UN Mission in Congo: Can UN Peacekeepers Really Resolve the Crisis? Probably Not


Did you catch that? The United Nations is planning on sending a peacekeeping force to the Congo with aggressive intent. According to the NYT, "The United Nations Security Council authorized ... an unprecedented mandate to take military action against rebel groups to help bring peace to the eastern portion of the country." This looks like a recap of the entire history of the United Nations: A resolution that aspires upward and upward ... to nowhere.

I do not doubt that the people who drafted this resolution had good intentions. The three countries that drafted it were the United States, France, and Togo. If nothing else, this suggests that the representatives who put forward the idea were half-serious, considering that the United States and France have been more thoroughly involved with fighting rebel militias than any other western countries during the past few years.

That being said, despite its squeaky clean record for respecting human rights, UN security forces have not had a history of efficiently resolving the crises they were meant to resolve. They failed to secure peace where securing peace mattered most, in the Rwandan genocide, which is by and large at the root of the ongoing war in the Congo. They also failed to secure peace in the Sudan and Somalia. 

So far, the most notable achievement of UN Peacekeeping forces was probably in their resolution of the East Timor Crisis of 1999, but that was largely attributable to the strong leadership role that Australia took in resolving the crisis. The problem with the UN peacekeeping forces is that, by and large, they have no mission command and, therefore, always go into missions with nebulous goals. One of the most telling sections of the story is that the chief priority of the UN's new combat brigade will be to have "a clear exit strategy." This is mostly what the United Nations is known for: Doing something while accomplishing nothing.

Of course, war is not something new to the Congo. If one were to rank the major conflicts of the last hundred years in terms of death toll, the Second Congo War would probably be in the top five, though hardly anyone outside of the region has been more than tangentially aware that it was happening. Though the war officially ended in 2003, sub-conflicts have been continuing ever since, and, if nothing else, leaving this issue to the United Nations demonstrates western countries' thorough and determined lack of commitment to resolving them.