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Fallout from Kosovo : NATO vs. the United Nations

by Jeremy Baillie

remember those old Star Trek episodes where Captain James T. Kirk when he came across an alien would just kill it? Well, essentially that is what the United States is trying to do with the United Nations. The recent crisis in Kosovo demonstrates this. The United States has been trying to make the United Nations its own since the inception of the UN and in recent years they've found that increasingly more difficult to do. So when the crisis in Kosovo rears its ugly head, what does the United States do? It does not go to the United Nations, the proper forum, for such a crisis. Instead, it goes to NATO, the one organization where because the United States provides the muscle it gets a large say.

Both Kofi Annan and his predecessor, Butros Butros Ghali tried to create a United Nation's rapid response force for peacekeeping purposes. This force, made up of armed forces from numerous member states of the UN, could be mobilized in mere days compared to the weeks and months it takes for nations such as the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada to mobilize their forces. The sticking point of the UN rapid response force for the United States has always revolved around the issue of unified command. For the uninitiated, the term unified command refers to a country keeping its own forces under the command of its generals in a conflict where the armed contingent is a coalition. Unified command has never been an issue for Canada. We are quite comfortable allowing usually the British to command are forces overseas. The United States, however, has never been able to accept this and thus no rapid response force has ever gotten of the ground for the United Nations.

It seems strange, however, that during the crisis in Kosovo that the United States accepted having NATO forces under the leadership of British General Michael Jackson. Russia, a country that barely has two Rubles to rub together, still managed to get their armed forces into Kosovo before the west and without their knowledge. When the Russians insisted they play a part in the peacekeeping operation in Kosovo and insisted on unified command, the American's balked. Does it not seem strange that the American's balk at UN suggestions of having a multinational armed forces under the command of the UN and yet insist that the Russians accept the same notion when it comes to joining the NATO peacekeeping mission?

Why is the United States comfortable with having their forces controlled by NATO but not by the UN? I'm surmising here, but look at NATO. NATO is a western hemisphere organization and more often than not NATO forces are under the command of the either the British, the Americans or the Germans. The United Nations, on the other hand, has this nasty habit of allowing countries like India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan to contribute the most troops on its peacekeeping missions. Compared to the United Nations, NATO is a pretty white organization. I cannot help but wonder if the United States acceptance of British command of NATO forces is not a bit of ethnocentrism on the part of the United States. Perhaps the United States is not willing or not ready yet to accept that someone from Bangladesh, Pakistan, South Africa, etc. can command a multinational armed force as well as an American, or a jolly old Brit.?

Jeremy Baillie is an Elementary Education major and a regular contributor to canadian content.
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