Somalia, the New Syria?

I think that the events of Somalia definitely had an impact on the lack of appropriate response in Rwanda.  Beyond that, I think it is important to start in Cambodia, where the UN first took this kind of action.  In Cambodia, the UN was setting up elections in a quasi failed state while a semi organized group of fighters attacked their people in border regions.  A major problem, as detailed by Andrew’s conflict with the prison warden, was breaking the corrupt and cruel system that had been in place for years.  They succeeded and the elections took place.

So when Somalia rolled around, I’m sure the UN felt even more confident, especially considering they were accompanied by US army Rangers and Delta Force.  What I think they failed to understand was that they were now going against a well armed and effectively organized militia whose leader was simply out to preserve the chaos that he thrived in.  The entrenched nature of the opposition made the fighting incredibly tough, and I think that the incident that inspired Black Hawk Down seriously scared a lot of people in US.  What really gets me is that they “dragged one of the bodies out of the bird and paraded it around town.  Brought it into a house and charged money for people to see the charred, burned-up body of an American soldier up close.” (Cain, Postlewait, Thompson 137)  This gruesome incident killed all political will to engage in further conflict.

When the genocide in Rwanda occurred it seems only natural that the US and UN would balk at a quick intervention.  The west relied on claims of “unclear intelligence” and the trivial definition of genocide to stall any kind of involvement in the conflict.  The reality was they feared the kind of prolonged conflict where they were to establish a state where one had just failed.  And when the killers were on the run, they swept in to help them, trying to save face.  What I think they failed to understand is that the Hutus were both less organized and worse equipped.  A majority of orders and information was relayed to the genocidaires via radio, and there was minimal command structure (Chalk).  This is the main reason why the RPF had such an easy time of taking the country back.  Regardless, the American war machine is fueled by public opinion, and nobody wanted another Somalia.

I think that the events of Somalia and Rwanda both have affected the US’s responses to the ongoing crisis in Syria.  Perhaps more than these two, I feel our recent invasion and occupation of Iraq impacted our reaction.  Support for Iraq seriously declined in its later years with many unhappy with our prolonged stay.  I think that the Obama administration is in the difficult position of not wanting to allow another Rwanda, while also not having the PR nightmare of an Iraq or Somalia.  I think his red line policy was done to try and prevent the use of the chemical weapons but even more so to keep the US uninvolved.  Even now that there has been evidence of chemical weapons, we have only begun giving the rebels military aid, a clear sign that we don’t want to be involved in another prolonged occupation.

Something I found while doing some research is that while we fear that Syria could the a new PR nightmare, others are concerned that it may splinter up and become a regional Somalia, a splintered and lawless nation.  Tim Lister of CNN writes that the now primarily sectarian violence, as well as ongoing proxy wars in the region could result in total anarchy.  Yet “ Somalia never had chemical weapons, nor the missiles and modern armor that make Syria one of the most crowded arsenals in the world.” (Lister)  I think this is a very valid concern, I personally cannot get behind more direct military intervention.  While this is may make me a terrible global citizen, I watched the Iraq war leave my generation trillions in debt and the current job market is not looking great.  I firmly believe that before a country can go fixing others it must fix itself.

Works Cited

Cain, Kenneth, Heidi Postlewait, and Andrew Thomson. Emergency Sex (and Other Desperate Measures): True Stories from a War Zone. London: Ebury, 2004. Print.

Chalk, Frank. “MIGS: Occasional Paper Series: RADIO PROPAGANDA AND GENOCIDE.” MIGS: Occasional Paper Series: RADIO PROPAGANDA AND GENOCIDE. MIGS, Nov. 1999. Web. 18 June 2013.

Lister, Tim. “5 Reasons Syria’s War Suddenly Looks More Dangerous.” CNN. Cable News Network, 01 Jan. 1970. Web. 18 June 201

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