Drones and UN peacekeeping?

RASHMEE ROSHAN LALL January 16, 2013

The excellent Baobab offers prescient insight into the way things might change in the United Nation’s “vast and unwieldy peacekeeping  operations”. UN Secretary-General Ban ki-Moon, it seems, has asked the Security Council to approve the use of drones over eastern Congo. International opinion, as always, is mixed with the Chinese and Russians reluctant and Rwanda (non-permanent current member of the Security Council) firmly opposed, even as the US, France and UK are rooting for Mr Ban’s proposal.

The problem with Baobab’s analysis is that drones can help the UN downsize its peacekeeping operations and become more effective. “Since 1999,” Baobab writes, “the number of peacekeepers has risen from 12,000 to 100,000. During that time the annual bill has swollen from under $2bn to more than $7.2bn.” Drones might help downsize up to a point but what of the consequences of pursuing ever hotter ‘no-war wars’ in large swathes of the world and the UN blue helmets being ever more suspect everywhere? “Drones are not a panacea but they can be a force multiplier,” Baobab quotes a Centre on International Cooperation expert Richard Gowan to say. Yes. But only up to a point. There is some evidence to show that the hotter drone war pursued by President Obama on the Af-Pak border has picked off key personnel wanted by the US but also caused a rising and more frenzied anti-Americanism that is threatening to take Pakistan to the tipping point.

Last but not least, the blog says that the UN peacekeeping mission in Congo, MONUSCO, is the largest of its kind with 17,000 troops. Is that really the case? One would have thought MINUSTAH in Haiti was the largest of UN peacekeeping force of its kind. As of Nov 2012, MINUSTAH’s strength is as follows:

*           9,988 total uniformed personnel

*           7,297 troops

*           2,691 police (including formed units)

*           451 international civilian personnel (fig. on Oct 31)

*           1,317 local civilian staff (fig. on Oct 31)

That adds up to 22,397. But, by all accounts, they might as well have been 17,000 or 7,000 for all the esteem they have earned from the Haitian people.

Jack Kerouac

“Our battered suitcases were piled on the sidewalk again; we had longer ways to go. But no matter, the road is life”
– Jack Kerouac