Sunday, June 29, 2003
A World Peacekeeping Force - 29th June 2003, 11.46

At a meeting with business leaders last week, Donald Rumsfeld floated the concept of a permanent peacekeeping force that could be used to stabilise nations undergoing civil conflicts. For some reason, the Guardian named this a "world peacekeeping force" and an"an apparent sharp reversal of the Bush administration's staunchly unilateralist stance". This sentence tells us more about the Guardian's inability to follow US diplomacy than it does about Rumsfeld's idea.

The postwar situation in Iraq has demonstrated that the US army has not been fully trained for peacekeeping duties and that the current 'overstretch' has led to appeals for troops from other NATO countries. Rumsfeld's view of a permanent peacekeeping force on standby has two goals: (i) to offset this weakness in the US armed forces whilst it attempts to meet the objectives of national security in stabilising failing regions; and (ii), to provide an institutional underpinning to the ad hoc 'coalition of the willing' brought together by the Iraq war. The Guardian does not note the notable omission of the United Nations in this regard.

At a dinner in Washington last week, Mr Rumsfeld told defence industry leaders: "I am interested in the idea of our leading, or contributing to in some way, a cadre of people in the world who would like to participate in peacekeeping or peacemaking.

"I think it would be a good thing if our country was to provide some leadership for training of other countries' citizens who would like to participate in peacekeeping ... so that we have a ready cadre of people who are trained and equipped and organised and have communications [so] that they can work with each other."

From Rumsfeld's words, the other motive for setting up such "cadre" of peacekeeping troops is a pre-emptive strike to avoid the European Union or the United Nations gaining a diplomatic leadership role. Given the distrust of the Pentagon for the Franco-German policies on European defence, this could also be an opening for the United States to maintain an effective role in an area where European defence has a practical application.


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