Late last week, the United States supported terminating the United Nations observer mission in Syria. The unanimous vote by the Security Council was unsurprising because the conditions for extending the mission’s mandate — cessation of the use of heavy weapons and reduction in violence from all sides — were far from met.
Yet this decision invokes echoes of another tragic moment in both US and world history. A declassified State Department cable from April 16, 1994, instructed the US Mission to the United Nations to give highest priority to the withdrawal of the UN peacekeeping mission in Rwanda even as the genocide progressed. Key talking points included relaying to the world that “when the parties demonstrate that they are willing and able to work in the interests of the . . . people toward a lasting resolution of their conflict, we will be willing to reconsider whether a renewed role for UN peacekeeping can facilitate and build a lasting peace in their country.”