The Global Citizen: peacekeeping
Last night I had a conversation with a Senator, who I consider a friend, about Libya. It was a private conversation so I won’t mention his name. But after listening to President Obama’s speech, he was still very concerned about what the U.S. was doing in Libya. For him, the concept that we were there to protect civilians wasn’t good enough. Nor was the concept that if the international community didn’t weigh in, then in President Obama’s words, “if we waited one more day, Benghazi, a city nearly the size of Charlotte, could suffer a massacre that would have reverberated across the region and stained the conscience of the world.”
When this senator first ran for office, one of the questions I asked him was, “under what circumstances would you vote to authorize the president to take military action?” He viewed, “military action as an instrument of last resort in international relations” and listed 5 standards which I believe are reasonable. I also believe the UN authorized actions that the US has taken in Libya meet these criteria. Let me know what you think:
As posted in the Huffington Post
I recently returned from Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) where I gave a speech on UN reform at a conference on "Global Strategic Developments: A Futuristic Vision". It was an incredibly interesting place to get a perspective on the conflict in Libya. Speakers at the conference included the UAE's Foreign Minister, the Secretary General of the Gulf Cooperation Council and former US Secretary of State Colin Powell. The participants at the conference were from around the Arab world, Europe, the U.S., and many other nations.
There seems to be a general consensus that while the "no fly zone" will not stop the conflict in Libya, it is a necessary evil. Gaddafi has gone too far. I've heard comments like, "Gaddafi is crazy. No one should do this to his people."
While the world’s attention is focused, and understandably so, on the events unfolding in Libya, another conflict and brewing humanitarian crisis has been unfolding on the other side of Africa for months. Ivory Coast, the small West African nation which saw a disputed presidential election result in a political stalemate late last year, is sliding ominously downhill towards civil war.
The November 2010 election in the country resulted in a victory - widely recognized by the international community - for candidate Alassane Ouattara over incumbent president Laurent Gbagbo. However, Gbagbo has refused to leave office and has ordered U.N. peacekeepers out of his country, though they have remained anyway. Now four months later, Gbagbo is still clinging to power, and opposition rebels supporting Ouattara have been battling with his forces. Meanwhile U.N. peacekeepers have surrounded the hotel where Ouattara is living in order to protect him, and are also attempting to protect civilians in the country.
During his show on Monday, comedian Jon Stewart complained about the U.S. involvement in the military operations against Moammar Gaddafi's regime in Libya. Stewart quoted Barack Obama, who in 2007, as a U.S. Senator said: "The President does not have power under the constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation." Stewart used this quote to criticize the actions being taken President Obama this week against Libya. Senator Obama was completely correct in his statement, but Stewart is using the quote out of context.
The military operation in Libya is not "unilaterally authorized." It is authorized by a United Nations Security Council Resolution. This means that Congress does not have to approve U.S. participation in the multi-nation, Security Council-sanctioned force currently attacking Libya. Stewart compared the operation in Libya to the Iraq War which began on the same date, March 20, in 2003. However, that war was the direct result of the U.S. ignoring and completely bypassing the UN on our way to a disastrous war involving a coalition of only a few nations. In 2003, the UN asked the United States to wait for UN weapons inspectors to finish their task of determining whether or not Iraq had Weapons of Mass Destruction. As we all know, Iraq had no WMD's, but we invaded before letting the UN inspectors do their job.
In an interview with Gulf News on Tuesday, I discussed the importance and need for a United Nations Emergency Peace Service (UNEPS). It's one step towards effective genocide prevention, and is designed primarily as a first-in, first-out unit that could fill the gap between the Security Council's authorization of a peace operation and the actual deployment of a conventional peacekeeping mission.
UNEPS would consist of 15,000 - 18,000 civilian police, military, judicial, and relief professionals, employed by the United Nations that could deploy within 48 hours of a Security Council authorization. The force would be permanent and voluntary; its participants could be trained together in the same language, use the same weapons and communications equipment for greater interoperability, have a clear chain of command and would have a greater level of commitment to the success of their missions.
I am currently participating in the Emirates Center for Strategic Studies and Research (ECSSR) conference titled, "Global Strategic Developments: A Futuristic Vision," where I am discussing the future of the United Nations and the Security Council.
I am in Abu Dhabi this week at the Emirates Center for Strategic Studies and Research (ECSSR) speaking at the ECSSR's 16th Annual Conference titled "Global Strategic Developments: A Futuristic Vision." This Conference builds on the ECSSR's belief in the importance of forward-looking local, regional and international studies. Keynote speakers are former U.S. Secretary of State Gen. Colin Powell and Minister of Foreign Affairs for the UAE, H.H. Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
As the United Nations Security Council and Human Rights council meet today, Mommar Gaddafi continues to defy calls for him to step down. Innocent civilians are being fired upon by Gaddafi's security forces and there is no end in sight. It is the responsibility of Gaddafi and the Libyan government to protect its civilians. When this does not happen swift action must be taken. The UN Human Right Council and Security Council must do more than just condemn Gaddafi, it must take active steps. Libyan officials abroad have already taken action. In today's UN Human Rights Council meeting, the Libyan delegation announced it would resign and side with the people. I'm shocked! This almost never happens on the global stage. Libyan's have already taken the difficult actions that are necessary, now it is our turn address this heinous dictator. Of course it would help if the international community could decide how to spell the guys name. Is it Gadhafi, Gaddafi or Qaddafi? More on that later.
With time running out before a temporary federal funding measure expires on March 4th, the House of Representatives last week passed H.R. 1, which would provide funding for federal agencies for the rest of the fiscal year, through September 2011-but it cuts deep into the international affairs and peacekeeping budget.
Don Kraus, CEO of Citizens for Global Solutions, laid out the consequences of the House budget to IPS News: "The House FY 2011 funding bill would have a devastating impact on U.S. foreign affairs funding, and if adopted could be a serious setback to U.S support for the Millennial Development Goals (MGDs). The legislation would cut funding for critical poverty fighting food aid programs by up to 50 percent, decimate support for refugees in Africa, Burma, Iraq and other places, and shrink funding for fighting AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis. This legislation represents a serious retreat for U.S. poverty reduction efforts."
CGS is happy to report that the House of Representatives voted on February 9th to defeat H.R. 519, the ‘‘United Nations Tax Equalization Refund Act of 2011.’’ This bill, introduced by House Foreign Affairs Committee chair Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), would have asked the U.N. to return $180 million in U.S. dues which had been earmarked by the U.S. government to provide security for the U.N. building in New York City, and to fund peacekeeping missions around the globe.
The bill purported to save taxpayers money by returning approximately $180 million in credits that have accumulated in the Tax Equalization Fund (TEF) since 2000. The TEF is a fund used to ensure that U.S. citizens working at the UN are not disadvantaged in their salary compared to those from other countries, since the United States, unlike other nations, decided not to exempt their citizens from paying taxes on UN compensation. However, according to Esther Brimmer, Assistant Secretary of State for International Organizations, the $180 million in overpayments in the TEF are in the form of credits, not cash, and thus cannot be refunded. Furthermore, the U.S. government had already planned to use the $180 million in credits to harden security around the U.N. building in New York, and to help fund peacekeeping missions around the globe.
On Thursday the Sudanese army threatened U.N. peacekeepers in Darfur after a tense couple months in the region. Sudanese soldiers threatened to “burn to the ground” camps for internally displaced person (IDPs). This comes as the United States has called for the United Nations-African Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) to better protect civilians. U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice stated that, “we expect UNAMID, as one of the UN's largest and most costly operations, with one of the most robust mandates passed by the Security Council, to be very active and, when necessary, aggressive... to protect civilians.” Fighting between the Sudanese army and Darfur rebels has caused 43,000 people to flee since December.
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