By Dr. Ali Bahar
“Each of us puts his person and all his power in common under the supreme direction of the general will, and, in our corporate capacity, we receive each member as an indivisible part of the whole.” JEAN-JACUES ROUSSEAU, on social compact.
Looking back, people who have studied the Operation Store Hope’s accomplishments came out with varied conclusions. Of course, some argue that the operation was not an abject failure. Others concluded that the outcome was not even close to what could be considered a success; not a desirable outcome. While others pointed out how the operation saved about 100,000 Somalis from starvation, some believed the US set up the UN for failure by refusing to use their highly trained army forces to disarm the warlords and their lawless militia. All that pushed aside and letting the truth fall where it may, what we know today is that, after nearly twenty-five years of Operation Store Hope’s intervention, the fact remains a population of about 12 million Somalis failed to find a way to live together peacefully and govern themselves. Somalis still think the European tribes would resolve the Somali local tribal conflicts. The Europeans had no interest in resolving any of that. Anyway, that won’t happen. That is what we all know now, but we don’t seem to be drawing any lessons from our own failures of the past. Granted, the humanitarian intervention, if done properly, is the only way to halt massive starvation, genocide, and human rights abuses, particularly that on women and children.
However, humanitarian intervention is not the means to an end of lawlessness, corruption and lack of governance. It is just a temporary relief, a chance for the reemergence of stability and law and order in their country. Ultimately, however, it is up to the Somalis to fight for peace. Only when we find people with political will to stand up to these ugly practices, could the Somali society appreciate peace and security in their environment. As to the contribution, or the lack thereof, of Europeans during the Operation Store Hope, the truth remains that Europeans behaved as tribes themselves, some more powerful than others. These varied macro tribal differences and interests parlayed during the Operation Store Hope were nothing new. It is just that the Europeans are more civil tribes who set their own rules, respect each other (most of the time), but agreed to exert their interest and influences into different regions of the world; avoiding each other’s way. Remember how president Trump alerted the Russians about his “mother of all bombs” that landed on an airstrip in Syria. The U.S. and the Russians avoid confrontation, and don’t want to engage a face-off war anywhere in the world, but each tries to reduce each other’s influence in the developing countries. The irony is that Somalis hoped these foreign countries would resolve their micro-insignificant, tribal differences festering in Somalia.
I have, for brevity, opted out of delving into a deeper forensic bone analysis and investigation of the question: what lessons have been earned from the Operation Store Hope in Somalia? Clearly, from a simple glimpse of the upper layer of multitude stratum of possible answers, many have revealed there had been aggregates of narratives where people agree and disagree on many aspects of the operation’s outcome. In some reports, it is so profound that it shocks the conscience of the ordinary people, especially the Somalis, to know that both NATO forces and others, under UN leadership, have acted as dysfunctional as one could have imagined; yet trying to handle the affairs of another troubled family, Somalia. On hindsight, it is clear now that the Europeans have infused their tribal dislikes and infights into the situation during the operation. Most of the members of North Atlantic Organization (NATO) didn’t want to participate in the operation to start with. It was the UN under Secretary General Boutros-Boutros Ghali, who was pushing for the intervention and for nation rebuilding in Somalia. In fact, it’s clear now how NATO forces were getting on each other’s way, and were busy irritating one another. It was a self-defeating behavior, to say the least, and was not helping the general purpose–rebuilding Somalia. The lack of proper cooperation and coordination, and the lack of proper messaging in sharing information and planning, became distraction and added credence to general malaise and the failing atmosphere during the operation. All these zero-sum games were displayed while the plight of millions of Somalis was in the throes.
One thing is certain, nonetheless, and worth mentioning, is that NATO countries have their rules to follow when it comes to how they normally treat each other: Article 5 treaty states: The principle of collective defense is at the very heart of NATO’s founding treaty. It remains a unique and enduring principle that binds its members together, committing them to protect each other and setting a spirit of solidarity within the Alliance. Even the Russians are treated as brothers anyway (white Europeans). Winston Churchill was once quoted saying, “In a true unity of Europe, Russia must have her part.” Churchill’s wishes almost came into fruition in 1991, after the collapse of the old Soviet Union. Boris Yeltsin was willing to sign cooperation with NATO. He turned away the nuclear weapons pointing towards American cities and destroyed tons of plutonium. He did so to bind Russia to NATO for economic development and to improve political relationships. Eventually, though, he faced stiff opposition from the State Duma and Oligarchs in Moscow, those who wanted to keep their distance from Europe and the United States. Russia wants to exercise its own power and control its neighbors to keep the western democracy at bay.
Dr. Ali Bahar
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