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A United Nations Peace Force or Police Force?

July 30, 1992



Regarding the Opinion page article "The Limitations of a UN `Army'," July 23: While the author's distinction between a peace force, assembled to effectuate compliance with international law, and a force arrayed to secure military victory is valid, nonetheless his analysis is incomplete.

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The author's premise that a coalition must be dominated by one party is invalid. Surely concerted, multilateral forces can be commanded by either joint leadership or concurrent national leadership. Furthermore, a United Nations police force, once in place, can serve as a deterrent.

In a civil war, the faction opposing its presence also stands exposed. Accordingly, there is no substitute for collective action in the post-cold-war world in order to secure the peaceful settlement of disputes. Indeed, this objective can be fulfilled without resort to unilateral, national control.

Owing to the experiences in Vietnam and Lebanon, the United States Pentagon has been reluctant to see America take the initiative by sending our forces to crisis areas. Certainly, there should be no national will to impose democracy on other nations.

But humanitarian gestures and commitment to the concept of the inviolability of a nation's borders, free from aggrandizement and aggression, are solid grounds for US involvement. This may even lead to the fostering of negotiations between the parties to a conflict. Finally, what better cover to allay the Pentagon's fears about its reputation and US national prestige than a UN military force? Elliott A. Cohen, New York

Letters are welcome. Only a selection can be published, subject to condensation, and none acknowledged. Please address them to "Readers Write," One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115.