Thursday, January 29, 2004

The UN wants to send an international peacekeeping force to Ivory Coast. This is in response to a peace agreement signed in France last year signed by the government and main rebel groups. The agreement called for disarmament of the rebels and their integration into the national army. A UN Security Council already authorized a French-led mission (which was invited by all the main parties to the war), now France wants a Security Council resolution to broaden the mission. The French-sponsored resolution is being delayed by the US ambassador ostensibly because he wants verification on numbers. Let's hope it's only that.

The situation in Ivory Coast constitutes a continuing threat to the peace, security and stability of the West African region [to use the same phrasing as Resolution 688 concerning Iraq]. This is indisputable. The war in Ivory Coast has had grave repercussions in neighboring countries like Guinea, Ghana, Burkina Faso and Liberia. In fact, the Ivorian government is widely suspected of aiding the Liberian rebels who helped engineer the downfall of that country's dictator Charles Taylor. Given President Bush's stated intent to "work with the UN Security Council to meet our common challenge" posed by Iraq, one should expect similiar cooperation regarding the Ivory Coast situation.

After all, since Congress gave the president the authority to "use the Armed Forces of the United States as he determines to be necessary and appropriate in order to... enforce all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq," surely the president would wish to apply the same standard to a similiarly non-threatening country like Ivory Coast whose lack of stability jeopardizes the entire region, most of whom are US allies. Particularly since the Ivory Coast mission could be achieved (and almost certainly would be done) without the involvement of any US soldiers.

"Had we failed to act, Security Council resolutions on Iraq would have been revealed as empty threats, weakening the United Nations and encouraging defiance by dictators around the world," President Bush declared in this year's State of the Union speech. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan noted that the present international mission in Ivory Coast, authorized by the West African regional group ECOWAS, is beset by lack of financial resources. Given his professed concern for the reputation of the United Nations, President Bush should help the international mission enforce Security Council resolutions by assisting it financially. This can be likely be done for an infintesimal fraction of that which is being spent in Iraq.

"America is a nation with a mission, and that mission comes from our most basic beliefs. We have no desire to dominate, no ambitions of empire. Our aim is a democratic peace -- a peace founded upon the dignity and rights of every man and woman," the president also said during the State of the Union. Surely the dignity and rights of every man and woman also apply to Ivorians, Mr President? Or will they suffer, sacrificed on the altar of petty anti-French snivelling, as some might have it? Only time will tell if the president does the right thing by the Ivorian peoples and by his own expressed principles.

Sources: State of the Union quote and Congressional resolution excerpts

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