Late last week, President Bush once again showed the stuff of which
he is made. On the margins of his meeting with other G-8 leaders in Canada,
Mr. Bush decided that the United States would exercise its Security Council
veto to block UN peacekeeping mandates that failed to protect American
forces from the predations of an unaccountable International Criminal Court
(ICC). To the horror of the State Department, foreign diplomats and other
ICC enthusiasts, the first such veto was cast on Sunday, blocking a
six-month extension of the UN's peacekeeping operation in Bosnia.
This step was made necessary since the International Criminal Court
claims jurisdiction over all military personnel and their civilian superiors
-- even those from states that are not party to the 2000 Treaty of Rome
which established the ICC on July 1, 2002. Mr. Bush had previously made
sure that the United States could not be considered a party to that treaty
by renouncing his predecessor's scurrilous decision to sign it at the last
possible moment during the waning days of the Clinton Administration.
It turns out that "unsigning" the ICC treaty is not enough, however.
Americans engaged in international peacekeeping operations must be assured
that, in so doing, they are not losing rights assured under our Constitution
(for example, the rights to due process, jury trials, confronting their
Commendable efforts in this regard are being made via domestic
legislation by Congressional leaders like House Majority Whip Tom DeLay and
Sen. Jesse Helms, the chief sponsors of the American Servicemembers
Protection Act (ASPA). ASPA would prohibit U.S. cooperation with the ICC.
Still, in the absence of the sort of internationally agreed exemptions being
sought by the Bush Administration, U.S. forces and officials participate in
peacekeeping operations at their own peril.
Even if ways could be found and agreed upon to dispose of the menace
posed by the International Criminal Court problem, there are a number of
other, powerful arguments for reconsidering the Clinton practice of
routinely assigning American personnel to international peacekeeping
missions. Fortunately, these have just been helpfully dissected by one of
the U.S. government's most knowledgeable experts in the field: Fred Fleitz,
a senior advisor to Under Secretary of State John Bolton.
In his new book, "Peacekeeping Fiascoes of the 1990s: Causes,
Solutions, and U.S. Interests" (Praeger, 2002), Mr. Fleitz supplies a
comprehensive and highly critical assessment of the Clinton legacy with
respect to peacekeeping operations. The wellspring was the same misbegotten
notion as underpinned Mr. Clinton's support for the ICC: a deep distrust of
American power and a conviction that only by subordinating it and putting it
to the service of multilateral organizations and institutions could it be
Specifically, the Clinton team thought it was okay for the United
States to engage in what Madeleine Albright once famously called "aggressive
multilateralism," code for defining U.S. interests as dictated by some
international lowest-common-denominator. During a period when Mr. Fleitz's
duties required him to support peacekeeping operations, he had a unique
opportunity to observe (usually with horror) as such notions were translated
into policy -- most especially in the form of President Clinton's
Presidential Decision Directive Number 25 (PDD-25).
From this mind set, as Mr. Fleitz ably chronicles, we saw a
succession of U.S.-backed United Nations peacekeeping "fiascoes" in Bosnia,
Kosovo, Haiti, Somalia, Angola, Cambodia, Sierra Leone, and Liberia.
Importantly, he recalls not only the flawed theoretical foundation of this
policy but also the UN waste and corruption and the human costs that
resulted from it.
In his book, Mr. Fleitz lucidly considers -- and draws valuable
lessons from -- the following, among other debacles: How the failed UN
mission in Bosnia led to genocide and peacekeepers being taken hostage by
Bosnia Serbs to serve as "human shields"; how the predictable fiasco in
Somalia and our cutting and running in its wake emboldened terrorists the
world over; how the UN operation in Cambodia enabled a ruthless dictator,
Hun Sen, to consolidate and retain power in Cambodia; how Mrs. Albright lied
that the Clinton Administration was ignorant of genocide taking place in
Rwanda and the steps that it took that actually had the effect of magnifying
the scope of that genocide; and how the peacekeeping operation in Haiti
collapsed, with the billions of dollars squandered on it principally
benefitting Haitian President Jean-Bertrande Artistide and a handful of
Clinton cronies who entered into corrupt investment deals with him.
Importantly, Mr. Fleitz offers the Bush Administration a blueprint
for salvaging UN peacekeeping so as to maximize the chances that it will
actually serve to advance the cause of peace in various conflicts around the
world and be consistent with vital U.S. interests. It could prove highly
useful to a President who wisely does not subscribe to the tenets of the
failed Clinton PDD-25, but has yet fully to replace them with his own vision
for limiting the use made of American troops in peacekeeping operations and
safeguarding our personnel when they are so engaged.