The United Nations peacekeeping organization has had a handful of remarkable successes, including its “pioneer” (1948) missions: the UN Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO) and the UN Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP). Since the 1990s, however, UN peacekeeping has been a litany of failures ~ most notably in Africa. The reasons for this are many and varied, but part of the problem, in my opinion, is the organization, itself: the security council; the general assembly and the Directorate of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) which are, politically inflexible, often corrupt and inept. The result is that many, perhaps most of the 90,000 “blue helmets” on UN duty are poorly trained, badly led and, too often, do more harm than good.
Some time back Dr Andrew Lilico proposed that CANZUK should be formed to be a free trade and military “alliance.” I was, and I remain, cautious about the military structure but I am convinced that the CANZUK + 1 organizations (Australia, Canada, New Zealand, United Kingdom and United States) that are non-treaty organizations that, most often, “lead” Western military standardization efforts (because NATO is too big and too formal) work very, very well but are of a model that is hard to duplicate. The ABCA and CCEB and, and, and are all small, quite “loose” and informal ~ because they are authorized at the “chief of staff” level, not at ministerial or above levels. They can and do make plans and recommendations quickly and cooperatively ~ of course the US has too much “power,” because it is a HUGE country (318,000,000 people vs 64,000,000 for the UK, 35,000,000 for Canada, 23,000,000 for Australia and 4,400,000 for New Zealand) and has 1.3 million active duty military personnel backed by a $600 Billion defence budget as opposed to 290 thousand active duty military personnel, total, in the other four countries and combined defence budgets of less than $(US)100 Billion. But, I can say from fairly extensive personal experience in two of those bodies that the four CANZUK nations have loud and clear voices that are heard, respected and even, sometimes, listened to in Washington.
In my opinion CANZUK ~ notably minus the USA ~ would be a much better “top level” organization to “mange” UN peacekeeping:
- To assess requirements … there are always too many;
- To ‘guesstimate’ the prospects for success … often poor to nil since 1990;
- To recruit nations for UN forces based on capabilities and willingness to serve;
- To recruit political leaders to head missions;
- To recruit mission military commanders; and
- To set standards and rule of engagement.
I think a small, generally respected, politically and militarily, but not feared multi-national “tiger team” would serve the UN much, much better than it serves itself.
Of course the four countries would be expected to set a good example by serving in several UN missions ~ but only rarely offering to lead them either politically or militarily.
There are dozens of militarily capable nations in the Americas, Europe, Asia and Africa. There are, equally, hundreds of international statesmen from even more countries who could provide political leadership. The trick is to select missions that have some hope of success; to assemble civil-military teams that can work together and achieve success, and to provide a management framework for measuring success … all on behalf of the UN but without the Security Council looking over the mission’s shoulder. I think a CANZUK military staff could do that.
Conservative leadership candidate Erin O’Toole has suggested that the “UN is broken” ~ I agree, and that he would withhold funding to force the UN to fix itself ~ I also agree, but I think it is up to countries like Canada and Australia and New Zealand and the United Kingdom, which is a UNSC member, to do more than just exert pressure. We should help the UN to right its own ship, and I think disbanding the UN’s DPKO would be an essential first step.
A key second point would be to end most “blue helmet” type UN peacekeeping missions. Military “peace support” operations should be of, broadly, three kinds:
- Peace making ~ intervening to force nations and sub- national groups to stop fighting;
- Peace enforcement ~ providing security for a country or between countries; and
- Truce supervision ~ monitoring peace when nations and rebel groups have, finally, agreed that they want peace.
The first two are what I would call part of a “green helmet” genre: they need highly capable, well supported combat troops who can work well together; the missions should be conducted on the UN’s behalf by “coalitions of the willing” and of the “able,” and they should not be “styled” as UN missions. Some may require only “light” forces, but some will require the full range of combat power. The third is traditional blue beret style peacekeeping and it should look the part. In my opinion one of the problems facing the UN is that the public can see that most “blue helmet” missions fail. The UN should want its “trademark” associated with success ~ and success is possible under the right circumstances. The “blue helmet” should not be seen until the “green helmets” have done the hard, dirty, often brutal and bloody work of peace making and peace enforcement.
I am one of those who believes that if the modern UN didn’t exist we would have to create it … there needs to be a forum where, as Churchill said, we can all “jaw, jaw” because it is so much better than the “war, war” option. But we ask too much of the UN, and in the 21st century, the UN has lost the capacity it had in the 1940s, when it had only ¼ of its current membership, to plan and conduct peace operations. It needs a smaller, more agile, less politically polarized and more capable planning team. Andrew Lilico’s and Erin O’Toole’s CANZUK might be that team.