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January 19, 2006
UN Peacekeeping Via The Murtha Method

The Ivory Coast erupted into chaos yet again overnight, with opposing gangs roaming the streets and committing violence despite the presence of United Nations peacekeepers tasked with defending a cease-fire between the two sides of the Ivorian civil war. One UN contingent finally opened fire to protect themselves, killing four Ivorians, while another shot weapons in the air and fired teargas to cover their retreat:

IVORY COAST, once one of the wealthiest countries in Africa, was close to its second civil war in five years yesterday as gangs of armed thugs loyal to President Gbagbo ran amok across the southern half of the country.

A 300-strong contingent of Bangladeshi UN troops was forced to withdraw after an attack on their base at Guiglo, 300 miles west of Abidjan, the commercial capital. At least four people died when the peacekeepers opened fire to defend themselves.

Another contingent of 70 international peacekeepers was evacuated from the town of Douéké. Peacekeepers at the UN headquarters in Abidjan fired in the air and used teargas to keep the thugs at bay. Businesses across the city closed as Mr Gbagbo’s supporters blocked roads with burning tyres and stopped vehicles.

The UN has assigned 6700 troops to the Ivory Coast to act as "peacekeepers", and so far it appears that they have acted in the grand tradition of all UN peacekeeping missions -- they run when the shooting starts. We have seen it in throughout Africa and most egregiously in the Balkans, where Srebrenica paid the price for believing that the UN actually defends people from attack by armed forces. The UN has no will to actually fight when pressed; the only "action" one gets from a typical deployment of UN peacekeepers these days is the kind of action one gets in the red-light districts of Amsterdam, usually involving starving women and children forced to debase themselves for scraps of food from the troops.

Unbelievably -- or maybe not -- this is the same kind of deployment with which Brent Scowcroft recommended replacing American troops earlier this week, in a Washington Post op-ed. On Monday, Scowcroft wrote without a hint of irony (emphases mine):

he United Nations could be asked to assume a greater role in providing a more ecumenical political umbrella and expertise in building and coordinating institutions, programs and structures. After all, the United Nations played a significant role after the demise of Saddam Hussein's regime, until a bomb explosion prompted its exit from the country. The coalition forces are themselves in Iraq pursuant to a Security Council resolution. And U.N. personnel figured prominently in managing the recent parliamentary election. A U.N. presence of such magnitude, however, would require a dedicated security force, to prevent a repetition of the 2003 tragedy.

In other words, we need to prevent the 2003 tragedy of a single bombing by terrorist groups by removing American troops and putting the same people in charge who commit a Jack Murtha-style "strategic redeployment" after every explosion. And if the UN doesn't use American troops, Scowcroft has a suggestion as to where the UN can find troops to support the new Iraqi democracy -- from such democratic strongholds as Egypt, Bangladesh, Morocco, with financial support from surrounding Arab states that have been cheerleading so strongly for democracy to replace their dictatorships.

One would like to think of Scowcroft as a satirist, but unfortunately he believes in what he writes. Perhaps he sees the Ivory Coast mission as a great UN success, even as the situation erodes the deterrent nature of the UN peacekeeping forces even further. Scowcroft and Murtha would be laugh-out-loud hilarious if their military and diplomatic efforts didn't have such deadly consequences, if ever adopted.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at January 19, 2006 5:35 AM

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