A Hopeless Cause? American Involvement in the Somali Civil War


  • Autumn Lawson Wichita State University


Somali Civil War, Cold War, Ali Mahdi Mohamed, United Nations, Somalian aid, humanitarian efforts, Operation Restore Hope, Black Hawk, Michael Durant, President Bill Clinton


The continent of Africa has been plagued with violence since the time of European colonization. Once independence was granted to many African countries, the violence worsened as competing warlords engaged in armed struggles for power. It is the citizens of these countries that suffer the most, especially when man-made famines are used to create compliance. Somalia is an example of an African country wrought with civil war that gained the attention and the aid of the international community. The United States had a large role in the humanitarian assistance that went to Somalia, beginning with President George H.W. Bush and ending with President William J. Clinton's administration. Somalia was not enthusiastic in welcoming United Nations assistance, particularly from the United States, which continually underestimated the resolve of the Somalis to take control of their own affairs. While the intentions of the United States in Somalia were based on helping those who could not help themselves, the American political and military leaders failed to gain a sense of the cultural issues valued by the Somali people. The approach used in Somalia by the United States, via the United Nations, was another example of the United States believing it would be able to solve what was ultimately an insolvable problem.