James Traub's article in today's New York Times Magazine is an interesting treatment of the problems facing the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Alas, a number of factors (including the corrupt government, a lack of international interest, inaction by locally-based diplomats) cause him to take a gloomy outlook toward the country's future. However, I found his suggestion that the citizens of the Congo want more intervention thought-provoking.
The Congolese I talked to want to be saved from themselves, or at least from their desperate predicament. Even those who accuse Monuc of spinelessness or complicity add immediately that of course the U.N. troops mustn't leave. They want more troops, not fewer, and more insistent political engagement. They want to see Kabila brought to heel, even if they aren't sure how.
Had Bush chosen to divert the United States' military resources toward peacekeeping operations in either the DRC or Somalia, the United Nations would have been strengthened, not weakened. While it is unlikely that we would have been lauded as the paragon for democratic virtue, it is certain that the world's population would not think of us as imperialistic hypocritical warmongerers. With some democratic wrangling, it is likely that we could have convinced our European allies of the justness of intervention, hence providing the material and financial support that has been missing from our military operations in Iraq.
But most importantly, these African interventions would have achieved the goal that Bush claimed a victory in Iraq would. The rose-colored neoconservative vision of an autocratic Iraq magically becoming democratic and creating reform in Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Syria is too ridiculous to be given credence, but it is clear that the instability in the DRC affects its neighbors. While I still disagree with the assertion that an unstable Congo will kill Africa, it should be obvious that a functioning Congolese state is in both Africa's and the United States' interest. Similarly, the existence of an actual Somalian government (the current one cannot even safely enter the Somali capital) could be a pivotal event for East Africa.