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Book Review: When Soldiers Say No: Selective Conscientious Objection in the Modern Military, edited by Andrea Ellner et al.

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This article originally appeared at LSE Review of Books.

When Soldiers Say No: Selective Conscientious Objection in the Modern Military. Andrea Ellner, Paul Robinson and David Whetham (eds.) Ashgate. January 2014.

When Soldiers Say No brings together arguments for and against selective conscientious objection, as well as case studies examining how different countries deal with those who claim the status of selective conscientious objectors Gary Wilson writes that this collection adds considerably to the literature by bringing together a range of perspectives on the merits of selective conscientious objection, as well as consideration of its application (or lack thereof) in a number of states.

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International Relations Government Security Foreign policy

Thoughts on Peacekeeping

Helmet and Flack Jackets of MONUC Peacekeepers, courtesy of United Nations Photo/flickr

As anger in Haiti intensifies, with some residents blaming Nepali peacekeepers for having brought cholera to the island, a closer look at the composition of UN peacekeeping missions seems in order.

In October 2010 the UN had approximately 100,000 police officers, military experts and troops operating around the world in more than 17 UN peacekeeping missions. These operations cost the UN, in the 2005-2006 period, more than $5 billion, more than triple the UN’s core operating budget.

If we look at who the main contributors are, somewhat surprisingly, almost 30 percent of UN troops come from three countries that can be found in one of the most unstable parts of the world: Pakistan, India and Bangladesh. How is it possible that a country like Pakistan, that ranks 10th on the Failed States Index of 2010, is also the second most active country in terms of UN peacekeeping? The answer, of course, is money. Poorer countries earn valuable financial resources by contributing to UN missions. But shouldn’t these soldiers be at home, trying to stabilize their own countries and can they, if ‘thrown together” in a single mission operate together effectively despite deep-rooted animosities ‘at home’?

Advocates of UN peacekeeping missions, and the biggest financial contributors to the UN itself, namely EU countries and the US, are among the countries that contribute the least with troops. Except for Spain, France and Italy, no other European country contributes more than 1,000 troops. Even countries like Yemen and Zimbabwe contribute more troops to peacekeeping missions than the US. The question naturally arises: Why do western countries not put their money (and their manpower) where their mouth is by sending well trained, well equipped troops to trouble spots around the world, where they, by international consensus, are needed the most?