Thursday, December 11, 2008

We Need Better Trained UN Forces

Max Boot, a well-known American neo-conservative specialist in military affairs, draws the right lessons from Lydia Polgreen's story in today's NYT about the UN's failures in the Congo. He says that we need to fix the UN, not abolish it:
It is all too easy, reading accounts like this, to snort in derision and write off the UN as a hopeless failure. Easy, but not productive. After all, if the UN isn't trying to keep the peace in Congo, who will do the job? However undermanned and underequipped and inadequate in every way, UN forces are often the only instruments available to stop horrific bloodshed.

The nub of the problem, it seems to me, is the lack of capacity among UN peacekeepers who are typically contributed by poor nations for no better reason than a cash stipend. This is a deficiency that would not be hard to fix. Imagine if the UN had a standing military force that trained together, made up of veterans of Western militaries and equipped with top-of-the-line hardware. Such ideas were in fact offered forth in the early 1990s after the end of the Cold War, but they died amid the UN’s debacles in Bosnia, Somalia, and Rwanda. It may be time to revive them.

With a new administration coming to power, this is an opportunity for U.S. activists to push for a standing UN peacekeeping force, with better-equipped, better-trained troops.

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