The Economist begins an article headlined “Peacekeepers in name only“ with a dozen or so paragraph long litany of recent failures in United Nations peacekeeping operations. Then it gets to the UN’s excuse. It explains that “The UN argues that, despite the manifest failings of these missions, it is better to have them than not. The mere presence of its troops can sometimes deter attacks, and even if blue helmets are reluctant to go out and help civilians, at least the civilians can huddle in and around its bases for protection, as in South Sudan.“
There’s a reason for that, and it is a reason that would bedevil any peacekeeping operation conducted by an group of nations. It’s because, as The Economist says, “The UN has no mandate to impose its will independently on a country. All peacekeeping missions are authorised by the Security Council, and subject to approval by the General Assembly, giving China and Russia ample room to minimise the scope of missions in the interests of their clients and allies … [and] … Such was the case in Sudan. China has considerable economic interests here, and it struggled for years to prevent any outside intervention in Darfur. Eventually, in 2007, it did concede to sending in UNAMID, but only after ensuring that the mission could cause Mr Bashir as little inconvenience as possible. The offer of Western troops was kept to an absolute minimum, denying UNAMID the sort of kit and operational efficiency that might have made a difference … [and, further] … Another reason why, when the call goes out from New York, peacekeeping generally attracts troops from poor countries (see chart), is because the pay is relatively high. But they are typically risk averse. Some forces commit crimes. Another whistleblower, Anders Kompass, exposed allegations of sexual abuse of young children by troops in the Central African Republic in 2015.“
Now, to be clear, not every poor country has poor troops. The Indian Army, for example, is a highly skilled, tough, professional force that is the envy of many much richer nations … but Rwanda and Malawi, for example, produce UN contingents that are little more than roving bands of armed thugs.
The first problem, great power interference is very, very difficult to overcome, no matter what agency sets up and operates a “peacekeeping” mission, but the second is unique to the UN’s way of doing business.
It is into this dangerous, ill managed and often corrupt morass that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised, in 2015, to send Canadian troops and police officers. Every indication is that he and his cabinet, having been told a bit about the perils of peacekeeping, now want to back away from that. But the UN keeps pressing ~ now it even wants to get into the nitty gritty of how nations organize their infantry battalions to ensure that each one sent on a UN mission will meet specified gender quotas. “It,” CBC News reports, “wants countries, including Canada, to deliver a “demonstrated commitment to meet or exceed” the target of having women comprise 15 per cent of all staff officers and observers on UN military missions, according to latest statement of UN requirements in August … [because] … At the moment, they only make-up 7.4 per cent … [and] … Nations are also being asked to pledge female “engagement teams,” comprising 30 women, roughly 15 per cent, in each infantry battalion … [thus, the UN says] … “A suggested model would be for pledges of infantry battalions to include at least one platoon of women within each unit to enable mixed patrolling,” the UN statement said.” While this is fully in accord with Justin Trudeau’s feminist political priority and may well have been the brainchild of a Canadian official, it must be borne in mind that the UN has a well deserved reputation for military incompetence of the highest order so when it suggests e.g. “mixed patrolling” then anyone with the tiniest shred of military skill and knowledge must cringe in horror at the prospect.
Canada has (too many) admirals and generals who are fully qualified to decide on how Canadian units and formations should be organized and DND and the CF have fair and efficient systems to select, train and deploy the right people for the right jobs. The UN has no business telling anyone, especially not a modern, sophisticated country like Canada, how to organize its military, not even for a UN mission. The United Nations peacekeeping hierarchy is, quite simply, incompetent … when it is not corrupt and venal and serving almost every interest except peace.
Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland unveiled the Liberal government’s five-year women, peace and security initiative in Ottawa just a day or so ago. According to the (linked) Globe and Mail article “The Trudeau government offered a taste of its peacekeeping plan on Wednesday by promising millions in funding for women’s rights abroad, even as signs point to an actual mission coming soon … [and] … Chief of defence staff Gen. Jonathan Vance attended Tuesday morning’s cabinet meeting on Parliament Hill, where he was believed to have briefed ministers on several potential mission options … [further] … Those included deploying transport helicopters to Mali, basing a transport aircraft in Uganda to help ferry UN troops and supplies to different parts of Africa and sending helicopters to Haiti, sources said.” It may be that I was right in my reading of the rumours that suggest an air transport mission rather than Army “boots on the ground.” The female police officers, I expect, will still be sent, but to a school, on a training mission rather than into the field, per se, as mentors or supervisors of UN police and military forces.
Anyway it appears that Liberal virtue signalling might give way to an actual military operation. But, the diplomatic target, for Team Trudeau, still seems to be that worthless, temporary, second class seat on the United Nations Security Council ~ which is so beloved of the Laurentian Elites ~ and that leads me to guess that Africa is a more likely military mission than Haiti might be, although a Canadian run police college in Haiti might make good sense. But it is (or they are) almost certain to be (a) United Nations mission(s) which means that the chances of it (or they) doing any good are almost nil. There is a lot of peace that needs keeping and there are a lot of police forces that need help and guidance and mentoring but the United Nations, as currently managed, is not the right agency to do either. Those tasks are necessary, but perilous … especially when the UN mismanages them.