Monday, October 4, 2010

The Limits of International Organizations

My current project with David Auerswald is an attempt to understand how an international organization fights a war--NATO in Afghanistan.  Part of the justification of the case is that it should be an easy case for IO success--NATO is a far more institutionalized, coherent organization with the commitment of the strongest players in the world.  If it has problems, one can only imagine how an IO without such resources and organization would do.  Actually, you don't need to imagine it.  Just check out this piece about the United Nations and its performance in the Congo.
“I felt personally guilty and guilty toward the people I met there,” said Atul Khare, the assistant secretary general for peacekeeping, who recently visited Luvungi. “They told me, ‘We’ve been raped, we’ve been brutalized, give us peace and security.’ Unfortunately, I said, that is something I cannot promise.”
Of course, it is not just that the UN sucks as a peace-keeping bureaucracy (as Michael Barnett documented in his book Eyewitness to Genocide).  It has much to do with the lack of commitment by the powerful, so that the peacekeepers in Congo are too few, too poorly resourced, and a very week Congolese government. 
“The government’s able to dominate only the road,” explained Lt. Col. R. D. Sharma. “The rest,” he said, sweeping his hand over the treetops, “is the negative forces.”
The place is lacking in so many things including communications infrastructure so the news gets out slowly, if at all.  One cannot even use a metaphor of plugging fingers into the holes of a dike because there are more holes than dike. 

Do I expect UN performance here to improve?  No, as its most powerful members have their attention and their resources focused elsewhere. 

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