Learning From Somalia: The Lessons of Armed Humanitarian Intervention; Mending Rips in the Sky: Options for Somali Communities in the 21st Century

In This Review

Learning From Somalia: The Lessons of Armed Humanitarian Intervention

Edited by Walter Clarke and Jeffrey Herbst
Westview Press, 1997
276 pp. $65.00
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Mending Rips in the Sky: Options for Somali Communities in the 21st Century

Edited by Hussein M. Adam and Richard Ford
Red Sea Press, 1997
673 pp. $89.95
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The Clarke-Herbst book presents analyses by foreign experts, most of whom were directly involved in U.S. or U.N. operations in Somalia in 1993-94. Several contributors dismiss the conventional view that Operation Restore Hope succeeded but the U.N. Operation in Somalia, the follow-up to ensure peace during Somali reconstruction, failed due to U.N. bungling. They argue that since the United States drove both interventions, it cannot escape all blame for the United Nations' largely predictable inability to solve Somalia's political problems. One lesson, say the editors, is that humanitarian interventions in failed states are too complicated to be conducted as surgical strikes. Another is that if the United States wants the United Nations to succeed in complex peacekeeping situations, it must greatly increase its commitment to strengthening the world body.

The Adam-Ford book is a compendium of 40 chapters, over half by Somali authors, addressed to charting a way forward. Key topics include the relative success of northerners in constituting the as yet unrecognized Somaliland, the rebuilding of legislative and law enforcement processes, and the development roles of women and indigenous nongovernmental organizations. To the extent that any consensus emerges, it is that although international support is vital, rebuilding Somalia can only be directed by Somalis because they alone can re-stitch the intricate fabric of their unique culture and society.