US Must Continue in Somalia Until Objectives Are Reached
ENOUGH. It is past time to clear out the warlord stables of Somalia. Not only are American peacekeepers being blown up deliberately, but innocent British and Kenyan photojournalists are being ambushed and killed and aid workers harassed. But Somalis can hardly begin to put their desperate country back together again.
Senate Minority Leader Robert Dole and others have urged the recall of American soldiers from the United Nations mission in Somalia. He and others assert that, since Somalis are no longer starving, and since the original humanitarian motives of the intervention have been met, Americans there should come home.
But the real humanitarian reason for the American invasion of Somalia still stands. Until each and every indigenous fighting group is disarmed, until the people of every district can go about their agricultural, pastoral, or trading pursuits without fear of armed attack, the UN force is essential.
Without the UN peacemakers, and the American contingent that is its core, Somalia will continue to unravel. Somalis speak a language of their own that should be a unifying factor. But ferocious clan rivalries, and today's struggle among warlord armies to make the most of the remaining spoils of war, have brutally sundered those unifying ties.
The UN must put the Humpty Dumpty of Somalia back together again. That will not be an easy task, nor is it a task from which Americans should shrink. President Clinton should double the number of American troops assigned to the UN in Somalia, which has dropped from a peak of 25,000 to 4,000 at present.
The American firepower and logistical support on which the entire UN command depends should be directed to the demobilization and disarming of the rag-tag warlord armies.
Absent an end to the turf wars of Mogadishu and beyond, ordinary Somalis cannot begin to put their country back together. This year's starvation will be succeeded by renewed episodes of famine unless civil order can be restored and sustained.
This is both an appropriate and a critical task for the UN. Doing it right and doing it now will save both lives and dollars in the future. Rebuilding Somalia and staying with the task as tutors is a moral imperative. That is why the first and most obvious humanitarian step is to end warlordism.
UN commanders appropriately shrank from combat. But, so long as the UN permits Mohamed Farah Aideed and other warlords to control territory and supplies of arms in Mogadishu and beyond, there can be no peace in Somalia. Local guerrillas have inherent advantages in any strife against multinational peacekeepers, and UN lives could be lost. But overwhelming the warlords, confiscating armaments, and imprisoning the most dangerous leaders, ought to be within the means of a force that humbled Iraq and seeks to
prevent regional wars wherever they may break out.
To have intervened originally was right, if belated. To now behave halfheartedly about completing the task of destroying warlordism is both wrong and counterproductive. Somalis want to go about the business of running a country, but we must first help them reestablish their country and recreate the essential elements of public order.