Humanitarianism Under Fire: The US and UN Intervention in Somalia


The international humanitarian intervention in Somalia was one of the most challenging operations ever conducted by US and UN military forces. Until Somalia, the UN had never run a Chapter VII exercise with large numbers of troops operating under a fighting mandate. It became a deadly test of the UN’s ability carry out a peace operation using force against an adversary determined to sabotage the intervention.

Humanitarianism Under Fire is a candid, detailed historical and ...

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The international humanitarian intervention in Somalia was one of the most challenging operations ever conducted by US and UN military forces. Until Somalia, the UN had never run a Chapter VII exercise with large numbers of troops operating under a fighting mandate. It became a deadly test of the UN’s ability carry out a peace operation using force against an adversary determined to sabotage the intervention.

Humanitarianism Under Fire is a candid, detailed historical and political narrative of this remarkably complicated intervention that was one of the first cases of multilateral action in the post-Cold War era. Rutherford presents new information gleaned from interviews and intensive research in five countries. His evidence shows how Somalia became a turning point in the relationship between the UN and US and how policy and strategy decisions in military operations continue to refer back to this singular event, even today.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Discusses intervention in Somalia as a turning point in the relationship between the United States and the United Nations."

"Ken Rutherford has shown bravery, tenacity and courage in recovering from the loss of his legs to a landmine in Somalia. With that spirit, he has helped many landmine and cluster munitions victims recover from personal suffering and has been an inspiration to countless thousands. His thought-provoking and much needed book comes at the right time—and by the right person. His particular insights will help the international community understand the challenges and importance of conducting life saving actions to help prevent genocide and assist societies in recovering from years of violence.... An excellent narrative of the international mission in Somalia [that raises] fundamental questions about the nature of current interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq."

“Ken Rutherford, who went to Africa for the noblest of purposes–to help the Somali people improve their lives–came home grievously injured and became an eloquent advocate for a global ban on anti-personnel landmines. Ken uses the U.S. intervention in Somalia to illustrate what has since been magnified in Iraq: Foreign intervention by our country or by the United Nations, whether humanitarian or military and regardless of how well-intended, is unlikely to succeed without a through knowledge of the country and culture, realistic and clearly defined goals, adequate resources, and careful planning and coordination. As one who believes that such intervention is often justified on moral as well as foreign policy grounds, I applaud Ken for presenting the lessons of Somalia in such a thoughtful way.”

“Ken Rutherford’s rich and detailed account of US and UN actions in Somalia provides compelling insights into the complexities of humanitarian and military intervention, multilateral action, domestic politics, and the future consequences of the choices made during such crises. Many aspects of this conflict–including the underestimation by consecutive US administrations of the time and costs of creating security and rebuilding a nation, the difficulties of conducting US and UN actions in countries experiencing civil strife, the importance of developing procedures to coordinate multilateral military operations, and the complications of maintaining difficult foreign policies across different political administrations–are critically important today. Rutherford’s well written exploration of these issues is indispensable for students and practitioners of international affairs.”

"Explains the complex events that led to America's fateful encounter with Somalia made famous by the movie "Black Hawk Down". Building on extensive research and interviews and his own experiences as a humanitarian aid worker who himself was severely wounded in Somalia, Kenneth Rutherford recounts in brisk prose the most comprehensive account to date of US and UN involvement in Somalia, from the Oval Office and the halls of the UN to the streets of Mogadishu. The lessons Rutherford draws provide wise advice that the US is relearning at great cost in Iraq. Everyone interested in humanitarian intervention in failed states should read this book."

Humanitarianism Under Fire is a valuable addition to the heated debate over the motivations behind, and the legacy of, the US response to the crisis threatening tens of millions of lives in Somalia in 1992. Combining the methods of a scholar with the insights of a field-based humanitarian worker, Ken Rutherford’s contribution is at once highly readable and deeply compelling.”

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781565492608
  • Publisher: Kumarian Press, Inc.
  • Publication date: 8/28/2008
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 1,424,888
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Kenneth R. Rutherford lost both his legs to a landmine in Somalia in 1993. He is currently an Associate Professor of Political Science at Missouri State University and travels worldwide to promote the economic and social rights for persons with disabilities. He is co-founder of Survivor Corps, formerly the Landmine Survivors Network, and is a renowned leader in the the Nobel Peace Prize-winning coalition that spearheaded the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty and the 2008 Cluster Munitions Ban Treaty. He has worked for the Peace Corps (Mauritania), UN High Commissioner for Refugees (Senegal), International Rescue Committee (Kenya and Somalia) and as a Fulbright Professor (Jordan). He has testified before Congress and published articles in numerous academic and policy journals, including World Politics and the Journal of International Politics, and co-edited two books: Reframing the Agenda: The Impact of NGO and Middle Power Cooperation in International Security Policy and Landmines and Human Security: The International Movement to Ban Landmines. He lives in Springfield, Missouri with his wife Kim and four kids.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgements; Acronyms; Preface: Why Somalia?; 1) The Last Days of the Modern Somali State; 2) Ineffective Efforts to Stop the Chaos and Death; 3) President Bush Sets Out to Save Somalia; 4) Armed Humanitarian Intervention; 5) Armed Nation-Building; 6) The Mission Falls Apart; 7) Past as Prologue: Withdrawal And Re-Engagement; Postscript; Bibliography; Index; About the Author.

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