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State of the Art Nationbuilding
Alex Steffen, 10 Apr 04

Really interesting piece in the Times magazine tomorrow about the theory and practice of peacekeeping and nation-building. Given the amount of sheer chaos in the world today, and the increasing pressures of resource scarsity, climate change and overpopulation, this is something those we need to get good at, and soon. I think we can all agree Iraq shows the U.S. at least still has a long way to go.

"If there is such a thing as state-of-the-art peacekeeping, it would be the NATO-United Nations operation in Kosovo, which began with the retreat of Slobodan Milosevic's forces from the province in June 1999. NATO went in big -- 40,000 soldiers in a territory of two million people. And it worked. The Serbian forces stayed on their side of the border, and the 800,000 Albanians who had fled into the freezing mountains, hounded by rampaging Serbian paramilitaries, returned to their towns and villages and began to rebuild their lives. On the civilian side, administrators streamlined the unwieldy structure they had imposed on Bosnia, ensuring that the various agencies reported to a single official, the special representative of the United Nations secretary general. A RAND Corporation study described Kosovo as ''the best-managed of the U.S. post-cold-war ventures in nation-building.''


"East Timor provides an obvious contrast. By the time an Australian-led multinational force waded ashore in September 1999, the Indonesian military and local militias had gutted East Timor even more thoroughly than the Serbs had Kosovo; most of the country's buildings were burned to the ground. When I arrived the following January, the United Nations was running everything: United Nations officials stamped your passport, passed the laws, ran the courts -- one lesson learned from Kosovo -- and arrested common criminals. The head of the mission, Sergio Vieira de Mello, who would later die in Baghdad, occupied the old Portuguese governor's office and ruled as an all-powerful proconsul. There were complaints, even then, that the United Nations was ignoring local capacity and that the highly paid internationals were distorting the local economy. There were angry demonstrations and a few spontaneous brawls. Yet by mid-2000, Vieira de Mello was able to begin transferring authority to an interim Timorese government; a year later, that government staged multiparty elections to a constituent assembly. By 2002, East Timor was an independent country."

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Here in Europe, we often read about failed attempts at nation building, *including* the Kosovo mission. Nationalism, racism, and unemployment are still going strong, the Serbs that used to live there cannot come back for fear of persecution. In fact, we hear that the international presence is part of the organized crime network that is smuggling young women and forcing them into prostitution and slavery. Basically the tenor is that the KFOR mission will have to continue for years, with uncertain outcome. So much for "state-of-the-art peacekeeping."

Telepolis Article (German)

Posted by: Alex Schroeder on 11 Apr 04



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