The issues and conflict surrounding poverty stricken and war torn African nations has ceased to surprise the American populace anymore. Media appears to be effectively covering the extent of the said countries' issues.
From seemingly in-depth and full blown journalistic documentations to high profile, worldwide benefit concerts and celebrity 'outreach programs;' the issues plaguing African nations, or the mere reality that Africa is always in need of some form of assistance, at one point or another has made itself more than apparent in American homes across the country, and to the rest of the world, however lacking in taste, or seemingly overblown and innacurate the delivery of the message may be.
In the 1993 journal article by Jeffrey Clark entitled “Debacle in Somalia,” however, the apparent encompassing characteristics which media is able to extend towards Africa and its concerns becomes questionable. The journal article delves, somewhat on the contrary, in media's ineffectiveness to play its part as watchdog and mediator when its role was needed the most.
It relates how media was and has not always been effective in documenting certain issues and concerns in Africa, particularly that of Somalia, and was not able to afford the country the necessary attention which it needed at the time. The lack of coverage and attention which media overlooked or perhaps denied Somalia at a time when thievery and the onslaught of armed outlaws and warlords were at its peak in its capital of Mogadishu, contributed to the pervasion of violence being wreaked in the country, and in turn, to poverty and inevitable starvation.
Before 1992, the response to Somalia's concerns, not only on the media's part, but on the international community as well, was non-existent. And efforts on the international community's part to provide aid and relief to Somalia's more than pressing and agonizing issue before 1992 were described, according to the journal article, as an “abject failure. ” But such cynism and apparent negative pronouncement is not without basis.
The article highlights the dramatic military intervention of 1992 which America orchestrated through UNITAF (United States Task Force) as a seeming anesthesia or panacea which rendered the events prior to 1992 in the country's capital of Mogadishu irrelevant or maybe even non existent. The more than ample coverage of the said sudden and full blown intervention, and the drama closely played and tied to it appears to have led the rest of the American populace and the rest of the world into thinking how noble intentions and correspondingly quick and efficient course of action, as opposed to its lateness.
The drama surrounding the apparent large scale intervention in 1993 which involved the deployment of relief goods and military personnel to oversee the country's condition discounts the reality that Somalia went under long periods of civil war, strife, violence; and was tagged “the world's greatest humanitarian emergency” a full nine months before America's high profile, and 'timely' intervention took place. The deployment of relief, and the large scale and immediate process by which it was carried out automatically dismissed the fact that by the time the intervention took place, a great number of the population was already dead or dying.
And although under such premise or line of thinking, one can argue it was better for the intervention and the deployment of relief, despite the drama and high profile attention attached to the said subject matter, to have taken place late in the event than to not have taken place at all; or to put it rather crudely under the heading of “better late than never,” there certainly doesn't appear to be anything particularly 'wrong' or 'evil' about it. But the article tends to lean on an idea which professes otherwise.
Such crude and less than subtle philosophies don't always appeal or apply when the lives of countless individuals are concerned, and the circumstances being explored and given necessary light to in the journal article implicitly expresses this particular sentiment. The unfortunate crassness of politics and political agendas appear to be the reason which the article underlines, for the less than prompt intervention in Somalia. It delves into the said subject matter by evincing,
“More than 300,000 Somalis had already died of starvation, and vast numbers remained in peril. America's initial Security Council position underscored a willingness to weigh political benefits and requirements against the financial costs of multilateral humanitarian operations- an approach unchallenged until the U. N. secretary general's tirade and media attention forced a change. ” (Clark, 1993). Under such circumstances, the security council shifted its stance from uncertainty and general indecision to sudden action by deployment of aid or relief.
A course of action which appeared to have come out of nowhere, but was dealt at rapid speed. So rapid that private relief agencies were concerned that the deployment of reliefs intended to feed the starving people of Somalia would be a threat to security in the country. Neighboring diplomatic countries such as Kenya, as the journal article points out, chose instead to regard the incident as an “invasion,” perhaps out of humiliation or embarrassment.
A sentiment which was largely evident among other relief groups who were unable to come to Somalia's aid, and who were perhaps, incited to action, or simply commanded into attention by America's sudden leap from inaction to pursuing the opposite. This is perhaps one of two positive things which yielded from the United States' late response to the crisis in Somalia. The other being it saved what was left of Mogadishu and Somalia's population. This sentiment is affirmed in the following lines:
“Regardless of its motivations, however, the high-profile American action changed the dynamics of the international response to Somalia, embarrassing European and other donor governments and shaming the United Nations into a more determined approach. ” (Clark, 1993). Despite whatever politically driven and seemingly ominous reasons our country may have for springing into action, and coming to the aid of Somalia, and its less than timely response to the nation's crisis, it was able to deliver what was necessary for the Somalian population.
And despite the less than refined way in which it chose to dramatize and announce to the rest of the world what it did for Somalia, America was nonetheless able to incite other nations into evaluating their indifference, or indecision regarding whether or not to extend aid to nations in need of it. What ultimately remains to be questioned and addressed is not only our country's motivations and efforts reagarding extending relief to nations who need it, but the efforts, responsibility, and perhaps accountability of the international community and the rest of the world as well.
Because international organizations, media, and other public and private relief agencies should work together in overseeing and making certain that the crisis which Somalia underwent won't need to be repeated, or prolonged and waited out like it did, again. And that as far as responding to nationwide crises are concerned, people won't hopefully have to refer to future instances of it the way the title of this journal article realistically regards it; a debacle.