Policy discussions about peacekeeping frequently get bogged down in technical details, such as the wording of United Nations resolutions, rather than tackling big strategic questions. This has been true of most commentary on the U.N. Security Council’s decision in late-March to mandate an “intervention brigade” to “neutralize and disarm” armed groups in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
U.N. officials are already starting to size up early candidates to replace Ban Ki-moon as secretary-general in 2017. The battle to succeed Ban could turn nasty, pitting Western-backed candidates against alternatives favored by Russia. If that sounds like a return to the Cold War, it’s because the U.N. has never fully shrugged off the old East-West divide.
The border zone in the Golan Heights had been largely unaffected by Syria’s uprising until March 6, when Syrian rebels seized 21 Filipino members of a United Nations peacekeepingmission from a disputed demilitarized buffer zone between Israel and Syria that has been monitored by U.N. forces since 1974.
Diplomats are rarely dreamers or gamblers. The experience of grinding negotiations means that most ambassadors and their advisers dislike big ideas and unnecessary risks. But sometimes they have to take a gamble in pursuit of national goals.
Governments and independent experts have found countless metrics to evaluate the successes and failures of military interventions such as those in Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq, judging them on everything from casualty rates to the provision of public services. The number of girls attending school in Afghanistan, for example, has been a standard point of reference for supporters of the NATO mission there.
But what metrics can be used to evaluate a deliberate nonintervention?
Does Lakhdar Brahimi have any good options for ending the Syrian war? Brahimi has served as the United Nations-Arab League envoy to Syria for more than three months, having been chosen to replace Kofi Annan in August. Unlike Annan, who tried to mediate a resolution to the conflict under constant media scrutiny, Brahimi has adopted a low profile. But like Annan, he has struggled to find a way to bring the regime and rebels together.