The limited character of the asymetric conflict - which does not really pose any serious threat to the metropolitan power itself - makes it difficult to apply the full strength and to mobilize popular support for a resource - consuming war effort on the part of the metropolitan power.
The Vietnam war remains a textbook case. The war was fought on two stages: on the battlefields in Indochina and over public opinion in the United States (and the world at large). As long as the guerillas could avoid defeat, as long as they could 'stay in business', the latter stage was the one that would de- termine the outcome. In the final analysis the metropolitan power was defeated not by the guerillas but through the dissension and internal conflicts that the war generated within its own society.11 When costs began to mount - and no end to a conflict regarded as non-vital to the interests of the metropolitan power (and its citizens) was in sight - then support for the war effort could no longer be mobi- lized.12 The task of the armed forces then became to facilitate disengagement, to enable a political settlement and military withdrawal. This seems to be the gen- eral pattern for involvement of the military forces in the decolonization process.
The involvement of international forces in the decolonization process
The Charter of the United Nations outlines a vague mandate for the UN in the colonial sphere (chapters XI-XIII). The Charter also holds provisions for the peaceful solution of international conflicts (chapter VI) and for the use of sanc- tions and, ultimately, the use of forces (chapter VII). The UN was originally conceived of as an organ for collective security that would prevent the outbreak of both local wars and possible reiterations of the two world wars. The world organization has functioned in a very different way during the postwar period. A gradual shift has taken place from a primary concern with peace and the interna- tional security to concentration on international welfare and economic develop- ment. The North-South issues, the problems of the colonies and the new states, have become the dominating theme in UN politics. To the extent that the interna- tional community, i.e. the United Nations, has applied force, this has been in peace-keeping operations or interventions in conflicts that have all been colonial or postcolonial in character. The UN has been and is still heavily engaged in the Middle East, where the problems are part of a colonial inheritance, and peace- keeping operations or peace observation missions have aimed at the solution of 'colonial' conflicts involving the Congo, Cyprus, India-Pakistan, and Indonesia. 13
The most ambitious and most complex enterprise was the UN Congo op- eration (ONUC) 1960-64. In this operation the international community actually fielded an army (and employed an air force of its own) and fought a full-scale war. If we disregard the very special case of the UN effort in Korea, the Congo operation is the only example of something that remotely looks like the kind of collective security action envisioned in the UN Charter. When the operation was launched in 1960 it could also be described as an intervention of the interna-