To What Extent Was the Media Responsible for America’s Foreign Policy in Somalia During the 1990’s?

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  • Topic: United Nations, Somalia, United Nations Security Council
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To What extent was the Media responsible for America’s foreign Policy in Somalia during the 1990’s?

Since the end of the Cold War, the relationship between the U.S. government and the media has become increasingly significant. Coupled with the number of humanitarian interventions during the 1990’s, it begs the question, how far is the media responsible for the creation of U.S. foreign policy? Somalia, a nation wracked by civil war and famine, stirred the United Nations particularly the U.S. into action, but how far was the media responsible? It is argued that the CNN effect played a substantial role in U.S. foreign policy, as it was displaying graphic images and news stories of the crisis to the U.S. public, creating uproar over the situation, and a demand to ‘do something now’. Combined with the media’s ability to frame the news into a positive or negative light, this demonstrates the power the media has over public opinion. This in turn created pressure on the policy-makers of the U.S. and the United Nations to act, which is demonstrated in Operation Continue Hope, and UNOSOM (United Nations Operation in Somalia)I and II. However, it is also argued that the collapse of the USSR, and the attempt to create a New World Order was a deciding factor in the U.S.’s foreign policy. Without the constraints of competing ideologies and the USSR in the United Nations Security Council, the U.S. wanted to develop a world foreign policy based upon cooperation, economic development and humanitarian intervention for those in need. With the U.S. as the remaining great Superpower, it was considered their duty to take the lead and show the world how it is done – hence the foreign policy concerning Somalia. It is in my judgment that the media played a substantial part in affecting U.S. foreign policy, due to the effect it had upon the U.S. citizens, and their outcry for immediate action. However, the media is not solely responsible for the actions of the U.S., as other factors like the New World Order played its part too, which I shall demonstrate throughout this essay.

The previous government, the Somali Democratic Republic, under the leadership of Major General Mohamed Siad Barre, posed the question of who would succeed the ailing leader, who had been seriously injured in a car accident. This, and the lessening of its strategic importance in the final years of the Cold War, and the reduction of Soviet support, opened up in Somalia an opportunity for rebellion. The government was becoming increasingly totalitarian, performing human atrocities against resistance movements who wanted freedom from the military dictatorship. This eventually led to the outbreak of civil war, the toppling of Barre’s regime, and a power vacuum, with various warlords vying for control. When increasing reports of human atrocities, and starving citizens reached the international community, with food prices rising by 800-1200%, President Bush, and the United Nations Security Council passed a unanimous resolution in December 1992, to deploy peacekeeping forces, and humanitarian relief to Somalia, aimed at stabilizing the situation, with ‘all necessary means to guarantee the delivery of humanitarian aid in accordance to Chapter VII of the United Nations charter. The U.S. led United Nation forces initially met with success in providing aid to the nation, however, in 1995; United Nations peacekeepers were forced to withdraw after public opinion turned as a result of significant peacekeeper casualties, and its failure to capture General Mohamed Farah Aidid, the major warlord figure in the country. I shall now argue how the media held great responsibility for the U.S.’s foreign policy in Somalia during the 1990’s, due to the CNN effect. Since the end of the Cold War, the increasing willingness of Western governments to intervene militarily during humanitarian crises, coupled with significant levels of Western media attention to the...
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