Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Clinton Administration Gets Some Lessons in UN Protocol

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Clinton Administration Gets Some Lessons in UN Protocol

Article excerpt

THE Clinton administration has sent forth its highest emissaries to spread a new conventional wisdom on Somalia, Haiti, and Bosnia that seeks to deflect blame for the current imbroglios. The new message has two components: First, the Bush administration bequeathed each nightmare to and left all the difficult decisions for President Clinton; second, United Nations Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali has dragged us into conflicts unrelated to our national interests, and the United States will now resist his heavy hand. These defenses come from an administration reluctant to admit that it is only now beginning to understand UN peacekeeping.

To be successful, peacekeeping requires the consent of the rival parties to the UN's presence. That premise rings as true for the military operations that monitor truces in Cyprus, Kashmir, and the Golan Heights as it does for those implementing peace accords in Cambodia or El Salvador - and perhaps soon in Haiti. Consent hinges upon a political deal among all the relevant adversaries, whether they be mass murderers or military thugs.

Peace enforcement, on the other hand, does not depend on consent; the world community sends in a force notwithstanding local wishes, in order, for example, to defeat an aggressor and impose peace. It should be reserved for egregious breaches of global security or human rights of concern to many nations where direct confrontation will rectify the situation. President Bush and Secretary of State James Baker III properly saw Iraq's invasion of Kuwait as such a case.

The paradox of peacekeeping is that it relies upon the consent and cooperation of the parties, but it is most needed in places where the adversaries prove reluctant to allow it.

Some favor a way out of the paradox by imposing a solution, switching from peacekeeping to peace enforcement. But for the many conflicts not of first-order importance to the US, recent history affirms the continued need for negotiations, coupled in some cases with the stick of economic sanctions. The UN must achieve the requisite degree of local support before deploying its military and civilian personnel, and negotiations must continue after the UN arrives. Today's complex UN missions require more-active diplomacy than those that simply observe armies along cease-fire lines.

Mr. Bush and Mr. Baker recognized Somalia, Bosnia, and other hot spots as situations impervious to quick-fix military solutions. In Somalia, the US sent troops to provide humanitarian relief only, while encouraging negotiations among Somali leaders. In Bosnia, it reluctantly but realistically supported the Vance-Owen plan, which would have left Bosnia as one state, Muslims with more land and power than they now have, and the UN to oversee a peace treaty.

The importance of consent and negotiation for UN operations seems, however, to have been averse to the liberal sensibilities of the Clinton administration, ready to impose its conceptions of American justice around the globe. …

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