Humanitarian crises in many parts of the world have marked the years since the end of the Cold War and have forced the international relief system to take stock of its capacities and its limitations. In the years since 1991, when Somalia began its descent into chaos and death, this system has seen equally dramatic failures elsewhere in the world in early warning, preventive diplomacy, mobilization of public concern, galvanization of political will, effective intervention and response. Somalia constitutes the first on the list, however, and in its story lie all the features of failure that lay ahead.