The 1992 U.N. intervention in Somalia was not the organization's finest hour, and the lessons of its failure should be heeded. Mohamed Sahnoun, the veteran Algerian diplomat who served as U.N. special representative to Somalia until his controversial resignation six weeks before the landing of U.S. troops in December 1992, contends that between the outbreak of civil war in 1988 and the collapse of Siad Barre's regime in January 1991, the United Nations missed at least three opportunities to prevent large-scale loss of life. Once the United Nations began efforts to provide humanitarian assistance, its performance was far surpassed by nongovernmental organizations, whose competence and dedication highlighted the United Nations' bureaucratic inefficiencies and excessive caution. Unless sweeping reforms are made, Sahnoun argues, the United Nations will continue to respond with inept improvisation.
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