Woodward Dissects Liberal Interventions in the Horn of Africa after the Cold War

November 13, 2014

Emeritus Professor of Politics at the University of Reading Peter Woodward spoke about the history and different types of intervention that have taken place in the Horn of Africa during a public lecture at the School of Public Policy (SPP) at Central European University on November 10. Although he touched on the history of what has been described as "the most dangerous corner of Africa," he focused his remarks on events since the end of the Cold War. The many interventions that have occurred during the last 20 years have made the Horn the focus of regional and international attention. Woodward noted that they have also made this region a popular topic in many public policy programs, such as refugee studies, famine studies, conflict resolution, and—most recently—piracy studies.

It was the successful intervention to expel Saddam Hussein from Kuwait in 1991, Woodward said, that led Western powers to intervene in the Horn of Africa in 1992. "The military was keen to show that the success they had enjoyed in the Middle East could be replicated." Although very few Americans were killed in Somalia, U.S. intervention was considered a failure: "the United States was shown to be vulnerable," said Woodward. The experience in Somalia led then-President Bill Clinton to decide that that there would be "no more boots on the ground in Africa" during his presidency.

As Woodward noted, the West has continued, however, to intervene in the region. He pointed to the use of drones, diplomatic initiatives, the imposition of sanctions, the activities of special forces, and humanitarian and development aid as just some of the examples of Western intervention.

The results of Western interventions in the Horn of Africa have been mixed at best. "There has been no New World Order," concluded Woodward. He identified several lessons that the West should learn from its experience in the Horn: that it can influence, but cannot control, events; that there are powerful and regional actors who need to be recognized and respected; and that many in the international community don't endorse the Western agenda. "The West," said Woodward, "should have humility, care, and understanding."

Watch Professor Woodward's lecture here.

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