Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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March 14, 2005
By: Brad Plumer

UN RAPE SCANDALS....While detainee abuse by the U.S. is an important topic, I'd be remiss (and callous) not to link to this story about sexual misconduct by UN peacekeepers in Congo, Burundi, Haiti, Liberia, and elsewhere. It's sickening and yes, I'd happily endorse (for what very little it's worth) whatever oversight measures need to be put in place, or whatever punishments need doling out, to stop this. I don't, however, think the United Nations needs to be abolished or banned from peacekeeping effortsi.e. the "John Bolton approach"because of scandals like these, just like I don't think the Pentagon should be blown up because of widespread detainee abuse.

On that note, the RAND Corporation has a new online report about the success of UN peacekeeping that's very much worth looking through. It argues that UN operations "have almost always been undermanned and under-resourced," but that one of the reasons for its relatively high success rate in peacekeeping missions (e.g. Namibia, Cambodia, Mozambique, Sierra Leone, East Timor) is that the institution "has done a better job of learning from its mistakes than the United States." In part, I would guess, that's because the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations is staffed by career technocrats and employs long-serving civil servants, whereas the Pentagon has very rapid turnover among its leadership, soldiers, and Foreign Service officers.

Still, that entrenched UN bureaucracy seems to have fostered poor accountability and transparency in missions like those in Congo or Burundi or Liberia. And the whole "being undermanned" problem has pretty plainly led the UN to rely on local, poorly-trained troopsprecisely the ones doing all the raping and exploiting. So ideally, one would figure out how to combine the best features of U.S. peacekeeping missions with those of the UN (which usually involves, of course, getting the two working together), though from experience this discussion usually tends to degenerate into a multilateralism v. unilateralism mudfest. It shouldn't.

Brad Plumer 1:29 AM Permalink | Trackbacks

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