One just wishes the vast horde of ill-informed, moralistic Canadians–politicians, pundits and public alike–who incessantly pledge their troth to UN peacekeeping, and who insist Canada return to doing it big time (listen up, Steve Staples and Michael Byers!), might read this piece in the NY Times (via Norman’s Spectator). And pay attention to what the UN is not achieving in Congo and Darfur (latest here).
More than a decade after United Nations peacekeepers failed to prevent massacres in Rwanda and Srebrenica, Bosnia, what many consider the organization’s flagship mission appears to be slouching toward crisis once again, diplomats and other experts say.
The most immediate cause, they say, is a sharp rise in the number of peacekeeping commitments worldwide and a type of “mission creep” that has added myriad nation-building duties to the traditional task of trying to keep enemies apart. The new demands come at a time when member states with advanced armies in particular have become more resistant to committing additional troops or even necessary equipment like helicopters.
Those challenges have only added to a deeper and longstanding problem: the continued lack of clarity about how the United Nations should intervene when its members lack either the military force or the political will — or both — to halt carnage.
“Peacekeeping has been pushed to the wall,” said Bruce Jones, the director of the Center on International Cooperation at New York University, which is working with the United Nations on reform efforts. “There is a sense across the system that this is a mess — overburdened, underfunded, overstretched.”
Among the most noticeable failures in recent months: the inability of troops in Congo and the Darfur region of Sudan to stop the violence that is killing civilians, the difficulty in finding enough troops for either of those missions, and the unwillingness of any nation to lead a possible mission in Somalia.
…some experts say the most important fix is perhaps the hardest. The Security Council, they say, needs to avoid sending missions to countries where there is not yet a real peace to keep.
…many feel that peacekeeping has become a panacea, with the deployment of United Nations forces considered proof that the Security Council is paying attention to a crisis, whether the troops are effective or not. The Council has a tendency to just keep extending missions once approved.
As a result, the number of personnel on peacekeeping missions has grown to 113,000 soldiers, police officers and civilians assigned to 18 missions, from 40,000 in 2000.
In the past few months alone, the Security Council has voted to take over a European mission deployed in Chad, to beef up the force in eastern Congo and to contemplate deploying a new force in Somalia.
The peacekeeping budget has ballooned to $8 billion.
…the most critical change, the experts say, would be for the United Nations to resist sending forces into active battle zones, including those where they could find themselves pitted against a national government.
“They can’t start a war against a host government like a well-organized Sudanese campaign,” said Maj. Gen. Patrick C. Cammaert, a Dutch marine with long experience in United Nations peacekeeping operations. “That goes beyond protecting civilians; it is on a magnitude that a U.N. mission cannot deal with. It is a political issue that the Security Council has to decide before issuing the mandate.”..
But then Canadians prefer to believe in the warm and fuzzy mythology of peacekeeping, our supposed (falsely) great military tradition–without having a clue about reality. Note the utterly loopy logic from this professor:
Canada under Lester Pearson was a world leader in diplomacy and peacekeeping, Habib [international law professor emeritus Henry Habib, Concordia University] said. Recently, under the Harper government, as well as the previous Liberal administration, Canada has stepped back from that leadership role.
To some degree as a result, Fowler, who was our country’s longest serving ambassador to the United Nations, a deputy minister of our National Defence Department and a foreign-affairs adviser to three Canadian prime ministers, is being held along with a second Canadian diplomat under unknown conditions and likely by terrorists…
At least the good professor did not call them “militants”.
Update: More relating to Mr Fowler here.