The Push for U.N. Humanitarian Airdrops in Syria Could Backfire

The Push for U.N. Humanitarian Airdrops in Syria Could Backfire
A convoy of aid vehicles loaded with food and other supplies travels to Madaya, Syria, Jan. 11, 2016 (AP photo).

When the United Nations Security Council tries to micromanage a conflict, as some of its members are poised to do with regard to Syria’s civil war, it is a pretty good bet that the situation will very soon get worse. The council offers a useful, if often malfunctioning, mechanism for creating diplomatic frameworks to handle crises. When it is united, it can bring pressure to bear on warring parties. Yet when the council gets into the operational details of conflict management, such as how to protect specific cities from attack or to deliver aid, it is liable to wade out of its depth.

In 1993, the council infamously passed resolutions identifying several Bosnian towns, including Srebrenica, as “safe areas,” even though U.N. peacekeepers never had the resources to defend them. The hollowness of the entire exercise was laid bare when Bosnian Serb forces seized Srebrenica and killed 8,000 men and boys in 1995.

The fundamental lesson of the Srebrenica episode, as Daniel Korski and I argued some years ago, is that the Security Council should not try to establish itself as a “command post” directing specific operations. The ambassadors who voted for the safe area concept were genuinely horrified by the “slow-motion genocide” they saw taking place in Srebrenica and Sarajevo. But while their response may have made sense diplomatically, it simply set up the U.N. force in Bosnia to fail operationally.

Keep reading for free!

Get instant access to the rest of this article by submitting your email address below. You'll also get access to three articles of your choice each month and our free newsletter:

Or, Subscribe now to get full access.

Already a subscriber? Log in here .

What you’ll get with an All-Access subscription to World Politics Review:

A WPR subscription is like no other resource — it’s like having a personal curator and expert analyst of global affairs news. Subscribe now, and you’ll get:

  • Immediate and instant access to the full searchable library of tens of thousands of articles.
  • Daily articles with original analysis, written by leading topic experts, delivered to you every weekday.
  • Regular in-depth articles with deep dives into important issues and countries.
  • The Daily Review email, with our take on the day’s most important news, the latest WPR analysis, what’s on our radar, and more.
  • The Weekly Review email, with quick summaries of the week’s most important coverage, and what’s to come.
  • Completely ad-free reading.

And all of this is available to you when you subscribe today.