Humanitarians or Warriors?: Race, Gender, and Combat Status in Operation Restore Hope


Miller, Laura L., and Charles Moskos. 1995. “Humanitarians or Warriors?: Race, Gender, and Combat Status in Operation Restore Hope.” Armed Forces & Society 21 (4): 615-637.

Authors: Laura L. Miller, Charles Moskos


Operation Restore Hope was a confusing mission for American soldiers. Trained as warriors, they were thrust into a humanitarian mission. Expecting to distribute food to grateful Somalis, they were attacked instead by the locals and were limited to security and guard duty. Soldiers' attitudes evolved through three stages: high expectations, disillusionment, and reconsideration. In the last stage, soldiers adopted one of two frameworks to cope with the ambiguity of the mission: warrior versus humanitarian. The former was more strongly associated with whites, men, and combat soldiers, who constructed negative stereotypes of Somalis and favored returning violence with violence. Blacks, women, and support soldiers tended to reject victim-blaming arguments seemingly imported from the United States. They maintained a humanitarian position, seeking explanations for Somali actions and distinguishing between clan warriors and needy refugees. Our data come from field observations, interviews, and surveys of Army troops who served in Somalia.

Keywords: humanitarian mission, combatants, race, gender, Operation Restore Hope, American soldiers, Somali refugees

Topics: Combatants, Displacement & Migration, Refugees, Gender, Humanitarian Assistance, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Militaries, Race Regions: Africa, East Africa, Americas, North America Countries: Somalia, United States of America

Year: 1995

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