The absence of a rapid response capability is a problem that dates back to the UN's founding. But the time may be right to address this deficiency head on. Building on President Bush's proposal in the State of the Union for a voluntary international reserve of civilians, Ban should push for the establishment of an international strategic reserve of troops that could be designated by states to be available for peacekeeping missions authorized by the Security Council. Nations would train troops to international standards. Earmarked troops would exercise with one another. States would be compensated for their efforts, and would receive a premium if they gave formal approval for their forces, which would remain under each state's national command, to be deployed to a UN mission.
The idea of some sort of semi-standing international force has been batted around for a while, but, as Feinstein writes, the situation in Darfur gives this plan some urgency.
One of the greatest barriers to setting up any new peacekeeping operation is the actual availability of peacekeepers themselves. In situations like Darfur, where support for a robust peacekeeping force is more rhetorical than real, the deployment of peacekeepers can be indefinitely delayed because no countries are willing to pony up troops. But even when there is great international support for a particular peacekeeping mission, as was the case for beefing up the United Nations Force in Lebanon following this summers� flare-up, the delay between a Security Council resolution authorizing a force and the actual deployment of that force can be devastating. Setting up an international reserve of troops along the lines of what Feinstein writes in this post (which is adapted from a report released by the Council on Foreign Relations) could go a long way to prevent these unnecessary delays.
--Mark Leon Goldberg