Nationally, the United States needs to create a standing agency devoted to nation-building; it should have a director with the authority to force disparate departments in the U.S. government to work together, something that didn’t happen before the invasion of Iraq. The military too needs to devote more attention to nation-building, perhaps by adopting a proposal from the Pentagon’s Office of Force Transformation to add a couple of divisions specially trained for peacekeeping.
It’s time to resurrect the idea of a standing U.N. army, as a supplement, if not replacement, for the other forces mentioned above. The key to making it work would be eschewing the old U.N. way of doing things, which consists of asking for military contributions from a lot of countries with minimal capabilities, no record of working together and differing strategic interests. This produces low-quality blue helmets that are the laughingstock of thugs everywhere.
The U.N. needs a tough, professional force like the French Foreign Legion that would not quail before Haitian gang leaders or Serbian ethnic-cleansers. Members of such an outfit would have to be recruited on merit and trained together; it could not be cobbled together at the last minute from the military riffraff of Third World dictatorships. To make it work, the U.N. Department of Peacekeeping Operations would have to beef up its command, intelligence and logistical capabilities. The U.N. would also need to improve its ability to run failed states in a Kosovo-style receivership.
Boot himself admits that these ideas are currently “wishful thinking” both because of problems with the UN itself and with the deep animus toward the UN within the United States. But even so it’s nice to hear a conservative voice willing to face the obvious: we can’t police the world by ourselves, and that means having to rethink our willingness to cooperate with multinational institutions if we want to achieve our goals.
I’d argue that we’ve long been willing to cooperate with the UN and other multilateral organizations–indeed, prefer to do so–so long as they’re not a major obstacle to our policy objectives. But a standing UN force would not have changed things in Iraq, for example. France would still have had a veto power on the Security Council, which would, under terms of the UN Charter, order such a force into action.
As to the domestic peacekeeping force, I tend to be skeptical of it. The problem is simple: operations in places like Iraq are fluid. One minute, a soldier is doing humanitarian operations and quite literally the next minute he’s a light infantryman performing counter-insurgency operations. I actually chatted with Admiral Cebrowski, the Director of Force Transformation, about this at the Fletcher Conference a couple months ago and got the impression that he agrees. What he’s talking about is something a little broader than just peacekeepers, as this Dec. 30 DefenseLINK article suggests:
[A] stability and reconstruction force would include such elements as combat arms, military police, civil affairs, military intelligence, psychological affairs, engineers and explosive ordnance teams. But he emphasized that the heart of the force would be the combat arms element.
“Stability operations are difficult, are very important and very dangerous,” he said. “This is no place for a pick-up team. This is meant to be part of the broad combat arms capability of the military. This is not the place where you put other than your best people and best equipment, because these are the people who are going to wrest victory and wrest our political objectives from an enemy dedicated to defeating us.”
While pointing to the importance of the combat arms elements, Cebrowski said such a force must include the long-held belief that “everyone’s a rifleman.”
“The fact that you may be working civil affairs, psychological operations, military intelligence, or whatnot does not make you less of a Marine or less of a soldier,” he said. “All would need to be prepared and ready to engage in combat, because these are dangerous types of operations.”
Cebrowski envisions such a force also interacting with and building relationships with allied forces, coalition partners, U.S. government agencies and perhaps some nongovernmental bodies, such as relief agencies.
“What we’re really talking about here is a joint capability,” Cebrowski said Ã¢€” “one that would require a strong mix from all the services in some cases, while relying more heavily on one service in other cases, and including the ability to work with others outside of DoD.”
These things are quickly becoming a reality. The problem is that, given that stability ops are quickly becoming the modal mission, two divisions aren’t enough.