We first became involved under George H. Bush with a clearly defined mission where the US forces would create just enough stability to turn it over to the UN. Colin Powell was uncomfortable but accepted the mission because of its clarity and precise end.
But Boutrous Ghali at the UN changed the mission and proceeded on a course of disarmament and ‘nation building’. This was not what Colin understood or had planned.
At this point Clinton has been elected and a few troops remained. Ghali opposed Aidid who had previously respected the US forces before they became a tool of the UN.
The US forces were in a predicament and requested support in the form of Rangers, Delta Force and tanks. Colin Powell was concerned at the direction the mission had taken under the UN, but could not turn down the army’s request for support. The troops were sent but not the tanks.
When our helicopters were shot down, and our troops mutilated and dragged through the street Clinton was furious. He had kept himself out of the loop and was therefore surprised by the unexpected turn.
above summarized from David Halberstam’s “War in a Time of Peace.”
His retreat from Somalia fueled Bin Ladin’s ambitions.
The president must be engaged and informed in foreign affairs.
We must be reluctant to begin an engagement when we are not in control of the ending. A catalyst type engagement may easily be spun out of control by unknown factors.
The UN is less effective and more ideologically restrained than the US. Ghali screwed up in Somalia and the US paid. The UN screwed up big time in Rwanda and 800,000 African paid. The toll is still climbing in Darfur.
The US will be blamed for acting and for not acting. We want to be accepted and effective and it may not be possible.