Lee Feinstein, the Council on Foreign Relations deputy director of studies and director of strategic policy, says Washington should trade firm financial and troop commitments from other nations in return for U.S. support of a new U.N. resolution. Most countries, he says, are still reluctant to send troops to be part of an Anglo-American occupation force. Whats needed, Feinstein adds, is a new resolution to create a peacekeeping force that would work side by side with the U.S. and British troops.
Feinstein was interviewed by Bernard Gwertzman, consulting editor for cfr.org, on July 24, 2003.
There has been increasing discussion about getting the United Nations more deeply involved in Iraq, both for financial and security reasons. What is the outlook for an enhanced U.N. role?
It depends on whom in the administration you are listening to. On Wednesday in the Rose Garden, President Bush urged other nations to contribute militarily and financially to Iraq. At about the same time, the acting Army Chief of Staff, General John M. Keane, said that unless there are significantly more foreign troops deployed in Iraq, hell have difficulty mustering enough forces over the medium and long term. So the administration, having kept foreign participation off the agenda for a long time, has now clearly changed its tune. President Bush also seemed to suggest in the Rose Garden that the existing Security Council resolution, Resolution 1483, provided ample authority for foreign participation.
What the president implied is technically true and politically false. The truth is that this war was opposed by most of the rest of the world. And even though Security Council Resolution 1483 passed unanimously, most countries are still reluctant to send troops to be part of an Anglo-American occupation force.
On Thursday, French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin urged passage of a new Security Council resolution that would open the way for U.N. control of the occupation. Do you think this is possible, given the American reluctance to give up control?
There are several issues. Secretary of State Colin Powell floated— and seems clearly to support— the idea of an additional Security Council resolution. Presumably, a new resolution would mandate a peacekeeping force under a U.N. umbrella for the participation of non-American, non-British troops. The idea would be, as is the case in the Balkans and Afghanistan, to have a U.N.-blessed operation. It wouldnt be a U.N.-run operation. It would probably be run by NATO or an individual country.
The United States, for example?
The peacekeeping force would not have to be run by the United States. I think it could be run by somebody else. Of course, the Coalition Provisional Authority has a special status, and its relationship with the peacekeeping force would have to be worked out. The Afghan analogy is the closest. There, you have an American force operating under American command, engaged in what you might call a stabilization operation. It is really at war still, looking for al Qaeda remnants. You also have ISAF (the International Security Assistance Force), which is a peacekeeping force. It is blessed by the United Nations but not run by the United Nations. [It is currently run jointly by Germany and the Netherlands]. It operates in the same country and at the same time as the U.S.-led war-fighting force. What you would add in Iraq is some kind of command relationship with British and American forces. This is the basic idea that Colin Powell is putting forward. So far, the White House hasnt said if it is buying it.
Does the Pentagon oppose it?
It is unclear. The Pentagon wants more foreign participation, but it hasnt yet said what price it is ready to pay for that participation. What you have is a be careful what you ask for situation. The United States wanted Resolution 1483 to give it and the British essentially full authority for security and stabilization in Iraq. It got that. But the price it is now paying is reluctance by other countries to lend their military support or even their financial support to the Iraq operation.
What would you advocate?
I think the Afghan analogy is the starting point. You can have a peacekeeping force that exists side by side with the stabilization force. You could structure it in such a way that it would not interfere with the predominant Anglo-American role on the ground.
But I would only do this if I got a commitment from our European allies to make their troops available. Right now, the Europeans are saying they will not participate unless they get this resolution. But they are not saying they will participate militarily or financially even if they do get it. I would want to get the commitment from France and also from Germany. The positions are very interesting. The Germans, for example, are saying they want a new U. N. resolution. They are also saying that if they get the resolution, they still will not deploy any troops. Well, even if they are not going to deploy troops, at least you want to extract from them a very strong financial commitment.
It is hard to see what Villepin is up to. Maybe he is just trying to create some negotiating space. It is a non-starter to give the United Nations authority over all the stabilization in Iraq. First and foremost, the United Nations doesnt have the capability to do it. Second, the United Nations wont want to do it. And third, the United States would not allow it.
But a new resolution would allow India to send troops, for instance?
Yes. Clearly, some in the administration were disappointed that the Indians said they would not participate without a U.N. resolution. But this is missing the big picture. It was unimaginable even a couple of years ago that India would send a large number of troops to work side by side with the United States. This is an indication of how dramatically India-U.S. relations have changed. So, [a resolution] is a very small price for getting highly competent troops in the region that would help us out.
We only have 10 active divisions in the U. S. Army right now. As bogged down as it is in Iraq, could the Army deal with North Korea if there is a military confrontation?
There are several issues here. One is numbers. More than a decade after the cold war, people are raising the question whether the army is big enough. Amazingly, this president and secretary of defense are making that point. [Secretary of Defense Donald] Rumsfeld, in particular, has been a critic of the army and has been putting pressure on it to trim down. So this would be a 180. But you have a problem, not only with the size but also the composition of the force. For a long time now, predating 9/11, it has been clear that there havent been enough policing or psychological-operations troops in the active forces. There havent been adequate troops for nation building. It is about time we do something about this. Every time there is a military operation, we have to go through this ad hoc process of looking for spare cops around the world.
Whats the answer? To train a division or so just in militia or police work?
Yes. Theres been a preference to [train soldiers] as war fighters and not to engage in these kinds of civil-policing activities. But it is absolutely clear that you need many more troops trained for this purpose.
Should the United States send peacekeeping forces into Liberia?
Yes. There was an interesting story about President Bush reading an account of the failure of the United States to intervene in Rwanda [in 1994] to prevent genocide. Samantha Power, the Pulitzer Prize winner [and author of A Problem From Hell], in writing about this, was told that President Bush wrote in the margins of this memo on Rwanda, Not on my watch.
And while it is unlikely that we are going to face a genocidal situation in Liberia, it is still unconscionable, and very, very hard to understand why the United States has not yet made a decision to send troops. Particularly coming after President Bushs trip to Africa, it erodes any credibility the United States might have built up in Africa about our commitment to that continent. The United States does not have to be in the lead in many parts of Africa. We have a situation where the British are in the lead in one place [Sierra Leone], and the French in another [the Congo], and regional organizations in Africa are taking the lead elsewhere. If there is any place in Africa where we have a responsibility, it is obviously in Liberia [founded in 1847 by freed American slaves], because of the historical ties. I think time is an enemy here. The longer we delay, the harder it is going to be to stabilize the situation to finalize the peace agreement. What people are talking about is not a tremendously large number of United States troops— about 2,000— to stabilize the situation and then, eventually, hand off to African troops.