The Multilateralist

BRIC peacekeepers for Libya?

Richard Gowan thinks an international peacekeeping force is now all but inevitable in Libya because the rebels can’t win and Gaddafi won’t be allowed to prevail. So where do the peacekeepers come from? Early in the war, I argued that the European Union might deploy soldiers to oversee the peace.  This no longer looks possible. ...

Richard Gowan thinks an international peacekeeping force is now all but inevitable in Libya because the rebels can’t win and Gaddafi won’t be allowed to prevail. So where do the peacekeepers come from?

Early in the war, I argued that the European Union might deploy soldiers to oversee the peace.  This no longer looks possible. Having faced repeated NATO bombardments, Gadhafi’s forces are unlikely to welcome Western officers, even if under an EU banner.

A U.N.-flagged mission is the most likely option. It might make sense for countries that have not joined or endorsed the campaign against Gadhafi, such as Brazil and India, to offer relatively impartial observers. Germany, having abstained on the U.N. resolution authorizing airstrikes, could provide air and sea logistics for a rapid deployment. All these countries would probably want to work alongside some sort of Arab presence too.

India is already a mainstay of U.N. peacekeeping operations. Brazil contributes significant forces, and China participates much more actively than it used to (for detail on recent contributions, see here), so it’s not implausible that they would offer up forces. But I doubt they want to be associated so directly with an intervention they didn’t support. 

More:  Here, Gowan doubles down on the notion of the BRICS providing military observers:

I’d argue that the BRICS have both (i) a potential political advantage as observers; and (ii) a certain responsibility to play this role.  The potential advantage is pretty clear: Brazilian and Indian personnel have a far higher chance of being accepted as impartial observers than, say, Brits or Italians.

The responsibility part is probably more controversial: as members of the Security Council, all the Brazil, Russia, India and China voted in favor of UN Resolution 1970 of 26 February, calling on the Libyan authorities to protect civilians and demanding an “immediate end to violence.”  While they abstained on last month’s Resolution 1973, which authorized force, the BRICs are on the record as supporting a peaceful resolution to this crisis.  That doesn’t legally obligate them to send a single officer.  But I’d argue that they have a certain political responsibility to help out.

I very much doubt that BRIC countries do feel the obligation he describes; after all, the Council calls on people to do all sorts of things all the time without asking or expecting Council members to provide resources to ensure that they happen (though I do agree that Council members should feel  a much greater sense of obligation to give meaning to the body’s entreaties). More broadly, my sense is that the BRICs view the entire response to Libya (including Resolution 1970, which they supported) as Western-driven and are not particularly invested in a particular outcome.

But let’s say the BRICS were willing to provide military observers to police a political transition. Would the West feel comfortable handing off what was  essentially a war for human rights to countries that have a very different take on that concept? 

 Twitter: @multilateralist

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