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Valid reasons for the U.S. to be, or not to be, part of a Multinational Conflict
Management Force

By: Saeed Kakeyi
July 6, 2008

Abstract
With the demise of the Soviet Union and the consequent end of the Cold War era, the United
States has become the most powerful hegemonic authority within the international community.
This unique position created an environment characterized with increasing intrastate and
decreasing interstate conflicts worldwide. Mostly known as a unipolar era, this environment
forced the United States, as a sole hegemony, to face an unprecedented challenges intertwined
with opportunities on equal footings. What are the valid reasons for the U.S. to face these
challenges and what type of opportunities do exist in managing these often difficult conflicts?
Does the United States has the military capacity and the diplomatic capability to manage all
these conflicts at once and solely by itself? If not, does the concept of “Multilateralism” in the
shape of Multi-National Conflict Management Force (MNCMF) will work for the US? This brief
essay is an effort to provide answers to these and other related questions; and, it is an attempt to
validate the reasons with which the US can have a leading role in a mostly ad hoc MNCMF.

Introduction
The dilemma within the concept of multilateralism lies in its leadership issue; which country
should be in lead for decision-makings and policy implementations? Understanding the anarchic
nature of the international relations, there is no consensus on which country should take the lead.
Each of the 193 countries of the international community whishes to expand its interests beyond
the political boundaries confined with for reasons of greater power and wealth. Therefore, the US
hegemony, where its national interests and the interests of its allies are at stake, almost certainly
will not allow others to take leads in any MNCMF. There are ample examples to support this
argument.
Take the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in August 1990. After the devastated eight years of war
with its neighboring Iran, the Ba’ath Arab Socialist regime of Iraq decided to invade its southern
tiny state of Kuwait. Among other reasons for the invasion, the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein
was hoping to grab the Kuwaiti oil and coerce the Arab states in the Persian Gulf for the relief of
the homogenously accumulative debts borrowed in support of his war with Iran. Saddam’s
miscalculated invasion of Kuwait triggered a well orchestrated international response. In 1990,
the US President Bush (the father) “made a beautifully articulated and morally justified case for
militarily ousting the Iraqi Army from Kuwait, a sovereign neighbor…under nothing more than a
United Nations Mandate” (Ramsey: 2006, 4). Thus, the 1991 Desert Storm became the first
significant multinational war in the dawn of the unipolar era in which the United States took
actions not in violation of international law, but in breach of its own Constitution (Ramsey:
2006, 4). The Desert Storm was “a coalition of 37 diverse nations pulled together to accomplish
common goals” in restoring the Westphalian nation-state system (Marshall and et al: 1997, 1).
Related to the consequences of the Desert Storm, the United States along with the United
Kingdom (UK) and France belatedly responded to the international outcry for the plights of the
Iraqi Kurds who sympathized with the multinational forces in denouncing Saddam’s brutal
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actions against his own people. Mandated by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC)
resolution 688, a tripartite ad hoc alliance was formed to protect the Kurds in “Safe Heavens”
established in Iraqi Kurdistan (also known as Northern Iraq). However, as the Safe Heavens’
enclave expanded to “No-Fly Zone,” covering Iraq’s north of 36˚ parallel, France withdrew from
the alliance leaving the US as the sole enforcer with minimum support from the UK. According
to Stephen Zunes, the enforcement of the northern the no-fly zone in northern Iraq constituted a
"material breach" of UN Security Council resolutions that “could justify a U.S. invasion”
(Zunes: 2002, 1). In any case, despite the purely legal arguments against the US led intervention
on behalf of the Kurds in Iraq’s internal affairs, the joint humanitarian interventions of the US
and the UK were preserved highly positively, especially by transnational humanitarian
organizations.
Another case is the Kosovo War. Although critics of the Kosovo war highlight the lack of
international legitimacy in conducting the multinational attack on the sovereign nation of Bosnia,
the US led North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO) actions in stopping the Bosnian
cleansing of the Albanian population in the Kosovo province were potentially argued to be “a
just cause” to protect human rights and prevent genocide (Rieff: 1999, 1).
Opponents of the Kosovo conflict argue that “it was US action that fostered NATO and
UN participation since these regional and international institutions followed the US’s lead in the
conflict. However, the argument could also be made that the US did not fully engage the UN
completely and used NATO as a cover of multilateralism while really acting independently
(DeSoleil: 2006, 1). Yet, proponents of the same conflict make a reasonable claim that “that half
a century of campaigning by human rights activists has had a profound effect on the conduct of
international affairs. The old Westphalian system, in which state sovereignty was held to be well-
nigh absolute, is under challenge as never before” (Rieff: 1999, 1). In fact, the lack of clearly
stated international law to protect the security and the rights of minority groups to live peacefully
in heterogeneous states forced the UNSC to pass resolution 1244, authorizing the NATO Kosovo
Forces (KFOR) as one of the “relevant international organizations to establish the international
security presence in Kosovo,” (cited by DeSoleil: 2006, 1).
Though KFOR were mandated by the UNSC to take actions, it was mainly a US
campaign that managed the Kosovo conflict which resulted in Kosovo’s independence from
Serbia in February 2008. Clearly, although Russia and China both played important roles as
“weaker hegemonies” in preventing the Kosovo question from being fully addressed within the
UNSC, the US dominant hegemony prevailed in managing the Kosovo conflict in accordance to
the principles of the “capitalist” democracy.
Fast forward to the invasion of the Iraq in 2003; the US led a “coalition of the willing”
pursued within the UNSC a resolution geared towards forcing Saddam’s regime to abandon its
Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) programs. Oppositions to resolution enforcement were
led by the French, Russian and the Chinese authorities. However, once again due to the post-
World War II structure of the UNSC, the issue was at stalemate and the US, therefore, bypassed
the Security Council and decided to invade Iraq with its coalition of the willing.

Why the US has to form or be part of a MNCMF?
The valid reasons for the US to form or be a part of any MNCMF has a lot to do with the
outdated structure of the UN and the competitive structure of the UNSC which both have
combined into what could arguably be called a serious flaw in the system (DeSoleil: 2006, 2).
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Established some sixty years ago by the victors of the World War II, the UN is the only
recognized inclusive international security organization that is authorized to tackle and manage
any interstate conflict. However, it is also the only organization which legitimizes atrocities
committed in intrastate conflict under the pretext of noninterference in the internal affairs of a
sovereign nation. Adding to this dilemma is the veto powers of the permanent members of the
UNSC. This extraordinary international right of veto given to the US, the UK, France, China and
Russia often has been abused and misused to reflect the geopolitical factors formulated
predominantly by the greedy interests of its holder. Also, it is seriously impacting the ability of
the UN and its SC to address the needed reforms to recognize the dynamics of intrastate,
extrastate and interstate conflicts on the one hand, and develop contemporary collective
measures for conflict management, on the other hand.
In light of the above mentioned shortcomings of the UN and its satellite organizations,
the US has no choice but to contemplate multilateral and, occasionally, unilateral actions to
manage conflicts globally, especially in regions posing greater threats to the stability of the
international security and the growth of the international economy.
To complicate the selectivity of the US foreign policy in forming and sustaining any
MNCMF, the rising influence of China in the greater Middle East and North Africa must be
taken into considerations. For example, due to China’s veto power and because of its largest oil
project in Sudan, the US and the international community can do little in preventing the ongoing
Sudanese genocidal campaign in the Darfur region (DeSoleil, 2006, 3). Similarly, the Iranian
nuclear crisis has a lot to do with China’s non-cooperative position as 80% of Iran’s oil
production goes to China. Therefore, because of the conflicting interests of the five veto
members of UNSC, the US has to examine its conflict management options based and
determined by the desired effects of its considered foreign policy that “will largely dictate
whether the US should pursue unilateral or multilateral avenues” (DeSoleil, 2006, 3).
As a predominant hegemony, the US has considerable hard power both in economic and
military terms to achieve its desired policies. Accordingly, the US can easily convince or compel
other nation-states to embrace its objectives through the application of soft power diplomacy:
“[O]ur goals should be their goals” (DeSoleil: 2006, 4). In other words, hard power is projected
to coerce other nation-states to embrace certain actions through force or other wise, whereas soft
power is intended to convince other nation-states to act according to the perceived common
international goals.

Conclusion
As outlined by this paper, the US can become a party to any MNCMF according to its foreign
policy goals. Yet, as the vanguard of freedom, justice and human pride promoted by the
principles of democracy that believes in, the United States as a predominant global hegemony—
and recognizing the anarchic nature of the international relations—applies both hard and soft
powers in its conflict management efforts: Hard power to subdue its adversaries; and, soft power
to garner the needed support in removing the elements of threats and the consequent efforts of
reconstruction and reconciliation.
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Reference:

DeSoleil, Gora.(2006). Valid Reasons for the U.S. to Be, or Not to Be, Part of a Multi-National Conflict
Management Force. Retrieved on July 4, 2008 from:
http://worldpolitiks.blogspot.com/2006/08/valid-reasons-for-us-to-be-or-not-to.html.

Marshall, Thomas J., Kaiser, Philip and Jon Kessmeier (1997). Problems and solutions in future coalition
operations. Carlisle: Strategic Studies Institute, US Army War Collage.

Ramsey, Russell W. (2006). The abrogation of its warmaking powers: The shame of 20th Century US
Congress. Northfield: Norwich University.

Rieff, David. (1999). A new age of liberal Imperialism? World Policy Journal. Volume XVI, No2.

Zunes, Stephen. (2002). The abuse of No-Fly Zones as an excuse for War. Washington: International
Relations Center, Foreign Policy in Focus. Retrieved on July 5, 2008 from:
http://www.fpif.org/commentary/2002/0212nofly.html