Washington. -- On the same day that American dead were being counted in Mogadishu and a battered American captive was displayed on Somali television, the United States voted in the U.N. Security Council to deploy a "peacekeeping" force to Rwanda, a small, underdeveloped, landlocked country in the heart of Africa.

Their task: to oversee a cease-fire in a country where war is endemic, to establish demilitarized zones, ensure compliance with the cease-fire, "contribute to the security of the city of Kigali . . . " etc. etc. etc. This authorizing resolution for a Rwanda force of 2,500 to 4,000 troops meets virtually none of the conditions laid down in President Clinton's speech before the U.N. General Assembly September 27. Its purpose and its cost are unclear (and probably unattainable). The resources to implement it are not available. The Congress has not authorized U.S. participation. There is no real end in sight.

The resolution does not reflect sober judgments about U.S. national interests or world needs. Instead it was the consequence of U.N.-style log-rolling: The U.S. agreed to

support the French initiative on Rwanda in return for France's support for the U.S. initiative sending 1,600 "peacekeepers" to Haiti.

Neither the Haiti or the Rwanda resolutions nor the earlier ones creating U.N. missions for Liberia and the republic of Georgia conform to traditional U.N.-peacekeeping practices or to Mr. Clinton's criteria. All involve internal conflicts. None constitutes a LTC threat to international peace and security. None features a clear purpose or realistic estimate of cost. And none, it goes without saying, meets the traditional requirement that U.S. troops be sent into harm's way only when a vital national interest is at


Unless dramatic changes are made, implementation of these missions will suffer from the same confusion and incompetence of command, lack of unity, lack of coordination and insufficient force and the same casualties as in Somalia.

The highly professional U.S. volunteer forces did not sign on for such service.

President Clinton simply must stop giving Boutros Boutros-Ghali's agenda and his own multilateralist goals priority over his obligations as commander-in-chief of U.S. military forces. And Congress must help him to understand this duty.

Jeane Kirkpatrick, a fellow of the American Enterprise Institute, is a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

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