SEN. George Mitchell (D) of Maine says that despite the loss of life in Somalia, the original decision to send troops on a humanitarian mission to that country was a correct one.
Mr. Mitchell, the majority leader in the Senate, says the mission was succeeding until June, when United States forces suddenly became enmeshed in an undeclared war against Gen. Mohamed Farah Aideed and his military clan in Mogadishu.
Speaking at a Monitor breakfast yesterday, Mitchell noted that in the post-cold-war era, the US finds itself in a unique position of leadership. Because of widespread confidence in American intentions, nations like Somalia are inviting the US to station its military within their borders.
Mitchell expects such requests to increase. But the senator says Congress must think through each case very carefully before agreeing to intervene in the future.
When the Somalia operation began, it marked a rare occasion when a president (George Bush) dispatched a sizable US military force to a foreign country without justifying it on national security grounds, Mitchell says.
It was ``an open and acknowledged humanitarian mission,'' Mitchell says. However, the loss of American life, and the public criticism of the Somalia operation ``raises the question'' of whether US forces can or should be used in that way, he says.
After the Somalia experience, Mitchell suggests US forces may not dispatched on a similar mission ``for quite a long time.''
Turning to the controversial North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Mitchell says the votes are there in the Senate to pass it. But the House of Representatives is problematic.
Mitchell says the leadership in both bodies still hopes to pass NAFTA before Thanksgiving.