Having been not too pleased with one of Dr. Chun’s earlier books for Osprey I was nervous about this book but am very glad it picked it up. Most Americans remember Mogadishu as a foreign police failure at the start of the Clinton years and the subject of a very good movie with Ewan McGregor and Josh Hartnett.
Chun builds on this detailing not only what the movie didn’t cover but far more importantly he explains how Somalia fell apart into civil war and clan violence and what the US and UN plans were to try and fix the situation. This Chun does very , very well and this will become my quick reference book on that issue.
He also gives a good description of the military’s response during the battle when things start to go badly wrong. Why and how they did and what they did right-including a helicopter rescue on a narrow street requiring such tight control, under fire, by the copter codenamed Star-41, that they couldn’t include it in the movie.
There is one serious flaw with Chun’s work. A lecturer at the Army War college he has an addiction to military acronyms and it can be very bad for the non-military reader. It does NOT, thankfully pervade the entire work. Once the action gets rolling he limits himself but in the set-up, that is a different story. In the course of a page and a quarter we have : UNOSOM, UNOSOM II, SNA, CENTCOM, SOF,JSOC, J-2, J-3 UN, SOCOM,HUMINT, CISE, CIA, QRF, most of these repeated several times in that space, I found my eyes glossing over. Sure you can get a few, CIA and UN spring to mind but it is just so much thrown up, that doesn’t really come into play with the story, that it is beyond aggravating. I found my attention starting to drift and skip paragraphs. And by the time he tells you that many Somalis drive “Sports Utilities Vehicles (SUV’s)” or that there will be “Non-Commissioned Officers (NCO’s)” You’re ready to scream.
I showed the section in question to younger men in my office, both intelligent fellows with an interest in the military and both were stunned by the mass of letters littering the page, so it wasn’t just me.
I would also have liked a little more attention to the reasoning’s behind the Clinton administration’s refusal to allow armor that would have saved American lives, on the ground in Somalia. But maybe that would have taken this into a realm where he didn’t want to go, focusing on the men on the ground, not the suits at home.
In the end, even with a baffling array of acronyms Chun has delivered a very good work on a very dark day. As the action started in the book with the go word “Irene,” In my head I heard the music from the movie start up and while the book certainly doesn’t include the action/violence of the film, he does explain and honor the actions and sacrifices of the men