President Clinton's trip to Nigeria this weekend includes a pat on the back and $20 million for the Nigerian military to improve its role as West Africa's peacekeeper. The aid even includes training by a couple hundred troops of the US Army Special Forces.
Such steps are another sign that the direction of peacekeeping remains in a state of flux 10 years after being freed of cold-war rivalry between the Soviet Union and US.
The training of regional nations such as Nigeria to carry the burden of quelling hot spots is just one idea that's taking hold. But more needs to be done to create an international military corps that can end local conflicts or keep them from flaring up.
The United Nations remains at the center of global peacekeeping, but it's being called upon to do far more than just guard duty once a conflict ends. Leaders of the 189 UN member states will meet in early September for a millennium summit, and they will be handed a major report that makes practical suggestions for changing UN peacekeeping.
The review, conducted by a panel of 10 experts, uses wisdom gained from UN missteps in Bosnia and Africa to make suggestions. One of those is that there are many places the UN "should not go." Translation: Don't put soldiers of big-power countries in harm's way or intervene in conflicts involving big powers (i.e. Chechnya, Northern Ireland, etc.).
But UN forces should be deployable quickly, the panel says, and "they must be prepared to confront the lingering forces of war and violence with the ability and determination to defeat them."
That means better military intelligence, faster deployment, and other ways that normal militaries operate. UN troops should not be micro-managed by UN member states and, once in a war zone, they must be allowed to act decisively against aggressors rather than remain neutral.
Many of these ideas may not be agreeable to the United States, which often demands control over UN peacekeeping operations. But before another Bosnia or Rwanda takes place, the report's ideas deserve a test.
(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society