Friday, March 01, 2013

Let's Think This Through, Eh?

Congo (the former Zaire) resists the best efforts of the United Nations to maintain peace. So obviously the UN will make the situation worse.

Fewer than 22,000 UN troops are failing to keep the peace in Congo. No big shock there given the regional interests, the large population, and the large amount of territory. There is precious little peace to keep, truth be told.

But the UN tired of failure, wants to compel success:

The UN has decided to change its peacekeeping policy and try the more aggressive and violent peacemaking approach in situations where the peacekeepers don’t seem to make much difference. The UN now wants to form such a peacemaking force in the Congo, to hunt down and forcibly disarm and disband militias that have resisted over a decade of peacekeeping efforts. This “intervention brigade” would have three infantry battalions, an artillery battery, a special operations company, a signals unit and other support units, lots of armored vehicles and some air support.

Let's contemplate what this means, in practice. After assuming that the UN can recruit nations into this intervention brigade.

In the vast Congo, with so many people, so much land, so many competing factions, and so many foreign interests to track, a single brigade will storm into trouble spots and compel peace by smashing up those who violate the peace the UN is supposed to keep.

So what do the many armed factions who are currently violating the peace that is supposed to prevail do when faced with that threat?

Assuming that the intervention brigade is fully capable of compelling peace on whatever piece of ground it stands; were I some warlord, I'd go somewhere else. Congo is big. Why fight for the piece of ground that the intervention force is standing on? It won't be able to stand there long. Some other location will scream for peace making. So just be patient if you really need to control that piece of land for your own interests.

And what happens to the rest of the UN force scattered around Congo when 3-4,000 combat-capable troops declare war on violent factions? Will those factions think of the UN forces as two separate entities--the sacred peacekeepers who wouldn't harm a fly and the violent intervention forces trying to make peace? Surely, those militias will possess the nuance to distinguish between dovish peacekeepers who shouldn't be attacked and the more aggressive peace makers, right?

I'm thinking that faction leaders will see all UN forces as targets--with most of the UN troops conveniently ill-prepared in equipment, training, and outlook to fight.

A little bit of peace making in a large peacekeeping mission is just asking for lots of dead UN troops.