THE carnage from the Balkans war, more medieval and repugnant by the day, raises an obvious question in the minds of many in the West: Why doesn't somebody go in there and make them stop?
The reasons no one has stepped in so far range from European Community (EC) dithering to a United States decision that it is not in the national interest.
But the specific agony of the ex-Yugoslavs still points out a general problem for the "new world order." With ancient animosities now unfrozen from Bosnia to Azerbaijan, do we need a "new world army" charged with enforcing peace and saving lives?
No one is talking about dropping multinational forces into all the world's trouble spots. But the prospect of new regional crises has increasingly led to calls for a more effective international capability for military response.
The UN secretary-general is scheduled to issue a report on the subject in July. Similarly, NATO members took a big step last month by endorsing plans to use their heavily armed units as peacekeepers upon request of European nations.
"As we look to the future, we'll have plenty of involvement in peacekeeping situations," says a well-placed US defense official.
At least one senior US lawmaker is urging America to take the lead in establishing a multilateral military "fire brigade."
In April, Sen. Carl Levin (D) of Michigan, a senior member of the Armed Services Committee, told a conference that only the US has the strength and standing to push such a move through.
This force would be authorized by Chapter 7 of the UN Charter - the provision invoked to cover the Gulf-war allied coalition, as well as economic sanctions on Yugoslavia. But unlike the ad hoc Desert Storm military coalition, the new force would consist of standing units. "The fact of its existence might of itself make armed force less necessary," argues a Senate aide. In the short run, armed international intervention in the Balkans looks unlikely. US officials have shown little relish for involving tro ops in what would be a Lebanon-like peacemaking operation, not just a peacekeeping one.
At the same time, Secretary of State James Baker III and others have not ruled out multilateral use of force. The new UN trade embargo might lead to use of military escorts to make sure food aid gets through, or perhaps even a naval blockade.
In the long run, the UN, and through it the world community, faces a need for some greater commitment to international policing. Some US experts argue that the UN has already gone beyond its traditional peacekeeping role, in which lightly armed UN forces enter only after cease-fires are already in place.
In Croatia, UN peacekeepers are in the middle of a situation where, despite a cease-fire, outbreaks of fighting occur continually. UN officials were driven out of Bosnia by chaos; in other areas - notably Cambodia - they have agreed to police situations that remain very dangerous.
"What has happened to the UN is that its political capacity has outstripped its military capacity," says Jarat Chopra, an international studies associate at Brown University and co-author of an upcoming journal article on "Second Generation Multinational Operations."
The UN's traditional ad hoc approach to peacekeeping needs to be updated with a professional military planning staff of some sort, says Mr. Chopra. That means building a 24-hour military control room, setting up permanent logistics and communication links, and perhaps organizing a standing committee of colonels from Security Council nations.
Last January the UN Security Council asked Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali to study ways of strengthening the organization's peacekeeping and peace-making abilities and report back in six months. Hints of the coming study were contained in a speech Mr. Boutros-Ghali made in Washington in May.
Among other things, the secretary-general suggested establishing reserve stocks of basic peacekeeping equipment; establish- ment of a revolving capital fund to help pay for the crucial first months of any peacekeeping effort; and a renewed commitment on the part of laggards such as the US to pay their annual UN peacekeeping assessments.
But Boutros-Ghali also made a point of saying the UN should "share the work with others" - notably regional organizations such as the 52-nation Council on Security and Cooperation in Europe. That approach should get a boost in Oslo, where NATO foreign ministers are expected to approve a plan to let the CSCE ask for use of NATO troops in a peacekeeping role.