Friday, August 03, 2007

Doubts on UN Peacekeeping Mission to Darfur

On a British site I found an opinion piece which doubts that the UN peacekeeping mission to Darfur will be a stunning success.

This piece, on the site, says in part:

"For starters, and despite what the [British Prime Minister Gordon] Brown spin machine would have us believe, this is not the first time the UN has authorised an intervention force for Darfur. Only last year the security council passed a British-sponsored resolution - 1706 - that envisaged a similar force being deployed to Darfur, but nothing came of it because of the hostile reaction from Khartoum.

"Sudan's declaration that it is prepared to co-operate with the new force should be taken with a pinch of salt. Its tactics all along have been to appear accommodating and conciliatory when under international scrutiny, but then to be utterly obstructive when it comes to implementing the deal on the ground."

The Christian Science Monitor has an article headlined "The UN blinks on Darfur".

The piece goes straight to the heart of the problem with the very first sentence:

"Despite the UN action to save it, Darfur still needs a peace to keep before it can use peacekeepers."

Peace keepers can keep a peace once a war has come to a halt, but they can't actually bring a war to a halt if their mandate is nothing than permission to take photographs and hand out free toilet paper. And the mandate, as given to the proposed force by the UN, is not, in practical terms, very much more than that.

The second sentence shows that the position of the Christian Science Monitor is the same as my own: What is needed in Darfur is not peace but war. Here is the second sentence:

"Rather than plan for an invasion of Darfur to end a genocide, the UN Security Council decided Tuesday to send in 20,000 peacekeepers – not peacemakers."

The CSM puts the blame for the UN debacle on two factors, one being the influence of China's veto power and the other being the malign influence of Iraq. America's screw up has dented the UN's enthusiasm for taking down rogue nation states.

The article gets precise about exactly how the arms of the UN force are tied:

"But even with the new UN African Union Mission in Darfur (Unamid), peacekeepers won't be able to disarm militias or arrest suspected war criminals. They can only protect civilians. And they are allowed to operate only "without prejudice to the responsibility of the government of Sudan," according to Tuesday's UN resolution. That's a loophole for Sudan to block anything."

The Voice of America quotes a UN expert as saying, in effect, that the intervention force itself will not turn the tide. To avoid making a mess of quotation marks inside of quotation marks, I put my quote from the VOA page inside square brackets, thus:

[Rodolphe Adada, Joint Special Representative of the U.N. Secretary General was more cautious in his comments.

["Don't forget that the force in itself is not sufficient to bring the peace in Darfur," he noted. "It will be after the agreement we are trying to get between the Darfurians, the work of the political side, this will be basis of the peace and we are there to help implement this peace agreement."]

One problem is made clear by the BBC news site:

"It will be a joint AU-UN mission, but it must be mainly African in character, a specification made to appease Sudan's initial antagonism to the force."

This would seem to rule out a significant contribution from Australia. In a world of whimpy governments which prefer to look the other way when the world is going to hell, Australia has, in recent years, been making deployments to various unstable areas in the Pacific, such as East Timor.

In my view, the Australian military commitment to its self-perceived role, that of playing deputy sheriff to the United States in riding herd on the world, has been carried out in an effective, responsible and highly professional manner.

The Australian armed forces are basically constituted as one big expeditionary force, and the Australian prime minister has indicated that Australia is favorably inclinted to contribute to a mission to Darfur. But what he has suggested is sending doctors and nurses.

Doctors and nurses would be very nice, of course, but it would be nicer if the military professionals of the Australian officer corps could be there on the ground in Africa giving directions to military affairs.

The BBC says that "Burkina Faso, Egypt, Ethiopia, Nigeria and Senegal have so far offered troops."

I see Africa, of course, through the limiting lens of my own stereotypes, but my own impression is that a peace keeping intervention by the likes of Nigeria and Burkina Faso would not exactly be optimal.


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