Magazine article Insight on the News

Identifying the Peace America Wants to Keep

Magazine article Insight on the News

Identifying the Peace America Wants to Keep

Article excerpt

As Congress and the president debate further peacekeeping action in Bosnia, they give little attention to the real role of recent multilateral peacekeeping efforts and their implications for U.S. national interests. In spite of the good intentions of the United Nations and t States, peacekeeping has evolved into a new form of military assistance. UN. forces have come to be viewed by one side or the other -- and sometimes both -- as a source of important military support rather than as impartial peacekeepers. And, in most cases, they have been right.

For example, the humanitarian delivery of food and medicine to besieged Bosnian communities in 1992 amounted to breaking the Serbian siege -- from the Serbian perspective -- and accomplished for the Bosnian military what it could not achieve itself. Croatian officials expressed similar grievances. When they announced they were ending the mandate for U.N. troops stationed in Croatia, it was because they believed that U.N. preservation of the cease-fire line was creating a buffer for the separatist Serbs and was consolidating Serb control over 30 percent of the country.

However, the Croatian government itself was not above manipulating the U.N. forces toward a favorable settlement. As the price of renewing the U.N. forces mandate in Croatia, President Franjo Tudjman demanded that the peacekeeping troops move to Croatia's international borders to prevent a permanent division of the country, a feat Croatia's military had not attained on its own. In fact, the United Nations also had provided a buffer behind which the Croatian army had reorganized, acquired training and much weaponry, as its successful military offensive in May confirmed. In either case, U.N. peacekeeping forces were providing essential assistance to one side or the other in the Balkan conflict.

Similarly, in Rwanda, French peacekeeping efforts were viewed by the Tutsis as designed to halt their gains on the battlefield. Despite French assurances that their aid to Hutu refugees was not military but humanitarian, the Tutsis accused the French of systematically siding with the Hutus. As the Tutsis advanced, camps created by French troops as a safe haven for fleeing Hutus did become staging areas for Hutu militias attempting to organize a counterattack against the new Rwandan government.

Even Turkey, a staunch NATO ally, complained about post-gulf war peacekeeping efforts in the region. Prime Minister Tansu Ciller pointed out that outlawed Kurdish guerrillas used the border region inside Iraq as an operational base when the region became a "safe haven" for Kurds, protected by an American-monitored no-fly zone. …

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