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January 25, 2006

Another U.N. triumph

Last month, I tried to distinguish situations in which humanitarian needs could justify American military intervention from those in which it could not. I focused on humanitarian needs coupled with American self-interest and noted that in global situations in which there was no American self-interest, we should let the U.N. and other countries do the job:

When we have a national interest as well as a humanitarian interest, we must be ready to fight. When we have a purely humanitarian interest, we should not intervene ourselves. We should ask the U.N. and countries like Belgium, France, Germany, and Canada to do the job. These are countries that generally are not going to be of much use to us in a military intervention but are fully capable of intervening under U.N. auspices in out-of-the-way parts of the world where people are suffering. If the U.N. can't supply forces to do purely humanitarian work, it really has no legitimate purpose at all.
Well, it turns out (not that I didn't know this) that the U.N. really can't do anything useful in these situations. As Captain Ed points out:
The United Nations adopted the Jack Murtha method of peacekeeping deployment in Congo today, evacuating its troops after having several of them killed in a gunbattle with Ugandan rebels. The reason the UN gave for withdrawing the peacekeepers? They couldn't find the rebels, even though the rebels had found them easily enough.
The conclusion from the U.N.'s failure is not that the United States should act in place of the U.N.; it can't and shouldn't be everywhere. The conclusion is that "peacekeeping" is probably not a valid use of military personnel. Unless peacekeeping includes searching out and killing the bad guys.