article placeholder

Why intervention is not forthcoming in Somalia

From a good article in Macleans, the Canadian weekly:

"It comes down to this question: can we intervene without doing harm?" says Brownwyn E. Bruton, an international affairs fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. "If you want to deal with it properly, you’re looking at an Iraq-style investment, where 20,000 peacekeepers isn’t going to do it—maybe 40,000, maybe 60,000. You’re talking about building a government and security forces from the ground up. It’s going to be a 10-year effort. And there’s going to be a lot of violence in the short term, as there was in Iraq." [emphasis mine]

And that, in case the bolded parts don't make it clear enough, just ain't gonna happen. The article also makes the very valid point that such a force, wherever it came from, would require a substantial contribution from the United States. And even though the U.S. did recently contribute 168 million very important dollars to the African Union mission in Somalia, a 10-year investment in 60,000 troops would cost, um, a little bit more.

So where to look? The UN?

Ahmed Abdisalam Adan, a former resident of Ottawa and deputy prime minister of Somalia until Sheik Sharif Ahmed’s government was sworn in this year, hopes that the international community will shoulder this burden. In an interview with Maclean’s, he drew comparisons between Somalia and Afghanistan and argued that the international response should be similar. He wants the United Nations to send troops. While some Somalis would reject any international presence, Adan believes most would accept it as necessary. "Somalis are killing each other every day here on the streets, so why wouldn’t they accept anyone who is coming to save them?"

We've previously argued why a UN peacekeeping mission in Somalia would not be a good idea, and the situation remains such that UN deployment would be much more likely to inflame tensions and exacerbate conditions on the ground than to achieve any sort of forced pacification. Adan's logic is misguided (there are in fact no UN peacekeepers, only a small political team, in Afghanistan, his proposed parallel case), but his language is revealing: any UN blue helmets that might deploy in Somalia could not be there to "save" Somalis. Peacekeeping missions, even the ones with mandates to protect civilians, are not rescue missions. That requires a whole different (and more substantial) investment, one that, given Somalia's history, is not likely to be forthcoming.

Does this mean there is no way for the international community to help improve the situation in Somalia? No, but it does mean that we should be candid about what full-scale protection of Somali civilians will entail. We can keep supporting the country's government, conducting anti-terrorism operations, promoting peace processes, and providing vital humanitarian aid, but if we want to talk about making sure that everyday Somali civilians are safe, we'd need to be honest about what that's going to take.

article placeholder

Amnesty for everyone in Honduras?

Because there is a unified international front (aside from, ahem, a handful of members of the United States Congress) it is almost assured that Honduran President Manuel Zelaya will return to office.  What's being hashed out in negotiations, overseen by Costa Rican president Oscar Arias, are the precise terms of his return. 

According to news reports, it seems that amnesty is in the offing for both Zelaya and the coup leaders. This is obviously an expedient solution, but there is a down side to letting everyone off the hook.  The coup was a subversion of the rule of law. Any long term solution to the crisis in Honduras must include efforts to bolster the rule of law.  Amnesty has exactly the opposite effect. 

article placeholder

ICC warrant working?

Sudanese President Bashir, who'd previously shown few qualms in provocatively traipsing across Africa after his indictment by the ICC, visiting allies that he knew were non-signatories to the Court, has recently backed off a planned trip to neighboring Uganda.  Why?  Well, Kampala hasn't exactly been clear on the matter, but it seems that even the faintest threat of being arrested (Uganda has ratified the ICC's Rome Statute) was enough to dissuade Bashir from the chance of looking foolish -- and of ending up in the dock in The Hague.

This isn't surefire proof that the ICC warrant is "working," of course.  Bashir remains pretty safely ensconced in power -- at least as long as he remains in Sudan.  But this is exactly the point of the of the warrant, to constrain Bashir in his movement.  Whether it will actually result in his eventual arrest -- or, even better, a viable peace settlement in the country -- is far from clear, but if Uganda is willing to arrest send mixed signals about arresting Bashir, well, then that's a step at least.

article placeholder

Jakarta bombing

By now you have heard of the twin suicide bombing attacks at the Marriot Hotel and Ritz Carlton Hotels in Jakarta, Indonesia.  At least 8 people were killed and 50 injured. Smart money is that Jemaah Islamiya is behind the attack. I found this video depicting the chaos following the explosion. 

article placeholder

Friedman: Occupation only makes Iraqis “want” and “need” U.S. help

I just got around to reading Tom Friedman's column from the other day about Kirkuk Iraq. It's odd in a number of ways, from his love of using jokes to make a point, to his blithe assumption that the U.S. military has "left a million acts of kindness" in the country, and his bizarre contention that Iraq is "100 times more important" than Bosnia (what is the point of a powder keg competition between the Middle East and the Balkans, anyway?). But this is what struck me most from Friedman's outlook:

Senior Iraqi officials are too proud to ask for our help and would probably publicly resist it, but privately Iraqis will tell you that they want it and need it. We are the only trusted player here — even by those who hate us. They need a U.S. mediator so they can each go back to their respective communities and say: "I never would have made these concessions, but those terrible Americans made me do it."

First, I have a hard time believing that Thomas Friedman can reliably attest to the private desires of most Iraqis (especially when he is writing from Kirkuk, but makes no mention that Kurds, who form a substantial part of Kirkuk's population, have a notably different outlook toward Americans). Second, I have an even harder time believing that six-plus years of military occupation has made Iraqis "want" and "need" more American help (something tells me that simply observing the diversity of American military personnel has not, as Friedman weakly argues, made an impression on Iraq's own ethnic politics). I don't believe for an instant that "those who hate us" trust the United States simply because it has been there for a long time.

Third, the United States is not the "only" purportedly neutral party in Iraq. The UN, I'd wager, has a lot more public support, and, more importantly, can lay a better claim to being an objective mediator. Rather than advocate what seems an entirely collapsible and unsustainable strategy of blaming concessions on "those terrible Americans," Friedman should consider the political reconciliation work that the UN already is doing in Iraq, particularly in Kirkuk, which he, again, oddly fails to mention. Rest assured that it does not involve sending Iraqi mediators home with the implicit point of blaming "those terrible" UN types.

(image from flickr user Charles Haynes under a Creative Commons license)

article placeholder

UN employee killed in Pakistan

Another tragic example of the dangers that UN personnel face:

The attack on the U.N. worker took place early Thursday at the Kacha Garhi camp near Peshawar. Local police chief Ghayoor Afridi said the assailants tried to abduct the U.N. official and opened fire when he resisted.

The chief of the U.N. refugee agency in Pakistan, Guenet Guebre-Christos, identified the dead U.N. worker as Zill-e-Usman, a 59-year-old Pakistani in charge of the U.N.'s relief efforts at the camp. She said Usman had worked for the U.N. for nearly 30 years and was set to retire soon.

"He was quite an old hand and he was looking forward to his retirement," Guebre-Christos told The Associated Press. She strongly condemned the attack, calling it a "cowardly assassination."

This UN worker was one of many trying to help the two million Pakistani civilians that have been displaced. Trying to abduct him -- and hinder the protection and resettlement of fellow Pakistanis in the process -- was indeed cowardly, as well as foolish, egotistical, and vile.

The report also notes the arrival of the UN team, led by Chilean ambassador Heraldo Munoz, tasked with investigating another cowardly assassination in the country: that of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto.

article placeholder

Cooperative foreign policy

I disagreed with Peter Scoblic Beinart on another point earlier, so but I have to give him Peter Scoblic credit for nailing the essence of Hillary Clinton's speech yesterday:

If the speech was long, the key point was simple: Essentially, the secretary seemed to be saying that, despite the grave dangers we face--indeed, because of the very character of those threats--the emphasis in U.S. foreign policy today must be on cooperation rather than conflict. Not because the world is suddenly a friendlier place, but because meeting threats bluntly may be ineffective or even counterproductive.

Amen.

(I also agree with his colleague Michael Crowley on why the media seems determined to interpret everything that Clinton does into a silly Obama vs. Hillary storyline.)

article placeholder

Global consensuses can be plural

With all due respect to Peter Beinart, I think he gets this one wrong:

And that means you can either forge truly global institutions—which include Moscow and Beijing—or you can forge institutions whose members genuinely respect freedom. You can’t do both. Similarly, it would be nice if there were a global consensus that nuclear proliferation was bad, but there’s not. Countries with nukes mostly think that no one else should enter the club. Lots of countries without nukes want in.

It’s all well and good to say that we can have different kinds of international institutions for different issues: global ones where there really is a moral consensus; limited ones where there is not. But in the real world, you can’t keep things so separate. The more you alienate non-democracies by creating powerful new institutions on human rights, the harder it is to get their cooperation on issues of common concern.

This reminds me of the tired debate about creating a "League of Democracies." On the one hand, Beinart is right that pushing for such a provocative (and ill-defined) "pro-freedom" institution will only make global cooperation more difficult. But on the other, different global institutions do exist. The role of the UN is not undermined by the existence of NATO, nor is the World Bank's by the G-8 or G-20.  Advocating human rights through the Human Rights Council does not impede the work of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Moreover, the fact that all countries in a global institution don't agree on something does not mean that the institution itself is useless, even at tackling a problem on which its members have differing viewpoints. The UN and other mixed groups of countries are proper venues for negotiating nuclear nonproliferation precisely because they contain both countries with and without nukes, and whose commitments toward nonproliferation vary. You can't come to an agreement on something in a group in which everyone already agrees. "Forging" a global consensus is difficult work; you can't just corral the right countries into the right groups. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't try, even on aims that might seem to be at odds with one another.

article placeholder

On the eve of Hillary Clinton’s trip, an insider’s look at the Indian political scene

Eriposte is a regular contributor to The Left Coaster, where he frequently writes on issues pertaining to the Indian sub-continent. In his previous contribution to UN Dispatch, eriposte wrote about the link betweem rural poverty and extremism in Pakistan. 

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will be in India from July 17 through July 21, visiting both Mumbai and New Delhi. This is a trip aimed at laying a foundation for a deeper and more strategic engagement with India. Interestingly, one of the leading Indian newspapers The Hindu reports that in Mumbai, "she will be staying at the Taj Mahal Hotel in an act of solidarity with the 26/11 victims" - a reference to one of the major sites targeted in the coordinated terrorist attacks last year (26/11).

Clinton will not visit Pakistan during this trip, implicitly sending a message that the United States no longer views India merely "through the Pakistan lens" - a message that was also indirectly conveyed earlier by eliminating India from the charter of Special Envoy Richard Holbrooke. In a recent speech, Secretary Clinton said "We see India as one of a few key partners worldwide who will help us shape the 21st century" and characterized this period as "a third era...U.S.-India 3.0". Some of topics that are expected to be discussed during her trip include global security, nuclear energy, climate change, trade and human development. Given the significance of this trip to US-India relations, this might be an appropriate moment to highlight some of the key players in India when it comes to foreign policy.