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Making Better Bluehats
Alex Steffen, 27 Oct 04

To war is human. But to stop wars, prevent genocide, help spread peace -- these are the work of peacekeepers. Peacekeepers are soldiers willing to fight, to die, to keep the peace -- an innovation that has only existed for a few decades.

Though they are defamed by nationalists of many stripes, derided by some globalists as being too timid ("what the UN does best is count the dead" a famous condemnation begins), UN Peacekeepers are way, way Worldchanging. The noblest calling a soldier can answer is to be a "soldier of peace." And as the world is subject to more and more stresses and conflicts, peacekeepers of all sorts will be more and more needed. If there is to be a bright green future, it will be built in part on the courage of peacekeeping troops.

But peacekeeping, though rad, suffers from a huge number of problems.

What might "Peacekeeping 2.0" look like?

Romeo Dallaire is one man to ask. As head of the UN peacekeeping mission which found itself powerless to check the genocide in Rwanda, Dallaire may have agonized more than any other person on Earth about how the world community ought to act when monumental acts of evil loom ahead. The basic take-away? The UN needs to act before, not after, genocide has begun.

Certainly most sources agree that the international community needs to learn how to stave off genocide, not just regret it. That, in turn, involves learning more about what kinds of conflicts lead to disasterous ruptures of the social fabric, which can be stopped early and how to mitigate those which erupt full-blown. The social science of peacekeeping is a very worldchanging enterprise.

But it's also clear that the UN Peacekeeping forces themselves need to undergo some fundamental reforms, and that everything from the rules of engagement under which they operate to the technologies and tactics they use must be changed.

Expect us to keep an eye on this topic.
(The image, by the way, is from Brian Atkisson's photographic site. Some brilliant stuff there)

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I hate to jump in first thing with a technological fix, but there's a piece of equipment that I'd like to see every squad carry:

A Verifiable Camera.

Something big-camcoder sized, equipped with a GPS, a satellite phone, and a chunk of black-box encryption and watermarking hardware.

They'd use it to take pictures of atrocity sites, genocide in progress, suspected WMD factories, and the like. Each image would be digitally watermarked with a location and date code, and would be registered via satellite link.

Posted by: Stefan Jones on 27 Oct 04

The UN is not now and never will be useful for peacekeeping, especially as a premeptive force to prevent atrocity. The UN is just a talking shop.

Posted by: Jo Ma on 27 Oct 04

The "Responsibility to Protect" report of 2001 stimulated conversation on justifiable interventions to prevent or halt genocide.

Verifiable Cameras are a great idea (and not only in peacekeeping). Maybe vertically integrating up the news food chain would make sense - add bloggers, journalists, and news professionals to peacekeeping teams, both to get the word out and to bring in an alternative source of information for the populace. Many conflicts have been exacerbated by the equivalent of extreme talk radio egging on radicals to violence - a trusted voice could short-circuit that.

Posted by: Hassan on 28 Oct 04

I think that the UN doesn`t have enough authority to do what needs to be done. Again and again every authority they administer is cut from underneath them. A great example of this the the Bush war against Iraq (I hesitate to call it the American war). When approaching the UN he told them that he would do this with or without them and if you are not with us you are against us. A proud Canadian, I feel that the UN can have great impact on the world IF WE LET THEM. They are not given enough of anything to do thier job. In the US alone they spend trillions on thier war budget, and drive thier economy onto the ground, but have not paid thier UN dues in years. Its obvious that many countries put thier own interests before`keeping the world peacefull.

It makes me sad.

Posted by: David on 28 Oct 04

Very strange. On one hand we have someone arguing the UN can do much good only if we let them, and then back it up with evidence that proves the UN wasn't going to do anything so the US did it anyway without them.

The entire article is an exercise in Newspeak. Its tortured definition of peacekeeper as someone who will kill for peace strikes me as odd. Either peace does or does not exist. If it does exist, then no one needs to keep it except any soldier in general who deters future aggression by his presence. If peace does not exist, then there is none to keep. What is needed is a peace-maker. And those peace-makers are simply soldiers who establish peace through victory.

Posted by: Chris Durnell on 28 Oct 04

The problem with peace is sooner or later the question will be whos children will starve and you cant answer that question with peace and you cant put the question off forever sooner or later the answer will come.

In the middle east this is the heart of the conflict there simply isnt enough of anything in that area to keep everyone alive and there never will be and peoples children are dieing as we speak.

That is the heart of the problem in africa that is the heart of the problem in south america.

Politics does not decide whos children will die bloody war does. Politics cant keep someones children from dieing nothing can over the long run.

Thus over the long run politics is just delaying the inevitable bloody war to come. And the UN is just politics.

Posted by: wintermane on 28 Oct 04



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