Sunday, November 14, 2004

What is it in the track record of the UN and it's peacekeeping operations that inspires an almost religious faith on the part of members of our bipartisan foreign policy elite ? An article in American Diplomacy by Wiliam E. Howard III analyzes America's position in the war on terror through the prism of Israel and the Palestinians and counsels across the board capitulation.


Our national policies in the Middle East are not in accord with our national interests. They are failing us. What is good for Israel is proving to be a disaster for America. Once we see the necessity for a political solution, the United States should seriously consider the following path:

• First, we should announce to the world that we intend to balance our Middle East policy. This will initially be viewed with skepticism by other countries because we have stated we already have one. So, further steps are needed to convince the world that we have seriously changed our policy.

• The US should request that the United Nations take the lead in turning over the leadership in Iraq to the Iraqis by implementing steps proposed by the UN and agreed upon by the majority of the UN membership. At first this will require substituting UN troops in place of U.S. and coalition troops to keep order. Based on the Iraqi reactions to date, it might be best if the coalition troops totally withdraw and leave the field to troops within other UN, and possibly NATO nations.

• At virtually the same time, the US should make the same request, with similar provisos, to the UN regarding Afghanistan.

• The United States should urge the United Nations to convene as neutral a group as possible, with a charge to the group to convene and advise the UN on new borders for two nation-states, Israel and Palestine, perhaps by using, as a starting point, the borders just prior to the '67 Arab-Israeli war.

• America should volunteer to help the UN to police those borders, and the United States should use its international influence to guarantee the borders of both countries through the United Nations. Such a guarantee will be absolutely necessary because of Israel's contention that the Palestinians want to drive the Israelis into the sea and because of the Palestinian's fear that Israel will not honor their new country's boundaries

Dr. Howard should provide some evidence that the UN is held in the same sort of breathless awe by Afghan tribal warlords, Hamas and Iraqi insurgents as it is by Western PhD's who get invitations to seminars at the Council of Foreign Relations and the Kennedy School of Government. What is also amazing is the tone of contempt the article has for both the ability of national peoples to rule themselves or for America to intervene effectively anywhere juxtaposed with the breezy presumption of competence of the UN to accomplish what the United States cannot.

My reading of UN intervention throughout history is one of failure and disaster unless one of two conditions or both are met:

a) An armistice has already been hammered out and freely agreed to by the warring principals because the agreement is in the interest of both parties and each party is in control of it's armed combatants.

b) The UN is a fig leaf for the robust warfighting capability of the United States as in the Korean and Gulf wars.

For those who doubt me I suggest they look up the 1960's intervention by the UN in the Congo and in Bosnia, Rwanda and Cambodia in the 1990's. UN peacekeepers lack the military capability to be anything but bystanders and are usually shackled by rules of engagement by the UN Secretary-General that make them ineffective even at their own self-defense. And this force will be policing Afghanistan and Iraq ?

No, Dr. Howard is proposing that it will still be American troops under the rules of a UN command so we can continue to provide young men as targets with legally restricted ability to return fire.

We need a new elite in this country. Ours has lost the will to survive.

It is dissapointing that commentary like Dr. Howard's is still regarded as "moderate" or "mainstream" when they clearly result in disaster, and that calls for US intervention in are labeled "neocon warmongering" whenthey have proven more effective. I hope that the purges at the CIA are part of a larger movement to rid our foreign policy institutions from these kinds of "elites". Powell' departure from State should open up the door for his successor to do what Goss is now doing at CIA. Here's hoping that the Bush people have this in mind.
Hi Andrew,

The Civil Service Reform Act of 1978 greatly expanded the number of bureaucratic positions a president could fill with political appointees. Today with CSRA and the expanded bureucracy, the president can appoint around 5000-6000 policy makers, in theory. The Reagan Administration made full use of this power in its first term to place " change agents" in hostile bureaucracies. The power is there if Bush chooses to use it.

Over time however, the inevitable attrition of appointees combined with the partisanship of the confirmation process has allowed hostile careerists ( there are also friendly careerists) to creep back into these positions because it's often easier to get them confirmed ( and under CSRA they are eligible for appointment) and late in the administration, no one cares.

Sometimes, the careerists are a decided improvement. Larry Eagleberger was not a drop in quality over James Baker III. A random employee at State picked out of a hat would probably have been a better choice for Secretary of State than say Cyrus Vance or the eminently forgettable Warren Christopher.

State is a real problem and not just on Left-Right grounds but due to an elitist culture more than a century old, institutional proceedures that discourage or penalize strategic thinking and a career track that inevitably isolates FSO from political reality back home. The " House " needs to be rebuilt not merely " cleaned out ".
Actually, mark, I think it's a tiny bit simpler. The U. S. bestows legitimacy on the U. N. not the other way around.
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