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The U.N. Mission in Syria: Heading for Heroic Failure?

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

When the United Nations sends peacekeepers to war zones, there are often excessive expectations about what they can achieve. By contrast, pessimism surrounds the U.N. Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS), which is supposed to oversee a ceasefire and create space for talks between the government of President Bashar al-Assad and its opponents. U.S. officials, having fought hard in the Security Council to maximize the mission's autonomy and authority, have warned that it is too weak to succeed. While only a handful of the planned total of 300 hundred monitors are on the ground so far, the Norwegian general in charge has admitted that even 1,000 might not be sufficient.

Many previous U.N. missions have been undermanned and overwhelmed. And this isn't the smallest peacekeeping operation the U.N. has launched. In 1965, the organization authorized two military observers to help track a U.S. intervention in the Dominican Republic. But it's rare for Security Council members and U.N. officials to emphasize that a new operation is likely to fail. Why are they doing so in the Syrian case? ...

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