Vital Signs

Singing the U.N. Blues

The operational philosophy and military role of the United Nations have radically changed. In the U.N.'s first five years it launched only two peacekeeping missions, but since the fall of the Soviet Union the U.N. has mounted 19 operations involving more than 70,000 blue-helmeted soldiers. Last year these operations cost $3.6 billion. The United States was assessed $1.2 billion, and the Clinton administration spent another $1.7 billion for American military participation in U.N. missions. Today, thousands of American soldiers wear U.N.- blue helmets in ten countries ranging from Haiti to Lebanon to the former Yugoslav republics. Indeed, the U.N. has experienced a renaissance with the unexpected fall of the Soviet Union, rising from near impotence in the early 1980's to worldwide peacemaker in 1995.

Harvard fellow Ronnie Dugger has called for the creation of a United Nations military force composed of volunteer peacekeepers financed by global citizen-members who pay dues and carry citizen cards. If that doesn't fly, Dugger told New York Times readers in June, perhaps nongovernmental organizations like Greenpeace could become citizen-members of their own international agency and elect a world parliament to pass and enforce laws through a voluntary military force.

Franklin D. Roosevelt envisioned the U.N. as an organization dealing with traditional interstate aggression rather than the type of internal...

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