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New world disorder: a critique of the United Nations.

For over 40 years, the Cold War conflict between the United States and the Soviet Union paralyzed the peacekeeping functions of the United Nations. With few exceptions, the United Nations and other multinational organizations were ineffective in resolving major conflicts because of the zero-sum nature of the Cold War. Now that the Cold War is over, many believe that the United Nations can play a greater role in resolving conflicts and maintaining order in the so-called new world.

Glowing in the success of the Persian Gulf War, the United Nations has renewed stature and expanding peacekeeping operations in Cambodia, the former Yugoslavia and elsewhere. At this point, some believe the time has come to further expand the peacekeeping responsibilities of the United Nations. Advocates of this position call for the creation of a standby U.N. army; the expansion of the definitions of security threats to include environmental and humanitarian concerns; the increase of the United Nations' powers to intervene in the internal affairs of states; and the creation of what has been referred to as the New World Order, in which the United Nations (and perhaps other multinational organizations) will be the world's main body for not only keeping the peace, but enforcing it.(2)

To be certain, the passing of the Cold War offers new opportunities to make the United Nations more effective. The success of the United Nations in the Gulf War demonstrates that the organization can be used as an effective vehicle of warmaking against an aggressor. In El Salvador, Angola, Namibia and other former Cold War crisis zones, the United Nations has proven to be effective to different degrees in facilitating the establishment of peace and order once a cease-fire has been established.

Yet the millennium for the United Nations and other multinational organizations has not arrived. In all cases of recent U.N. involvement in warmaking or peacekeeping operations, the underlying cause of success was neither the triumph of the multinational ideal in international politics nor was it the birth of a new belief in the ideals of global democracy. Rather, it was the natural and logical consequence of the end of the U.S.-Soviet rivalry, and the general collapse of Soviet support for client states and groups.

As policy makers ponder the wisdom of expanding the United Nations' role in peacekeeping, they should remember one fact: The United Nations remains a mere instrument of nation-states, and its success or failure depends, as always, not mainly on the United Nations itself, but on the degree to which sovereign nation-states believe that international cooperation suits their own national interests. This fact defines both the limitations of and the opportunities for the United Nations as a peacekeeping body.

In order to understand the new global context within which the United Nations must act, an analysis of the current state of the world will begin this article. Following that, a terminology will be developed to define expanded U.N. operations, and will be incorporated into a review of current U.N. peacekeeping efforts. Through an analysis of U.N. successes and failures, the limitations of U.N. peacekeeping will then be explored. The article will conclude with a discussion of risks for both U.S. and international involvement, followed by suggested guidelines for the international community to follow in sustaining the United Nations.


New World Disorder

The success of the United Nations in the post-Cold War transition period depends on the organization's awareness of whether a New World Order - based on global democracy and the triumph of the international ideal - actually exists or whether a New World Disorder is arising in its place. History has shown that peace and harmony do not necessarily follow the collapse of old state systems.

Consider the historical parallels. Religious revolution and dynastic ambitions destroyed the state system of medieval Europe, giving rise to the Thirty Years War and countless other dynastic wars in seventeenth-century Europe. Political revolution in eighteenth-century France destroyed the state system of the ancien regime, leading to the Napoleonic wars. At the end of the nineteenth century, the collapse of Bismarck's balance-of-power system in Europe paved the way for the two world wars. And because Europe and the League of Nations could not create a new workable international system, chaos erupted after the First World War, leading eventually to the rise of Nazi Germany.

Now with the end of the Cold War, the international community, particularly the United Nations, is facing unfamiliar new dangers. Behind much of the new disorder today are three trends causing geopolitical upheavals around the world: (1) the collapse of large empires - the Soviet Union is a case in point, but China or India may be next; (2) the rise of post-modern nationalism, which is partly a consequence of the first trend; and of course, (3) the revival of religious fundamentalism as a potent political force.

Foremost within this turmoil is the danger of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles. As many as 21 nations are likely to have ballistic missiles by the year 2000.(3) Right now 10 countries have nuclear weapons, and 11 more are developing them.(4) Another danger for the United Nations in this new world disorder is the threat of regional wars, particularly in the Persian Gulf and Europe.

Redifining State Sovereignty

As the peacekeeping role of the United Nations expands in the post-Cold War era, the definitions of international security and state sovereignty may need to evolve to accommodate the desired capacity of that organization. In the Security Council's 31 January 1992 Summit Declaration, definitions of new threats to international security included "non-military sources of instability in the economic, social, humanitarian and ecological fields."(5) Here the United Nations is moving well beyond traditional definitions of international threats involving civil wars or the aggression of states. In fact, some at the United Nations go so far as to see that body as an international police force to protect the environment, avenge human rights abuses, stop humanitarian tragedies and even right perceived social and economic wrongs.

An apt example of this sentiment is contained in the words of former U.N. Under Secretary-General Sir Brian Urquhart, who stated, "It is no longer acceptable that international action is taken only when a situation threatens the interests of the most powerful nations." Believing that the days of state-specific national interests are over for good, Urquhart proposes establishing a U.N. police force deployed to end random violence and perform armed police actions. He concludes, "The unraveling of national sovereignty seems to be a feature of the post-Cold War period."(6) Clearly he views the traditional concept of autonomous states as eroding somewhat with the end of the Cold War.

This disregard for national sovereignty has also surfaced in discussions of the now-expanded U.N. operations in Somalia. Private relief experts, including CARE president Philip Johnston and Bread for the World president David Beckmann, have proposed that the United Nations take over and rule Somalia, claiming the country is in chaos and has no government.(7) Furthermore, the U.S.-led, U.N.-authorized Operation Restore Hope has set the precedent for military intervention based on strictly humanitarian grounds. Further involvement and control, including increased military oversight, is being sought by the United Nations as the United States backs resolutions to enforce humanitarian assistance. The United Nations has begun a new type of operation, unlike the peacekeeping or wars that the Security Council authorized in Korea and the Persian Gulf. This may become a model for similar crises in the future.

Andrew Natsios, Assistant Administrator for the Bureau of Food and Humanitarian Assistance at the U.S. Agency for International Development, has said concerning Somalia, "We may have to redefine sovereignty."(8) Others are saying that the United Nations should establish a trusteeship over the territory to establish law and order and control relief efforts.(9)

During much of the Cold War, the United Nations championed the idea of state sovereignty, primarily because most less-developed countries (LDCs) were sensitive to outside interference in their internal affairs. Whether it be Mexico, Israel or Cuba, most non-Western countries raised the banner of state sovereignty to protect themselves from the unwanted interference of larger states, and the United Nations repeatedly upheld this principle in Security Council resolutions. As the United Nations adopts the principles of global democracy and redefines the notion of state sovereignty, LDCs' ability to restrict international interference will be diminished. The new thinking is that if all U.N. member-states are equal voices in a global democratic order, then LDCs not only have a right to interfere in the internal affairs of other states through the United Nations, but can expect to have their independence restricted as well by that organization. Restrictions of this type are already occurring with the U.N. peacekeeping operation in Cambodia, where the United Nations has taken control of major government ministries. The action in Somalia, though draped in humanitarian concern, points to further disregard and redefinition of state sovereignty by the United Nations.

U.N. Military Independence

The idea of broadening the role of the United Nations in conflict resolution has an influential champion in the current U.N. Secretary-General, Boutros Boutros-Ghali. In An Agenda for Peace, Boutros-Ghali states:

United Nations operations in areas of crisis have generally been established after conflict has occurred. The time has come to plan for circumstances warranting preventive deployment. The Security Council has the authority to take military action to maintain or restore international peace and security. While such action should only be taken when all peaceful means have failed, the option of taking it is essential to the credibility of the United Nations as a guarantor of international security. This will require bringing into being, through negotiations, special agreements . . . whereby member states undertake to make armed forces, assistance and facilities available to the Security Council . . . not only on an ad hoc basis, but on a permanent basis.(10)

Boutros-Ghali's recommendation is tantamount to creating a standing U.N. army. Member-states presumably would turn over troops to the U.N. Military Staff Committee (MSC), which is composed of the military chiefs of staff of the five permanent members of the Security Council - the United States, France, United Kingdom, China and Russia. Although dormant for many years, the MSC, according to the U.N. Charter, is "responsible under the Security Council for any armed forces placed at the disposal of the Security Council."(11)

Boutros-Ghali's proposed U.N. standing army includes force contributions from 20 member-states, each providing 2,000 troops on 48-hour notice.(12) To pay for the program, Boutros-Ghali has suggested an international sales tax on weapons and international air travel providing $50 million for emergency humanitarian purposes and a $1 billion peace endowment.

The primary concern for any member-state contributing to the proposed U.N. force is an elusive command structure. The MSC's command of a U.N. force would likely alternate periodically between the five permanent members, meaning four-fifths of the time permanent members would not command their own forces.(13) This allows the use of force to be taken out of the hands of those nations that provide and support the forces. Furthermore, non-democratic nations would have the opportunity to participate with and even control democratic forces, thus undermining the will of the people in all democratic nations.

Overview of U.N. Peacekeeping Operations

As the United Nations expands its role in resolving conflicts, it is necessary to clarify definitions of its various peacekeeping activities. The need for a new vocabulary of U.N. operations will be further illustrated by the review of cases that follows the terminology section.


Today the term peacekeeping applies when the United Nations sends lightly armed soldiers from neutral countries into an area, usually to preserve a cease-fire and provide a buffer zone between warring combatants. Peacekeepers are only allowed to use their weapons in self-defense, and arrive with the consent of all parties. Peacekeeping also involves monitoring elections and ensuring that warring factions adhere to demobilization agreements. A good example of this activity is the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), which was established in 1978 and is still in existence today.


The term peacekeeping has also been used to define what could be more appropriately termed peace-enforcement.(14) Peace-enforcement occurs, essentially, when peacekeeping goes awry. If a cease-fire breaks down, a revolt breaks out or the peacekeepers lose the support of one side and become themselves the targets of a warring faction, U.N. peace-enforcers can pacify the aggressor army. U.N. peace-enforcement occurred during the 1960-64 United Nations Operation in the Congo (ONUC) in which 234 U.N. troops were killed as various factions turned against the United Nations.(15) There is the potential for this type of situation to develop in the conflict in the former Yugoslavia if the United Nations were to launch military operations against Serbian-backed forces in Bosnia and Hercegovina. U.N.-authorized Operation Restore Hope in Somalia can also be considered to be peace-enforcement, though it has taken on the additional unprecedented aspect of being strictly humanitarian in purpose and scope.


A third category might be called U.N. warmaking, illustrated by the United Nations' endorsement of the use of force in the Korean War and the Persian Gulf War.(16) In obvious contrast to peacekeeping, warmaking exists when the use of force is employed without the consent of all parties. In both instances of this type of warmaking operation, the United States led a coalition against an aggressor nation, using the United Nations essentially to mobilize international support.

The nature of U.N. warmaking may change as the reasons for its undertaking broaden. In the past, aggression against nations was the only acceptable reason for war. Now, however, human rights abuses or humanitarian crises may be defined as sufficient cause for the United Nations to wage war against a country or guerrilla faction.(17)


In the aftermath of the Cold War, the United Nations is currently involved in 13 peacekeeping operations around the world. U.N. peacekeepers are involved in Angola, Cyprus, Cambodia, El Salvador, Iraq, Israel, Kuwait, Lebanon, Pakistan, Syria, the former Yugoslavia and the Western Sahara.(18) Peace-enforcement has only been used in the Congo and in Somalia. Among the most recent and politically important of these are the operations in Cambodia, Somalia and the former Yugoslavia.

The largest peacekeeping operation is in Cambodia, where the U.N. Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC) has deployed some 16,000 troops.(19) Rival guerrilla groups have been fighting the Vietnamese-installed puppet government of Cambodia since 1979, repeatedly violating cease-fire initiatives and peace agreements. The United Nations plans to implement the United States-China-Soviet Union peace agreement by demobilizing 70 percent of military forces, repatriating Cambodian refugees now in Thailand, monitoring cease-fires and overseeing elections. This will cost the United Nations $1.9 billion, plus $900 million in additional voluntary contributions, of which the United States will pay $516 million. Meanwhile, the Khmer Rouge seems determined to continue the fight, making it necessary for more U.N. troops to halt the conflict.

In Somalia, the U.N. peacekeeping operation (UNOSOM) was approved in April 1992, to monitor cease-fires and protect deliveries of humanitarian aid at a cost of $634 million.(20) Yet clan warfare and anarchy have prevented effective distribution, while millions continue to starve. After U.S. Senate approval and President Bush's endorsement, on 2 December 1992 the U.N. Security Council approved a draft resolution authorizing the United States to lead an international military force to Somalia to protect the delivery of food and medicine, thus making it a peace-enforcement mission. Operation Restore Hope is supported by 25,000 U.S. troops and 10,500 troops from 20 other countries. The cost will be an additional $583 million - far exceeding original estimates - to be offset by canceled military programs. The U.S. will pay the majority of the costs, with other nations contributing $115 million so far. U.S. troops have already begun to withdraw, and the United Nations is ill-prepared to assume responsibility, hoping that the United States will stay as long and do as much as possible. U.S. commanders estimate a U.N. force of 15,000 is needed, but early indications by Boutros-Ghali have suggested much lower figures.(21)

In the former Yugoslavia, the United Nations has attempted to monitor the cease-fire set in January 1992 through the U.N. Protection Force in Yugoslavia (UNPROFOR).(12) The 14,000-member force costs $634 million per year and has been unable to maintain any cease-fires. The civilian situation, in the meantime, has deteriorated rapidly, causing shortages of food and medical supplies. The growing demand to halt human rights abuses and Serbian atrocities spurred by the Western media has put pressure on the United Nations, the United States and the European Community to increase intervention. There are presently 15,800 soldiers, police officers and civilian administrators deployed; by the end of November 1992, the number of U.N. personnel was expected to exceed 22,500, making it the largest U.N. force in recent history.(23) The no-fly ban has been repeatedly violated, and at least four U.N. soldiers have been killed and 48 injured. No end to the violence seems near at hand.

The U.N. peacekeeping operations in Cambodia, Somalia and the former Yugoslavia are particularly significant because they are truly post-Cold War phenomena and involve new ideas about the character of U.N. peacekeeping operations. These operations differ from earlier efforts in Angola, for example, where the United Nations was used to facilitate post-Cold War restructuring: U.S.-Soviet negotiations established the controls of the peace agreement which was then enforced by the United Nations. In Cambodia, the United Nations has moved beyond merely monitoring cease-fires and buffer zones, to the actual administration of the government. In Somalia, the Bush administration has opened the door to pressures for the United States to intervene in most of the world's hot spots now that humanitarian concerns alone are legitimate for armed intervention.(24)

The Limits of U.N. Peacekeeping

The United Nations is now undoubtedly a more effective peacekeeper, and to some extent peace-maker, than during the Cold War. It served a useful purpose in the Persian Gulf War and in the many peace settlements associated with post-Cold War restructuring. Before expectations are unrealistically elevated, however, the limits of the United Nations in the areas of peacekeeping, peace-enforcement and warmaking should be examined given the organization's successes and failures in those areas. Such an examination may temper the more utopian visions held by those who believe that the world has entered into a new age where state sovereignty, national interest and war are passe. The lessons to follow can be viewed as guiding principles to practical U.N. expansion.

Most important to note is that U.N. peacekeeping has been most effective when its role involved only mediating and observing peace successfully brought about by other parties.(25) This was the case in U.N. operations in Angola, El Salvador and Nicaragua, for example. As the Cold War ended, the warring factions backed by the Soviet Union lost their patron and were forced to give up fighting and accept the democratic process. The United Nations was called in afterwards to help implement agreements already reached by individual states.

Furthermore, the United Nations cannot end conflicts unilaterally, but only when all warring parties call for peace.(26) Once again El Salvador serves as a useful example of this type of peacekeeping. Both the government and the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) were exhausted by their civil war and so turned to the United Nations as a neutral, third party to negotiate a settlement. When the two parties signed a cease-fire in 1992, they called on the United Nations to verify the settlement and help demobilize the FMLN guerrillas. At no point did the United Nations actually force an agreement on the Salvadoran government or the FMLN. Both sides wanted an end to the war, and the United Nations worked effectively as an objective peace-broker to facilitate the process.

Finally, when warring factions have agreed to a cease-fire only for tactical reasons, the United Nations can guarantee a cease-fire or peace settlement only through the deployment of large numbers of ground troops. The best example of this lesson is Korea, where the United States sent tens of thousands of troops to guarantee the armistice. Since North Korea never completely accepted the terms of the armistice, the Communist North remained a threat to the South. Failing to achieve peace, the United Nations had to retreat from what became a permanent war zone and rely on U.S. troops to deter future attacks by North Korea.

Another example of a U.N. operation failing to enact peace and order due to a misguided peace-enforcement effort was in the Congo from 1960 to 1964.(17) Originally supporting the U.N. operation there, the Soviet Union reversed its policy and opposed the authority of the United Nations. Eventually, the Congo's government dissolved and the warring factions turned on the United Nations. The situation in the Congo proved that in volatile situations, the circumstances of U.N. involvement can change and shatter the consensus that originally led to the United Nations' involvement.(28) When a government turns against the United Nations, as it did in the Congo, the United Nations itself becomes a military target.(29) The United Nations could not create through peace-enforcement what did not already exist: a willingness on the part of the warring parties to negotiate for peace.

These examples demonstrate that the motivation of states or warring factions in any U.N. peacekeeping operation would be to maximize security and political gain or to reduce the possibility of political instability or loss. Whether a U.N. peacekeeping operation is successful will be determined by the outcome of this political calculus and will be little affected by the commitment of states to some preconceived international order, ideal or cooperative effort. Indeed, the states comprising the international community as a whole will become involved in or support U.N. peacekeeping operations only so long as they do not conflict with state-specific interests. International stability and cooperation are welcomed by most states in the world, only because most states support the international status quo, but this does not mean that their commitment to some ideal of international cooperation supersedes or contradicts their attachment to their own state interests.

Notwithstanding the high expectations of the global democracy of the new world order concept, the fact remains that wars are still "politics by other means," as Carl von Clausewitz believed. People fight and die for a variety of reasons, but the organized violence of a military operation, whether sponsored by a state or a guerrilla movement, still aims for a state-specified political goal. If the political goals of the warring factions are ignored - if they are seen as a politically neutral, humanitarian tragedy, for example - then no peacekeeping operation sponsored by the United Nations or any multinational organization will succeed. Peacekeeping will meet resistance by local fighters who have more to lose than the U.N. forces, and more to gain if the United Nations fails.

Risks for Involvement in U.N.

Peacekeeping Operations

Hazards for the United States

Bearing these lessons in mind, U.S. policy makers will surely assess the risks associated with increased involvement in U.N. peacekeeping operations. The Bush administration was extremely cautious, for example, in making commitments to U.N. operations in Yugoslavia. In making this policy, Bush apparently believed that too little was at stake for the United States - and the likelihood of success too low - to take the military and political lead in this tragic conflict. President Clinton may be less cautious than Bush, but nevertheless limits will exist on U.S. policy no matter who is president.

Only America has the military power to be the world's policeman; this was once again proven in Somalia. The danger for the United States lies in the fact that, as the world's sole remaining military superpower, it may become militarily involved in U.N.-sanctioned conflicts that it would otherwise avoid. Additionally, with the Soviet Union out of the world scene, the barriers to U.N.-sanctioned military action have dropped. Suddenly anything is possible, and all sorts of problems seem solvable by U.N.-backed force. The United States will be asked repeatedly by its allies and friends to back U.N. operations. If it agrees, America will not only become involved in obscure international police maneuvers, but will do so in places where it may have no clear-cut national interests.

This is certainly the case in the former Yugoslavia. No U.S. interest in that troubled region is so critical as to require the deployment of U.S. forces there. However under the auspices of the United Nations, the United States has agreed to enforce a no-fly zone over Bosnia. Requests from the United Nations for further U.S. military action can undoubtedly be expected. Thus the United States has made an open-ended military commitment to resolving a conflict in which it has no critical interest, without knowing the U.S. political objectives that the use of force is supposed to achieve. This is also a legitimate concern with Operation Restore Hope, though only time will tell.

While one danger of expanding U.N. peacekeeping operations is the entanglement of the United States in unwanted conflicts, preventing the United States from acting unilaterally to protect its own interests is equally problematic. The United States' involvement in the Gulf War, and the other post-Cold War peacekeeping operations, has established a precedent of increasing U.S. reliance on the United Nations for building military coalitions and negotiating peaceful settlements of regional conflicts. This approach, however, is a double-edged sword for the United States: If Washington continually seeks U.N. support of the use of military force, there may be a time when that organization does not honor the request. The U.N. Security Council did not sanction the use of U.S. force in Grenada or Panama, and it would not do so today. Yet these military operations were deemed to be in the national interest of the United States, and were pursued on that basis. It is possible that Washington, after years of appealing to the United Nations for legitimacy, would not be willing to act against the wishes of its colleagues on the Security Council.

With expanding U.N. peacekeeping operations, another question arises for the United States if the United Nations expands its peacekeeping operations greatly: Who will pay for the growth? If it is assumed in the post-Cold War era that wars are no longer political exercises, but merely criminal activities requiring police action by the United Nations, then the United Nations - and the United States - will not only be involved in more conflicts, but will have to ask for more money and funding from its memberstates. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute estimates that there are 30 wars in the world today, while the United Nations currently has only 13 peacekeeping operations worldwide.(30) Expanding to take care of the 17 other military conflicts would require a substantial increase in funding, particularly from the United States, which already funds 30 percent of the current peacekeeping costs for most U.N. missions. For fiscal year 1993, the United States has allocated $460 million for peacekeeping operations, up from $377 million spent of the total $900 million U.N. peacekeeping budget in 1992.(31) Under a major U.N. expansion, this figure could easily double, or even triple.

Hazards for the International Community

Of course, other countries besides the United States would face risks as well. Countries contributing financially to peacekeeping operations would be exposed to the same financial risks as the United States. If Japan and Germany were to join the Security Council, as they aspire to, they would be particularly affected by the expansion of U.N. peacekeeping operations. As they would wish to contribute primarily money and not troops, these economic powers would be called upon to make a disproportionately high financial contribution. This may be resisted by governments already strapped by economic troubles or high budget deficits.

There is yet another troubling trend for the international community: the United Nations' growing infringement on national sovereignty. Boutros-Ghali and others in the U.N. leadership have stated that the United Nations has a right to interfere in the internal affairs of nation-states to correct human rights abuses.(32) According to Boutros-Ghali, the way a nation treats its own people is a threat to all. He is unclear about how the United Nations plans to right all these wrongs with its peacekeeping forces, but the point is unmistakable: The United Nations has the right to use force against a sovereign nation, not because it has invaded another, but because it mistreats its own people.

The practical implications of this idea are mind-boggling. Given the fact that many of the U.N. member-states are ruled by dictators, it is wildly optimistic to expect the United Nations to develop an effective consensus on human rights. It would be impossible to respond to each and every reported human rights abuse. Not taking such action, however, would only make a mockery of the United Nations' solemn declarations on the purported security threats of human rights abuses. Ultimately, every country attacked by the United Nations for human rights abuses would hide behind the hem of national sovereignty, and since there are so many violations, the more effective the U.N. policy is, the greater would be the outcry of member-states. Under these circumstances, the United Nations would undoubtedly rediscover the virtues of national sovereignty.

Guidelines for Alliances with the United Nations

U.S. Involvement

U.N. peacekeeping has its limits, but it can work under some circumstances. The challenge for U.S. policy makers is to identify these circumstances and to develop guidelines for ensuring that U.S. interests are protected. The United States should, in this regard, be sensitive to three variables: (1) how a peacekeeping operation affects American national security; (2) how much it costs; and (3) the degree to which it erodes American sovereignty.

As a rule, the United States should not lend direct military support to a U.N. peacekeeping operation unless a valid U.S. security interest is at stake. If American force is used, it is not enough to say that Washington has a vague interest in international stability, democracy or human rights. Some vital U.S. interest must be at stake if American soldiers are asked to risk their lives. Vital interests were at stake in the Korean War and the Persian Gulf War, so it was wise to work with the United Nations in these cases. This is not the case in Cambodia, the former Yugoslavia or Somalia, where no vital U.S. interests are involved. In these instances the United States should do all it can to resolve the conflicts, short of sending in military forces to back the United Nations.

Another goal for U.S. policy should be to avoid the creation of a standing U.N. army. A U.N. force commanded by a rejuvenated Security Council MSC would be impractical and ineffective. U.N. politics and bureaucratic red tape would guarantee that the organizational command and control of such a force would be a military commander's nightmare. Besides, it is highly implausible that the United States would turn over control of even a small part of its armed forces to the Security Council. Because of political and constitutional considerations, the White House and Congress would place many restrictions on the use of U.S. forces by the United Nations - so many, in fact, as to render the move meaningless.

For any major U.N.-sanctioned military operation to be successful, the United States must take the lead. This is what happened in the Persian Gulf War when Washington worked with the Security Council, and bilaterally with such regional powers as Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Syria, to forge a fighting coalition against Saddam Hussein. This approach is far more practical than creating a standby U.N. army as it not only allows smaller powers to have a greater voice, but gives the United States and its allies the flexibility to fight a war without interference from the United Nations.

In any event, the United States should be cautious about repeatedly seeking the United Nations' sanction for military operations. Washington should not automatically assume that every regional conflict affecting U.S. interests can and should be addressed by the Security Council. This is particularly true for Latin America, where the Organization of American States may be more appropriate than the United Nations for settling regional conflicts. Moreover, Washington should be very careful about raising Latin American security issues in the Security Council. U.S. security interests can best be protected by such existing agreements as the Rio Treaty and the Panama Canal Treaty. When it comes to securing the Americas, Washington should work primarily with its neighbors and not with the United Nations.

International Involvement

As for other countries, they too should be skeptical of a rash expansion of the United Nations' peacekeeping powers. Most LDCs should find it troubling that through its current policy goals, the United Nations is challenging the legitimacy of national sovereignty and developing non-traditional definitions of international security. While most countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America have little to fear from an intrusive United Nations, some of them could nonetheless find themselves on the wrong side of U.N. sanctions. An LDC government facing an armed insurrection, for example, could easily find the United Nations demanding negotiations with a domestic political enemy. At the very worst, a U.N. peacekeeping force could actually side with that enemy. While it is true that many of the groups opposing U.N. forces today are international pariahs - Serbia and the Khmer Rouge, for example - this may not always be the case. As history has shown, a U.N. peacekeeping force can easily end up in the middle of a civil war where no one side is the clear villain.

Aside from the United States, other members of the Security Council and other powerful nation-states in the world, such as Japan and Germany, should also be leery of too great a peacekeeping role for the United Nations. Assuming that the United States will demand that other countries participate significantly in peacekeeping ventures, the most likely candidates are members of the Security Council and, especially when it comes to financing the operation, Japan and Germany. An out-of-control peacekeeping apparatus would quickly prove to be expensive and burdensome to those countries because they would be called upon to keep the apparatus functioning.


The end of major wars often leads to high expectations for international cooperation. After the First World War, the League of Nations was born. After the Second World War, the United Nations was to succeed where the League had failed, including creating a new international order of peace and democracy. Now that the Cold War is over, the belief is widespread that the world has entered a new age in which the United Nations can fulfill its original mandate and help establish a new world order.

Yet just as the League of Nations and the United Nations failed to meet expectations after the two world wars, the United Nations today will disappoint those who expect too much from it. The ebb and flow of utopian internationalism in this century, following in the wake of great and costly conflicts, have left a mixed legacy. The United Nations cannot be any more successful than international politics and powerful international players allow. The United Nations can never be an independent political force on the world scene; at best, it will be an accurate reflection of the competing interest of sovereign nations. For all the current talk about the purported anachronism of states and national sovereignty, it is instructive to remember that the United Nations is indeed a body of states dedicated to the notion that the sovereign unit of international politics is still the nation-state.

If expectations are realistic, the United Nations can be a useful player in settling international conflicts. However, if it attempts to overreach its powers, and pretends to be an independent force in international politics, the United Nations will surely fail in maintaining any kind of world peace and stability. Only a United Nations anchored in the reality of the international state system can hope to grapple with the political realities of war and peace in the post-Cold War era, and accomplish its mandate as the most powerful multilateral peacekeeping body.

(2.) For further reading see Andrew Cowin, Expanding the United Nations Peacekeeping Role Poses Risks for America (Washington, DC: The Heritage Foundation, 1992),- Boutros Boutros-Ghali, An Agenda for Peace (New York: United Nations, 1992); Philip Bom, The Coming Century of Communism (Virginia Beach, VA; Policy Books, Inc., 1992); United Nations, The Blue Helmets: A Review of United Nations Peacekeeping (New York: United Nations, 1990); and Brian Urquhart, A Life in Peace and War (New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 1987). (3.) Included in this list are Libya, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan, India, North Korea, China, Vietnam, Algeria and Cuba. See Systems Planning Corporation, Balfistic Missfle Proliferatid-n: An Emerging Threat," 1992, p. 9. (4.) Including Algeria, Libya, South Africa, Iraq, North Korea, South Korea, Pakistan, Taiwan, Argentina, Brazil and Iran. See Systems Planning Corporation, "Ballistic Missile Proligeration: An Emerging Threat," 1992, p. 9. (5.) U.N. Security Council Annual Summit Declaration, 31 January 1993, pp. 1-5. (6.) Brian Urquhart, "Who Can Stop Civil Wars?" New York Times, 29 December 1991, p. 9. (7.) Andrew Katell, "Somalia Takeover Proposed," Washington Times, 15 September 1992, p. A9. (8.) Andrew Natsios, "U.S. Patience Wearing Thin, Somalian Warlords Warned," Washington Times, 2 October 1992, p. A9. (9.) Keith Richburg, "Can Battered Somalia Be Pieced Back Together?" Washington Post, 24 August 1992, p. A20. (10.) Boutros-Ghali, An Agenda for Peace, pp. 16-25. (11.) United Nations Charter, Article 43 (1945). (12.) Interview with Boutros-Ghali, "Can the U.N. Handle Its New Credibility?" USA Today, 21 September 1992, p. A1. (13.) The Charter of the United Nations, Chapter VII, Article 47.2 reads, "The Military Staff Committee shall consist of the Chiefs of Staff of the permanent members of the Security Council or their representatives." (14.) Cowin, p. 3. (15.) Security Council Resolutions (S.C.Res.) 143, 145, 146, 161, 169 (1987); and Urquhart, pp. 145-70. (16.) Cowin, p. 3. (17.) U.N. Security Council, Declaration of the Security Council U.N. Doc. S-23500 (31 January 1992). (18.) Marjorie Ann Browne, "United Nations Peacekeeping: Issues for Congress," Foreign Affairs and National Defense Division (Washington, DC: U.S. House of Representatives, 6 July 1992). (19.) S.C. Res. 745 (28 February 1992). (20.) S.C. Res. 757 (24 April 1992). (21.) Eric Schmitt, "U.S. job in Somalia is Growing in Cost," New York Times, 17 January 1993, p. 27; Alison Mitchell, "First Marines Leave Somalia, a Signal to the U.N.," New York Times, 20 January 1993, p. 3; and also see John Lancaster, "U.S. Beginning Pullout From Somalia," Washington Post, 19 January 1993, p. 1. (22.) S.C. Res. 743 (21 February 1992). (23.) Chuck Sudetic, "U.N. in Bosnia War: Hope of Big World Role May Be a Casualty," New York Times, 20 November 1992, p. 1. (24.) Seth Faison, "U.N. Head Proposes Expanded Efforts for Somali Relief," New York Times, 25 July 1992, p. 1; and also see Andrew Natsios, 2 October 1992. (25.) Cowin, p. 9. (26.) ibid., p. 9. (27.) The Blue Helmets: A Review of the United Nations Peacekeeping pp.213-59. (28.) Cowin, p. 10. (29.) The United States and its allies had a similar experience in Lebanon in 1983. The Americans, British, French and Italians sent troops there following the assassination of Lebanese president-elect Bashir Gemayel in 1982. Although not a U.N. operation, it did enjoy the support of U.N. Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar. While originally welcomed by the warring factions in Lebanon, the multinational force eventually became a military target, culminating in the October 1983 car bombing of the U.S. Marines' barracks in Beirut. (30.) International Peace Yearbook (Stockholm: Stockholm International Peace Research Institute 1992) pp. 1-335. (31.) Conference Report 102-918, 102d Congress, 2d sess., 28 September 1992, p.93. (32.) Boutros-Ghali, p. 32; Natsios, p. A9; and also see, Lucia Mouat, "U.N. Overhaul Is Seen as Key to Expanded Peacekeeping Role," Christian Science Monitor, 22 June 1992, p. 3.
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Title Annotation:Keeping the Peace: Conflict Resolution in the Twenty-First Century
Author:Holmes, Kim R.
Publication:Journal of International Affairs
Date:Jan 1, 1993
Previous Article:Collective security in Europe after the Cold War.
Next Article:The making of a security community: the United Nations after the Cold War.

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