Establishing the 'Right to Intervene'

The humanitarian intervention in Somalia has drawn remarkably widespread support, even from many people who strongly opposed the war in the Persian Gulf. For example, a coalition of U.S. Christian, Jewish, and Muslim leaders supported U.S. intervention in Somalia (as well as Bosnia), saying, "America is not policeman to the world, but the mass murder of innocents is unacceptable. We cannot sit idly by as the cruelty and the killing persist." The National Council of Churches called the deployment of troops "urgent and necessary."

Others, however, have raised serious concerns and cautions about the U.S.-led military operation - and some human rights and peace organizations have opposed it outright.

The Catholic peace organization Pax Christi USA acknowledged the "moral obligation" to intervene on behalf of the "desperate needs of the Somali people," but said the United Nations should not have acquiesced to U.S. control of the operation. Pax Christi expressed alarm at the U.S. military's insistence on a mandate to "use all necessary force," and said that "troops should only be allowed to fire their weapons in self-defense."

The Fellowship of Reconciliation, an interfaith pacifist organization, questioned the assumption that military intervention could solve the problems of Somalia; previous interventions in Panama, Iraq, and Afghanistan, the group pointed out, did not solve the problems of those countries. The FOR statement raised concerns about the precedent being set for future interventions in other countries, and called for the United Nations to take charge of the peacekeeping operation in Somalia.

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Sojourners Magazine February-March 1993
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