Running an Airline Is Not the Same as Replacing a Government

Michael Gerson, writing from Goma, gives the UN credit where credit is due in an exceedingly sticky situation:

Another attempt to fill the vacuum of sovereignty in eastern Congo has come from international institutions. The United Nations, in its various expressions, supervises the disarmament of willing militias, runs an airline and a number of radio stations, and attempts to enforce laws against war crimes — acting in many ways as a substitute for the state. And U.N. peacekeepers are the only reason that Nkunda has not taken Goma.

The problem, as Gerson correctly diagnoses, is that the UN is handicapped by shortages of resources and manpower, as well as by the painful requirements of bureaucracy. The UN peacekeeping force in Congo cannot by any means act “as a substitute for the state” or “enforce a nonexistent” peace. Neither, though, can the Congolese government or army right now. This only makes more disappointing the EU’s (specifically, Germany’s and the UK’s) persistent and bizarre insistence that no quick deploying EU military force is needed to complement MONUC.