PRESIDENT Bush rightly framed his initial reaction to Iraq's
invasion of Kuwait within the United Nations process. With the
passage of the resolution containing the Jan. 15 deadline, however,
the UN ceded its leadership. It is imperative that it take steps to
reclaim its central role in resolving the conflict in the Gulf and
in the "new world order."
But as smart bombs and Patriot missiles have replaced the UN
resolutions in the headlines, the UN itself has faded from view. It
must reassert its primacy in the resolution of the conflict. In
doing so, the UN has several important roles to play.
- Create and extend diplomatic opportunities. The UN is
well-positioned both to act as an intermediary itself and to provide
a forum for third-party efforts at mediation. The UN could also
provide the vehicle for promises of international assistance to
Iraq, Kuwait, and other regional sufferers as an incentive for
Saddam's withdrawal from Kuwait.
Activities such as these, carried out in the name of all nations,
would carry the weight of internationally shared norms and values.
The current perception among some Arab people that the UN has been
tainted by American domination must be recognized and perhaps
defused by special efforts to reach out to Arabs in the search for
options. UN leaders should be actively seeking to improve
communication between the warring parties.
- Plan for a Gulf peacekeeping force. American military
officials anticipate a relatively prompt removal of US forces from
the region after the war ends. By this time, American troops in the
region are likely to have encountered so much Arab hostility that
they will become a destabilizing force themselves. A neutral,
defensive military presence must replace the coalition forces to
enforce a cease-fire.
The UN peacekeeping tradition offers the obvious answer to this
need. The existence of such a multilateral arrangement would
contribute to broadening participation in the postwar diplomatic and
reconstruction efforts. The UN forces could also assist in the
enforcement of embargoes on military imports to the region that will
surely follow the end of hostilities. Detailed planning for the
earliest possible insertion of another blue-helmeted force should
begin at once.
- Strengthen UN structures to address future aggression. The
stature of the UN has unquestionably benefited from the end of the
US-Soviet deadlock that paralyzed the Security Council. This
rapprochement has contributed to the heightened UN peacekeeping
activities around the world and ought to form the basis of a renewal
of the Hammarskjoldian vision of an activist United Nations. …