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America’s Foreign Policy Essay

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Since the end of the Cold War, the relationship between the U.S. government and the media has become increasingly significant. Coupled with the number of humanitarian interventions during the 1990’s, it begs the question, how far is the media responsible for the creation of U.S. foreign policy? Somalia, a nation wracked by civil war and famine, stirred the United Nations particularly the U.S. into action, but how far was the media responsible? It is argued that the CNN effect played a substantial role in U.

S. foreign policy, as it was displaying graphic images and news stories of the crisis to the U.S. public, creating uproar over the situation, and a demand to ‘do something now’. Combined with the media’s ability to frame the news into a positive or negative light, this demonstrates the power the media has over public opinion. This in turn created pressure on the policy-makers of the U.S. and the United Nations to act, which is demonstrated in Operation Continue Hope, and UNOSOM (United Nations Operation in Somalia)I and II.

However, it is also argued that the collapse of the USSR, and the attempt to create a New World Order was a deciding factor in the U.S.’s foreign policy. Without the constraints of competing ideologies and the USSR in the United Nations Security Council, the U.S. wanted to develop a world foreign policy based upon cooperation, economic development and humanitarian intervention for those in need. With the U.S. as the remaining great Superpower, it was considered their duty to take the lead and show the world how it is done – hence the foreign policy concerning Somalia. It is in my judgment that the media played a substantial part in affecting U.S. foreign policy, due to the effect it had upon the U.S. citizens, and their outcry for immediate action. However, the media is not solely responsible for the actions of the U.S., as other factors like the New World Order played its part too, which I shall demonstrate throughout this essay.

The previous government, the Somali Democratic Republic, under the leadership of Major General Mohamed Siad Barre, posed the question of who would succeed the ailing leader, who had been seriously injured in a car accident. This, and the lessening of its strategic importance in the final years of the Cold War, and the reduction of Soviet support, opened up in Somalia an opportunity for rebellion. The government was becoming increasingly totalitarian, performing human atrocities against resistance movements who wanted freedom from the military dictatorship. This eventually led to the outbreak of civil war, the toppling of Barre’s regime, and a power vacuum, with various warlords vying for control. When increasing reports of human atrocities, and starving citizens reached the international community, with food prices rising by 800-1200%, President Bush, and the United Nations Security Council passed a unanimous resolution in December 1992, to deploy peacekeeping forces, and humanitarian relief to Somalia, aimed at stabilizing the situation, with ‘all necessary means to guarantee the delivery of humanitarian aid in accordance to Chapter VII of the United Nations charter.

The U.S. led United Nation forces initially met with success in providing aid to the nation, however, in 1995; United Nations peacekeepers were forced to withdraw after public opinion turned as a result of significant peacekeeper casualties, and its failure to capture General Mohamed Farah Aidid, the major warlord figure in the country. I shall now argue how the media held great responsibility for the U.S.’s foreign policy in Somalia during the 1990’s, due to the CNN effect. Since the end of the Cold War, the increasing willingness of Western governments to intervene militarily during humanitarian crises, coupled with significant levels of Western media attention to the consequences of ‘distant’ civil wars, raised substantive questions regarding the media-state relationship.

Western media has enjoyed greater amounts of freedom since the toppling of the USSR, and the rise of U.S. hegemony, resulting in greater access to ‘on-scene’ news articles, and the ability to show them to the rest of the world. Coupled with the development of the internet in the 1990’s, CNN and other media stations are able to bring images and information to the public 24 hours a day. This is demonstrated when the initial U.S. marines who landed on the beaches of Mogadishu, were greeted by a swarm of American journalists and star correspondents, who had been given advance notice of the landing. With the ability to control what information is shown to their audiences, the media has a certain amount of control over public opinion, which in turn has an effect upon the government who represents them. For example, the U.S. government was already aware of the situation in Somalia before CNN shared the story, and yet was not compelled to intervene. However, once the story became public, the U.S., and the United Nations received a vast amount of pressure to acknowledge the situation, and act accordingly.

This is known as a ‘strong CNN effect’, the ability of the media to steer the policy makers in the direction the media wants by influencing which images are shown to the public. By 1992, Somalia had become a non-functioning state. Its government and related services collapsed. Hundreds of thousands of Somalis had died, and estimated 1.5million Somali people were in imminent danger of starvation, and another 3.5million to a lesser extent. All these images were shown by media stations like CNN to the world, capturing the sense of despair and devastation, and energising a ‘must do something now feeling’, resulting in President George H. W. Bush to take the lead in the United Nations mission to prevent this humanitarian crisis. This demonstrates how the media had become greatly influential in U.S. politics, and why it holds a substantial amount of responsibility for the U.S. foreign policy in the initial invasion.

Furthermore, just as the media had substantial influence on the U.S. entering Somalia in 1992, the media used this same influence to bring about the end of the humanitarian mission in 1995. In March 1993, the U.S. pushed for a more direct role in combating the various warlords in Somalia and protecting the citizens the United Nations mission had saved from starvation. This was approved by the United Nations Security Council Resolution 794, authorising the use of ‘all necessary means to establish as soon as possible a secure environment for humanitarian relief operations in Somalia’. This was met with support from the U.S. public, as during the early media reports of the intervention, words that were supportive and emphatic were used twice as many times as words which were critical and distancing. This use of positive framing and optimistic language built a support for the intervention. Initially, the U.S. led forces were successful, capturing high-ranking members of Aidid’s government, and preventing the massacre of Somali citizens.

However, on the 3rd October, the U.S. attempted to capture two high-profile lieutenants of Aidid in the city of Mogadishu, when two Black Hawk Helicopters were shot down by the Somali militia. The following rescue attempt turned what should have been an hour’s operation into an overnight standoff in the city. The battle resulted in 18 U.S. deaths, 80 wounded, and 1 helicopter pilot captured. This became known as The Battle of Mogadishu. In the wake of the battle, the media had access to images of the dead and battered American servicemen, and the victorious Somali forces parading the captured U.S. helicopter pilot Corporal William Durant through the streets of Mogadishu. Shockingly they also dragged the naked corpse of a U.S. soldier past a mob of Somali citizens who vented their anger by spitting on, stoning and kicking the body, in the full view of the cameras. In light of this news, the media changed the framing of the Somali crisis, and began to challenge the government, highlighting the casualty ratings the U.S. forces were sustaining. While the public had strongly supported the former President Bush’s decision to send U.S. troops to Somalia to stop the starvation, support had now almost vanished.

On Capitol Hill, mounting calls for a withdrawal of U.S. troops rose to a level that newly elected President Clinton could not ignore, and announced the exit of U.S. troops by March 1994. Through the use of a ‘strong CNN effect’, the media completely turned U.S. public opinion on the Somali intervention. The starving Somali citizens, who had been the victims at the start of the intervention, had become the victimisers, who had attacked foreign soldiers who were trying to help them. The public opinion might not have deteriorated quite so substantially, if the images accompanying the story had not been present, or if the media hadn’t worded their stories quite so negatively. After all, hearing about the deaths is one thing, to see it before your eyes is quite another. This therefore, demonstrates how the media, through the use of strong CNN effect, were able to steer public opinion into entering Somalia, and out of Somalia when the situation deteriorated.

Although the media holds the majority of responsibility for the U.S.’s foreign policy in Somalia, Presidents Bush and Clinton’s drive to create a New World Order also holds partially responsibility. In the wake of the Cold War, President George H. W. Bush and President Mikhail Gorbachev tried to define this new era, and the great spirit of power cooperation they hoped to see. This is highlighted in a speech by Bush, in which he indicated ‘America and the world must defend common vital interests, support the rule of law and stand up to aggression’.

With this new drive to create a better world, one with cooperation between major powers, rebuilding the world and projecting a new world with greater prospects for a new millennium. Therefore, when humanitarian crises like Somalia arose, President Bush saw it as U.S.’s duty as the richest and most powerful nation in the world, to lead the international mission to save these civilians from starvation. It was hoped, that along with saving those in need, the U.S. could inspire the rest of the world to share this image of a New World Order, and help build a better tomorrow. However, since the U.S. knew about Somalia before the media published the story, it doesn’t suggest that the New World Order was the major factor in deciding to intervene in the crisis.

In conclusion, the media was greatly responsible for the U.S. foreign policy in Somalia, and was, in my judgment, the main factor which decided the issue initially to intervene in Somalia, and then to exit. Firstly, through the use of a strong CNN effect, the media framed the issue, and showed images to the public in order to create uproar amongst the population. This was done in order to manipulate the policy-makers into examining the situation, and ultimately become involved. This is demonstrated by the images of starving civilians, and the chaos the various warlords and clans were creating throughout the nation. These tactics would develop a ‘do something now’ feeling. Moreover, the media was also the leading factor in the U.S. exiting from Somalia, because the media station had changed the framing of the stories to negative and critical challenges of the governments mission in Somalia.

This combined with the images of The Battle of Mogadishu, and the victimisation the U.S. soldiers had suffered, dramatically changed public opinion against the U.S. foreign policy in Somalia. However, the media was not the only factor in deciding U.S. foreign policy. President Bush’s idea of a New World Order, one based on the ideas of superpower cooperation, economic prosperity and humanitarian intervention also played a part in why President Bush would send U.S. soldiers to Somalia.

It was considered the U.S.’s duty to help those in need, with the hope that their example could also inspire the rest of the world to accept the New Order, and help create a new and better world, rather than the conflict and tensions which had been experienced during the Cold War. However, the New World Order arguments are not as convincing as those for the conclusive influence of the media, as the U.S. government was already of aware of the situation in Somalia before the media developed the story, suggesting that it was the public outcry that decided the issue for the U.S.’s policy makers. Which is why, it is in my judgment that the media holds the majority of the responsibility for America’s foreign policy in Somalia during the 1990’s.

Bibliography:
1. Taisier Ali and Robert Matthews, Civil Wars in Africa: Roots and Resolutions, McGill-Queen’s University Press, Canada, 1999, p.p.183

2. Ekaterina Balabanova, Media, Wars and Politics: Comparing the Incomparable in Western and Eastern Europe, Ashgate Publishing Limited, Hampshire, 2007, p.p. 8

3. Arthur Banks Thomas Muller and William Overstreet, Political Handbook of the World 2008, CQ Press Publishers, Alexandria/US, 2008, p.p. 1198

4. George H.W. Bush, Address before a joint session of the Congress on the Persian Gulf Crisis and the Federal Budget Deficit, 9:09p.m. in the House Chamber at the Capitol, 1900

5. Jocelyn Coulon, translated by Phyllis Arnoff and Howard Scott, Soldiers of Diplomacy: The United Nations, Peacekeeping and the New World Order, Les Casques Bleus Publishers, Canada, 1994 p.p. 78

6. Nina Fitzgerald, Somalia: Issues, History and Bibliography, Nova Science Publishers Inc., New York, 2002, p.p. 26

7. George Kohn, Dictionaries of War, Facts on File Publishers Inc., New York, 2007, p.p. 511

8. Piers Robinson, Operation Restore Hope and the Illusion of a News Driven Media Intervention, Political Studies 49, 2001, p.p. 941-956

9. Piers Robinson, The CNN Effect: The myth of news, foreign policy and
intervention, Routledge Publishers, London, 2002, p.p. 1

10. Ken Rutherford, Humanitarianism under Fire: The US and UN intervention in Somalia, Kumarain Press Publishers, Sterling, 2008, p.p. Preface xv

11. James Scott, After the End: Making U.S. foreign Policy in the Post-Cold War World, Duke University Press, North Carolina, 1999, p.p. 330

12. Richard Stewart, The United States Army in Somalia 1992-1994, Dept. of the Army Publishers, 2003 p.p. 23

13. Warren Strobel, Late-Breaking Foreign Policy: The News Media’s influence on Peace Operations, United States Institute of Peace Press, Washington, 1997, p.p. 167

14. United Nations Security Council, Security Council Committee pursuant to resolutions 751 (1992) and 1907 (2009) concerning Somalia and Eritrea, http://www.un.org/sc/committees/751/

15. Thomas Weiss and Don Hubert, The Responsibility to Protect: Research, Bibliography, Background: Supplementary Volume to the report of the international commission on intervention and state sovereignty, International Development Research Centre Publishers, Ottawa, 2002, p.p. 96
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[ 1 ]. Arthur Banks Thomas Muller and William Overstreet, Political Handbook of the World 2008, CQ Press Publishers, Alexandria/US, 2008, p.p. 1198 [ 2 ]. Nina Fitzgerald, Somalia: Issues, History and Bibliography, Nova Science Publishers Inc., New York, 2002, p.p. 26 [ 3 ]. Taisier Ali and Robert Matthews, Civil Wars in Africa: Roots and Resolutions, McGill-Queen’s University Press, Canada, 1999, p.p.183 [ 4 ]. United Nations Security Council, Security Council Committee pursuant to resolutions 751 (1992) and 1907 (2009) concerning Somalia and Eritrea, http://www.un.org/sc/committees/751/ [ 5 ]. George Kohn, Dictionaries of War, Facts on File Publishers Inc., New York, 2007, p.p. 511 [ 6 ]. Piers
Robinson, The CNN Effect: The myth of news, foreign policy and intervention, Routledge Publishers, London, 2002, p.p. 1 [ 7 ]. Jocelyn Coulon, translated by Phyllis Arnoff and Howard Scott, Soldiers of Diplomacy: The United Nations, Peacekeeping and the New World Order, Les Casques Bleus Publishers, Canada, 1994 p.p. 78 [ 8 ]. Ekaterina Balabanova, Media, Wars and Politics: Comparing the Incomparable in Western and Eastern Europe, Ashgate Publishing Limited, Hampshire, 2007, p.p. 8 [ 9 ]. Ken Rutherford, Humanitarianism under Fire: The US and UN intervention in Somalia, Kumarain Press Publishers, Sterling, 2008, p.p. Preface xv [ 10 ]. Thomas Weiss and Don Hubert, The Responsibility to Protect: Research, Bibliography, Background: Supplementary Volume to the report of the international commission on intervention and state sovereignty, International Development Research Centre Publishers, Ottawa, 2002, p.p. 96 [ 11 ]. Piers Robinson, Operation Restore Hope and the Illusion of a News Driven Media Intervention, Political Studies 49, 2001, p.p. 941-956 [ 12 ]. Richard Stewart, The United States Army in Somalia 1992-1994, Dept. of the Army Publishers, 2003 p.p. 23 [ 13 ]. James Scott, After the End: Making U.S. foreign Policy in the Post-Cold War World, Duke University Press, North Carolina, 1999, p.p. 330 [ 14 ]. Warren Strobel, Late-Breaking Foreign Policy: The News Media’s influence on Peace Operations, United States Institute of Peace Press, Washington, 1997, p.p. 167 [ 15 ]. George H.W. Bush, Address before a joint session of the Congress on the Persian Gulf Crisis and the Federal Budget Deficit, 9:09p.m. in the House Chamber at the Capitol, 1900

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