107. Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs (McGiffert) to Secretary of Defense Brown and the Deputy Secretary of Defense (Claytor)1


  • SCC on Somalia—June 92

(S) There are now large numbers of memoranda on this subject, but the facts really haven’t changed:

1. In the long run, Ethiopia is strategically much more important than Somalia; US involvement with Somalia (which to a degree, will be taken as implicit support of Ogaden adventure) will lessen the chances of detaching Ethiopia from the USSR/Cuba over time.

2. From our strategic point of view, the Somali facilities would be militarily useful, but are certainly not vital. Denial of them to the Soviets has no great significance strategically as long as the Soviets have a position in Ethiopia and the PDRY.

3. Siad is weak and unreliable.

4. Although the Egyptians keep pushing us to help Somalia, the health of our relationship with Egypt is not particularly sensitive to whether we do so or not.

5. We should not count on significant Egyptian military assistance in case of an attack on Somalia, even if we were also involved in Somalia’s defense. The Egyptian capability is limited and, despite brave words by Sadat, a significant military expedition would be politically unpopular (à la Yemen).

6. Berbera is particularly vulnerable. Successfully to counter an Ethiopian/Cuban ground attack will certainly require ground combat troops from outside. There is no obvious source for such troops except the US.3

[Page 293]

(S) All of this says to me that the US should not intervene militarily in Somalia and that therefore we should avoid a facility relationship which would, because our interests would be so directly involved, make it very difficult for us not to intervene. Let’s limit ourselves to providing some defensive equipment, if we have to. Even for that, I hold my nose. And, as recommended, let’s have commissioned an in-depth study of the implications of greater US involvement in Somalia.

David E. McGiffert 4
  1. Source: Library of Congress, Harold Brown Papers, Box 50, Somalia. Secret; Sensitive. A stamped notation indicates that Brown saw this memorandum. He wrote in the margin, “6/9. I discussed this with WGC [Christopher] before the SCC meeting. I disagree with this approach—we can’t back out as this suggests. My limitation on commitment would be no U.S. ground troops; I think the Egyptians should be asked to commit on this. But for the moment, in-depth study is the right [illegible—response?]. HB.”
  2. The date was changed by hand from June 10 to June 9. For the Summary of Conclusions of the June 9 SCC meeting, see Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. XVIII, Middle East Region; Arabian Peninsula, Document 84.
  3. An unknown hand wrote a question mark in the margin and a notation that reads, “This judgment strikes me as wrong based on my looking carefully at it a couple years ago. At any rate there’s analysis to support either view. Yet [illegible].”
  4. McGiffert initiated “DEM” above this typed signature.