"It's important for North Korea, like every other country in the world," Obama said, "to observe the basic rules and norms that are set forth, including a
wide variety of U.N. resolutions."
The United Nations has been, and will always be, an imperfect institution. Its greatest strength - and weakness - is its 193 member states. Getting a
majority to agree on major issues, pass reform or refrain from political patronage can be maddening. Russia's shameful blocking of Security Council action
against Syria, for example, has shown the continued limitations of that antiquated body.
But the United Nations is likely to grow more important in the years ahead as Washington's fiscal problems curtail U.S. overseas ambitions. Sadly, as the
United Nations enters a potentially dangerous phase of peacekeeping missions, Ban's leadership is lacking.
The 68-year-old former South Korean foreign minister has highlighted the need to combat global
warming, create sustainable development and increase the number of women in leadership positions. But he has failed to provide the dynamic leadership and
reforms the institution desperately needs.
"It's a very mixed record," said a senior United Nations official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "He spends a lot of time in Davos, the Arctic
Circle or Monaco, and meanwhile there are critical issues - such as the future of peacekeeping - facing a real crisis."
To the alarm of some, the United Nations is returning to the ambitious peacekeeping operations of the 1990s - some of which ended disastrously.
The Security Council last month authorized
the creation of a 3,000-soldier-strong U.N. "intervention brigade" in Congo, with an unprecedented mandate to fight with government troops against rebels,
or on its own. An 11,000-troop United Nations
is also expected to arrive in Mali as French forces wind down their battle against militants there. A mission in Somalia is possible as well.
"We're talking about a new era of big demands on peacekeeping," said Kieran Dwyer, spokesman for the U.N. Department of Peacekeeping Operations. "We are on
Current and former U.N. officials worry about a repeat of the 1990s debacles. Undermanned, poorly equipped peacekeepers with vague instructions about when
to use force were deployed to Somalia, Rwanda and Bosnia. Civilians who expected to be protected were abandoned.
In by far the most shameful case, 500,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus died in the 1994 Rwandan genocide. The 1995 U.N. promise to protect the town of
Srebrenica in eastern Bosnia also proved fallacious, and 8,000 Muslim men and boys were executed.
Current and former U.N. officials fear that the "intervention brigade" in Congo sets a dangerous precedent. And poorly equipped U.N. peacekeepers in Mali
will be no match for committed jihadists.