JUST five years after winning the Nobel Prize for settling
conflicts in Cambodia, Namibia, El Salvador, and elsewhere, United
Nations peacekeeping is besieged and nearly bankrupt. While
peacekeepers are being assigned to far more numerous, complex, and
violent disputes than ever (20 in the past four years alone
compared with 13 over the prior 40 years), they have been
consistently denied the political support and financial and
logistical resources necessary to fulfill their missions.
Instead, the perpetually over-strained and underfunded UN has
become the disposal site for deadly quarrels that no individual
nation has any interest in confronting.
In Rwanda's civil war, up to half a million people were
slaughtered in just two months; but UN Secretary-General Boutros
Boutros-Ghali pleaded in vain for an international response.
Finally, France, largely on its own and with questionable
neutrality, intervened at the margins of the conflict. At the same
time, the French have warned that if a settlement is not soon
reached in Bosnia, they may pull out their peacekeepers by year's
As the world's sole superpower and the UN's largest financial
contributor, the United States is uniquely well situated to
influence the policies of other nations on this issue. But the
Clinton administration's actions in recent months have only further
weakened international support for the beleaguered institution.
Candidate Clinton made increased support for the UN a central tenet
of his foreign-policy platform. He even proposed a standing
rapid-deployment peacekeeping force. Once in office, however, his
good intentions were soon thwarted.
Inheriting an unwise commitment made by President Bush just
before leaving office, President Clinton endured an undignified
exit from Somalia amid cries of derision from Somalis themselves.
This political embarrassment gave opponents just the ammunition
they needed to block future US commitments to UN forces.
In early May, Mr. Clinton issued a Presidential Decision
Directive that effectively cedes the argument to his opponents. The
document severely constrains the circumstances under which US
personnel and financial resources will be committed to UN
peacekeeping operations, setting conditions far more restrictive
than those it generally imposes on its vastly larger, more
hazardous, and more costly unilateral military interventions.
The directive puts the US on record firmly opposing any
"standing UN army." With the ostensible aim of making US
participation "selective and more effective," the administration
now insists that all American involvement "advance US interests"
(giving no acknowledgment to the larger human interest), that
command of US forces never be transferred to UN control, and that
the US share of peacekeeping expenses be reduced from its current
31.7 percent to 25 percent.
With a steadfastness that he sadly lacks on other issues, the
president has refused to commit US forces to UN missions in Bosnia
He also continues a shameful tradition, dating from the early
Reagan era, that marks the US as the world's leading debtor for
peacekeeping efforts. …