Tag Archives: peacekeeping

Where soldiers fear to tread

I just finished ‘Where Soldiers Fear to Tread‘ which is the account of the author who, in 1998 decided to volunteer with the World Food Program in Somalia as an operator of a boat to carry humanitarian supplies to villagers displaced by flooding.

I’d read Burnett’s book Dangerous Waters which was interesting if a bit uneven but this book is far better.  What struck me was how similar the experience of aid workers are to combat journalists and soldiers.  The big differences being soldiers get to go into dangerous places armed and can count of having a whole bunch of armed support if things don’t go well.   Aid workers have to rely on a mixture of negotiations, bribes and dumb luck.

The end of the book discusses security of aid workers in the post Cold War world and how the perceived safety of them through their neutrality has been shattered.  The book takes the UN and other NGOs to task for neglecting security and proper training of their personnel (and provides yet another critique of Kofi Anon that I keep stumbling on).

The book dances around the issue of the role of adrenaline addiction as critical to both the aid and military fields.  Why, exactly, would someone who is skilled and could get safe, profitable work in any number of places volunteer to insert themselves in some of the most dangerous places on earth where you are likely to be viewed alternately as a source of funds, human shield, bargaining chip, spy, or target for frustration.  It does cast a cynical eye at those who claim to do so for purely altruistic reasons.

Afghanistan roundup

I have to apologize to whoever cited the first link in this post but I’ve forgotten where I got the link and so can’t give the hat tip (mea culpa!)

This, however, is too good to pass up.  A USDA employee newly embedded in Afghanistan.  This promises to be an interesting series.

In addition to my role as a member of a military unit, the Obama administration’s new strategy tasked me with the job of “reinforcing positive [Afghan] action” throughout the populace of my designated province. To this end, it will be necessary to go “outside the wire” each day to conduct missions. Such missions include shuras (i.e. consultations) with village representatives and elders, discussions with local farmers on crop yields and technical improvements, and project site assessments to gauge the progress of agricultural and irrigation improvements.

Londonstani argues that we’re so ineffective in Afghanistan that the Taliban there have the time and inclination to begin competing with the Pakistani Taliban for who’s going to come out on top…

If Londonstani were a Taliban commander he’d be taking it easy right now…The Americans and the British are running in circles while throwing money in the air and the Pakistanis are increasingly seeing the errors of their corrupt, slave rulers. All the while, the Muslim world is seeing how we take on a regional power and a superpower all at the same time. Now what? volleyball? stolen humvee racing? I know, I’ll show that annoying arse Hakimullah that he’s not the only one that can make like the action movies.”

He also links to this YouTube video by As-Sahab you should check out…you have to admit, they do a pretty good job at information ops.

Kings of War gives an account of Bild’s interview with Gen. McChrystal.  Trivial fact which struck me the most:  Germany’s foreign minister is named Guido?

Society is only three missed meals from anarchy…

I think that quote was from Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy but it’s been awhile since I read it so forgive me if I got it wrong.

I was thinking about that as I’ve been reading about the security situation in Haiti.

Mark’s got a good round up of security concerns and describes some of the problems pre-earthquake.

Even before the earthquake, feelings towards internationals, the UN, ranged from support to resentment. With so much aid unable to get through, it may now resurface. Pre-disaster, there had been a rise in violence over the holiday period (shooting by men on motorbikes); and political tension was growing as elections approached.

Having just completed a move to Haiti shortly before the earthquake, Mark is now considering the consequences of going back (he and his family were in Florida at the time).

Global Voices has a nice review of the unfortunate bottleneck of humanitarian assistance trying to work its way into the country.

And then they do another article describing the use of the term ‘looting’ and reports of violence in the capital.

Haiti’s earthquake

I’ve done it recently but given the news about the earthquake in Haiti, you might want to keep an eye on Mark’s blog.

I suppose, if one wants to look for a bit of good news out of this it’s that there are about 9,000 foreign troops and police there to help keep order and perform rescue and recovery activities.

Update: Wolf Blitzer was a total dick to the Haitian ambassador.  The guy was obviously emotionally stressed and trying to absorb the fact that he can’t get in touch with anyone in his country and said something like “All I can do is pray.”

To which Wolf said:  “Well, you better do more than that.”

CNN:  The best team of ambulance chasers on TV…

Why don’t they make toy peacekeepers?

Mark asks that question in response to a conversation he had with his son.  It got me thinking…why DOESN’T the UN make toy peacekeepers?  Apart from the potential revenue stream (and let’s face it, the UN could always use more money), think about it from an information operation potential.  Hand the things out to kids while you’re patrolling.  If they were really savvy, they could make a cartoon/comic centered around them to promote core values (like conflict resolution) and information (hey, don’t play in the minefield!)

And don’t tell me there wouldn’t be a significant interest in them.  Could you imagine, especially if you made peacekeepers from the various countries?  Who wouldn’t want  to collect the whole set?

May I recommend…

Dispatches from a fragile island is a blog I stumbled upon today that looks quite interesting.  The author, Mark Turner, has, with his son in tow, joined his wife in Haiti while she is involved in the peacekeeping mission there.  He’s a formal journalist and so knows how to put a story together in short, engaging pieces and gives us a view of daily life in Haiti we aren’t likely to get elsewhere.

Well, let’s face it, you aren’t likely to hear much about the peacekeeping mission in Haiti from any perspective.

He began back in November so there isn’t much history to catch up on if you hate starting things in the middle.

Interesting peacekeeping news

The International Criminal Court issued a warrant for Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir.  I can’t find the text of the warrant on line as I write this although I imagine you will be able to find it at the ICC’s website by the time you read this.

From the BBC:

The spokeswoman for the court in The Hague, Laurence Blairon, said Mr Bashir was suspected of being criminally responsible for “intentionally directing attacks against an important part of the civilian population of Darfur, Sudan, murdering, exterminating, raping, torturing and forcibly transferring large numbers of civilians and pillaging their property”. The court would transmit as soon as possible to the government of Sudan a request for his arrest and surrender, she added.

Oh, snap!

Ok, a bit of a reality check here.  It’s not like this is going to play out like an episode of ‘Dog the Bounty Hunter‘ and Bashir can thumb his nose at the warrant and the ICC probably for the rest of his life.  But, he won’t be able to leave the country and harboring a war criminal (who’s a sitting head of state) will likely increase pressure on those countries *cough China cough* that do business with Sudan to disengage.

There is some risk that Bashir, having little left to lose and not being too worried that anyone will use force against his regime might find some freedom in the issuing of this warrant to tidy up perceived loose ends.

Top U.N. officials voiced fear that the arrest warrant might trigger an upsurge of violence in Darfur, including public protests and possible reprisals against thousands of international aid workers and peacekeepers stationed there.  They have also expressed concern that the decision may lead to war, citing the buildup of Sudanese forces along the border with neighboring Chad, which has backed one of Darfur’s strongest rebel groups.(WaPa)

In more ridiculous news, Cypriots are freaking out because UN peacekeepers are preventing them from harvesting wild asparagus which grows in the buffer zone seperating the Greek and Turkish parts of the island.

“This is unacceptable behaviour and I have demanded that action is taken,” said Nicos Kotziambashis, leader of the Greek Cypriot village of Mammari which has been particularly hit by the U.N. ban. “The situation is explosive.”

Really, I have no sympathy for the Cypriots.  Thirty five years and they can’t hammer out some sort of agreement?  If they want to act like children then they get treated like children.


What I’m reading…The Fate of Africa


I just started reading Meredith’s ‘The Fate of Africa’ hoping, unrealistically I know, it finish it before my next class starts on the 7th.   Even if I don’t, I’m hoping there might be some applicability to the subject matter of the class, titled ‘Foundations of Peace’.

I haven’t even gotten fifty pages into the 750+ page behemoth yet but I have to say that the author’s writing style is quite inviting.  Perhaps it’s just me but it seems like history and political science writing has gotten much, much better over the past 20 years and reputable authors no longer view accessibility to a general audience as synonymous with selling out.

A  preview of the book is available from google here.

As I was reading this morning, I briefly began thinking about the current crisis in Sudan and the difficulty in getting an effective peacekeeping force there.

The International Peace Operations Association (the lobbying organization for private military companies)  has held the position that they could do an effective peacekeeping mission (at lower cost and higher efficiency that traditional alternatives)  if nations or international organizations (like the U.N.) would pony up the money.  For some reason, I began wondering if such a mission could be raised if private citizens raised the money instead.  Then I saw this article (linked from here)  that talks about George Clooney and Don Cheadle offering to raise $20 million out of $47 million needed to equip the arriving UN force with 24 helicopters.

I think the offer is a moot point because it doesn’t seem that money is the problem but rather political reluctance (and here let me recommend Samantha Powers’ The Problem from Hell for more examples of such behavior).

So what if the $47 million was entirely financed by private individuals?  If Ron Paul supporters (relatively few in number, burdened by campaign finance laws on donation size and not exactly overflowing with high income supporters) can raise $12 million in one quarter, how much could a semi-organized movement raise to support something as widely supported as peace in Sudan?

If one or more PMCs were offered a significant amount of money to conduct peacekeeping missions (or, more likely, peace enforcement missions since the Khartoum  government would not be open to such a mission and some sort of combat would be required) would they do it?

I haven’t thought this through but it’s an interesting idea.