually created and shifted alliances among other groups and subclans.

The end of colonialism in 1960 further shifted alliances amongst the clans. The transition from a lineage/clan based society to a centralized state authority posed new problems for the independent Somali government. However, governmental attempts to rid the political environment of clan-influence failed when an army coup in 1969 placed Mohammed Siad Barre in power. Thomas G. Weiss explains the result of Barre’s rise to power. He says,

Rhetorically, Barre’s policy of ‘scientific socialism’ aimed to eliminate ‘clanism,’ but the end result of his twenty-two-year rule was strengthening of clan-based politics. He forbade the use of clan names; however, his primary method of obtaining and maintaining power was to draw support from his own clan and those linked by lineage and to pit other clans against one another. Virginia Lung has described this policy as a form of ‘clan clientelism,’ in which arms, money, and land were distributed to clans in order to maintain his power (73).

Thus, the clan-based system was not eliminated; it was reinforced.

The late 1980’s saw the steady decline in Barre’s power. “The combination of food crises, economic collapse, and the end of Cold War competition in the horn, along with the resulting decline in foreign aid, began to erode Barre’s base” (Weiss 75). Further, the rise of clan-based national movements and their success in challenging Barre’s

rule led to the multiplication of clan based factions. “Spurred by the fear that one group’s assumption of power would be detrimental to another’s own position,” says Weiss, “clan-based opposition led to extreme fragmentation of Somali society” (75). In the end, Barre’s own policy backfired on him. By 1990, his power base was limited to only one clan – the Marehan.

In 1991 and 1992 “civil order in Somalia totally collapsed as warring clans seized control of parts of the country” (Mingst and Karns 92). The fighting that followed, with clans and subclans constituted in loose alliances without central control, took place at a time of serious drought. That combination proved disastrous for the population at large. By 1992, “almost 4.5 million people, more than half the total number in the country, were threatened with starvation, severe malnutrition and related diseases” (UNDPI 1997). According to Mingst and Karns, “Widespread famine and chaos accompanied the fighting, forcing hundreds of thousands of civilians to the brink of starvation. Control of food was a vital political resource for the Somali warlords and a currency to pay the mercenary gangs who formed their militias” (92). At this time, “most government, NGO, and U.N. humanitarian

organizations evacuated staff and suspended programs” (Weiss 78). A handful of organizations, however, remained and attempted to counteract overwhelming human suffering. In mid-1992, “in response to the increased media coverage, the number Of NGOs dramatically increased temporarily, eventually numbering around fifty” (Weiss 79). However, as Lt. General Manfred Eisele illustrates in his report to the United Nations following the Somalia crisis it was hard to make progress without military intervention. He says:

The descent into anarchy, with the concomitant lack of security, was the main reason why a large-scale and well-coordinated relief operation could not be mounted in Somalia in 1992. Although notable results were achieved on the humanitarian relief front, including the advocacy work of NGOs, the mass feeding kitchens operated by the International Committee of the Red Cross and the opening of Mogadishu port the World Food Programme, far too little was achieved too late and the lives of countless Somalis, mainly women and young children, were lost. Thus, adequate security arrangements [were] imperative to safeguard the humanitarian space needed for successful relief operations.

At this point, “international pressure [was] building for the secretary-general and the Security Council to intervene in Somalia in an effort to end months of factional fighting” (San Diego Union-Tribune 1992). However, some members appeared reluctant to become deeply involved in what they saw as an increasingly dangerous and chaotic situation. Further, there was also “widespread reluctance among Security Council members to suggest any peacekeeping role for the United Nations when the Somali factions were

still fighting one another and bands of armed irregulars roam the country” (San Diego Union-Tribune 1992).

However, in April 1992, the U.N. decided to intervene. Established to monitor the cease-fire in Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia, and to provide protection and security for United Nations personnel, equipment and supplies at the seaports and airports in Mogadishu and escort deliveries of humanitarian supplies from there to distribution centers in the city and its immediate environs, the United Nations Operation in Somalia (UNOSOM) began. 500 Pakistani troops were deployed in August 1992. However, by November 1992, “1,000 Somalis [were] dying every day and three-fourths of Somalia’s children under age five [were] already dead” (Mingst and Karns 92). The secretary-general of the U.N. felt that “more forceful measures” were needed.

In December 1992, the U.N. authorized “a large U.S.-led military-humanitarian intervention – Unified Task Force (UNITAF) – to secure ports and airfields, protect relief shipments and workers, and assist humanitarian relief efforts” (Mingst and Karns 92+). Also on UNITAF’s agenda were the imposition of a ceasefire, and the disarmament of the various factions. In 1993, however, UNITAF was

replaced by UNISOM II after few results in peacekeeping were achieved. UNISOM II differed from previous attempts at intervention in that it was authorized to use force when disarming the factions. Similarly, the faction leaders were now targets for elimination by the intervention forces. This converted the U.N.’s role from neutral peacekeeper to active belligerent, putting UNISOM “in the worst of all possible worlds which past peacekeepers had scrupulously avoided…[and] made it one of the players in the conflict” (Mingst and Karns 93).

As the U.S. military pursued a more active role in thwarting the factions, they experienced casualties. On October 3, 1994, 18 soldiers were killed and 78 wounded during a rescue attempt. The American public was outraged by the massacre, and did not legitimize the sacrifice made by the American soldiers nor the current role of its military abroad. U.S. troops were withdrawn from Somalia in March 1995. When the last of the U.N. troops were withdrawn, the ultimate result of the military help and humanitarian delivery was unclear. It was a “non-event,” wrote Gerard Prunier, and “life went on pretty much the same way as it had gone on during the late UNISOM II period” (Weiss 95). Three years and some $4 billion had

left the warring parties better armed, rested, and posed to resume civil war.

The Somalia crisis can be analyzed by examining the relationship between the IO, namely the U.N., and the nation-state, Somalia. As we have seen, IO’s do not prevent wars from happening. They can not prevent them because they do not have the power to do so. Only the nation-state can prevent the war. In order to understand this better, we must look at this through the Westphalian System v. Grotian Law perspective. The Westphalian system, based on the Treaty of Westphalia of 1648, is one that contends that the nation-state has the right to territorial self-determination. Essentially, the people within their territory decide want they want, and no other nation can intervene in their internal affairs. The Somali warlords believed that they had the right to determine what was best for them within their country’s boundaries. Thus, they rejected the U.N. presence in their homeland. Grotian Law, however, contends that nation-states must work together in order to achieve common interests, and that cooperation is paramount. The U.N. adopted this role when it felt it needed to intercede on Somalia’s behalf in order to alleviate global concerns for the suffering people in

Somalia. This is when the two schools of thought are unable to reach decisions, and problems arise. The IO does not have the authority to force the nation-state to comply with global concerns. As we have seen in Somalia, the U.N. forces were unable to make great progress in establishing peace.

Another pattern observed in the Somalia issue is Rhetoric v. Actual Behavior. Many times, a nation-state will sign treaties and then perform actions completely opposite of this. In this case, the Somali warlords signed countless ceasefires with envoys to allow humanitarian relief efforts to gain access to the needy people. However, the fighting never seemed to end despite the promised calm.

Somalia and U.N. Peacekeeping Forces: Who Has the Right?

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Widespread drought in Somalia brought relief efforts into the country. Starvation and disease are rampant. The collapse of the political framework led to civil war amongst the various factions. The relief efforts were being targeted by the Somali warlords and the Somali president petitions the U.N. for help. U.N. peacekeeping forces are sent in to protect humanitarian relief workers and to ensure that the food stuffs are being delivered.

I. UNISOM I (United Nations Operations in Somalia)

— comprised mainly of 500 Pakistani soldiers, lightly armed

— after little is gained by UNISOM I, the U.N. secretary-general calls for more coercive action.

— a large U.S.-led military-humanitarian intervention, known as “Operation Restore Hope”

— UNITAF was largely successful in achieving its humanitarian objectives, supplying food to those who need it and imposing de facto ceasefire in areas of deployment

— could not, however, fulfill the larger tasks of peacemaking. The US withdraws from Somalia and was replaced by UNISOM II

— a larger and more heavily armed force than a traditional peacekeeping contingent but smaller than UNITAF and lacking much of the heavy equipment and airpower brought by the US.

Result: UN forces have succeeded in relieving much of the starvation but not in helping the Somalis to reestablish a national government or to end their internal strife.

1. Westphalian System v. Grotian Law

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