The Guns of Mogadishu

At Thanksgiving time, we were haunted by news photos of starving children in the heart of Somalia. Now as Christmas approaches, the pictures have turned to tiny corpses wrapped in burlap feed bags and laid in shallow graves. The American people, in a great outpouring of compassion, are supporting President Bush's decision to send troops to Somalia to protect United Nations relief efforts. Yet there are some naysayers. The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, has issued a report saying that "American soldiers should not be put at risk if U.S. national interests are not endangered." The report argues that the Constitution authorizes the use of military force only for "the common defense." Of course, no one likes to see American troops involved in a protracted engagement in some far-off land. But as Christians we take our lead from the Bible, and what it teaches about the role and purpose of government. For us the key question is this: Is it biblically justified for the U.S. to send in troops? And the answer is: Absolutely. Romans 13 tells us the function of government is to preserve order and prevent injustice. But Somalia has no government. Two years ago the national government collapsed, and the country has been in a state of anarchy ever since. Politicians may debate over when intervention into a sovereign state is justified, but Somalia is not a sovereign state. There is no government infrastructure: no police, no courts, no welfare services, no National Guard, no road or train system to transport food. The city streets are filled with converted Toyota trucks outfitted with antitank weapons and machine guns. The guns are operated by teenaged boys working for various warlords. Often as not, the boys are high on the local narcotic. Meanwhile, thousands continue to starve. What should we do to help end this awful famine? If it happened in our own country we'd call out the National Guard. But what about a country that has no National Guard? I believe that's when the civilized world ought to step in and supply one. Our military can temporarily do what the Somali government cannot do for itself. You see, the military is not just for fighting wars, it's for protecting innocent people against bullies and helping to bring order into chaos. It's for protecting human life and dignity. That's why we brought the National Guard in to quell the violence in Los Angeles, and why we bring it in to help the victims of earthquakes and hurricanes. In Somalia our military can act as a temporary National Guard to help the victims of famine. There's one image that sticks in my mind from recent new broadcasts of Mogadishu, the coastal city where American troops first landed. Starving children and their desperate parents were huddled on the streets, when two American airplanes streaked across the early morning skies. The people pointed at the planes, then raised their arms and cheered. Above the chaos in the streets the planes appeared as a sign of hope. As American troops enter Somalia to feed starving children, quell injustice, and impose order, one can't help but think this operation is an exercise in government at its best—acting according biblical principles to restore order and protect human dignity. And when government acts as it ought, that can bring us all hope.


Chuck Colson


  • Facebook Icon in Gold
  • Twitter Icon in Gold
  • LinkedIn Icon in Gold

Sign up for the Daily Commentary