Wednesday, May 21, 2003

Waiting for Mr. Legitimacy

US Marines in Iraq used to poke enemy corpses in the eye with muzzles of their rifles to determine if they were playing dead or not. It never failed. But if you have the will to play dead while cannibals cut off your limbs, lodge a machete in your skull while they walk off to loot the corpses of your friends, so that you can crawl off into the bushes when your attackers turn their backs -- then you're not only tougher than the feyadeen, you are tough enough to survive in Africa. As tough as Nema Naziri.

With up to 5,000 people dying per week in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the United Nations is considering dispatching more useless peacekeepers to broker yet another ceasefire. Last week, two UN peacekeepers were killed by cannibals after brokering a ceasefire. Some 500 Uruguayan armed peacekeepers in the town of Bunia were surrounded in their fortified compound by tens of thousands of civilians fleeing the brutal gangs. Those peacekeepers are now besieged by hostiles, and there are fears in New York for their safety. Even the left-wing former British Cabinet member Clare Short now admits that the UN has been "partial, weak and muddled" in the Congo. After failing to organize a Continental relief force, the UN is finally asking for real soldiers -- British soldiers -- to help them out of yet another debacle. The UK Telegraph reports that:

The Government is considering a request by the United Nations to send British troops to join an emergency peacekeeping force in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Downing Street said that a request had been received from the UN but that officials needed more information about the proposed force before any decision to commit British personnel.

... A French military team is set to assess the feasibility of deploying a force to the region.

Feasibility. Therein lies the problem. Bunia is almost exactly in the center of Africa: 800 miles from the nearest shore. It is on the northeast bank of the vast Lake Albert, with a small airfield used to supply the Uruguayan UN personnel. The airfield of Bunia was considered for use in the rescue of European hostages in Stanleyville crisis of 1964. But the Belgian Paratroopers in that operation used 12 USAF C-130s (That successful operation was actually planned by USCINCEUR). A similar type of operation may now be attempted. The Europeans now have their own C-130 assets but the Congolese may have anti-aircraft capability, a threat which did not exist in 1964. Neither the French nor the British have long-range aerial assets to suppress ground fire, a task ideally suited to AC-130 gunships, all of which belong to the United States.  Nor do the Europeans have the reserve margin of medium-lift aircraft necessary to ride to the rescue in case the extraction goes bad. Only the US has the force necessary to make success certain.

And if the sole objective of any British deployment is merely to rescue the trapped Uruguayans, what becomes of the many tens of thousands of Africans facing armed cannibals? Never fear, the UN will dust their hands of the whole affair,  and express regret that the only power on earth which could have prevented the looming massacre chose not to act. The Europeans, Canadians and New Zealand governments which have cut their defense establishments to the degree that they now resemble toy soldiery, never bear any responsibility.