Forcing Peace: What Role for the United Nations?

Forcing Peace: What Role for the United Nations?

The twin crises in Somalia and Bosnia have produced a crisis in UN peace enforcement. The high hopes of a “new era” hailed by Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali have crashed in the streets of southern Mogadishu and the very un-“safe havens” of Srebenica, Gorazde, and Sarajevo. “New credibility .. . rising expectations . . . larger responsibilities . .. and an extraordinary opportunity to expand, adapt and reinvigorate the work of the United Nations so that the lofty goals as originally envisioned by the Charter can be realized”: these sentiments, enunciated by the secretary general less than two years ago and actively encouraged by the Clinton administration’s policy of “assertive multilateralism,” have rapidly become antique.

For many of us, multilateral action seemed the ready solution to a difficult dilemma. It reconciled our advocacy of collective security, universal human rights, and humanitarian solidarity overseas with the need to refocus cold war spending on reform at home. Multilateral action under the United Nations Charter was not only the prescribed legal route to world order, it seemed a practical solution to human solidarity: each nation caring a little seemed sufficient to ensure that all together cared enough. The successful reversal of Saddam Hussein’s aggression in the Gulf and the December 1992 U.S.-led rescue of the Somali population from starvation heralded what appeared to be a remarkable partnership. The Security Council decreed; the United States delivered. Others paid and supported. It was all too good to last.

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Lima