This letter to the editor of the campus newspaper at Oregon State University was written in the Fall of 1993.
To the Editor of the Daily Barometer:
I would like to respond to the Barometer editorial that expressed the view that the United Nations shouldn't come to rely upon the United States to solve every problem. It made reference to the recent comments of the UN Secretary-General who said that he and the UN need the United States.
Drained by the Cold War, we Americans do not want to police the world ourselves. Under the Bush and the Clinton administrations, it has been United States policy to encourage the UN to assume a larger role in dealing with the world's conflicts and disasters. The UN Secretary-General, Boutros Boutros Ghali, and the members of the Security Council have agreed to this new role, beginning 16 new peacekeeping missions in the last 7 years, expanding the peacekeeping budget of the UN from $364 million in 1986 to $3.7 billion this year.
The United States intervened in Somalia to end the military chaos that was causing thousands of people to starve there. After American troops pacified the country, we asked the UN to step in and take over the mission of maintaining and enforcing the peace that had been established.
Peace enforcement is a new role for the UN, which is used to monitoring agreed upon cease-fires between waring parties. The Secretary General accepted this new challenge in Somalia, but the intelligence, communications, and logistical support of the US Military as well as its rapid response combat forces were essential in enabling the UN peacekeeping forces to perform their mission in a hostile environment.
After the October 13th raid in which 18 US soldiers were killed, President Clinton announced that American forces would no longer attempt to disarm the Somali factions, nor attempt to capture General Aidid who is blamed for ordering the attack that killed 24 Pakistani peacekeepers. In addition, American troops would definitely leave Somalia by March 31st. Other nations followed our lead to state that their forces would be withdrawn as well, causing the Somali clans to begin rearming themselves in anticipation of a return to civil war. Also, in his speech to the UN in September, President Clinton said that the UN had to learn when to say when and not always take on costly new missions (when the United States is billed for 30.4% of all peacekeeping costs). It was in response to these changes in US policy that the Secretary-General said that the he and the UN needed the United States, and that the split developing between the US and the UN had to be mended.
We Americans view ours as a unique nation, formed around the greatest ideals of how people should govern themselves. We believe America is the most free, the most fair, the best nation on earth. In this century, America has thought itself specially able and morally compelled to promote and defend freedom and democracy around the world. Other nations have looked upon our attitude with a mixture of contempt, fear, and admiration.
With the Cold War over, we no longer feel an obligation to lead. But there is no nation or group of nations willing to take our place or that shares the same optimism that we have about achieving a world of peaceful, democratic nations. Other nations will follow our lead, but they are not willing to do it without our leadership - witness Bosnia and the decline of the operation in Somalia.
It doesn't seem fair that the promotion of democracy around the world should rest upon our shoulders. But I believe that if we are not willing to take the lead or at least help develop the UN into an organization capable of tackling difficult peacekeeping tasks, the peace will not be kept outside of the increasingly narrowly defined sphere of 'US national interests.' World affairs will become more of a 'survival of the fittest' struggle, where the strong dominate the weak. That is why I believe this attitude of 'Why should we have to do it?' towards helping the UN will only result in a more cruel and indifferent world that I do not wish to see. The world needs our moral and political leadership.
Graduate Student in Electrical Engineering