FA: The Brahimi report calls for more robust force and command and control. Isn't this reminiscent of what Boutros Boutros-Ghali called for in An Agenda for Peace, which was so politically unacceptable ten years ago? Is the Brahimi report different? Or have conditions changed to such an extent that what was proposed ten years ago is now politically palatable?

MH: Not much has changed since then. Just as it was ten years ago, the core issue is that nations don't want a more robust United Nations. If you recall, the initial response to An Agenda for Peace-back when Boutros Boutros-Ghali was not yet persona non grata-was positive. The New York Times and The Washington Post praised it for its insights and practicality. And then it slowly died. Keep in mind this was not the first time this idea was proposed and, for many of the same reasons, shelved. Similar proposals have been made, going back at least to the 1960s. Sadly, we're seeing the beginnings of a similar arc of response: initial good reviews, then a descent into obscurity as it becomes clear that no nation really wants to put forward the resources to implement it.

FA: You say the "debate on humanitarian intervention is utterly phony." Could you elaborate?

MH: The debate is phony on two levels. First, a number of academics and pundits have offered up guidelines of when, where, and how to intervene. These guidelines are just not practical because they don't account for the enormous and often haphazard public pressures to intervene faced by presidents and other Western leaders-what is often known as the "CNN effect." It is a sudden spate of grim headlines and horrific TV footage, as in the case of the Srebrenica massacre, that typically inspires the public to demand action from leaders. This renders unrealistic the debate over academic rules and fastidious guidelines for intervention.

The second level of falsity is that, for most of the Cold War, the question centered on whether the United States would play a globo-cop or to what extent the U.N. should-or perhaps the two of them acting in concert. But people don't want to fund a more robust U.N. At the same time, it's clear that Americans don't want to risk American lives for humanitarian missions. The bottom line is that the choices now typically offered up for a system of international action simply don't reflect the realities on the ground.

FA: East Timor seems to have been a model case of the hybrid system of peacekeeping. Would you say it has been a successful model?

MH: For the most part, in its final resolution, it has been a good model, but it didn't start out that way. It started out as a rather ill-conceived U.N. attempt to administer an election when the conditions were not quite right. It did turn out to be a model in the way it was resolved. The killings in East Timor reached a peak during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation group's summit in Auckland, New Zealand, in September 1998, and even though APEC is an economic forum, East Timor proved to be the biggest topic of discussion. A consensus quickly developed to do something about the horrors taking place there. With President Clinton taking the lead, sanctions were approved, including threats to withhold International Monetary Fund money and other aid. Then the Australians volunteered to send in peacekeeping troops and a U.N. Security Council resolution was quickly passed authorizing the Australians to go in. The Indonesian regime, which had been fomenting the violence through its militia proxies, quickly backed down in the face of such a concerted international effort. So in that I would see it as a model.

FA: You say regionalism is spreading to West Africa. Doesn't regional intervention in the form of forces from the ceasefire monitoring group (ECOWAG) formed by the Economic Community of West African States and/or Nigerian forces have a history there that has not been successful? If so, how do you think it will change now?

MH: The future of peacekeeping needs to be a hybrid system, combining the muscle of regional forces and pressure to go in under a U.N. resolution and behave according to international standards. The first time around [in Sierra Leone], the Nigerian forces had no U.N. authorization. They conducted a brutal and limited intervention. It succeeded for a time in stopping the more egregious atrocities and the limb-hacking. In the cities, many atrocities were prevented, but in the field the [members of warlord Foday Sankoh's] Revolutionary United Front were allowed to go about their business. It was not a solution in which the international community really had a stake. The solution now, in which the Nigerians are being trained by the United States and authorized and monitored by the U.N., has a much better chance of succeeding as a genuine humanitarian intervention.

FA: Is regionalism just filling a vacuum created by the industrialized countries' not taking on the job?

MH: To a certain extent, yes. The Brahimi report [says that] the industrialized nations, which once bore the biggest burden of peacekeeping, have become so unwilling to put troops on the ground that today as many as 77 percent of U.N. peacekeeping troops are supplied by the developing world. That is not a promising trend if we continue to rely on the present system of sending in U.N. troops everywhere.

FA: At one point, you suggest that even the U.N. imprimatur on regionalism won't improve legitimacy if it continues to look like a Star Chamber to the rest of the world. What are the prospects for reform of the Security Council?

MH: Proposals to enlarge the permanent membership have been around for a long time. But unlike some of the funding problems, which are intractable, it is not unrealistic to think that the council's permanent members will someday include nations like Germany and Japan. That would help to give the Security Council more legitimacy as a global arbiter and rid it of some of its image as an antiquated body dominated by the victors of World War II.

FA: In your article, you mention offers from Nigeria, Ghana, and Tanzania to intervene in the Rwanda crisis, and in the end they stayed home because of lack of equipment. There was a similar experience that held up promised supplies for the Democratic Republic of the Congo. How will we avoid this sort of bickering in a system of regionally based peacekeeping?

MH: Once we get to the point where a system of U.N.-sponsored regional peacekeeping is recognized as the norm, it will be much easier to give bilateral aid to countries than to fund international peacekeeping efforts. I'm not saying these solutions will be easy, but if there is some consensus on a hybrid approach between the realists, who reject liberal internationalism, and the idealists, who insist on it, then we may not get as much bickering as we did in the past.

FA: Today, you say, "realpoliticians and liberal internationalists [are forced] into bed together." Could you elaborate on that phrase?

MH: If we recognize the premises that I lay out, then the most practical conclusion is that neither solution alone-liberal internationalism or realpolitik-works in these situations. If you depend only on the U.N. without bringing in real military muscle-which the U.N. is never going to get-then we're going to find that the U.N. continues to lose its credibility. If, on the other hand, you rely just on local force, as in Sierra Leone the first time around, you are cutting intervention off from the watchful eye and increasingly tough standards for behavior that prevail in the international community-of which the only real representative is the U.N. You also lay the seeds of future conflict by breeding suspicion of regional hegemons within the nations that are subject to intervention. So the two traditional sides in the debate really have to take a hybrid approach.

You are reading a free article.

Subscribe to Foreign Affairs to get unlimited access.

  • Paywall-free reading of new articles and a century of archives
  • Unlock access to iOS/Android apps to save editions for offline reading
  • Six issues a year in print, online, and audio editions
Subscribe Now