United States Policy on United Nations Peacekeeping
Case Studies in the Congo, Sierra Leone, Ethiopia-Eritrea, Kosovo and East Timor

Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee, I wish to thank you for inviting me to testify before you this morning on United States policy toward United Nations peacekeeping operations, and how decision making by the present Administration conforms to its own announced standards in several specific contexts. I have a prepared statement that I ask be included in the record, and that I will summarize, and I would then be pleased to answer any questions the Committee might have.

President Clinton signed Presidential Decision Directive 25 ("PDD 25") for "U.S. Policy on Reforming Multilateral Peace Operations" on May 3, 1994. Unclassified versions of PDD 25, which had been under discussion within the Administration from its outset, were released subsequently.[1] I understand that the General Accounting Office has conducted an evaluation of the Administration’s compliance with PDD as written, and I will not attempt to duplicate that here. Instead, I will examine briefly some of the flaws inherent in PDD-25 as written, and as are currently being demonstrated even as we meet here this morning in a number of ongoing or contemplated UN operations. This is obviously a complex subject, which we can analyze only summarily today, but the Committee’s continuing interest in this subject is extremely important and worthwhile.[2]

The central deficiency of PDD-25 is that it really provides no policy guidance at all. Despite rhetorical gestures in the direction of limiting and rigorously analyzing proposed peacekeeping operations, loose language throughout the document permits justification of nearly anything the Administration ultimately decides to do. As a former official in the Executive Branch, I strongly support flexibility in Presidential decision-making, but I also believe that when the President purports to announce a policy decision, it should be a real decision, and he should mean it. I do not believe that PDD-25 meets these minimal standards.

The White House press announcement on PDD 25 says that "peace operations can be a useful element in serving America’s interests," and that PDD-25 is intended "to ensure that use of such operations is selective and more effective."[3] President Clinton and other Administration officials have made similar remarks about "selectivity" on several occasions. For example, the President said to the UN General Assembly in September, 1999: "I know that some are troubled that the United States and others cannot respond to every humanitarian catastrophe in the world. We cannot do everything everywhere." Just before her trip to Sierra Leone in October, 1999, Secretary of State Albright said: "We have to resist the temptation to use our forces in every dispute that catches our eye or our emotions."[4]

The State Department version of PDD-25 seems to track these objectives when it says that "peacekeeping can be one useful tool to help prevent and resolve [regional] conflicts before they pose direct threats to our national security."[5] However, it then immediately adds that "peacekeeping can also serve U.S. interests by promoting democracy, regional security and economic growth." This is the critical sentence that has, in the actual unfolding of Administration policy, made the rest of PDD-25 essentially superfluous. The real issue for top decision-makers is not what a proposed policy might do, but what it will do in concrete cases presented to them for resolution. By turning from "direct threats to national security" to generalities and abstractions, however desirable they are, PDD-25 deserts the world of policymaking for the world of philosophy. While of philosophical interest, at least for some, it should come as no surprise that PDD-25 seems to be typically ignored by those whose decisions it purportedly constrains and directs.

Specifically, there are two important ways in which PDD-25, at its very outset, confuses or obscures political-military realities, obliterating distinctions that should be important in formulating American policy. First, it says that "[f]or simplicity, the term peace operations is used in this document to cover the entire spectrum of activities from traditional peacekeeping to peace enforcement aimed at defusing and resolving international conflicts."[6] While simplicity is generally commendable, it can be affirmatively dangerous when it conceals important differences among fundamentally divergent alternatives. "Peacekeeping" has been traditionally understood in the UN context to mean the deployment of UN "blue helmets" subject to three preconditions: (a) consent among the parties to the dispute; (b) neutrality of the UN forces deployed; and (c) the use of force by UN personnel essentially only for self-defense. By contrast, "peace enforcement," a relatively new term, means the UN’s willingness and the ability to use force to achieve its objectives. The best synonyms for "peace enforcement" are words like "war" and "combat," which probably explains why they are not favored at the United Nations. (Some have gone so far, for example, as to characterize "Desert Storm" as a "peace enforcement" action.)

The UN’s actual roles in "peacekeeping" and "peace enforcement," however, could not be more widely divergent, a divergence utterly lost by PDD-25’s reference to a "spectrum of activities," as if they all fit together seamlessly. Slurring these two concepts together under the term "peace operations" thus virtually guarantees that proposed missions for the United Nations will be confused and misunderstood, and, therefore, that their goals will be unclear, resources inadequate or misallocated, and end-points indeterminate. This confusion has been graphically demonstrated by failed UN efforts in Somalia and Bosnia, where attempts to shift UN missions from "peacekeeping" to "peace enforcement" (and back again) resulted in tragedy for the United States in Somalia, and humiliation for the United Nations in Bosnia. As will be described more fully below, this confusion continues to haunt both the UN and the United States in several current crises.

Second, PDD-25 states that "[t]erritorial disputes, armed ethnic conflicts, civil wars (many of which could spill across international borders) and the collapse of governmental authority in some states are among the current threats to peace."[7] Critically absent here, however, is any reference to the UN Charter’s triggering threshold for jurisdiction by the Security Council, which is "the maintenance of international peace and security."[8] This omission is not accidental, since even PDD-25’s language about civil wars expressly concedes the possible absence of a true international threat, and the other categories (apart from territorial disputes) implicitly contemplate entirely intra-state disputes. This essentially open-ended expansion of the Security Council’s role eviscerates the Charter’s limitations, making it impossible in principle to explain why the Council should not be involved in virtually every case of armed conflict around the globe. Accordingly, this is not simply a technical issue of breaching a jurisdictional limit, but a fundamental policy shift, even if little noticed in media reporting.

Moreover, the change from basically international to basically intra-state conflicts involves more than simply a matter of degree. PDD-25 itself admits this when it refers to American support for "peace operations . . . as a tool" to allow "failed societies to begin to reconstitute themselves."[9] While PDD-25 does not elaborate on what "reconstituting failed societies" might entail, a subsequent presidential decision, PDD-56 ("Managing Complex Contingency Operations") lists at least some of them:

"political mediation/reconciliation, military support, demobilization, humanitarian assistance, police reform, basic public services, economic restoration, human rights monitoring, social reconciliation, public information, etc."[10]
The breadth of this list sounds much like the requirements for an exercise in "nation building," the vaulting phrase used by the Clinton Administration in 1993 to describe its policies in Somalia.

Rather than simply assessing PDD-25 in the abstract, however, it is far more instructive to examine current and proposed UN involvement in several ongoing crises. So doing demonstrates that, after a hiatus in the middle of President Clinton’s tenure, United Nations "peace operations" (however defined) are indeed back in the forefront of Administration policy, unconstrained either by PDD-25 or sound policy analysis. This policy shift also has obvious budget implications for the United States, and GAO now estimates that total peacekeeping costs in 2001 will be approximately $ 2.67 billion, some $ 600 million more than current projected peacekeeping expenditures.[11] To consider the specific implications of the Administration’s renewed emphasis on UN peacekeeping, we turn, therefore, to several contemporary case studies.


The United States now confronts many diverse conflicts in Africa, three of which are considered here. In all three, the Clinton Administration has vigorously advocated "peacekeeping" operations, which ffigured prominently during the U.S. presidency of the Security Council in January, 2000, the "month of Africa" as it was billed. Yet, as even a brief comparison of the three -- the prolonged conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo ("DRC"), the civil war in Sierra Leone, and the war between Ethiopia and Eritrea -- shows how different the political and military conditions are, and how poorly an overly-enthusiastic "one size fits all" approach to peacekeeping works in the real world.

In the DRC, a multiparty conflict is far from even temporary political resolution, and accordingly there is no warrant whatever to deploy a UN peacekeeping force. In Sierra Leone, there is no discernable threat to international peace and security, and hence no jurisdiction of the Security Council to intervene; indeed, the history of the UN operation there to date graphically demonstrates the inadequacy of the politico-military rational for deployment. In the Ethiopia-Eritrea conflict, where there is a clear threat to international peace and security and where UN observers could play an important role in implementing a cease fire between the parties, the ambitions by the UN Secretariat for a larger political role, and the unsupported devotion to abstract, theoretical notions about such a role, have led the UN to propose a force structure and size (and hence cost and risk) well beyond anything reasonably necessary to accomplish its objectives.

Earlier this year, a journalist observed that:

"Sierra Leone’s conflict, though unusually cruel, was simple -- essentially a fight over power between a government and a rebellion. Congo by contrast, is caught up in a bewilderingly complex war involving six nations, three rebel groups and several militias, each fighting for different reasons in a country the size of Western Europe. The United Nations peacekeeping force in Sierra Leone is expected to reach 11,000; a force in Congo, to be effective, would have to number in the tens of thousands, rather than the 5,000 the United Nations is preparing to send."[12]
This contrast highlights some, but by no means all, of the differences between the Congo and Sierra Leone, and yet even in the "simple" case of Sierra Leone, the United Nations is failing badly; the prospects in the DRC are hardly any brighter. Combined with the prospect of a misconceived force between Ethiopia and Eritrea, the prognosis for the UN in Africa is not good, as we consider below.


Since the fall from power of former Zairian President Mobutu Sese Seko in mid-May, 1997, if not before, there have been no effective governmental structures in much of the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo "(DRC"). Indeed, the speed with which rebels under Laurent Kabila defeated Mobutu’s armed forces -- just over six months from when the rebels captured Goma on the eastern border until Mobutu fled from Kinshasa -- shows how unstable and close to disintegration the country already was. Moreover, the importance of outside assistance to Kabila (notably, at the outset, from Rwanda’s Tutsi government, and from Angola and Uganda),[13] further demonstrated the complex political currents at work throughout the Great Lakes region. Although Kabila’s home region was Lubumbashi in Shaba (formerly Katanga) Province, his first victories in 1996-97 came in North and South Kivu Provinces, aided by Banyamulenge/Tutsi forces.

Kabila’s own antiquated Marxist notions (he began as a supporter of Patrice Lumumba) and his variegated political support guaranteed virtually from the outset that dealings with him would be highly uncertain. During his rebel years in Eastern Zaire, one writer described him as "a typical African warlord."[14] Just before his troops drove Mobutu out of the country, Kabila, who routinely described Mobutu as "the devil," announced: "I will only say I am a symbol of the resistance of my people against the foreign domination of this country. Our message is very clear. We want to rid the country of the old regime and poverty."[15] This comment might well have applied as well to the several hundred thousand (perhaps up to one million) Rwandan Hutu refugees who fled into Zaire after the collapse of the extremist government responsible for exterminating hundreds of thousands of Tutsis in 1994. The success of Kabila’s rebels resulted in many of these Hutus fleeing back into Rwanda, but also allegations of brutal retaliation against them. Shortly after gaining power, Kabila repeatedly obstructed international efforts to investigate allegations about massacres and other atrocities.[16]

Significantly, many familiar with the region immediately saw France, a Permanent Member of the Security Council, as the biggest outside "loser" in Mobutu’s collapse. Journalists explained that:

"the dictator regained Paris’s favor in 1994 when he allowed French troops to use bases in Zaire for their operation to stop revenge massacres of Hutus in Rwanda following the genocide of Tutsis and moderate Hutus. Some believe that France’s unwavering support of the deposed dictator in the current crisis persuaded him he could survive and kept him hanging on when it was clear to the rest of the world he would have to go."[17]

One unidentified diplomat reportedly said "The French resisted to the very last. Their policy seems to have been frozen in time."[18]

Although the United States pressed Kabila on the war crimes allegations,[19] Secretary of State Albright, in a December, 1997 visit, said that "President Kabila has made a strong start toward [the] goals" of "commitment to open markets, honest government and the rule of law."[20] Even so, just fourteen months after Kabila came to power, many of his original Tutsi supporters revolted against him with assistance from Rwanda (and later Burundi and Uganda).[21] Kabila sought support from other African states such as Angola, Zimbabwe and Namibia, as well as from Hutu Interahamwe fighters still in Congo, and in effect a new regional war broke out.[22] Negotiations to resolve the conflict began in September, 1998, and interspersed with renewed outbreaks of fighting and allegations of atrocities,[23] lasted until several national leaders signed a July, 1999, agreement in Lusaka, Zambia. Unfortunately, none of the rebel factions (often excluded from the ongoing negotiations[24]) initially agreed to the deal.[25] Moreover, even after the rebels signed on, all sides have routinely ignored the promised cease-fire.[26]

The Congo is unquestionably a conflict that crosses national borders and, in the UN Charter’s words, "endangers the maintenance of international peace and security." Thus, Security Council involvement is legitimate, and may ultimately prove helpful through diplomatic efforts. Unfortunately, however, pushed by certain of the African leaders, and pulled by their own confusion about workable UN peacekeeping, Council members may have made a bad situation worse. They adopted, on February 24, 2000, a resolution authorizing a UN peacekeeping force of approximately 5,500 troops, which could cost up to $ 500 million in its first year of actual operations (the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, or "MONUC").[27]

The Council’s plan, however, promptly ran into political opposition from Kabila,[28] and was put on hold indefinitely, despite active diplomacy by the Clinton Administration.[29] As recently as September 21, Secretary General Kofi Annan reported to the Security Council that it was not advisable to deploy further peacekeeping forces, and suggested the possibility of withdrawing the approximately 250 advance troops already there. The Secretary General said that during the prior three months, "the parties continued to conduct significant military operations. Moreover, there have been indications of intensive military preparations by the parties."[30] This extensive military activity is not at all surprising, given the Secretary General’s further observation that "I regret to inform the Security Council that there has been little progress, if any, in the implementation of the Lusaka Ceasefire Agreement. The ceasefire has been consistently violated in the intensified fighting between government and rebel and UPDF forces in northern Equateur province."[31] The Secretary General also said expressly -- and correctly -- that "It is clear that United Nations peacekeeping operations cannot serve as a substitute for the political will to achieve a peaceful settlement."[32] The Economist, however, concluded that the peace agreement "looks fatally wounded."[33]

By attempting to deploy a peacekeeping force prematurely into a decidedly confused and unstable military and political context, the Security Council could well impede its ability to act effectively down the road. As in cases like Cyprus, the UN presence may simply freeze existing divisions and actually ossify political negotiations.

And that would be the good news. The other possibility is that by deploying lightly-armed observers into the eastern Congo, the Security Council risks making them hostage to the warring parties, or even becoming combatants themselves (as happened in Somalia and Bosnia). A really muscular force that could impose peace is not on the table, nor should it be in this multi-sided, highly ambiguous context, where what appear to be innocent civilians in need of protection at one point become marauding guerrillas the next. Inserting UN troops before the parties are truly reconciled, at least in the short term, is never a purely neutral act, as most combatants fully understand, and which the Council needs to understand as well.

Loose in the Security Council, however -- and implicit in PDD-25 -- is the idea that "it can’t be a real conflict unless the UN has inserted a peacekeeping force." Secretary of Albright testified in February before this Committee that "We are asking for a peacekeeping operation there [in Congo]. We believe that it’s essential that we support that, because Congo is not only large, but it’s surrounded by nine countries."[34] Secretary Albright’s statement is, at best, exactly backwards. First must come the essential political meeting of the minds of the parties to the conflict, then, and only then should there be consideration of instrumentalities, such as a UN peacekeeping force, to implement the agreement. Today, we can see that the Lusaka Agreement is not being honored even by the states and rebel forces that signed it, let alone those that did not. Indeed, Secretary General Annan has pointed out that the DRC government has now "questioned the validity" of the Agreement itself, and that

"While it is up to the signatories themselves to agree to a revision of the Agreement, it should be recalled that the Agreement is the basis of all relevant Security Council resolutions authorizing the presence of MONUC in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Clarity on this fundamental issue would be indispensable for any decision on the future deployment of United Nations troops."[35]
Although proponents of a UN force scaled back their initial proposals to a 5,500-person observation force, their stated expectation remains that this deployment is just the precursor to a much larger force, of 15,000 or more.

Thus, the underlying Lusaka Agreement on which the Security Council -- and, presumably, United States -- policy has been relying is in question, actual implementation of the Agreement has been minimal, and the military situation in the DRC has been worsening and seems likely to get worse. There is simply no basis here, under PDD 25 or any other conceivably coherent American peacekeeping policy, to support the further deployment of UN forces into the region.


Political instability, military conflict and civil strife are, sad to say, nothing new to Sierra Leone. For example, following a coup in April, 1992, which he called a "people’s revolution," Valentine Strasser, an infantry captain fighting against rebel forces, and dissatisfied at not receiving regular pay and benefits, overthrew then-President (and former Major General) Joseph Momoh, who had been installed by the previous ruler, who had himself taken power in a coup. Although Momoh proposed to return to democracy, he faced rebellion by the Revolutionary United Front ("RUF"), founded by another disgruntled army man, Foday Sankoh, who has been described as "a populist former army corporal who led a . . . bush war with a force of marginalized rural youths."[36] The National Democratic Institute recently characterized the RUF "as a rebellion against the years of an authoritarian, one-party state that had sunk the country into poverty and corruption," and that Sankoh "promised free education, and medical care, an end to corruption, nepotism and tribalism."[37]

Strasser became Chairman of the Supreme Council of State after his coup, and continued the conflict against the RUF. Amnesty International said that Strasser’s troops committed "torture, ill-treatment and arbitrary killings of unarmed civilians," including the execution by firing squad of 26 (or 29, reports differ) political opponents without trial eight months after seizing power. Amnesty also reportedly said that: "Strasser’s men attacked several villages, and, in the guise of rebel forces, lopped off the hands and feet of civilians while using others for bayonet practice."[38] Strasser was overthrown in January, 1996, and was succeeded by Ahmed Tejan Kabbah, Sierra Leone’s first democratically elected President.

Yet another disgruntled group of soldiers, led by Major Johnny Paul Koroma, overthrew Kabbah in late May, 1997, and the RUF this time joined forces with the military junta.[39] On October 8, the Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 1132, imposing economic sanctions against the junta, including a general arms embargo, and Koromo agreed to allow Kabbah to return to power by April, 1998. When Koromo appeared to be reneging on the agreement, Kabbah, with considerable help from Nigerian-led ECOMOG ("Economic Community of West African States’ Monitoring Observer Group") forces, as well as a British mercenary company, Sandline International launched an offensive in early February.[40] The ECOMOG intervention encountered substantial difficulties, however, and several of its initial forays were routed by the junta and the RUF; the situation was sufficiently dangerous that American Marines were required to evacuate over 1,200 foreigners in early June.[41] Moreover, Kabbah’s restoration came "partly at the hands of a rural militia made up mainly of Mende tribal hunters called kamajors. While Nigerian troops seized Freetown, the kamajors swept across much of the countryside. They are a decentralized, ill-disciplined force that Kabbah’s government -- and reportedly, Nigeria -- armed with more and heavier weapons than they have ever had."[42]

Following Kabbah’s return to power, Sankoh remained under arrest in Nigeria (where he had been held for arms smuggling and for supporting the junta), and the RUF resumed its rebel activities. Although the Kabbah government granted amnesty to the former junta’s soldiers, Sankoh was sentenced to death for his role in the coup (stayed pending his appeal).[43] Nigerian forces remained in Sierra Leone to assist Kabbah, and by early January, 1999, had up to 20,000 troops there, nearly one quarter of the entire Nigerian army.[44] Nonetheless, in January the RUF almost captured the capital, Freetown, causing the UN Observer Mission in Sierra Leone ("UNOMSIL") to evacuate its foreign personnel. Sankoh was flown to Guinea for talks with ECOMOG representatives.[45] Both Sankoh’s troops and the ECOMOG forces reportedly engaged in atrocities:

"A United Nations human rights mission has charged that regional peacekeepers in Sierra Leone have summarily executed dozens of civilians. Numerous reports of rebel violence against civilians in Sierra Leone have circulated, but in a report the mission describes systematic rights violations by both insurgents and peacekeepers. . . . The report accuses the monitoring group established by the Economic Community of West African States, or Ecomog, of executing groups including children and some 20 patients at Connaught Hospital on Jan. 20. The report says that Ecomog forces bombed civilian targets, shot at ‘human shields’ formed by the rebels and mistreated the staffs of the Red Cross and similar groups."[46]
Despite this setback, the Security Council extended UNOMSIL’s mandate in Resolution 1220 (January 12), and again in Resolution 1231, endorsing the Secretary General’s desire to reestablish UNOMSIL in country, and authorizing an increase in the number of military observers from eight to fourteen.

On July 7, 1999, following two months of extensive discussions, the RUF and the Sierra Leonean government signed the Lome Peace Agreement in Togo, about which there is considerable controversy in light of subsequent developments. The agreement provided for "the permanent cessation of hostilities"; the transformation of the RUF "into a political party and its access to public office" and the holding of elections; "the creation of a broad-based Government of National Unity through cabinet appointments for representatives of the RUF," including making Foday Sankoh the Vice President of Sierra Leone under President Kabbah; a pardon for Sankoh "and a complete amnesty for any crimes committed by members of the fighting forces during the conflict from March 1991 up until the date of the signing of the agreement"; and several other provisions pertinent to the United Nations, including the disarmament and demobilization of RUF troops, and the restriction of Sierra Leonean government forces to their barracks.[47]

Over all, the Secretary General concluded that:

"[t]he signing of the Lome Peace Agreement between the Government of Sierra Leone and the Revolutionary United Front is a great step forward for Sierra Leone. It provides the Sierra Leonean people a unique opportunity to bring an end to the conflict. . . .. Both sides are to be congratulated for showing the flexibility that has made this agreement possible."[48]
Significantly, however, he also reported to the Security Council: "I instructed my Special representative to sign the agreement with the explicit proviso that the United Nations holds the understanding that the amnesty and pardon in article IX of the agreement shall not apply to international crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and other serious violations of international humanitarian law."[49] He also reported that "[t]he military and security situation in Sierra Leone has improved significantly since the ceasefire agreement took place on May 24 [the day immediately before the start of the negotiations which led to the Lome Agreement on July 7] and has remained generally calm since the signing of the agreement."[50]

Sierra Leone’s parliament ratified the Lome Agreement on July 15.[51] On August 20, 1999, the Security Council endorsed the Lome Agreement in Resolution 1260, and authorized the expansion of UNOMSIL to 210 military observers. Resolution 1260 contemplated that security for the UN observers would continue to be provided by ECOMOG forces still in country. At the time, up to 12,000 Nigerian troops were still present, but the Nigerians had said they would begin withdrawing those troops rapidly.[52] Accordingly, the Council expanded the UN role still further in October by adopting Resolution 1270, establishing a new mission (the UN Mission for Sierra Leone, or "UNAMSIL") to help implement the Lome Agreement, including the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of the rebel soldiers. Up to 6,000 UN military personnel were now authorized, including 260 military observers, with Nigerian forces forming a large part of the UN contingent.[53]

The Clinton Administration fully supported both the Lome Agreement and the creation of UNAMSIL. Secretary of State Albright visited Freetown in October during her trip to Africa. Assistant Secretary of State for Africa Susan Rice said on October 15:

"There will never be peace and security and an opportunity for development and recovery in Sierra Leone unless there is a solution to the source of the conflict. And that entails, by necessity -- whether we like it or not -- a peace agreement dealing with the rebels."[54]
After several incidents in which UN peacekeepers were stripped of their weapons by various rebel forces, the Security Council, in Resolution 1289 (February 7, 2000), again authorized an expansion of UNAMSIL to 11,000 troops.[55] Nonetheless, key elements of the Lome Agreement, notably provisions for disarming and demobilization, simply were not implemented, which in turn meant further delaying elections, as the Secretary General’s special representative, Oluyemi Adeniji, a Nigerian, confirmed in April.[56]

In fact, the situation got far worse. In early May, the RUF killed seven UN peacekeepers and captured over fifty others.[57] Those captured quickly rose to over 500, as "U.N. peacekeepers began surrendering without a fight."[58] Over 200 of the captured soldiers were from Zambia, and the Zambian President sharply criticized the United Nations, and, at least indirectly, the force commander, Major General Vijay Kumar Jetley of India.[59] British forces, operating independently from UNAMSIL, then landed in Sierra Leone, ostensibly at first to help evacuate foreign nations,[60] but increasingly to help stabilize the government of Sierra Leone.[61] With the government’s capture of Sankoh, however, and the release of some of the UN hostages, the situation began to defuse,[62] but ended only after further military action.[63] Moreover, despite early indications that British forces would withdraw completely by mid-June, their presence continued to stretch out.[64]

As a result, implementation of key elements of the Lome Agreement essentially "came to a standstill."[65] The Secretary General subsequently recommended to the Security Council, in August, that UNAMSIL’s mandate be substantially modified, in effect changing from neutral peacekeeper to ally of the government of Sierra Leone.[66] He recommended increasing UNAMSIL’s military strength to 20,500 personnel, including 18 infantry battalions,[67] although there were apparently no member states willing to provide troops under the proposed new and expanded mandate.[68] Accordingly, the Security Council did not approve the Secretary General’s recommendations, but merely extended UNAMSIL’s mandate until September 20, 2000.[69] While the Council still had the Secretary General’s recommendation under consideration, however, the situation was again thrown into turmoil when a dissident militia group known as the "West Side Boys" (not an element of the RUF) seized eleven British soldiers,[70] who were in turn rescued by other British forces in a surprise attack.[71]

In the midst of this ongoing crisis, a new crisis erupted in the form of a public and highly embarrassing debate among UNAMSIL’s top military leadership. General Jetley, the force commander, had earlier endorsed a secret report highly critical of the Nigerian forces in Sierra Leone, accusing them of undermining the UN mandate and pursuing their own agenda. In turn, Nigerian officials said that Jetley should be relieved of command, and threatened to withdraw their troops.[72] Although disclaiming any connection with the controversy, India announced on September 20 that it was withdrawing its entire 3,000 peacekeeping troops from UNAMSIL.[73]

The apparent implosion of command-and-control within UNAMSIL, combined with concern about and lack of response to the Secretary General’s proposal to radically change the Mission’s mandate, brought the Security Council to a standstill. Instead of approving the Secretary General’s recommendations, the Council in Resolution 1321 (September 20, 2000) has recently once again simply extended UNAMSIL’s existing mandate, this time until October 31. There, the situation on the ground currently rests.

The meltdown of UNAMSIL is simply the latest in a long and unfortunate series of problems and errors in UN involvement in Sierra Leone. First and foremost, of course, is the mistaken view that the civil war in that country amounted to a legitimate threat to "international peace and security" justifying Security Council involvement at all. It is not sufficient to argue that the conflict in the Sierra Leone has an international dimension, because all civil wars around the world have at least one such dimension, typically in the acquisition of arms and ammunition. If an international "connection" is all that is required, then by definition the Security Council will be involved in every civil war. But the Charter never contemplated such a role, and the United States should never acquiesce in such an interpretation of the Council’s function. Sierra Leone does not cross the Charter’s jurisdictional threshold, and the Council should never have gotten involved to the extent that it has.

Second, there was never any serious review by the Security Council or the Secretariat whether the Lome Agreement represented a true meeting of the minds of the parties, and whether it provided any real basis to believe that the peacekeepers could undertake the missions contemplated for them. This failure is a damning indictment of the Council’s entire approach to Sierra Leone, and the decision to deploy substantial UN peacekeeping forces reflects a simplistic, knee-jerk to conflict resolution. Subsequent events demonstrate beyond question that there was never any real peace to keep, and that the peacekeepers’ mission was almost certainly doomed from the start. The United States cannot avoid a large share of the blame for this ongoing UN failure.

Third, the UN itself likely played a major role in torpedoing the Lome Agreement. The Secretary General’s conscious -- indeed, proudly stated -- decision to enter a reservation upon signing the Agreement may well have undermined its viability from the outset. Considered simply as a political matter, Sankoh unquestionably saw the amnesty for himself and his supporters as a critically important element of Lome, for obvious reasons. And yet, the United Nations, which would have central and continuing responsibilities under the Agreement, refused to accept this vital element. Sankoh could certainly have concluded that there was no truly valid amnesty with the UN withholding assent from such a major component of the agreement, and, therefore, that Lome was not a valid deal at all from his perspective.

Fourth, both the Lome Agreement and its subsequent implementation were fatally defective in not dealing with the inherent problem of involving Nigerian and other ECOMOG forces. From the public record, it seems simply to have been assumed that it was proper for Nigeria, far and away the largest country in the region, to have a major role, without considering either the Nigerian agenda or the view of Nigeria and ECOMOG within Sierra Leone, and within the Security Council. As one journalist put it, "[d]epending upon who is speaking, that nation [Nigeria] is viewed as either the only serious force for stability or a mischievous and determined plunderer of weaker states."[74] In response, say some analysts, "[a]t virtually every step of the way, . . . France has maneuvered to keep the Nigerian giant in check. The French motivation: eagerness to retain a hold on heavily dependent former colonies."[75] At the time of Nigeria’s intervention to restore Kabbah, many believed it was "likely to be long and costly, . . . tying down thousands of troops for months or years in an operation undertaken largely to preserve Nigeria’s regional leadership role."[76] A journalist observed "[w]hile Nigeria easily outguns the junta’s forces, it could face a tough guerrilla war."[77] Moreover, Terry Taylor, assistant director of the International Institute for Strategic Studies said "I do not think anyone has really taken in what the Nigerians are up to. The [diamond] mines are up for grabs, and there will certainly be some sort of deal."[78]

Why should Nigerians have been embraced by UNAMSIL? Given that the RUF effectively considered them the enemy, this was virtually a guarantee of a repetition of the Somalia problem, when Mohammed Farah Aideed saw the UN forces allying themselves with local clans and subclans that he considered his enemies. Thus, the seemingly innocuous decision of Pakistani peacekeepers at the Mogadishu airport to contract for security with the Hawadle subclan was the first of many mistakes that led Aideed into bloody confrontation with the UN and the United States. Inexplicably, the lessons of Somalia do not seem to have been applied in Sierra Leone. Moreover, the open political disagreements between the Indian force commander and Nigerians officers under his command can only play into the hands of those wish nothing good for the UN in Sierra Leone. This disagreement is not about technical matters, which better radios or additional training could fix, but is a fundamental political divergence that may not be reparable in a satisfactory fashion.


On September 20, I was privileged to testify before the Subcommittee on International Operations and Human Rights on UN peacekeeping, and, in that testimony, touched briefly on the situation between Ethiopia and Eritrea. For the convenience of the full Committee, I provide below some excerpts from that testimony (with a few small changes) that are pertinent to today’s hearing:

The recent Security Council decision on a peacekeeping force in the conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea is an excellent contemporary case study of the dangerous shift underway in UN peacekeeping policy. The UN’s significant involvement in that conflict began when Ethiopia and Eritrea signed a cease-fire agreement on June 18, after a year of armed conflict, and a bloody struggle for Eritrean independence before that. In Resolution 1312 (adopted on July 31, 2000), the Security Council authorized deployment of 100 military observers, which is currently underway, and also requested further planning for the UN’s role. Secretary General Kofi Annan supplied a report on August 9, 2000,[79], recommending, inter alia, an additional 120 military observers, plus three infantry battalions, landmine clearance units and accompanying logistical support, for a total strength of 4,200 personnel. The Council authorized the additional force levels requested on September 15, in Resolution 1320, and preparations for the full deployment are substantially underway.[80]

The central philosophical and policy issue is posed by the proposal for three infantry battalions. What exactly are they supposed to do? Monitoring compliance with a cease-fire and the disengagement of combatant forces are tasks eminently suited to military observers, a classic peacekeeping task. If 220 military observers are insufficient, then no one would quarrel with an appropriate increase. But by recommending three infantry battalions and their attendant logistical support, the Secretary general has added an entirely new and unnecessary dimension to the UN Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea ("UNMEE"). This is not simply a budgeteer’s bean-counting quarrel over personnel levels, but a fundamental disagreement about the most appropriate and feasible role for the UN in international conflicts.

Peacekeeping, as noted above, historically has relied upon the consent of and cooperation by parties to a conflict. Where that is absent, not only does peacekeeping fail, but so too will "peace" itself. Many UN advocates are dissatisfied with the limited UN role such hard-headed assessments imply, and the Brahimi Report[81] is an express attempt to transform their analysis into accepted doctrine. The Secretary General, for one, has been very explicit about his preference for transforming "peacekeeping" into something else: "to go prepared for all eventualities, including full combat."

The three infantry battalions authorized for UNMEE are admittedly but a small step toward "full combat" preparedness, but it is in any case the wrong step in the wrong direction. If the Ethiopian-Eritrean cease-fire breaks down, military observers will be able to detect and report it for appropriate political or diplomatic action. Moreover, if such a breakdown occurs, signaling a true political disagreement, the three infantry battalions will neither resolve the dispute nor be numerous enough to deter combat. They certainly will not be able to "enforce" the parties’ compliance with a disintegrating peace agreement. In the end, if Ethiopians and Eritreans are not willing to uphold their own peace, what other nationality is willing to kill and die for it?

So what is the point of the Secretary General’s proposal to deploy the three battalions? Perhaps it is simply idealism about the UN role, but more likely it reflects a determination (fully supported by the Clinton Administration, and abundantly reflected in the Brahimi report) to make the UN Secretariat a more active player in international disputes. But introducing a substantial outside presence into such a conflict is no guarantee of increased security -- for the parties or the UN observers -- and it may contribute to greater animosities if one side (or both) sees the UN assuming an openly partisan role. Abandoning the UN’s historical peacekeeping role is a prescription for higher UN expenses, more failures and less support in Washington. Sending observers to the Horn of Africa is sensible, but the infantry battalions should stay home.



It is an extraordinarily widespread misconception that the United Nations Charter confers on the organization a general power to put "failed states" into international receivership. Leaving aside the issue of the UN’s competence for such undertakings, there should be no misunderstanding about what the Charter actually provides.

Chapter XII of the Charter establishes an "International Trusteeship System," for the "administration and supervision of such territories as may be placed thereunder by subsequent individual agreements" under Article 75.[82] Article 77 specifies the three categories of territories that may be placed within the system:

territories now held under mandate;

territories which may be detached from enemy states as a result of the Second World War; and

territories voluntarily placed under the system by states responsible for their administration.

To dispel any confusion, Article 78 expressly provides that the "trusteeship system shall not apply to territories which have become Members of the United Nations, relationship among which shall be based on respect for the principle of sovereign equality."

The mandates that the United Nations inherited from the League of Nations were essentially transferred intact, and the former "mandatory powers" under the League became the "administering authorities" for the United Nations under Article 81, except for the Pacific Trust Territories taken from Japan and given to the United States. As a practical matter, the mandatory powers had essentially unfettered discretion under the League, and the League had no administrative or management role with respect to the mandates. When the mandates became trust territories, the United Nations likewise assumed no administrative or management role. Only one territory was detached from an "enemy state" after World War II, with the colony of Somaliland being taken from Italy. (Ironically, Italy was subsequently named as the administering authority for the territory until it became independent.) No territories were ever "voluntarily placed under the system by states responsible for their administration," a provision that had been intended to assist the transition of colonies toward independence. Instead, the colonial powers invariably preferred to handle the issue of independence on their own.

Significantly, there never existed under the Charter’s Trusteeship provisions (specifically Article 81) a case where the United Nations itself served as the "administering authority" for any trusteeship. In all cases, the authorities were individual member states. The Trusteeship Council, created by Chapter XIII of the Charter, had only broad oversight responsibility under the authority of the General Assembly. Recognizing the effective end of its duties, the Trusteeship Council suspended operations effective November 1, 1994, upon the independence of Palau, the last trust territory.

The only case of even marginal UN administrative authority was the UN Temporary Executive Authority in West New Guinea ("UNTEA").[83] After the Netherlands granted independence to Indonesia in 1949, it held on to West New Guinea, with the status of that territory to be agreed later between Indonesia and the Netherlands. When agreement proved impossible to reach, Indonesian forces began attacking what they called Irian Jaya, precipitating direct UN involvement through Secretary General U Nu. Indonesia and the Netherlands reached agreement for the transfer of authority first from the Netherlands to UNTEA, and then from UNTEA to Indonesia during an agreed-upon, seven-month period from October 1, 1962 to April 30, 1963.

During this fixed period of time, officials from the Netherlands were replaced by officials from Indonesia, or local inhabitants of Irian Jaya designated by Indonesia, and the actual United Nations role was quite limited. Moreover, the assignment for the UN was not to create a new government for the province, but to transfer power from one UN member state to another. The governments of Indonesia and the Netherlands paid the full costs both of UNTEA, and the UN Security Force in West New Guinea in equal amounts.

Similarly, in cases as diverse as Namibia, El Salvador, and Cambodia, where there were extensive roles for the United Nations in a variety of civil matters, none of them involved the complete administrative responsibility for a country, however small. In each such case, an existing administrative authority, whether or not of questionable legitimacy until elections could be held, existed and could carry out most if not all of the regular functions of government (even if not adequately by "Western" standards). By contrast, in Kosovo and East Timor, the UN was given essentially complete administrative control over two political entities, an unprecedented (and virually simultaneous) expansion for which the UN was singularly unprepared.


Following NATO’s air campaign against former Yugoslavia, the Security Council established the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo ("UNMIK") in Resolution 1244 on June 10, 1999. This decision came as part of a complex, proposed post-war operation that saw various roles in Kosovo divided among UNMIK, several specialized agencies of the United Nations such as UNHCR, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe ("OSCE"), and the NATO-led Kosovo Force ("KFOR"). Indeed, one may realistically ascribe a major share of responsibility for the current uncertainty in Kosovo precisely to the large number of international organizations (not to mention the accompanying non-governmental organizations) that descended on Kosovo after the war. The lack of clear division of responsibility among the various international components, and the desire of the interested parties to play one off against the other was evident from the beginning. For example, then-Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, in the negotiations resulting in the withdrawal of Serbian forces from Kosovo, repeatedly sought a larger role for the United Nations, especially in the oversight of NATO troops in Kosovo.[84] From Milosevic’s viewpoint, the greater the Security Council’s authority in Kosovo, the greater the role that the Russian Federation and China, Permanent Members of the Council, could play. By contrast, most NATO members wanted the "peacekeeping" force to be kept under NATO control.[85]

As adopted, Resolution 1244 (fourteen in favor, China abstaining) authorized deployment of a UN civil and security presence in Kosovo, pursuant to Chapter VII of the Charter, in order to assist in implementing the principles contained in the G-8 agreement of May 6, and the May 3 paper agreed between former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari, the EU representative and Igor Ivanov, Russian Foreign Minister. The Resolution called for "an immediate and verifiable end to violence and repression in Kosovo"; the "complete withdrawal" of all Yugoslav military and police forces from Kosovo; and the demilitarization of the Kosovo Liberation Army ("KLA"). The Resolution also authorized the deployment of KFOR, established an "international civil presence . . .to provide an interim administration," and provided for creation of a political process leading to substantial self-government. Resolution 1244 authorized the Secretary General to appoint a Special Representative to head the international civil presence, and charged it with: promoting "substantial autonomy" and self-government in Kosovo; launching a political process to decidee Kosovo’s future status; supporting humanitarian and disaster relief and the reconstruction of key infrastructure; maintaining civil law and order through an international police force; promoting human rights; and assuring "the safe and free" return of all refugees and displaced persons to their homes in Kosovo.

Although there has been intense criticism of UNMIK in virtually all respects of its mandate, the central policy issues remains, as it has been from the outset, whether any UN administrative activity had a realistic chance for success in the muddled international political environment in which it was placed.[86] In turn, this basic dilemma underscores the American and NATO policy failures that led to UNMIK’s creation in the first place, and to the inherent unlikelihood that it could perform the tasks assigned to it. In short, we should not conclude too readily that UNMIK is a "UN failure" only, but is at least as much -- and perhaps primarily -- an American and European failure as well. (NATO and KFOR have also been heavily criticized, starting from the outset when NATO was surprised and outflanked by a rapid Russian redeployment from Bosnia.[87])

Beyond any doubt, the unresolved political status of Kosovo after the NATO air campaign made it effectively impossible for UNMIK or KFOR to operate under traditional peacekeeping rules. Obviously, there is no agreement whatever among the parties on what the future of Kosovo should be, and this disagreement is not likely to be made any easier even Milosevic removed from power in Belgrade. The Serbian position remains that Kosovo is part of Yugoslavia, even as the leadership of the KLA continues to insist on independence and retains at least some of its weapons.[88] (Fewer Kosovars seem to have unification with Albania as a longer-term objective, although some have not given up.[89]) Whether the Rambouillet formula of substantial autonomy for Kosovo within Yugoslavia still has any effective support remains to be seen, with press reports indicating that even the American authors of the formula had begun to doubt whether it had any life left.[90] Numerous other problems revolve around this fundamental political question, notably the return of Serbian refugees and the instruments of Serbian authority, such as police and other security forces,[91] and hampered economic recovery efforts from the outset.[92] In turn, these issues implicate the question whether Kosovo can ever be a truly multiethnic society, the professed objective of the NATO war effort,[93] or whether the Serbs will be just as effectively ethnically cleansed from Kosovo as they had hoped to do to the Kosovar Albanians,[94] or effectively confined to "safe areas" under UNMIK protection.[95]

Accordingly, one can readily sympathize with UNMIK’s personnel as they struggle in the inherently ambiguous -- contradictory would be a better description -- milieu of attempting to reconcile what the KFOR contributing governments really want, compared to what Serbs and Albanians want.[96] That said, however, it is not simply the policy confusion surrounding UNMIK and KFOR (a large, perhaps dispositive measure of which is American) that is troubling, but the nature of its mandate itself that should particularly concern the United States. The Serbian withdrawal left much of Kosovo without effective administration, and the Kosovar Albanian civil structures in 1999 were inadequate (or nonexistent) to assume the burdens of interim government; as Ambassador Richard Holbrooke said then, Kosovo will be "a mess for a long time."[97] Accordingly, Americans should question whether the United Nations was the proper vehicle to assume the responsibility, and we should question further why essentially statist civil models were accepted as the proper administrative mode.

First, on the role of the United Nations, as explained briefly above, there is no real UN experience in civil administration of the type required in Kosovo. Clearly, in the aftermath of the NATO air campaign Kosovo faced a collapse of governmental authority somewhat comparable to Germany at the end of World War II.[98] There, the victories Allies installed military government until new political institutions could arise. While not free from critics, the Allied occupation, the values transmitted by the occupying forces, and the rapidity with which new indigenous, democratic German political entities arose, has to be judged a success. Accordingly, it is legitimate to ask why KFOR was not straightforwardly given analogous responsibilities, with the UN role limited to the targeted provision of humanitarian assistance through its various specialized agencies, rather than creating a large UN presence.

Moreover, since the UN was slow to deploy compared to KFOR,[99] the result was to expand KFOR’s responsibilities, and hence the role and cost of American forces. Indeed, most of the hard decisions on key security questions appear to have been made by KFOR in any event,[100] and many UNMIK civilian police were simply not prepared for the violent conditions they faced.[101] Secretary of Defense Cohen said expressly at the time that "[t]he more we do, the less incentive there is for the U.N. to come in and assume that burden. This is a mission that doesn’t belong to NATO forces."[102] As it turns out, the multiplicity of international parties involved in the Kosovo effort has itself also been a problem from the outset.[103] Moreover, the Kosovar Albanians had little desire to put aside their long-held political ambitions to gain complete control of the province, thus complicating every step the UN had to take.[104] Indeed, one important KLA leader called quite early on for Kosovo to be represented in the United Nations and said of Special Representative Bernard Kouchner that he and the UN mission "behave as if the people of Kosovo were at their service, and not the United Nations and Mr. Kouchner trying to help the people of Kosovo."[105]

Second, having chosen the United Nations as the vehicle, and having watched for over a year as UNMIK has attempted to carry out its responsibilities, one can only be struck by the extent to which European social welfare models appear to be inspiring UNMIK’s approach to the administration of Kosovo. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan announced enthusiastically at the outset that reconstructing Kosovo would take ten years.[106] Concededly, a social welfare approach may have been inherent in the division of labor between the United States and the EU agreed to by the Clinton Administration: that the United States would be primarily responsible for the bombing, and the EU would be primarily responsible for the reconstruction. This was itself a highly questionable decision from the American perspective, especially since it effectively guaranteed that the head of UNMIK would be a European.[107] Nonetheless, even assuming that this progression of decisions was inevitable, one is also struck by the inadequacy of the resources flowing into Kosovo from the EU,[108] thus creating a "worst of both worlds problem: the scope of UNMIK’s governmental responsibilities is too vast, and the resources available to it far from adequate.[109] As UN Special Representative Kouchner, a physician, described it: "It’s like being on a drip, a resuscitation bottle for the whole society. It keeps us barely alive month to month, but only if we reduce the dosage to the minimum for survival, so we don’t collapse."[110] Thus. another alternative, also cleaner than bringing in the UN, if less desirable from an American point of view, would have been to use the EU or the OSCE to head the interim administration, making Kosovo a European rather and a UN protectorate.[111] Perhaps direct, unambiguous EU responsibility might have overcome the lack of support and interest that reportedly brought Kouchner "close to despair" and resignation.[112]

In May, 2000, a delegation of Security Council Ambassadors visited Kosovo. Bangladeshi Permanent Representative Anwarul Karim Chowdury, said candidly:

"It is impossible for us, sitting in New York, to get an idea. The enormity of the task of UNMIK could not be comprehended here. I am sure that when the Security Council passed resolution 1244, it had no idea how big the task would be in running the day-to-day affairs of Kosovo."[113]
Despite the consciously optimistic tone of the Secretary General’s most recent report, the substance of his message shows UNMIK’s continuing lack of achievements.[114] In short, UNMIK is poised at the edge of massive failure,[115] failure caused by the ambiguous and contradictory nature of its mandate,[116] the inadequacy of the UN’s capacity to undertake such a mission,[117] the radical political uncertainty and sometimes violent disagreement among the parties which persists to this very moment,[118] and the tension between UNMIK’s aspirations and its resources. And this failure will not be cheap.


Although the August 30, 1999, East Timor referendum resulted in an overwhelming vote in favor of independence from Indonesia, the subsequent violent attacks by anti-independence forces[119] resulted in nearly half of East Timor’s population of 800,000 being displaced, and massive property damage. The UN Mission in East Timor ("UNAMET") was withdrawn (except for a small number of personnel in Dili) by mid-September.[120] Although the collapse of the UNAMET effort is worthy of its own intensive study in any analysis UN peacekeeping policy, I will focus here only on the subsequent and ongoing UN efforts begun in the wake of the UNAMET withdrawal.

Nonetheless, it is critical to understand that the UN’s current presence in East Timor is largely shaped by the circumstances of the failed UNAMET efforts, and, in effect, represents efforts by the Security Council to mitigate problems that were caused or exacerbated by the UN’s own prior actions.[121] Specifically, the UN’s (and its members’) unwillingness or inability to anticipate the violence following the fully-foreseeable independence vote by the East Timorese was an almost unprecedented act of international negligence. After the fact, the press reported that within the UN Secretariat, there was considerable doubt about the wisdom of UN involvement in the referendum process. A UN official’s internal memorandum at the time was said to have concluded: "I cannot hide my apprehension regarding the course on which we are about to embark."[122] If so, the Secretariat’s apprehension was well-hidden. Indeed, a week after the violence began, the Secretary General said at a news conference that "nobody in his wildest dreams" imagined it. "If any of us had an inkling that it was going to be this chaotic, I don’t think anyone would have gone forward [with the vote]. We are no fools."[123]

Faced with the violence following the referendum, but only after receiving the agreement of the gov

Also Visit
AEIdeas Blog The American Magazine

What's new on AEI

AEI Election Watch 2014: What will happen and why it matters
image A nation divided by marriage
image Teaching reform
image Socialist party pushing $20 minimum wage defends $13-an-hour job listing
AEI on Facebook
Events Calendar
  • 20
  • 21
  • 22
  • 23
  • 24
Monday, October 20, 2014 | 2:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.
Warfare beneath the waves: The undersea domain in Asia

We welcome you to join us for a panel discussion of the undersea military competition occurring in Asia and what it means for the United States and its allies.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014 | 8:30 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.
AEI Election Watch 2014: What will happen and why it matters

AEI’s Election Watch is back! Please join us for two sessions of the longest-running election program in Washington, DC. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014 | 1:00 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.
What now for the Common Core?

We welcome you to join us at AEI for a discussion of what’s next for the Common Core.

Thursday, October 23, 2014 | 10:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.
Brazil’s presidential election: Real challenges, real choices

Please join AEI for a discussion examining each candidate’s platform and prospects for victory and the impact that a possible shift toward free-market policies in Brazil might have on South America as a whole.

No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled today.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.