When civilians are killed in the presence of peacekeepers and "you respond and say it’s not in my mandate, you get absolutely pilloried," Doss said. If U.N. troops step outside their orders and peacekeepers die, "then governments (of the U.N. troops) who are accountable to their parliaments say, ‘What is this?’ ”
Some caution that the relative success of the African Union in Somalia isn’t a precedent with much spreading power, and that, like it or not, the African Union’s hopes for an open wallet from the West for its own security operations are unrealistic.
For one, regional neighbors such as Uganda and Kenya had a strong incentive to quell the al Shabab revolt, and they had sizable armies willing to take on the task. The West, fearful of al Shabab’s links to al Qaida, was eager to help.
In the case of Mali, the United States and Europe similarly see the situation as a threat to global security, but it remains to be seen whether West Africa can pull together a military force strong enough to represent a credible threat to the entrenched rebels in the north.
The prospect for the proposed Congo force is even less sure. According to the African Union, Tanzania pledged troops but it hasn’t indicated how many, South Africa promised logistical support but hasn’t specified what form it would take and the Southern African Development Community, a regional bloc of countries, offered only vague backing.
The real test, however, is whether African leaders can convince the richer West to fund interventions into messy conflicts that – unlike Somalia and Mali – don’t threaten to descend into transnational breeding grounds for terrorism. So far, the United States and United Nations have expressed hearty skepticism.
“We do not believe there is a military solution to this crisis and urge all stakeholders to support the existing cease-fire," said Tula Orum, a spokeswoman for the State Department. "We have concerns about how effective any new force might be in the absence of a political settlement."
The United States also said it agreed that the United Nations should review the mandate for the peacekeepers who are in the Congo, given that none of its ground forces engaged in combat against the advancing rebels.
"That wasn’t their role. They were there to protect civilians. They maintained that role," said a senior State Department official, who spoke only on the condition of anonymity under common State Department protocol.