How To Start a War

How To Start a War

congo_peacekeepersCourts may have socked him, Congress may have dumped him, but the Trump administration is hardly down and out. This week it signaled its intention to blow up the fragile peace in one of the most beautiful and precious areas of the world, the eastern Congo.

Friday, the UN’s peacekeeping mandate in The Congo expires, and the Trump administration has signaled it has no intention of continuing it at is.

Our ambassador to the U.N., the former Carolina governor Nikki Haley, currently chairs the Security Council. She circulated a note to the other members of the Council last week implying the U.S. is withdrawing significant support for UN Peacekeeping. The Congo is the first of 16 missions around the world that requires reauthorization this year.

Haley’s peculiar note begins by asking if the current Congo mission is “fit to purpose.” What she meant was translated by the New York Times which obtained a copy of the note and reported:

“The note … poses existential questions that are raising concerns among world powers, like France, that advocate robust peacekeeping operations. ‘Council members are encouraged to review missions and identify areas where mandates no longer match political realities,’ it says.”

UN Peacekeeping is one of the most cost efficient ways to impede war. According to the Center for Global Development the US pays $2.1 million for every service member deployed in a war zone annually compared to $24,500 for the UN. That means you can get roughly 100 UN soldiers for every American.

The Congo is a particularly fragile situation. Two generations of terrible, brutal war ended only recently mainly because of many aggressive moves by the Obama administration, including some arcane but extremely significant sections of the Dodd-Frank legislation:

Warlords shrunk away. Barbarity was massively reduced and even ivory poaching subsided. It could hardly have been a better start for this hopefully new and better chapter in Kivu’s troubled history.

But you can’t expect two generations of war to be replaced by prosperity and peace overnight, and thus the reason for a powerful peacekeeping force. The UN is the strong policeman that keeps the lid on peace.

The Congo mission is in the far eastern part of the country, Kivu Province, an area caught up in the horrible ethnicity and convoluted politics that envelope its neighbors Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda. The greater Congo country of which geographically it is a rather small province is in the throes of serious political turmoil:

The Congo constitution is being defied by its chief executive officer, President Joseph Kabila. The constitution limits the terms of an elected president but he refuses to step down. Most analysts understand that he is trying his darndest to become Africa’s next entrenched dictator.

So not so ironically Kabila has asked the UN Peacekeeping mission to be reduced. Clearly he wants to get the good guys out of the way before the next flash points this summer and fall.

Haley and the Trump administration either don’t understand this and are falling for the bait even as France and everyone else around them explains otherwise, or they do understand it and simply don’t care.

Either way, they’re using Kabila’s request to support their position.

There are 15 other sensitive UN missions around the world that will soon need the council’s approval, including Darfar and Gaza. Imagine how much damage Trump can do to world peace, even without Congress or without judicial sanction.

Watch out. Things are likely to start blowing up soon.