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Applying `Tough Love' in Somalia

It's time to apply some "tough love" in Somalia, where news reports suggest that the West's humanitarian efforts may be making a very bad situation even worse. One correspondent described a nightmare scenario in which food shipments aimed at relieving starvation only intensified fighting among Somali beneficiaries, while United Nations peacekeeping forces aggravated the violence.

Somalia's plight is such that charity alone will not suffice. The country is tearing itself to shreds - not so much for lack of food as dearth of leadership. Drought and famine, serious as these are, account for less human suffering than lawlessness and anarchy. Warlords claim authority and compete for attention but do nothing to curb the armed thugs who terrorize the helpless community. Politicians bicker over who should get the larger food shipment. We must do more than donate food. We must get tough w ith Somalis, for their own good.

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These are the steps Somalia's friends urgently need to take: The UN Security Council should declare Somalia a distressed state and take responsibility for its protection and survival; it should send an additional 3,000 well-armed peacekeeping troops; UN authorities should immediately stop paying court to the brutal warlords whose feudings have caused awful suffering, and should deal only with legitimate leaders even if it means suspending relief operations; the Security Council should demand that all arm ed groups be demobilized and replaced by uniformed Somali police under control of civilian elders and UN advisers; and most important, international food and medical relief efforts should be explicitly concentrated on those areas of the country where traditional elders have succeeded in reasserting authority and restoring order. T. Frank Crigler, Arlington, Va. US Ambassador to Somalia, 1987-90

Letters are welcome. Only a selection can be published, subject to condensation, and none acknowledged. Please address them to "Readers Write," One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115.

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