Might the U.S. contribute more personnel to UN peacekeeping missions?

U.S. Permanent Representative Susan Rice suggested as much, in a statement during a Security Council debate on peacekeeping yesterday:

The United States, for its part, is willing to consider directly contributing more military observers, military staff officers, civilian police, and other civilian personnel—including more women—to UN peacekeeping operations. We will also explore ways to provide enabling assistance to peacekeeping missions, either by ourselves or together with partners. Let me single out one immediate priority: we will assist with generating the missing forces and enabling units required for UNAMID, MINURCAT, and MONUC to better protect civilians under imminent threat of physical, including sexual, violence. [emphasis mine]

Both of these would be pretty bold promises.  The United States currently contributes just 75 police officers and 10 military observers to UN peacekeeping missions, good for 68th place in the ranking of troop-contributing countries (right behind Romania and Mali) and a tiny fraction of the almost 100,000 personnel operating around the world.  This paucity of U.S. personnel in the field has long been a blight on U.S. support for the UN, and it will be quite the accomplishment for Rice’s team if she succeeds in increasing the numbers.  The United States supports every UN mission that currently exists, and the country should be honored to send its troops police officers and military observers (U.S. troops are not likely to be forthcoming, because that “would mean putting American soldiers under U.N. command” — a condition that no other country seems to find an impediment) alongside the others who risk their lives for the sake of global peace and security.

The second part of Rice’s statement above — that the United States will work to fully deploy the heinously understaffed missions in Darfur, Chad, and DR Congo — may just prove even more difficult than contributing a few dozen more American personnel.  Thousands of troops for these missions have been supposed to arrive for many months, but due to a combination of host government resistance and reluctance on the part of troop-contributing countries, the missions have struggled on short-handed, unable to fully carry out their mandates.  Nudging the right countries behind the scenes will require deft diplomacy, and finally gathering the equipment and vehicles that these troops need will take an investment from wealthy nations that we have not yet seen.  One thing’s for sure, though: Ambassador Rice will have a hell of a lot easier time going around asking other countries to contribute troops if her own country coughs up a few of its own.