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A frightful perspective.


Depending on how one considers a country to be a real nation in its own right, our good old planet Earth carries about 194 (although the US State Department only recognises 193), of which 192 are members of the United Nations. A noteworthy absence in the famous New York building orchestra is the Vatican, which has decided to remain totally independent. The other is Taiwan, which was not only pushed off its chair by the People's Republic of China in 1971, but also replaced in the Security Council, of which it was a member, by Mainland China.

Since the Second World War, all attention, including at the United Nations, had a propensity to be focused on the Cold War and then when this threat disappeared attention turned to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait on 2 August 1990. The dust hardly had settled in the desert that another conflict--one that had in fact begun much earlier--started to boil out of proportion in Yugoslavia, only to continue overshadowing what was happening in the rest of the world. Yet the picture was already frightening.

The incredible fact is that out of this figure of 194 countries, 43 of them are at war today, if one includes Brazil who is fighting off a continuous and massive invasion of its Amazon territory by the Colombian guerrillas. A number of countries have taken part in a multitude of peacekeeping operations, particularly under the United Nations banner, only to discover two main disturbing points: first that their Cold War-era equipment and methods were rather inadequate for the new and 'more subtle' type of missions and second, that the big defence cuts that occurred after the demise of the Soviet regime had left them with antiquated gear.

Today a number of military forces are struggling to renew their equipment; yet (at time of writing) another major peacekeeping operation is about to be set up in an attempt to extinguish the horrific humanitarian fire that is blazing across Darfour. This situation is worrying because operations in Afghanistan and Iraq have already shown that asymmetrical warfare draws heavily on one's resources. Yet there are still too many minds that believe that less money should be devoted to defence. But try this way of reasoning: what is the first thing that one does when leaving one's house or apartment? Lock the door, of course. And once the lock has been picked by burglars, one will fit a second, security type, lock. If this does not help, one's insurance company will eventually request the installation of a three-point lock and perhaps even an alarm. A number of people (including yours truly) have installed an automatic alarm that directly calls security and police. The control is installed in the kitchen and can be seen from outside. This has a name: deterrence.

Expected to start deploying by end-2007, the afore-mentioned United Nations' operation is called Unamid and, when in full swing, is likely to become one of the largest peacekeeping operations to date, as it will eventually involve some 26,000 military and police officers, to which numbers approximately 5000 civilians will be added.

Full peace across planet Earth, very unfortunately, belongs to the world of utopia. Many peacekeeping operations will have to be carried out in the future. The bottom line is that if a force wants to successfully prevent people from hurting one another, that force needs to be properly equipped and trained so that its own members do not get hurt in what actually is a generous process.

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Author:Biass, Eric H.
Publication:Armada International
Date:Oct 1, 2007
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