In a mixture of memoir and postmortem, Hirsch and Oakley describe in considerable detail the diplomacy, and to a lesser extent the military action, that the United States embarked on with and through the United Nations. Although the authors, who served with distinction during America's curious and bloody 1992-94 Somalia involvement, are cognizant of the failures of American policy, they lay considerable stress on the success of its humanitarian phases. They conclude by advocating a cautious, tough-minded willingness to engage in such enterprises.
Colonel Allard expresses the views of many officers in holding that a commitment to disarm a population is a commitment to combat and in his preference for brief, sharply limited, and crisply organized peace operations. Allard's slender volume is a distillation of the military's official lessons and hence falls back on true but trite observations: an effective public information program is critical to the success of any operation, mission execution is more difficult without trained and well-organized staffs, and the like.
Neither book adequately deals with the hypothesis that only long-term commitments of military power to a policing role can turn around a failed state like Somalia. And neither is quite willing to take on the contention that, whether or not it succeeded in relieving some of Somalia's misery, the intervention was a foreign policy disaster for the United States.