The United Nations: Stuck in a Fog between Peacekeeping and Enforcement
Ruggie, John Gerard, McNair Papers
The United Nations has opened up a domain of military activity between traditional peacekeeping and enforcement measures. It has done so largely by ratcheting up the peacekeeping mechanism. This has enabled the United Nations to respond to new security challenges in the post-Cold War world. Nearly 70,000 blue-helmeted peacekeepers are now in the field, and the demand for more increases almost daily. However, by now the largest number serves in contexts for which peacekeeping was not intended. They function under rules of engagement and with equipment frequently inadequate to their missions. And their effectiveness and sometimes their very survival depend on a UN infrastructure that not only is overburdened, in terms of financial, material, and human resources, but also lacks any operational concept to guide these activities.
This growing misuse of peacekeeping does more than strain the United Nations materially and institutionally. It has brought the world body to the point of outright strategic failure--indeed, in Bosnia the line has been crossed already. UN peacekeeping forces there have performed a valuable humanitarian role, to be sure, but having been deployed in a security environment for which the peacekeeping mechanism was not designed, the presence of those forces has deterred not the Serbs but the international community itself from undertaking more forceful action. Thus, the Europeans opposed President Clinton's proposed airstrikes against Serbian artillery positions because they have peacekeeping troops on the ground that are highly vulnerable to retaliation. Yet those troops are neither intended nor capable of producing the military stalemate from which a political settlement could emerge, because of their small numbers and their quasipeacekeeping rules of engagement and capabilities.
Governments must move quickly to assess the constraints and opportunities facing UN-sanctioned forces. For if the United Nations continues on its present course of action, its newly constructed house of cards will collapse and take traditional peacekeeping as well as humanitarian intervention down with it. Recent developments in U.S. policy, culminating in the Clinton administration's Policy Review Document 13, indicate that a greater willingness exists in the country today than in the past to explore seriously what U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Madeleine K. Albright, has dubbed "assertive multilateralism." (1) To date, however, the notion lacks any corresponding expression in military doctrine and operational concepts.
The critical next step is for the international community to define the new domain of collective military activity located between peacekeeping and enforcement, and to figure out if and how its military requirements can be meshed with the national military capabilities and doctrines of those states that are able and willing to make a meaningful contribution to it. This brief paper suggests the outlines of a strategic logic for this domain, and also indicates some of the practical problems that would have to be resolved for that logic to be instituted. Let us begin with what we understand.
Over the years, the United Nations has evolved a well-articulated and widely recognized operational concept for peacekeeping. Brian Urquhart, who was present at its creation and presided over the activity for many years, described peacekeeping as follows:
The use by the United Nations of military personnel and formations not in a fighting or enforcement role but interposed as a mechanism to bring an end to hostilities and as a buffer between hostile forces. In effect, it serves as an internationally constituted pretext for the parties to a conflict to stop fighting and as a mechanism to maintain a cease-fire. (2)
Given their interpositionary or "umpire" role, peacekeeping forces fight against neither side in a dispute but remain impartial and help keep them apart. Toward that end, they observe and report. They carry only light arms and shoot only in self-defense. And because they lack any constitutional basis in the UN charter, peacekeeping forces are sent only with the consent of the country or countries in which they are stationed. In sum, unlike combat units, peacekeeping forces are not designed to create the conditions for their own success on the ground; those conditions must pre-exist for them to be able to perform their role. Theirs is essentially a nonmilitary mission, carried out by military personnel. Accordingly, the combat effectiveness of such units and the adequacy of UN headquarters operations that support them have not had to be a major concern. (3)
To this classical peacekeeping portfolio, the United Nations, beginning in the late 1980s, has added monitoring and sometimes actually conducting elections, supporting and sometimes actually performing the tasks of civil administration, and related services that facilitate transitions to stable government. Namibia was a successful instance, and Cambodia may yet become one. To ensure the future viability of these activities, the United Nations requires higher levels and more timely provision of financial resources, better trained personnel, and more sophisticated logistical support and communication facilities. But neither the classical peacekeeping portfolio nor its noncombatant offshoots requires any doctrinal or institutional innovations.
Enforcement is primarily a legal, not military, term. It refers to actions authorized under Chapter VII or the UN Charter. An aggressor is collectively identified and punished by an escalating ladder of means until its aggression is reversed. Ultimately, enforcement involves flat-out war-fighting--the "all necessary means" of Resolution 678, authorizing what became Operation Desert Storm. War-fighting of that sort is everything that peacekeeping is not--doctrinally, in terms of on-the-ground assets, and in its command and control requirements. As defined by the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, the doctrines and rules governing U.S. troops in Desert Storm and similar campaigns are antithetical to standard UN peacekeeping practice: the decisive, comprehensive, and synchronized application of preponderant military force to shock, disrupt, demoralize, and defeat opponents. (4)
The United Nations does not have an institutionalized military enforcement capability. Notwithstanding some charter language and mythology to the contrary, the major powers never intended for it to have one. And it is exceedingly difficult to imagine how it could come to acquire any militarily significant variant of such a capability. Proposals for a UN standby force or an international volunteer force may provoke thought but are unlikely to yield enough funding and facilities or field enough troops. Large-scale military enforcement by the United Nations in the future, therefore, will remain episodic and, when it occurs at all, will continue to consist of UN authorization and general political oversight together with execution by ad hoc coalitions.
It is in the gray area between peacekeeping and all-out war-fighting that the United Nations has gotten itself into trouble--trouble which stems from the UN application of perfectly good tools to inappropriate circumstances.
The ill-fated UN peacekeeping mission sent to Somalia prior to Operation Restore Hope (UNISOM I) is an example. Gen. Mohammed Farah Aidid, so-called Interim President Ali Mahdi Mohammed, and the other warlords did not create domestic anarchy in Somalia serendipitously. The insecurity of the Somali population was their very objective, the basis of their power and revenues. Those hapless 400 Pakistani Blue Berets confined to Mogadishu airport were the only lightly armed contingents in the country. When international humanitarian assistance personnel wanted to move about they had to hire armed thugs for protection, thereby reinforcing the very system that created the human tragedy that had brought them to Somali.
The same is true in the former Yugoslavia. From the start, as Aleksa Djilas recently wrote, "Milosevic counted on war, the ultimate condition of fear, to unite Serbs around him." (5) There was no peace to be kept in Bosnia. And the displacement of Muslims in Bosnia is not an incidental byproduct of the war but the Serbs' objective. By definition, therefore, deploying a UN humanitarian mission to Bosnia meant that its personnel would not be considered impartial and that they could become potential pawns in the conflict. Seeking to "protect" them with peacekeepers only added to the number of potential international hostages on the ground.
Alas, the domain between peacekeeping and enforcement is a doctrinal void. (6) The United Nations has not sought to articulate an operational concept on the basis of which it could design missions, and train and deploy troops. This intermediate domain of military activity often concerns internal conflicts, though that describes rather than defines it in any strategically significant way. And it has tended to be animated by humanitarian objectives, though that determines relatively little about appropriate military dimensions.
A core strategic logic for the new domain can be simply put. In game-theory language, peacekeeping resembles a coordination problem: an interpositionary presence seeks by means of transparency to ensure that mutually agreed rules are adhered to. Enforcement is akin to a game of chicken: the international community attempts to force the aggressor off the track, ultimately by means of military defeat. The domain here resembles a suasion game: (7) real conflicts of interest exist, but there is no clear-cut aggressor who crosses a line in the sand; international force is then brought to bear, not to defeat but to neutralize the force deployed by the parties to a conflict.
The political objective of using international force to neutralize local force is to prevent local force from becoming the successful arbiter of outcomes, and to speed up the process whereby the local combatants become persuaded that they have no viable alternative but to reach a negotiated political settlement. The military objective of the strategy is to deter, dissuade, and deny ([D.sup.3]).
Ideally, the timely show of sufficient international force would deter the local use of force altogether; a flotilla of warships off the coast of Dubrovnik, firing warning shots when the Serbs first shelled the city, might have gone a long way to arrest armed conflict in the former Yugoslavia. If the time for deterrence has passed, or should deterrence fail, international force would be deployed in the attempt to dissuade local forces from continuing their military activities; Operation Restore Hope was an attempt--if not entirely successful--to accomplish that end. As a last step, international force would seek to deny military victory to any side in the dispute, thereby creating the military stalemate on which negotiated settlements often depend; President Clinton's "lift and strike" proposal for Bosnia would have been an instance had it been adopted.
To achieve any of these objectives, the international force must above all be militarily credible. Neither its size nor its technological and operational capabilities can be defined generically, therefore, merely by virtue of the categorical nature of the mission. Each will depend on circumstances. At the high end of the spectrum, such a force might be indistinguishable from war-fighting units in all respects except its rules of engagement and military as well as political objectives. The air-strike component of President Clinton's "lift and strike" proposal would have exemplified that feature, but even at the lower end, as illustrated by the current UN operation in Somalia, such forces require more extensive training than traditional peacekeepers, as well as heavier equipment, greater operational flexibility and mobility, access to more sophisticated communication and intelligence systems, and tactical direction by a viable field command.
Even if the proposed [D.sup.3] strategy were satisfactorily refined and adopted as policy by government, however, a number of practical problems would have to be resolved before it could be successfully instituted.
First, any move in this direction would increase the military presence of the major powers in the United Nations. Relatively few countries have the military capabilities to implement the strategy in any but minor conflicts. And those countries that do can hardly be expected simply to turn over their forces to the international body. Greater military involvement by the major powers would go a long way toward closing the military intrastructural gaps of the United Nations. But it would also increase the constant tension between the competing desires for UN vs. national control over field operations, and extend that struggle to headquarters operations. At the same time, the management of UNISOM II, the current Somalia mission, shows that a mutually acceptable interface is not impossible to achieve.
Second, like the old arrangement, neither the capabilities nor the willingness would exist under the new one to right all wrongs, even the relatively small number of wrongs that are deemed to warrant international action. Hence any such security system is bound to lack universality of coverage. But that need not necessarily be a fatal flaw. The chief defining attribute of multilateralism, including collective security arrangements, should not be construed as universality but nondiscrimination. (8) Great care would have to be taken, therefore, to minimize bias against or in favor of any particular region or type of party. For bias would undo any such system politically by reducing its legitimacy, and militarily by reducing its deterrent effect.
Third, a doctrinal clash would have to be overcome between, in particular, the U.S. military and the United Nations. For the U.S. military, the [D.sup.3] strategy at first blush is likely to conjure up concepts of gradual escalation and limited war, discredited by and discarded after Vietnam. Under the new strategy, the political and military objectives of the deployment of international force would be limited, it is true; but there is no reason why those objectives could not be coupled with maximum military strength geared to the specificities of the situation at hand. The United Nations, however, both as a collection of governments and an institution in its own right, is averse to force and instinctively favors gradual escalation, and therefore would have to be taught to distinguish between the utility of force and its actual use.
Fourth and finally, the relationship between this new mode of intervention and traditional peacekeeping as well as humanitarian assistance would have to be worked out. On paper, the transition from Operation Restore Hope to UNISOM II looked good. In practice, it has not been smooth or entirely effective, largely because the military mission of the former was under-specified and inadequately executed.
The UN peacekeeping modality has been pushed too far, and UN-sanctioned military enforcement will continue to be a rarity. The domain of a potentially enhanced UN military role occupies the space between those two. The major challenge for the international community is to define that space and to mesh it effectively with national military capabilities and doctrines. I have attempted to sketch out a strategic logic for this new domain, premised on the international use of force to persuade local combatants that their use of force to resolve disputes will not succeed.
(1.) Address to the Council on Foreign Relations Conference on Cooperative Security and the United Nations, 11 June 1993.
(2.) Brian Urquhart, "Thoughts on the Twentieth Anniversary of Dag Hammarskjold's Death," Foreign Affairs 60 (Fall 1981): 6.
(3.) John Mackinlay, "The Requirement for a Multinational Enforcement Capability," in Thomas G. Weiss, ed., Collective Security in a Changing World (Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 1993), 142.
(4.) "A Doctrinal Statement of Selected Joint Operational Concepts," Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Department of Defense Washington, DC, 23 November 1992.
(5.) Aleksa Djilas, "A Profile of Slobodan Milosevic," Foreign Affairs 72 (Summer 1993): 88.
(6.) The best available descriptive typology of possible operations in the "gray" area may be found in John Mackinlay and Jarat Chopra, A Draft Concept of Second Generation Multinational Operations 1993 (Providence, RI: The Thomas J. Watson, Jr., Institute, Brown University, 1993).
(7.) The concept of suasion games, though not this application, is from Lisa L. Martin, "The Rational Slate Choice of Multilateralism," in John Gerard Ruggie, ed., Multilateralism Matters (New York: Columbia University Press, 1993).
(8.) John Gerard Ruggie, "Multilateralism: The Anatomy of an Institution," in Ruggie, Multilateralism Matters.
John Gerard Ruggie is Dean of the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University. He is completing a book for the Twentieth Century Fund entitled, A New World Order? The United States and the Future of Multilateralism.…
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Publication information: Article title: The United Nations: Stuck in a Fog between Peacekeeping and Enforcement. Contributors: Ruggie, John Gerard - Author. Journal title: McNair Papers. Issue: 24-25 Publication date: November 1993. Page number: 1. © Not available. COPYRIGHT 1993 Gale Group.
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