View Full Version : Lessons from Somalia: The DILEMMA OF Peace Enforcement

12-01-02, 05:54 PM
Title: Lessons from Somalia: The DILEMMA OF Peace Enforcement

Author: Major Robert D. Allen

Thesis: Peace enforcement is a viable peace operation only under the conditions of a superior military command and control structure, well trained and equipped combat forces, and limited objectives.

Discussion: Peace enforcement is a relatively new concept which precariously lies in the gray area between the logic of peace and the logic of war. Despite the lack of well established peace enforcement doctrine, the international community has increasingly turned to peace enforcement as a mode of intervention in its efforts to maintain world peace and security in the post-Cold War environment. As a consequence, this operation is inherently complex, misunderstood, difficult to manage, and often highly contentious.

Both the potential benefits and the devastating pitfalls of this mode of intervention were demonstrated in the Somalia experience. At the risk of oversimplifying two extremely complex operations, the United Task Force (UNITAF) phase is generally credited for saving hundreds of thousands of starving Somalis while the subsequent United Nations Operations in Somalia (UNOSOM II) phase is remembered for warlord hunting and the infamous Mogadishu firefight which led to the termination of the United Nations mission. The differences between these operations and the dilemmas associated with the concept of peace enforcement warrant a candid evaluation so that similar problems can be more effectively managed or circumvented in the future.

Conclusion: Peace enforcement was no panacea to remedy the causes of the Somali conflict. The limited approach taken during the United States-led UNITAF operation provided the best possible alternative to this situation. This operation proved to be remarkably successful in stemming the tide of starvation and serves as a testimony to the fact that peace enforcement is be a viable tool under limited conditions.

During the United Nations led UNOSOM II mission, the enormous gap between the ambitious mandates and the inadequate means provided to accomplish the given objectives reflected the unrealistic expectations that the international community attached to the use of force. This ends, ways, and means mismatch was coupled with inadequate command and control and resulted in inconsistency and confusion. In the end, this combination led to a situation which ultimately backfired with disastrous consequences. Superior leadership, a unified military command structure, well trained and equipped combat troops, and an unambiguous and realistic mission clearly demarcated the difference between UNITAF and UNOSOM II.

Lessons from Somalia:

the DILEMMA OF Peace Enforcement

During the summer of 1992, American military forces were committed to Somalia in an effort to bring a halt to widespread human suffering and starvation. Over the course of the subsequent 27 months, the American mission in Somalia presented United States forces with a multitude of diverse challenges which spanned the spectrum of peace operations. After realizing initial success in establishing security and saving thousands of lives, American servicemen clashed with Somali forces and were subsequently withdrawn in the spring of 1994.[1] This experience provides a sobering glimpse of the dilemmas of peace enforcement operations conducted in the chaos of a country ravaged by famine and clan warfare.

During operations in Somalia, many of the traditional "principles of peacekeeping" were ignored and the distinction between peacekeeping and peace enforcement became blurred. Coupling the failure to adhere to the fundamental tenets of peacekeeping with unrealistic mandates and inadequate command and control resulted in inconsistency, confusion, and ultimately backfired with disastrous consequences. In the end, the United State's experience in Somalia may well have marked a turning point, if not a watershed, in American contributions to peace operations.

The lessons from Somalia concerning the dilemmas associated with peace enforcement warrant a candid evaluation so that similar problems can be more effectively managed or circumvented in the future. In an effort to gain an appreciation for the inherent difficulties associated with this mode of intervention, an examination of the complex dynamics that have shaped the evolving nature of contemporary peace operations is required.

Post-Cold War Optimism

The end of the Cold War sparked optimistic speculation about the future course of international affairs. The new political circumstances seemingly established an environment in which the United Nations could act in a collective security role as originally envisioned by its founders. President George Bush proclaimed the beginning of a new world order which would be marked by the absence of bipolar confrontation and the emergence of increased multilateral cooperation. In keeping with this theme, multilateralism was a central foreign policy tenet in President-elect Bill Clinton's administration as well.[2] In June of 1992, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, published a special report to the UN Security Council entitled An Agenda for Peace. Encouraged by the unprecedented success of collective security experienced during the Persian Gulf War, his aim was to draw up recommendations for strengthening the UN in the field of international peace and security in the new post-Cold War environment. He envisioned an expanded role beyond traditional, consensual peacekeeping to include a more coercive type of activity that has since become known as "peace enforcement."[3]

Writing only a year later, the Secretary-General noted that An Agenda for Peace was already out of date. In Boutros-Ghali's words, "There is now a need to supply new answers to unexpected questions. History is accelerating.... The direction is not entirely clear."[4] The "unexpected questions" he was referring to concerned the ongoing controversies and problems with the UN sponsored peace enforcement efforts that were being played-out in the former Yugoslavia and Somalia. Indeed, as early as the summer of 1993, the early euphoria and optimism about the renewal of the UN and its role in the world had already been seriously dampened. At least in the case of Somalia, the worst was still to come.