I’ll trade you 2 cows, 3 huts, and a pie for an FDLR Rebel

The guardian recently crunched the numbers to calculate the impact of MONUC’s military operations intended to disarm those pesky FDLR. Word on the street, 1 FDLR rebel costs a lot. Texas in Africa does some more math and figures that the for each FDLR rebel convinced to relax for a while:

  • 1 civilian was killed.
  • 7 people were violently raped.
  • 900 people were displaced from their homes.
  • 6 people lost their homes to arson.

If you threw in some crayons, it might make the deal a little less like a grave human rights atrocity, right?

It does beg one of the most complicated humanitarian questions:  what’s the best way to disarm a rebel and how much should it cost? It’s a tough question when modeling how to effectively stop violence. If we accept that there will be a cost, what is it? 6 people violently raped? 200,000 displaced? The cost of continued rebel violence minus the costs of stopping the rebels (assuming that they actually stop)? And what happens when we model those costs probabilistically – are we 50% confident that 200,000 people will be displaced and what’s our margin of error?

I don’t envy anyone making these decisions, but thankfully, in the head of MONUC’s Friday briefing to the UN Security Council, Alan Doss reflectively and critically analyzed these questions given Kimia II’s failings:

MONUC is the first mission in which the Force Commander has issued a specific directive on civilian protection to all contingents. Under that directive, MONUC blue helmets provide protection against attacks by the FDLR and other armed elements and patrol key axes to facilitate the safe delivery of humanitarian assistance. On market days, peacekeepers provide armed escorts so that villagers can travel to and from the marketplace without fear of harassment and illegal taxation by armed groups.

Sorry, I got confused. I was sure the presentation to the UN security council on the tail-end of a massive military campaign led by the largest peacekeeping mission in the world, would you know, consider its ramifications. Guess it was a bit heavy or something.

Fortunately, MONUC’s directive has resulted in a lot of really great pictures of peacekeepers and African children used for fund-raising.


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4 responses to “I’ll trade you 2 cows, 3 huts, and a pie for an FDLR Rebel

  1. 1. Best post title ever.
    2. I wish I could take credit for the math, but alas, that was the Guardian as well. Sorry if my post was misleading.

  2. Let’s actually want to model the decison. This is what is what the UN should have seen if it thought that disarmament was a good idea,

    WAR + C < (p)PEACE + (1-p) WAR
    C < p(PEACE – WAR)

    where C are the human costs of disarmarment, as described in your post, p is the probability of the disarmament working, that is that FDLR don't turn back to war.

    The long run benefits of peace (PEACE – WAR) are undoubtedly huge, much larger, I think most would agree, than the short run losses we've seen, tragic though they may be. It's the probability of no rearmament, then, on which the decision hinges. In deciding to run the operation, the UN bet it was high. Though you and Texas in Africa have complained that C is quite high, I've not seen a good case made that the UN's estimate of p was too high. That's really the point on which the argument hinges.


  3. So I should check typos. First sentence should be:

    “Let’s actually model the decision. This is what the UN should have seen if it thought that disarmament was a good idea”

  4. You make an excellent point, Grant. Someone needs to throw in some crayons. Otherwise, the kids in these villages will never be able to draw sad pictures of what happened to their huts. When will we finally realize that we can’t afford not to have awareness-raising cocktail parties to open exhibitions of children’s trauma drawings in New York and Geneva?

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