Civil Reserve Corps, SysAdmin, and reality

NPR ran a story this morning on the challenges of deploying of the real citizen soldiers:

Challenges put on National Guard and Reserve forces by extended call-ups would seem to be a severe limitation on the quality and effectiveness of the proposed Civil Reserve Corps. NPR’s story

Extended deployments for National Guard and Reserve units mean trouble for the 6-percent of Guard members who own their own businesses. Managing a business while at war is nearly impossible.

What does this portend for the proposed Civil Reserve Corps or Barnett’s SysAdmin force? How likely is it the most qualified and best human assets will get engaged in SysAdmin-like work on behalf of the United States in the future without adequately supporting these people? Remember State has had problems moving its professionals around, US military recruiting costs have jumped, with an arguable drop in quality. This is a detail we need to work out.

Crimes by UN Peacekeepers

One of the arguments I’ve laid out in the discussion over private military companies is their lack of accountability isn’t because of their nature. There is potential accountability of PMCs, notably in the US environment, through the contracting system. However, as we’ve seen over the past several years and as is finally hitting the light of day with allegations over illegal sub-contracting, the contracting party, ultimately the USG in this scenario, fails to do its due diligence.

To demonstrate this fact, I’ve argued that “public” institution of United Nations Peacekeeping is even less accountable than private military contractors. Next year there is a paper in an academic journal persuasively, in my humble opinion, demonstrating this fact. One of the many examples to justify this position is the lack of enforcement in the area of sex crimes, which the UN is continuing to battle. Of course, nothing can happen overnight. From the UN itself in the UN Chronicle:

Allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation by United Nations peacekeepers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia, Haiti and elsewhere have tarnished the reputation of the world Organization. Speakers at a recent meeting at UN Headquarters outlined a “zero-tolerance” policy toward this problem and discussed innovative ways to fight it, including DNA sampling and an “anti-prostitution campaign” for 2007.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan told some 150 participants at the High Level Conference on Eliminating Sexual Exploitation and Abuse by UN and NGO Personnel that it is although significant progress has been made on the issue, “we have really only begun to tackle this egregious problem”. He lamented that a “small number of individuals” undermined the “admirable and upstanding behaviour of the majority of United Nations staff and the uniformed personnel who serve alongside them”. Civilian and military UN personnel had breached UN standards by having sex with adult prostitutes, and had committed crimes such as rape, paedophilia and human trafficking, said Mr. Annan. “All of this is utterly immoral, and completely at odds with our mission. Our behaviour should be something that others can emulate, and be judged against”.

Mr. Annan reiterated his “zero-tolerance” policy toward sexual abuse, saying that UN staff members who commit such acts are being fired, and uniformed peacekeeping personnel are being sent home and barred from future service in the United Nations. He also urged senior leaders to endorse the “Statement of Commitment on Eliminating Sexual Exploitation and Abuse by UN and Non-UN Personnel”, which spells out ten concrete steps to achieving that goal, including incorporating UN standards on sexual exploitation and abuse in induction materials and training courses for UN personnel, and preventing perpetrators from being hired for UN activities.

DNA sampling? By the way, the UN has the control to fire its civilian members but can do nothing but request the military peacekeepers go home and hopefully face trial or punishment there. As far as limiting who comes back into service, well Nepal already apparently segregates its forces: those who are used to commit criminal acts at home aren’t sent on peacekeeping operations. Will we see other contributor nations with the same bifurcation?

There is a limit on how far the UN can go as demand for peacekeepers outstrips supply… For more information on peacekeepers and recent totals on who contributes, skim a previous post on PMCs here.

China, UN Peacekeeping, and Public Diplomacy

The Chinese, following their stated plan to do so, continue on their path of engaging the world through peacekeeping. Through participation in UN peacekeeping operations, the Chinese expose their military to different parts of the world, allow others to meet them, and invariably share some culture through engagement with civilians and military alike. It would be a clever move it wasn’t such a well-known option.

From the International Herald Tribune back in September 06:

BEIJING Prime Minister Wen Jiabao confirmed on Monday that his country would increase its UN peacekeeping presence in Lebanon to 1,000 troops, raising China’s profile in the Middle East and bolstering ties with Europe.

Wen recently discussed China’s contribution to United Nations forces in Lebanon with European leaders gathered in Helsinki, but until now China had not publicly specified numbers.

“China has decided to increase its peacekeeping force in Lebanon to 1,000,” Wen said at a joint news conference in Beijing with Prime Minister Romano Prodi of Italy.

“China is very concerned about the situation in Lebanon and hopes it can be fundamentally resolved,” Wen said.

China had contributed 187 troops to the previous, 1,990-strong peacekeeping force in Lebanon, according to the United Nations

[This post has lingered in the draft folder for the last three months…. it’s about time it was published.]

An interview with UN Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jane Holl Lute

Some highlights from an interview by the United Nations Association of the United States of America (

BM: Do you find certain countries want to participate more than others?

JL: At the moment, we have over 100, nearly 110, troop-contributing countries, and their numbers can vary, from many thousands, to only a handful. There are countries, at the moment, who represent a larger share of the peacekeeping forces on the ground, but that can change over the course of time, and certainly through the history of the UN, various countries have been at the top of the troop-contributing list. But again, as I said, the contribution of every country to the success of peacekeeping is both important and valued.

Yes, certain countries do participate more than others and have been for sometime, creating something of a trend. But answering the question directly is counter-productive. See near the bottom of this post for recent figures on participation in peacekeeping operations.

Of course not mentioned is China’s strong surge in numbers of troops contributed to peacekeeping. Nor did the interviewer ask, and of course he wouldn’t as this was only a puff piece, about the US contributions. For example, what does it mean that the US peacekeeping contribution is via a private military company? Is that still a contribution by the state?

In closing, Ms Lute gets at the need for an Article 43 force that establishes a standing force for the Security Council and a reduced reliance on ad hoc peacekeeping (the status quo):

BM: …What are two or three things that would really help strengthen peacekeeping in the future?

JL: …We could certainly use things like more planning—for example, a greater emphasis on standing training capacity, a standing cadre of peacekeeping professionals that we can draw on. As you mentioned earlier, we put each mission together each time as if for the first time. There are these kinds of things [we need]. But most important, I think, and you put your finger right on it, is an in-depth understanding of the value of this tool of the international community to help bring peace to bear.

If you’re going to oppose Private Military Companies, understand the issues first

We've been hearing for a while about private military companies seeking to jump on the Peacekeeping Operations (PKO) gravy train. Blackwater has been notably vocal in this, most recently in a Washington Times article and on Slate. Typical opposition goes like this, from the Glittering Eye:

Nearly 400 years ago Europeans met in desperation to solve a problem: war without end; war everywhere; war against everyone. The solution they came up with led to modern nation-states. States have a monopoly on military force.

Continue reading “If you’re going to oppose Private Military Companies, understand the issues first

“Where’s My Blue Helmet?” Wherever it is, the people (and their bosses) wearing it are likely getting paid by SC

From Slate is this article: Where’s My Blue Helmet? How to become a UN Peacekeeper. (Thanks to David Isenberg for sending this out.)

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice discussed the possibility of a cease-fire with Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora on Monday. Rice proposed using international peacekeepers throughout the country and to guard its borders with Israel and Syria. Siniora said he would consider a deployment of peacekeepers, but only if they came from the United Nations. Who are the U.N. peacekeepers, and where do they come from?They’re soldiers, police officers, and military observers from the United Nations’ member countries. Nations are expected to volunteer the members of their armed forces when askedin general, the developing world does most of the volunteering . As of last month, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and India each had almost 10,000 troops in blue helmets, while American soldiers accounted for just 12.The contributing countries continue to pay their soldiers, but they get reimbursed by the United Nations at a standard rate of $1,028 per month, plus a few hundred dollars extra for specialists. Troops typically stay for at least six months at a time, with the exact details of the deployment schedule left up to the country that sent them.

Continue reading ““Where’s My Blue Helmet?” Wherever it is, the people (and their bosses) wearing it are likely getting paid by SC

Blackwater & Peacekeeping Operations

Recently, Blackwater announced that it was willing, and could, provide a brigade size force for humanitarian interventions (HI), such as is needed in Darfur. The Blackwater pronouncement (I think it goes beyond ‘announcement’) is largely based on Tim Spicer’s observation, as quoted in the Green Paper: "too often the major powers won’t intervene or delay until it’s too late." What might the Blackwater deployment look like and how might it work?

Continue reading “Blackwater & Peacekeeping Operations

Chinese Public Diplomacy via UN Peacekeeping

The Chinese state media has highlighted an interesting point as part of their growing public diplomacy campaign to win the hearts and minds of the world, and not least of the impovrished and non-G8 that have important resources China needs. In the last six months, China has had generally 1,000 troops or police on United Nations peacekeeping missions.

A Chinese scholar said Tuesday that China has sent out more than 3,000 troops and policemen to United Nations peacekeeping missions since the late 1980s, reflecting its firm support of the UN’s role in maintaining world peace and security. 
"China has contributed the largest number of troops to UN peacekeeping operations among the five permanent members of the UN Security Council," said Yang Mingjie, a Chinese researcher in international relations…

Chinese peacekeepers have won extensive accolades because of their
strict discipline and high work efficiency. In January 2005, Chinese
peacekeeping riot police in Haiti were awarded a UN peace medal for
their outstanding performance in the crisis-torn country, the highest
honor granted by the UN to peacekeeping missions. [emphasis added]

By the way, the Chinese seem to prefer to participate in African PKOs (peacekeeping operations).

Accountability of Non-State Force

The issue of private military companies, private security companies, or private military firms brings up the question of accountability. This question can be asked in different dimensions: moral, legal, ethical, and command and control. This is a brief draft on the legal accountability of private military forces, divorced from any profit motives. It is my belief that private military forces fall into the same "loophole" (really a misnomer, it is an intentional gap) in regulation in which non-governmental forces "approved" by the international community, namely Blue Helmets, are also found.

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Chinese Peace Corps + Energy Exploitation

In the spirit of challenges of securing energy sources and "hearts and minds" comes an article in the People’s Daily Online:

The 12 young volunteers from places such as Beijing, Sichuan and Yunnanwere going to Ethiopia in Africa to begin a six-month service work in
methane exploitation, Chinese-language teaching, physical education,
health care and information technology.

This Chinese Peace Corps is now in competition to win the hearts and minds with a Peace Corps perceived to be co-opted by the Defense Department. The long term goal for China is clearly cultural and technological imperialism as they seek to recreate a multi-polar world.

From the recent UNOCAL take-over attempt by CNOOC to competition for African energy resources, the Ethiopian service project is one of the many subtle salvos a patient China will fire.

Peacekeeping Accountability and Private Military Companies

Conventional wisdom has been going away from general war for a while now. Low-intensity warfare impacting all four networks of power (economic, political, religious / ideology, and military / violence) will be the dominant form of conflict. In this age of instant communication, increasing diasporas, and short travel times, conflict even in remote regions have some trickle-down effect on the US. Kofi Annan, writing in Foreign Affairs, in discussing his proposed changes to the UN Security Council acknowledges the clear and present dangers of ignoring challenges in the periphery. Thomas P. M. Barnett is apparently making a living, at least in part, on the actual and perceived division between the ‘core’, ‘periphery’, and ‘non-integrating’ gap in his new map.

Continue reading “Peacekeeping Accountability and Private Military Companies