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Unformatted text preview: Carnegie Council Case Study Series on Ethics and International Affairs: #18 The Problems of Doing Good: Somalia as a Case Study in Humanitarian Intervention Alberto R. Coll Copyright @1997; Carnegie Council on Ethics and International Affairs. Further copies of this case and information about the project and other case studies in the series may be obtained from Matthew Mattern, Program Officer, Education and Studies, Carnegie Council on Ethics and International Affairs, 170 East 64th Street, New York NY 1002}. Telephone: (212) 838—4120; fax: (212) 752—2432; e-mail: [email protected] Carnegie Council Case Study Series on Ethics and International Affairs This case study is one ofa series commissioned and produced by the Carnegie Council on Ethics and International Affairs. Underwritten in part by grants from the U.S. Institute of Peace and the Dillon Fund, these cases highlight the dilemmas ofmoral choice that are an inevitable part ofdecision making in international affairs. The purpose of this series is to clarify the ethical dimensions ofthe conduct and content offoreign policy. Each case puts forward a set offacts within the framework of making explicit the relevant, and often competing, moral claims. The “Teaching Notes” section located in the back offers a number ofsuggestions for organizing discussion. This project is part ofthe Council’s ongoing Education and Studies programs, dedicated to generating scholarship in the field ofethics and international affairs and making it available for educators, policy practitioners, and community leaders. All of these cases encourage interdisciplinary, jargon-free analysis: elements of history, politics, and philosophy all come into play. They illustrate that ethics and international affairs need not and should not be left to “specialists.” Neither professional philosophers, nor anthropologists, nor political theorists have any special purchase on the field. It is the hope of the Council that these cases will clarify the role ofmoral reasoning in the decision making process, and strengthen the common human values that hold together the international system and make international relations possible. To the extent that they make citizens and statesmen more aware of this dimension as well as more articulate and discriminate as moral thinkers, these cases should be useful to all students of international affairs. he concept ofhumanitarian intervention has an ancient and noble lineage in the history of international relations. It refers to the forceful intervention in the domestic affairs of a state by another state or group of states for the purpose of stopping outrageous human rights abuses and alleviating human suffering. Medieval legal theorists such as St. Thomas Aquinas, and later international law thinkers in the sixteenth and seventeenth centu— ries such as Vitoria and Grotius, agreed that a prince’s right to rule undisturbed over his people could be superseded in cases where he committed egregious injustices or was incapable ofmaintaining basic justice, order, and human well—being as a result of natural calamities or his own moral or intellectual turpitude. In those cases, foreign princes had an obligation to intervene, by force if necessary, to uphold the basic rights of those being abused and to alleviate human suffering. This obligation was based on the idea of the common humanity ofall peoples in which the entire world was a single human community ruled by basic standards of natural law and justice. The n0tion of humanitarian intervention fell in disfavor in the eighteenth century as international law became progressively dominated by the notion of state sovereignty. In the conception ofinternational law that first became prevalent in the eighteenth century and has continued down to our own time, states are seen as autonomous units with the right to exercise complete sovereignty over the people within their boundaries. Under this system, states were no longer obligated to intervene in another state to protect basic human rights. The only kind of The Problems of Doing Good: Somalia As a Case Study in Humanitarian Intervention Alberto R. Coll humanitarian intervention recognized by this view of international law was in situations in which the state intervening was doing so to protect the lives and safety of its own citizens living in another state. Throughout the nineteenth century a number of European powers carried out a few of these interven- tions, invariably against less technologically advanced states outside European society, such as the Ottoman empire and China. As late as the 19705, while the governments of Uganda and Cambodia engaged in wholesale slaugh— ter and genocide that cost several million lives, the international community refused to sanction a hu— manitarian intervention on behalf of the peoples of either country. The suggestions by critics such as Senator George McGovern that the United Nations mount an effort to stop the atrocities of the Pol Pot regime in Cambodia met with little enthusiasm either in the United States or anywhere else. Third World countries were particularly suspicious of the idea, which they saw as a Trojan horse for new forms of Western imperialism and paternalism in the develv oping world. Eventually, Tanzania invaded Uganda and Vietnam intervened in Cambodia, thereby oust— ing ldi Amin and Pol Pot respectively and putting an end to the mass killings. But in spite ofeach coun- try’s claims that it had staged a humanitarian inter— vention—~and in spite of the worldwide relief that at last someone had done something—the international community refused to sanction the incidents, seeing them instead as self-interested actions by Tanzania and Vietnam rather than as humanitarian interven— tions benevolently aimed at protecting human rights and ending widespread suffering. Case Studies in lit/airs and International Aflirs In early 1991, with the end of the Cold War, the growth of fresh hopes for a rebirth in the United Nations’ fortunes, and the successful conclusion of the Persian GulfWar, the classical notion ofhuman— itarian intervention underwent a dramatic revival. The first major case came in the aftermath of the GulfWar, when the United States, Great Britain, and France, with the authorization of the United Nations, carried out a humanitarian intervention in Northern Iraq on behalf of the Kurds. The large Kurdish minority in Iraq has long sought its own independent state, or at least a substantial degree of autonomy, neither of which the Iraqi government has ever accepted. When Saddam Hussein’s armies were defeated by the allied coalition in the Persian Gulf War of 1991, the Kurds grasped at what seemed an ideal opportunity to rise up in arms and achieve their dream ofstatehood. They were to be bitterly disappointed. Saddam had salvaged enough of his military forces from the wreckage of Desert Storm to mount a savage counter—attack against the Kurdish rebels. As the Iraqi offensive intensified in its ferocity, the Western powers, however belatedly. finally stepped in and established a prorected zone from which all Iraqi military forces were barred, and within which the United Nations was able to carry out extensive emergency reliefactivities to assist the beleaguered Kurdish population. Since Hussein had used chemical weapons against the Kurds during a similar rebellion in the 19805, killing tens of thou— sands, it is not difficult to estimate that the al— lied/UN intervention of I991 saved tens of thou— sands oflives at very low cost to the participants. The Kurdish intervention was hailed as a harbin— ger of future humanitarian interventions. Interest— ingly, a survey of the major international law and foreign policy journals throughout the 19705 and 805 reveals little discussion on the subject ofhumani- tarian intervention, and whenever the subject was addressed, it was usually treated by academics and policymakers with the greatest skepticism as to its morality or practical relevance in a system ofsover— eign states. Beginning in 1991, however, a massive sea change took place. Scholars and practitioners alike began to admit that the end of the Cold War had created opportunities for international action of a much wider scope and of greater intrusiveness across increasingly permeable national boundaries. National sovereignty was no longer considered as rigid an obstacle, or as great a moral value, as before. Today the international consensus-«which is not shared by a number of non—Western states such as China—seems to be that humanitarian intervention is legitimate as long as it meets several criteria. First, it must be sanctioned by the United Nations. Second, the purpose must be truly humanitarian: there must be a large number oflives at risk, or the human rights abuses in question need to be truly egregious. (Both ofthese are issues obviously subject to conflicting interpretations in specific cases.) Third, the intervention should be no more intrusive and last no longer than necessary for the interna— tional community to accomplish its humanitarian objeCtives. Somalia and the Bush Administration On December 4, 1992, President George Bush, recently defeated in his reelection bid by Arkansas governor Bill Clinton, announced his decision to send over 20,000 U.S. troops to Somalia. The purpose of this military force was to insure that the large amounts of food being donated to the Somali people by the international community would reach their intended beneficiaries. There was widespread fear among international relieforganizations and the United Nations that large numbers ofSomalis were on the verge ofstarving to death. The country was wracked by civil war, and the various rival groups struggling for power were keeping much of the international aid from reaching its final destination points. Unless military force was used to reopen seaports, roads, and the main airport at Mogadishu, and to convoy the food supplies throughout the country, the famine would take a devastating toll. #18: The Problems ofDoing Good: Somalia A5 a Case Study in Humanitarian Intervention The American contingent, assisted by much smaller forces from other countries, would be under the command ofa senior US. military officer and would operate in support of ongoing relief efforts by the United Nations and a number of nongovernmental international humanitarian organizations (NGOs). The president’s decision to use American military force for such a seemingly worthwhile objective was widely applauded around the world and within the United States. Thus began Operation Restore Hope. The president’s decision to send American troops to Somalia was surprising to those who in the previous two years had urged the administration, in vain as it turned out, to intervene in places ofgreater national interest to the United States than Somalia. In the spring of 1991, for example, Saddam Hussein, then staggering from the destruction of most ofhis army in Operation Desert Storm, had begun to massacre thousands of rebellious Shi’is and Kurds. In spite of repeated pleas for help, the United States did not move against Saddam for several weeks. When it finally did so, it limited its intervention to the imposition ofa ban on Iraqi military aircraft in Southern Iraq and the establishment ofa protCCted zone in the northwestern Kurdish region of Iraq. A few months later, war in the former Yugoslavia broke out, and the United States refused to inter— vene. By late spring of 1992, with all of Europe concerned about the Serbian military onslaught againsr Croatia and the Muslim regions of Bosnia— Herzegovina, and despite such disringuished critics as Margaret Thatcher and former secretary of state George Schultz urging vigorous American political and military efforts to end the conflict before it further damaged the fabric of European stability, the Bush administration took the position that this was a crisis beyond the capacity of American power to resolve at a reasonable cost, and that it was up to the Europeans to take the lead in resolving it. In the summer and fall ofthat year, Democratic presiden— tial nominee Bill Clinton highlighted George Bush's inaction as illustrative of the president’s alleged passivity and moral insensitivity. Why, then, did President Bush decide to intervene in Somalia? In the days of the Cold War, Somalia had been of some importance to the United States because ofits geographical position astride the Horn ofAfrica. As the Soviets consolidated their hold over Ethiopia in the late 19705, their relationship with Somali dictator Siad Barre deteriorated. In 1977, much to the United States’ elation, Barre expelled all Soviet advisers, and in 1980 he offered the US. Navy use of the port of Berbera in exchange for American arms and financial aid, Washington received another indirect benefit. Barre continued to support the Eritrean secessionist guerrillas in Ethio— pia, which were creating serious difficulties for the Soviet—supported Ethiopian regime. Barre was overthrown in January of 1991 at the same time the Cold War ended. For a short time, Somalia seemed to disappear from the map ofAmer— ica’s strategic interests. The country became en— gulfed in a bloody civil war as different factions struggled to gain control. By late 1991, the civil war had begun to seriously disrupt the country’s food production. Over a million Somalis became dis— placed from their homes and famine began to spread. By early 1992 conditions had become so serious that the United Nations, along with a hosr of international nongovernmental organizations, was carrying out a massive famine relief effort. In the United States, newspapers and the Cable News Network (CNN) were carrying daily stories showing dramatic photographs of Starving children with bloated bellies and emaciated bodies. By the sum— met, the dead count had passed the 200,000 mark and was still rising.l On August 15, shortly before the Republican National Convention, President Bush, then trailing Bill Clinton in the polls by a wide margin, decided to step up American support for the famine relief efforts of the United Nations and various other international charitable organizations. The United Case Studies in Ethics and International Aflni'rs States would increase the amount of food it was donating and would provide different kinds of technical and logistical support to insure the food was widely distributed once it reached Somalia. The new American measures, however, turned out to be insufficient to stop the famine. The key problem was Somalia’s political and military chaos. Central governmental authority had ceased to exist. The country had broken up into a series of fiefdoms controlled by rival warlords. Getting food shipments to various parts of the country required massive bribes to secure the permis— sion of the roving militias and armed groups in control of those territories through which the food had to pass. In many cases the warlords outright obstructed the food shipments, trying to seize the food for their army's use or for sale in the black market, or simply to deny it to their enemies. In addition, the civil war had taken a severe toll on the country’s roads and bridges. The ports and the major airport in the capital ofMogadishu were often shut down as a result ofmilitaty violence. By late fall of 1992 it was obvious that the famine was continuing. Even though the volume of food entering the country had risen from 20,000 to 37,000 metric tons per month between September and November, the amount of donated food reach— ing those in need had declined from 60 to 20 per— cent.2 The United Nations warned that unless more drastic measures were taken, many Somalis would die within the next six months. In Washington, a number of officials began to think an American military intervention might be the best step to take, given the scale of the problem. At the same time, President Bush began to turn his full attention to Somalia after a disappointing defeat to Bill Clinton in the November election. He wanted to end his presidency on a high note. Foreign policy had always been George Bush’s strength, and indeed the president intended before leaving office to complete a major arms control ac— cord with Russia that would remind the world and future historians ofhis key contribution, as he saw it, to ending the Cold War between the superpowers. UN Secretary—General Boutros Boutros—Ghali had made it clear to the president that he wanted to see the United Nations mount a major effort, with substantial American military support, to break the logjam offood distribution in Somalia. During the second week of November, the president instructed his senior advisers to prepare a set of policy options for dealing with the Somalia crisis, indicating that he wanted to put an end to the famine. Certainly it should be possible to bring American power to bear to save innocent lives at a reasonable cost to the United States. At the Pentagon, word arrived in mid—November that the president was serious about an American military intervention in Somalia, and the main question became what form it should take. On this issue there was a difference of opinion between the military and the civilian staffin the Defense Depart— ment. The military staffers were led by the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, General Colin Powell. Born in Brooklyn ofWest Indies immigrant parents, Powell had risen by dint ofhard work and unparal— leled political skills to become the first African— American to occupy the highest post in the US. military. As with many other Vietnam veterans, his service in that disastrous war had been the key formative experience shaping his professional out— look. The chief lesson Powell had carried from Vietnam was the need to avoid entangling the Amer- ican military in wars that lacked popular support, and the requirement that, if the military was sent to war, it should be sent with all the massive strength necessary to win decisively and quickly. ln the year following the 1991 war against lraq. Powell had capitalized on the success of the Ameri- can military to institutionalize his views through what became known in the Pentagon as the Powell Doctrine. A restatement of the earlier Weinberger Doctrine (1984), which Powell had helped to draft in his capacity as secretary of defense Weinberger‘s #18: 7776 Proalz'ms of Doing Good: Somalia A: a Case Study in Humanitarian Intervention military assistant, the Powell Doctrine stated that the United States should employ combat troops only (1) ifvital American interests were at stake, (2) it could achieve a clear-cut victory, and (3) military power was employed with “overwhelming force." While the war against Iraq was an example of this use, a “humanitarian intervention" in the murky political complexities of Somalia was not. For months, Powell and his senior staff had been quietly lobbying against a US. military intervention in Somalia. On the civilian side, the outlook was somewhat different. The principal policy adviser to Defense Secretary Cheney was Paul Wolfowitz, a thoughtful official who, after receiving his Ph.D. from Cornell in 1967, had taught at Yale and subsequently en- tered public service as a young intern, quickly gaining the attention of Paul Nitze, and rose through successive Democratic and Republican administrations to become the third—highest ranking civilian in the Pentagon. Out ofintellectual convic— tion, \Volfowitz kept his focus on what he consid— ered the key strategic problems facing the United States in late 1992: strengthening NATO at a difficult time of uncertainty over the alliance’s future and the increasing disagreements over Bosnia, encouraging Russia and Ukraine to reduce their nuclear arsenals while maintaining tight control over them, and keeping a set ofdangerous regional rogue states such as Iraq, Iran, and North Korea in check. In Under—Secretary Wol...
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