The UN peacekeeping operation has become the international army long predicted by the black helicopter crowd. But this UN army is unlikely to get away with invading any industrialized country. The peacekeepers are lightly armed, often poorly trained and sometimes lacking decent leadership as well. Poorly paid and confronted with a lawless environment, corruption is common. To make matters worse, in most situations, there are not enough peacekeepers in an area to get the job done. Moreover, the UNs rules-of-engagement usually prohibit peacekeepers from using force to keep the peace. Thus the UN troops are often little more than witnesses to more atrocities and anarchy. Even in the best of circumstances, peacekeeping is difficult. The conditions UN peacekeepers operate under usually make it impossible. After a while, the UN declares the job done, and leaves. If the UN public relations crew can do an effective job, most will believe that the peacekeeping operation was a success. Thats a victory for the UN, but it isnt peacekeeping.
There was a lot of peacekeeping in 2004, most of it by 120,000 troops and police organized and dispatched by the UN to trouble spots. But while the UN has a lot of people on the ground, its also a major user of aircraft and shipping. During 2004, the UN hired 319 aircraft and 52 merchant ships. These moved 580,000 passengers and 470,000 tons of cargo. In addition, the UN has its own air force of 114 helicopters and 57 fixed wing aircraft. On average, each of these aircraft spent about 533 hours in the air last year. Since UN peacekeepers often operate in areas where infrastructure is damaged or missing, they also operate over 4,000 electrical generators. These are generally large generators, as they put out an average of 75 kilowatts each. The peacekeepers come from more than a hundred different countries, and over a hundred peacekeepers were killed last year, and nearly a thousand wounded or badly injured on the job.