Mon, 22 May 2000

No effective peacekeepers

The United Nations has once again been found wanting. Britain and others are trying to put the Sierra Leone mission back together.

But the pathetic collapse of the latest African peacekeeping mission shows that the UN is far from ready to handle such problems.

UN failures have been many, and spectacular.

Rwanda, Somalia, Angola and Sierra Leone are merely four of the worst, where UN arrogance and ineptitude have combined to cause or prevent well over a million deaths.

In fact, UN failure is not linked to Africa. The United Nations is a serial failure.

The UN failed entirely in Europe recently, in the former Yugoslavia. Thousands of people died in the incompetent UN effort in Bosnia, where the word "Srebenica" became another synonym for atrocity.

It failed in Cambodia, where the UN's largest peacekeeping effort in history left the nation to deal with its own violence and instability.

It has failed to give justice to the survivors of Cambodia, Bosnia or Rwanda, although it has accepted the responsibility.

All of this gives no confidence to the argument that the UN should have a standing peace-making, peacekeeping force.

As an institution, the United Nations is a bureaucracy, established to meet the needs of its members to call meetings, publish papers, encourage discussion.

Its failures are institutional, not episodic. The UN is not designed for the work, and clearly cannot be pushed into success.

The UN has had some narrow accomplishments, such as in East Timor and Cyprus.

It has alleviated some of the worse effects of war, such as refugees. But it has not shown it can step up to the role of peacekeeper or nation builder.

Its staff are timorous and diplomatic, as they have been trained.

Time and again, the United Nations has proved incapable of dealing with brutes, thugs and mass murderers.

And this is exactly what any international peacekeeping force must deal with.

-- The Bangkok Post