April 28, 2003

RACHEL BELTON WRITES THAT WE SHOULD KEEP THE UNITED NATIONS OUT OF IRAQ:

The United Nations and international allies promised to rebuild democracy in Bosnia. Seven years later, they have departed — only to hand over responsibility for the semi-state to the European Union. They failed again in Kosovo, where they are preventing a civil war but have brought little movement toward self-government in their four-year reign. In Afghanistan, international aid is coming too little and too late to support the fragile government.

The failure of these efforts to build autonomous, sovereign democracies lies in the very structure of international coalitions. Coalitions diffuse responsibility. When Bosnia failed to arrest war criminals, each coalition member could blame its compatriots. No one felt responsible for ensuring the legitimacy of the coalition — or the success of the country. Slow funding from a coalition is also inevitable, given the multiple money streams and organizations that must be coordinated. Yet lack of disposable funds causes pro-Western politicians to lose ground to more shady leaders, often funded by less-savory states and criminal organizations, who can deliver results to the citizenry more quickly.

Reconstruction efforts often become the battlefields for unconnected struggles between coalition members. To gain the upper hand, “internationals” dissipate their time and energy playing politics against one another.

This seems right to me.