Humanitarian Intervention in Somalia

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Humanitarian Intervention in Somalia

In December of 1992, the United States military landed in Somalia. The Somali civil war caused a famine that claimed the lives of three hundred thousand people and threatened the lives of two million more. As word of these gross human rights violations spread, the media and general public pressured the government into taking action in Somalia. Subsequently, with the United Nations’ consent, twenty-eight thousand soldiers were deployed to put an end to the mass starvation that was taking place. Never before had the UN Security Council sanctioned an intervention without the express permission from the nation in question. Liberalism and Solidarism encourage humanitarian intervention when proper rules are followed, where as Realism does not support the use of force for humanitarian intervention in any circumstance. The ideology behind intervention in Somalia is best explained by Solidarism, however, the sequence of events that took place after US troops landed, exemplifies all that Realists object to in humanitarian intervention.

The steps that the United States and the United Nations took to stop the famine were legitimate. Since Somalia was in a state of chaos and anarchy, the US and UN did not intervene against a nation’s will. Mark R. Amstutz states, “Because all civil authority had broken down in Somalia as a result of war, the Security Council-sanctioned UNITAF provided the necessary legitimacy for the US-led operation to restore order that thereby resume humanitarian relief. However, it is important to emphasize that this UN-sanctioned force was legally unprecedented: it was the first time that the Security Council had authorized intervention in a state without its consent,” (Amstutz 147). Deciding to step in and aid the starving Somalis was a revolutionary event. Solidarist political theory stresses that there are four precautionary principles: the right intention, last resort, proportional means, and reasonable prospects, before humanitarian intervention is justified. The first of these, the right intention was to help the thousands of people who were in dire need of assistance. Jonathan T. Howe asserts, “The only truly compelling reason in December 1992 for the United States to lead a major military intervention, however, was to prevent the death of thousands from starvation,” (Howe 2) According to Solidarist principles of intervention, this is an acceptable reason to intervene. The other benefits that could result were secondary to the aim of relieving the hunger of the Somali people. Nicholas J. Wheeler affirms, “There is no evidence that the USA had any hidden power-political reasons for intervening that contradicted the declared humanitarian purposes of Operation Restore Hope.” (Wheeler 201) This puts a hole in the Realist take on the intervention of Somalia. If there are no major political advantages that would belie the humanitarian objectives for Somalia then the Realists would have to concede that the United States responded in an entirely compassionate manner, which they believe cannot happen. Humanitarian intervention should be used only as a last resort, so says the second principle of Solidarism. Exhausting other options before taking military options is one of the precautionary principles of solidarism. The steps that were taken to prevent the mass starvation of a nation are consistent with Solidarist thoughts on humanitarian intervention. As Jonathon T. Howe explains, Before the United States entered Somalia, other options had been tried and failed. Traditional remedies had been tried, but were insufficient to reverse the mounting tragedy. Humanitarian organizations had made a courageous effort. For more than a year UN negotiators had labored to find a political solution…but alone among nations of the world, the United States had the lift and logistical infrastructure to establish a force rapidly in a remote area in which civil institutions and services were...
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