It’s Easier to Find Peacekeepers When There is a Peace to Keep

The Agonists’ Alex Thurston is apoplectic that Ban even suggested a peacekeeping force of 27,000 for Somalia.

27,000, huh Ban? Now look, I want to see stability in Somalia too. But don’t you think you should be concentrating on finding the 17,000 peacekeepers the force in Darfur is waiting for, rather than hinting at new commitments? I have qualified support for the UN, but that doesn’t mean I can’t criticize the General Secretary when he says things that simply don’t make sense. In fact, I’m going to criticize the UN hardest when they fall flat on rhetoric, because rhetoric is the main tool in their arsenal at this point. So don’t even mention troop numbers you have no hope of getting.

True, the UN is having difficulty securing the right troops and equipment for the Darfur mission. The thing is, if you read the recently released report on Somalia from which the 27,000 is drawn, it’s clear that Ban is certainly not calling for a peacekeeping force anytime soon. Rather, as envisioned by the report (which the Security Council is to discuss today) before peacekeepers can even be considered, other hurdles must first be crossed. For example, the security situation would have to permit the UN to move its Somalia headquarters into Somalia. Then, at least 70% of the factions would have to sign onto a cease-fire. Following that, a broad-based political agreement would have to be forged. Only after these conditions have been met does the Secretary General contemplate a peacekeeping force for Somalia.

This is a reasonable and cautious way forward. Member states are likely to be more forthcoming with troop contributions should there be a viable political process to uphold. On the other hand, the problem with generating troops for Darfur is in part due to the fact that there is no peace to keep.