Multiple Administrations have concluded that it is in America’s interest to support U.N. operations as a useful, cost-effective way to influence situations that affect the U.S. national interest but do not require direct U.S. intervention. Although the U.N. peacekeeping record includes significant failures, U.N. peace operations overall have proven to be a convenient, sometimes effective multilateral means for addressing humanitarian concerns in situations where conflict or instability make civilians vulnerable to atrocities, for promoting peace efforts, and for supporting the transition to democracy and post-conflict rebuilding.
This glimpse of the big picture was welcome in a report that focuses much of its attention on criticizing the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) for its alleged “mismanagement, fraud, and corruption.” The problem with Schaefer’s excessive focus on the latter is not that DPKO, the UN, or any such large organization, is a pristine body void of any transgressions or bureaucratic impediments; it is simply that the existence of such problems does nothing to diminish the value of UN peacekeeping — particularly when Schaefer himself recognizes it.While Schaefer — like the Republican Party platform — does not sound the call of John Bolton-type conservatives to withhold U.S. dues to the UN as a purported incentive to reform, he does make this somewhat ominous recommendation:
The Bush Administration and Congress need to consider carefully any requests by the United Nations for additional funding for a system in which procurement problems have wasted millions of dollars and sexual abuse by peacekeepers is still occurring.
Yes, procurement and sexual abuse problems are still occurring — even if the vast majority of the evidence that Schaefer draws from comes from over three years ago, before DPKO instituted certain key reforms that have had a strong effect in reducing instances of sexual exploitation and corruption. Violations that do occur constitute a definite, but remediable, problem. To overcome these obstacles, though, the United States will have to engage more, not less, in UN peacekeeping — particularly when the end result, a UN peacekeeping system that both achieves U.S. interests and operates up to Schaefer’s standards of accountability and management, is in everybody’s interests.