The United Nations: A Very Short Introduction by Jussi M. Hanhimaki

The United Nations: A Very Short Introduction by Jussi M. Hanhimaki

Author:Jussi M. Hanhimaki [Hanhimaki, Jussi M.]
Language: eng
Format: epub
Tags: History, Europe, Great Britain, Political Science, Intergovernmental Organizations
ISBN: 9780190222703
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Published: 2015-05-28T21:54:44+00:00


The contrast between the peacekeeping operations conducted mainly by a multinational UN force and the massive Persian Gulf operation in 1990–91 headed by U.S. troops was clear. The sheer size of the latter, dubbed Operation Desert Storm, was such that it could not have been conducted by the modest resources available to the UN. Nor would the United States—or a number of other countries—yield its ultimate command over its own national military to some supranational body. The Gulf War may well have been a successful implementation of a UNSC resolution. But because making Iraqi forces retreat from Kuwait was possible only through the use of large-scale military force, the Gulf War was more a demonstration of American military might as the lone superpower than an indication of the UN's new robust role in safeguarding international peace and security.

A comparison of the resources put into driving Iraq out of Kuwait with those allocated to the peacekeeping missions in the first five years of the post–Cold War era illustrates the point. At their peak the coalition forces in the Persian Gulf numbered 660,000; estimates of the financial costs of the war range from $61 to $71 billion (an estimated $53 billion came from countries other than the United States, although the Americans committed more than three-quarters of the troops engaged in the conflict).

By contrast, in 1993, the year when the costs of post–Cold War UN peacekeeping peaked, the total budget allocated was $3.6 billion; the total number of blue helmets was just below 80,000 (scattered in thirteen different missions on three different continents). The late 1990s would see a gradual decline in operations as well as the funds devoted to them until the new millennium saw yet another rise in both. The number of peacekeepers breached the 100,000 barrier in summer 2008; the budget had climbed to $5.4 billion.

It is difficult to judge whether peacekeeping missions are adequately funded. It is clear, however, that the UN spends but a minuscule proportion of the national defense spending (roughly 1 percent of the French and less than 0.1 percent of the U.S.) of most major powers. This relatively modest funding may well be one reason why peacekeeping did not ultimately become the great success story of the 1990s. Ironically, however, the growth of peacekeeping costs tends to attract much more attention and criticism than the much higher cost of, say, the first Gulf War.

The so-called Brahimi Report on UN Peace Operations (named after Ambassador Lakhdar Brahimi of Algeria, who had the impressively long title of "Chairman, Under-Secretary-General for Special Assignments in Support of the Secretary-General's Preventive and Peacemaking Efforts") that was released in 2000 laid bare many of the problems. It pointed to the basic reason why the missions in Rwanda, Somalia, and Bosnia had failed: they had not been deployed to post-conflict situations but tried to create a postconflict environment with inadequate resources. In short, war needed to end before peace could be built, but the UN force lacked the mandate and the resources to enforce a peace.


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