Rethinking International Peacekeeping

The Clinton Administration has dusted off an old idea: create an international civilian police force which would be on standby for rapid deployment to international trouble spots.

According to Secretary of State Madeleine Albright: "The recent slowness in deploying desperately needed civilian police to Kosovo provides only the latest evidence that present international capabilities are not adequate."

Indeed, after less than perfect experiences in Bosnia, Haiti and East Timor, as well as Kosovo, the Clinton administration's foreign policy and national security teams are admitting the obvious:

"...we must recognize," says Albright, "that old models of peacekeeping do not always meet current challenges."

The current proposal takes advantage of lessons learned -- the hard way -- during the past five years. It has the added advantage of appealing to the Pentagon, which has never been in favor of deploying highly trained military forces for what most often turns out to be police work.

Many members of Congress have been frustrated with the UN's peacekeeping operations in the past. They might be supportive of this plan because having an international police force, albeit with some U. S. participation, answers the question which most often arises in these situations: Why does the United States have to be the world's policeman?

Congress will want to see the details. And whether those who hold the purse strings will think it's worth the $10 million price tag in next year's budget is another matter.

Currently more than 700 Americans serve in so-called CIVPOL (Civilian Police) operations under UN supervision, and administration officials say they'd like to have a list of about 2,000 trained professionals to draw from when the call goes out.

Most of those chosen would be from active duty police forces around the country and would serve a one-year tour of duty. Other professionals being sought would help set up civilian legal systems, courts and penal institutions.

For the past fifty years foreign policymakers spent their careers worrying about the Soviet Union launching nuclear missiles. Now that the Cold War is over, a major concern becomes whether an American soldier in Bosnia or Kosovo can keep the peace between ethnic groups, put down civil disturbances and avoid being killed by a sniper with a grudge.

By Charles Wolfson


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