When I saw that the blog of the neo-conservative flagship Commentary linked to this terribly saddening Lydia Polgreen article about a massacre in eastern Congo I fully expected to see a rant against UN peacekeeping. Rather, to his credit, Max Boot makes a reasoned argument and draws the right lessons from this tragedy.
It is all too easy, reading accounts like this, to snort in derision and write off the UN as a hopeless failure. Easy, but not productive. After all, if the UN isn’t trying to keep the peace in Congo, who will do the job? However undermanned and underequipped and inadequate in every way, UN forces are often the only instruments available to stop horrific bloodshed.
I would urge my compatriots on the right to put aside their reflexive-and usually well-justified-antipathy to all things UN and think about how we can improve this organization’s capacity so it can actually be a useful instrument in stemming chaos in ungoverned spaces, something that is very much in the interest of the United States and other civilized nations.
The nub of the problem, it seems to me, is the lack of capacity among UN peacekeepers who are typically contributed by poor nations for no better reason than a cash stipend. This is a deficiency that would not be hard to fix. Imagine if the UN had a standing military force that trained together, made up of veterans of Western militaries and equipped with top-of-the-line hardware. Such ideas were in fact offered forth in the early 1990s after the end of the Cold War, but they died amid the UN’s debacles in Bosnia, Somalia, and Rwanda. It may be time to revive them.