Task Force -- International or Continental?

By William Markiewicz

In the three post-cold war operations, Somalia, Bosnia and the Great African Lakes region, the International Task Force didn't achieve spectacular results. The Somalia operation ended in humiliation. Economic aid was certainly necessary there, while the necessity for a military operation is not so clear cut. If we don't hear much about Somalia right now, it's because the warlords sooner or later had to finish their battles and because all the Somalis know at present that they are on their own. The Great African Lakes region remains explosive and uncontrollable. The most noticed "success" was the operation in Bosnia because it was a massive international operation against a tiny adversary -- the Bosnian Serbs. Elephant against mosquito with the cheering support of world opinion. The perpetual sore of hundreds of thousands of refugees remains there. What may be seen as a disaster at the local level, may appear to be a success at the global level.

Why did such an effort, at so much cost, bring such unstable and inglorious results? The only logical answer is that there must be something wrong in the very concept of the International Task Force. The International Task Force is headed by the USA which, in fact, intervenes in situations and regions where its own vital interests are not involved. The US is playing the role of a benevolent giant serving the interests of the rest of the world. Such a paternalistic attitude is archaic and simplistic, the heritage of medieval fairy tales. When evident self-interests are lacking, gratuitous and usually twisted and artificial points of view prevail over common sense. The politicians sooner or later become entangled with special interest groups which are also skilled in manipulating public opinion via the media. We saw how the world, fuelled by the media, was frankly amused by the way the Serbs were knocked down. This kind of game can last only as long the leader's economic situation remains stable. In times of crisis the public stops being amused (no circuses without bread please!) and the politicians suddenly realise that there is a better way to spend the taxpayers' money. Almost without warning the world leader can fall from interventionism into isolationism. Conclusion? In the end all centralisation is counter productive. Communism and it's "Central Committee" became the symbol of oppression and ineffectiveness; so will history teach us nothing? In all fields global success is measured in terms of individual continental successes. At the local level there is always more knowledge, better judgement, less abuse from lobbies. People can be fooled only about the problems they are not familiar with and which don't concern them. They will listen and eventually agree about solutions for the other end of the world. But they will shut down any demagogue and philosopher who will try to explain to them what their own interests are.

Consequently, I would propose to take away from the US and NATO the burden of being gendarme of the world and start to think in terms of Continental Task Forces. It's high time that the continents, like true grown-ups, took their destinies in their hands. Of course the continental task forces should remain in close touch with each other but the essential job should be in continental hands. At present the continents have achieved a sort of internal equilibrium, meaning there is no particular dominance of one state over another. In those conditions judgement and intervention promise to be fair. A European Task Force would have achieved much better results in Bosnia for example, because all the topics normally connected to separation -- like national debt, frontiers, minorities -- would have been discussed, not ignored, when ex-Yugoslavia was dismembered. World opinion wouldn't be so easily manipulated into hostility toward one side. An African Task Force would announce a new era with Africa taking its destiny into its own hands. A Latin American Task Force would certainly be useful. Of course in some cases forming a Continental Task Force will be more difficult -- like in the Middle East and South East Asia. But even there, if such a trend appears in the rest of the world, they will have to adapt themselves to new circumstances. As for US and Canadian Forces, their availability to one or another continental task force could be a matter of reciprocal negotiations.


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