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May 24, 2005

Outsourcing Peacekeeping
Posted by Suzanne Nossel

In response to my post yesterday on the beefing up of UN peacekeeping capabilities, Greg at Belgravia Dispatch raised the question of whether we would ever entrust missions "of utmost import to our national security" to a UN force.  A few quick thoughts:

- We may never hand something akin from a strategic perspective to Iraq over to the UN, but its easy to envision a mission in Darfur - provided the killings can be stopped - being handled by the world body.   If the UN frees up our troops to focus on a manageable set of priorities without leaving other hotspots around the world to simply burn, that's an enormous benefit. 

- The UN has played a key role in both Iraq and Afghanistan, though not as peacekeepers.  Could competent international peacekeepers be useful in both those situations, working alongside U.S. command?  Definitely. If US troops could be freed from - for example - guard duties (I am thinking about things like buildings, but its hard to keep prisons out of mind) and other security functions, that would unburden U.S. troops and potentially mitigate some of the sting of such U.S.-dominated operations.  The word competent is obviously a key here.

- Greg raises the question of whether the U.S. will allow the UN to build sufficiently robust capabilities to play these roles.  He suggests that until the organization is able to maintain a standing force, there will be inherent limitations to the strength that can be mustered on the fly for peacekeeping missions. 

I tend to agree that the time to reconsider a standing UN force has probably come.  For a long time such notions were a political no-go zone, for fear the a power-drunk world body would start deploying its forces willy-nilly around the world.  But that's why we have and will always insist on preserving the veto power.  There's a lot of thinking that would need to go into a standing UN force, and political attitudes among the membership might make it impossible to achieve in any way the U.S. would accept.   But given the scarcity of alternatives in places like Congo, it deserves a closer look. 


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"I tend to agree that the time to reconsider a standing UN force has probably come."

Unless I'm not mistaken, the Bush administration is still in the White House and the Republican Party controls both houses of Congress and is poised to takeover the judiciary. Oh, and neo-Birchite John Bolton stands a pretty good chance of becoming US ambassador to the UN.

Has something changed recently in American politics that I don't know about? Something that would provide some grounding in political reality for a call to "reconsider" a UN army?

Suzanne, with all due respect, you can't possibly be serious. The notion that George Bush - who fondly remembers the "US Out of UN" bumperstickers of his youth - would "reconsider" a suggestion to provide the UN a permanent armed force is an academic pipedream.The only issue on the table is whether the UN will survive the next four years at all, given the relentless antagonism to the organization that this administration has shown.

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