When President Bill Clinton was inaugurated in 1993, he stressed a new policy concerning a revived United Nations and the actions that would be taken by the United States concerning the “New World Order,” a term coined by his predecessor George Bush depicting the post-Cold War international arena. Clinton had campaigned on the need for a multilateral organization to share costs and share risks of any peacekeeping venture. The Clinton Administration had made multilateralism a campaign issue and put it in the forefront of their foreign policy agenda. However, with the problems occurred during the initial trial period of this assertive multilateralism, exemplified by US military blunders in Somalia, Clinton and his advisors now found themselves questioning their own policies and preferences in foreign affairs especially in terms of multilateral peace operations. This case study delves into these issues and how Clinton and his administration sought answers to this problematic puzzle.
The main operations of the United Nations are humanitarian relief efforts, peacekeeping by invitation and peace enforcement. The latter entails the most danger and conflict situations. These are soldiers trained to fight, not make peace. This is, and always will be, an enigma for those associated with peacekeeping operations. The same forces that are meant to keep the peace for a UN peacekeeping mission have been trained all their lives to make war, not peace. Your warmakers are your peacemakers. This will always cause confusion and disruption in any relief efforts involving peacekeeping operations.
The case study attempts to explain the problems encountered during multilateral peace operations. Certain issues must first be addressed. The national interest of the United States is first and foremost. This is the key to making peace or to making war. The issue of whom is in command and who is in control is also an important factor as is the time frame in which the US will remain involved.
Certain issues that became hot topics of debate among Clinton’s advisors were those of the Rapid Reaction Force and the idea of private UN forces. The latter fell into ill favor with Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Colin Powell, who did not like the circumstances of a separate US military entity solely used as a mechanism of the UN. The benefits of a Rapid Reaction Force were many. They could be deployed quickly. They would also alternate countries. A database would be created; therefore the US would not always have to go on the respective missions called on by the UN.
The case study completes while examining the choices Clinton finally made regarding multilateral peace operations. He used the advice of his two closest cabinet members to this issue in an attempt to reach a resolution: Powell and Secretary of State Madeline Albright. Albright wanted to practice assertive multilateralism and use the UN forces only when it benefited the US. She said that the US should always try a multilateralist approach to the respective situation, and if there is no sharing and they receive no international support but the issue at stake is in it vital national interest, the US will go on alone. Powell was against the practice as a whole. He did not look too kindly on the idea of the US engaging in an unknown war, at an unknown time and under an unknown command. Powell also hesitated to support a military venture with unknown goals, unknown missions and an unknown in the controlling offices.
The finality of the situation was that the Clinton Administration was way too optimistic on the idea of world peace. They were not realistic. Multilateralism can work, but it mustn’t be the centerpiece of a foreign policy agenda as Clinton had sought it to be. The reasons why Clinton eventually took this approach were three-fold. The military, exemplified by Powell’s emphatic stance, were against the entire idea. Congress, after Somalia, was weary of further intervention, as was the public. This case study details the problems that can occur within an administration when ideological differences abound, particularly between military and political players.