Too Many Blue Helmets Still Unfilled

LATToo Many Blue Helmets Still Unfilled

In another setback for U.S. efforts in Iraq, the United Nations has been unable to secure enough troops to protect a U.N. contingent headed to the country to help with elections and rebuilding. When the U.N. Security Council voted six weeks ago to authorize a protective force, it expected contributors to step forward. But countries have balked at taking part in a force expected to include 1,000 troops and several dozen bodyguards. Diplomats said many nations were hesitating because of the dangers — including a wave of kidnappings — and costs as well as the continuing unpopularity of the U.S. invasion. “It’s a difficult problem for these countries, especially at a time when other countries [with troops in Iraq] are pulling out, or planning to leave ahead of schedule,” a U.N. diplomat said. “Discussions are continuing. So far no one has stepped forward.”

The U.S. considers a U.N. mission in Iraq an important step toward making the reconstruction a more international effort. But U.N. officials, still traumatized by the bombing of their organization’s Baghdad headquarters in August, said they couldn’t remain in Iraq for long unless they had protection for their personnel and their facilities. If other countries are unable to provide the troops, the job will fall to the U.S.-led coalition now patrolling the country. That outcome would be embarrassing for the Bush administration, which has been struggling all year to show it has international support for rebuilding Iraq.

Why is this an embarrasment for the Bush administration? Indeed, this would seem to vindicate the point that relying on the UN to do anything serious is futile. And this isn’t even serious: “1,000 troops and several dozen bodyguards” is the type of commitment one would expect from a tiny Third World country, not the premier international organization on the planet. We’re talking, what, a reinforced batallion?

This is the perfect counterpoint to the Kerry campaign’s continual insistence that they would “internationalize” the effort. This clearly demonstrates that most states are not going to risk troops in the advancement of abstract things like international order. States will continue to fight for their own interests, Security Council resolution or no.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Beldar says:

    States will continue to fight for their own interests, Security Council resolution or no.

    Or, more cynically, also for the personal interests of the individual(s) then empowered to decree those states’ policies — which may not always coincide with the states’ own objective long-term interests. In the case of France, I believe it’s a combination of these personal interests, a shortsighted evaluation of what’s genuinely in the state’s long-term interest, and pure cussedness.