The Paradox of Being Secretary General

In the Los Angeles Times today, Lee Feinstein gets to the heart of the conundrum facing Ban Ki-moon as he approaches the conflict in Darfur. Ban will be personally blamed should the blood-letting in Darfur continue at pace, yet the resources to stop the fighting are mainly in the hands of individual member states. True, Khartoum’s intransigence remains the number-one obstacle to deploying peacekeepers to Darfur. But these peacekeepers exist mainly in theory at this point. The most Ban can do is cajole and coax key member states to pony up troops for potential deployment to Darfur. If member states refuse his entreaties, Ban and the United Nations will shoulder the blame for “failing to act” in Darfur. This may seem unfair, but it is the reality. Of course, one potential way to avoid this dynamic would be for member states to establish a readily deployable stand-by contingent of peacekeepers. That idea has gained some traction with the creation of the Multi-National Stand-by High Readiness Brigade. Perhaps the time has come to revisit this idea.