Sunday, December 21, 2008

An All-Volunteer Army?

Among my daily reading-fodder is George Packer's blog at the New Yorker's site called 'interesting times.' Two weeks back, he posted an embedded video from Doctors Without Borders about the continuing chaos in Africa's Great Lakes region. Something about my firefox settings makes it so that every time i load the blog, the video starts playing. I'd call this annoying, but it's hard to be dismissive, considering the content of the video. I don't know if Mr. Packer did this intentionally, but for literally two weeks now, almost every day, readers are reminded of the depressingly increasingly hopeless hell that people live in. Combine this persistent nagging with stories like this from the Times about massacres being carried out less than a mile away from the U.N. Peacekeeper's base, and you really take a gulp.

I won't claim to know very much about the Hutus and the Tutsis and Warlordism, or even the local culture. But I know why Peacekeeper forces are stretched hopelessly thin, and it has everything to do with George Bush. Between the public ridicule of the U.N.'s missions, non-payment of dues, and reckless international politicking, Mr. Bush has done significant material harm to the U.N. and its missions. Furthermore, the wars he started already precluded his more competent successor's use of U.S. troops as peacekeepers in any of the places they are really needed.

It occurs to me that while the armed forces are having trouble meeting their recruiting goals as they attempt to fight an overly-costly but unpopular war, The President Elect could knock out a whole flock of birds with one stone by opening up a new branch of the Armed Forces--one dedicated to U.N.-sanctioned peacekeeping missions. Besides being wildly popular abroad, a peacekeeping force could draw in prospective recruits who are either ideologically opposed to the present wars, risk-averse, or both. By offering potential recruits the guarantee that they would not be sent on missions which had not specifically been mandated by the U.N. security council, and offering training beyond that of traditional armed forces--namely a greater emphasis on conflict-resolution--but also the radical ideologies that General Petraeus brought to Iraq.

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