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.
EXPANDING THE U.N. ROLE IN CONFLICT RESOLUTION
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 …