I won't run through the details regarding Somalia since you can find a lot in print, right at the time and later.
Steve Shalom had a fine article about it at the time in Z; I wrote about it right away in Z too. More later, after other facts dribbled out. In brief, there had been a terrible famine after the chaos following the overthrow of the murderous US-backed dictator. By the end of 1992 it was declining, Red Cross supplies were mostly getting through, it looked as though the situation was coming under control. At that point Bush 1 decided to make a spectacular show of "humanitarian aid." Marines were sent in a manner so comical even the TV teams couldn't take it seriously. There was a night landing in front of TV cameras (of course all networks were notified: what else would be the point?). But the marines with their night vision equipment were blinded by the cameras and the crews had to be ordered to shut them off. There was no resistance of course.
After that came a tragicomedy in which some lives were saved by humanitarian aid and probably as many or more were lost by heavy-handed military tactics -- which were later blamed on the UN when it became a fiasco, though it was all under US military control. Black Hawk Down and all the rest are one fictionalized version of it. The US estimated that 7-10,000 Somalis were killed, for what that's worth. Specialists who have worked on the area, like Alex de Waal, estimate that deaths and saving of lives were about in balance, and that the whole matter could have proceeded better without the military intervention, which appears to have been done mostly for PR purposes, and was virtually announced that way. That's only the beginning. But a good enough reason to suggest plenty of skepticism.
Genuine humanitarian intervention would often be a good thing. And it is often quite easy. Right now there is much soul-searching and self-flagellation on the 10th anniversary of the Rwanda massacre, when the West would not intervene to stop it. For 100 days, people were killed at the rate of about 8000 a day. That happens be about the number of children who die every day in Southern Africa from easily treatable diseases. That's Rwanda-level killing every day, not for 100 days, but constantly. And it's far easier to stop than sending troops to Rwanda. All that's necessary is to spend pennies a day to bribe drug companies to produce the needed remedies, instead of doing what they are required to do by law: maximize profits by producing "life-style drugs" for the rich rather than life-saving drugs for the poor. That would suffice to stop ongoing Rwanda-style killing -- again, not just for 100 days, and just among children in one region. Is anyone doing it? What does that tell us about the alleged humanitarian concerns over Rwanda? Or Darfur? Or... What it tells us, loud and clear, is that humanitarian concerns are wonderful as long as it's someone else's crimes and we do not have to do anything about them apart from striking heroic poses.
It actually tells us a lot more. Consider the savagery and criminality of a society that is based on institutional structures so utterly insane that in order to stop permanent Rwanda-style killings among children in one region of the world -- there's a lot more -- we have no means available except to bribe unaccountable private tyrannies to save them.