Originally created 02/08/00

Peacekeeping flop



It's one thing to be told through the national media about the failures of United Nations peacekeeping missions, like that in Kosovo, and quite another when someone you know and has been a part of the action says the same thing. It drives the point home in a way that all the pundits and TV talking heads cannot.

Former Aiken police officer Fisher Strom has been thereand done that -- and he's not going back to war-torn Kosovo. Why? Because, he says, as an international peacekeeper he's useless. He and his fellow peacekeepers, scores of whom are also leaving, simply didn't get the necessary support to do the job.

Even though Strom was receiving a much larger paycheck -- $100,000 as a Kosovo peacekeeper -- than as an Aiken policeman, it still wasn't worth it. In the first place, the U.N. failed to muster even half of the 4,700 officers needed to carry out the mission.

Secondly, the peace mission was at the mercy of an ill-functioning court system in a nation that traditionally settles its differences vigilante style.

The jails were so overcrowded and the court cases so backed up that only the most heinous lawbreakers could be put away, Strom said. Basically, anarchy reigned.

"If someone broke into a shop, they sit in a chair for four hours and then go home," he said. Indeed, when there's no penalty for criminal behavior, there's no way to discourage criminality. That's what Strom found so frustrating.

"Do I leave (my family) here alone and go over there to make a little bit of money and do absolutely nothing to help anybody?" the Edgefield man asks. "The only thing I'm helping is my bank account, and money ain't everything."

If the media reports haven't convinced you the Kosovo mission is a waste of time, effort and taxpayer money, then certainly Strom's experience should. If the U.N. won't let peacekeepers do their job right, then they shouldn't be asked to do it all.

The U.S. should follow Strom's example and resign from the U.N.'s Kosovo peacekeeping mission.