The Changing Face of Peace Operations: A View from the Field. (the Military Component)
Sanderson, John, Journal of International Affairs
"... true enforcement [is] not the pretend variety that comes with soldiers in blue berets who have neither the capacity nor the wit to do anything about the breaches of international law occurring around them."
At the height of the Sierra Leone crisis two years ago, the international media focused on the inability of the United Nations to prevent humanitarian disasters even in areas where it was already engaged. The images of Rwanda and Bosnia were invoked once again. Michael Ignatieff, director of the Carr Center of Human Rights Policy at Harvard University, suggested in a New York Times editorial that the United Nations and its pretense of effectiveness contributed to the deteriorating circumstances in many parts of the world. He argued for deploying "combat capable warriors under robust rules of engagement, with armour, ammunition and intelligence capability and a single line of command to a national government or regional alliance" (1) in peacekeeping operations.
In the military, we used to call these activities war, not peace operations. We were, however, referring to wars between sovereign states, not civil wars. In contrast, civil wars were seen as horrible, lawless and potentially unending conflicts that could test the very fabric of a foreign nation's society (e.g., Vietnam for America, Afghanistan for the Soviet Union). It was generally recognized that there were no rewards for getting involved in civil wars. Ignatieff's proposal perhaps shows how the perception of international conflict and peacekeeping has changed.
Since 1989, the United Nations has deepened its entanglement in humanitarian-motivated missions that blur the lines between war and peace operations. The additional haziness generated when defining terms such as peace enforcement and peacekeeping has intensified the debate about what is happening to the world order and whether we are experiencing an enduring normative shift in the foundation of international relations. This is a fine debate for academics. But in the field, where the young men and women of international peace forces do their jobs and save lives, the confusion challenges not only theoretical standpoints, but their physical and moral well-being. Nonetheless, despite these apprehensions, the military must engage in all aspects of this debate, especially to help define the relationship between humanitarian interventions and the military.
THE CHARTER AND PEACEKEEPING
The UN Charter captures the international community's determination to confront the devastation of the 20th century's two world wars and ensure that such conflict never occurs again. The advent of weapons of mass destruction heightened the determination and indeed, necessity, to place human relations on a footing that allowed conflict to be moderated by the conciliatory processes of mediation and negotiation. The Charter and its commitment to the nation-state is the basis of the international order. The International Court of Justice and the Charter, both established around 1945, deal with the resolution of differences between nation-states.
Peacekeeping, however, is not mentioned in the Charter. It emerged out of the commitment of the United Nations to encourage and help nations resolve their differences through peaceful means. Peacekeeping started in 1948 with the emergence of Israel and the establishment of the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO), which included unarmed military observers to aid and advance the armistice between Israel, Lebanon, Syria and Egypt. Soon after, in 1949, the United Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) was established in Kashmir to observe the truce on the Indian and Pakistani border. Both of these truce observance missions still exist and could be called the source of traditional global peacekeeping culture. Their continued existence demonstrates that traditional peacekeeping does not solve disputes, but creates an atmosphere that prevents the situation from worsening and enables the possibility of progress.
Clearly, for the observers to do their job properly they needed the consent of the opposing nations. This required observers to be absolutely impartial, and the modalities under which they operated had to be negotiated and agreed to in great detail. These negotiations were continuous. Everything had to be on the table. One vital factor was the ability of opposing nations and military commanders to control their own forces. However, this was not always possible, placing the lives of some observers at risk.
The 1956 establishment of an interposition force between Israel and Egypt, the United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF), highlighted the issues of consent and impartiality even further. The use of armed peacekeepers in war zones has sometimes been referred to as Chapter 6 1/2 operations, whereby the concept of self-defense by otherwise neutral and blue-helmeted international troops added to the complexity of these crises. (2) The presence of the blue helmets was manageable as long as UN forces remained positioned between armies that were under the control of the negotiating parties. But, when they were inserted among uncontrolled factions, as they were in the truly Chapter 6 1/2 operation in the former Belgian Congo from 1960 to 1964, interposition forces quickly became part of the conflict rather than part of the solution. In many ways, this operation in the Congo was a harbinger of things to come after the end of the Cold War.
Throughout the Cold War, the Security Council's key impetus was to ensure that local conflicts did not become large-scale wars that would draw in major powers and their allies. The enforcement operation in Korea demonstrated the potential for local conflicts to escalate and raised the specter of absolute war with the use of weapons of mass destruction. The General Assembly had mandated the Korean intervention, but it was clear that the United Nations needed a more effective substitute for traditional enforcement if the organization was to convince the Security Council to intervene. Because the general endorsement of all the Permanent Five members of the Security Council was difficult to achieve, peacekeeping lacked resolve and objectivity. Therefore, most operations mandated during the Cold War are still in existence.
POST-COLD WAR CHALLENGES
With the end of the Cold War, a more proactive approach became possible, creating challenges for modern peacekeepers that are of a different magnitude than their predecessors experienced. Soon after the Berlin Wall came down, the almost immediate success of the United Nations Transition Assistance Group in Namibia (UNTAG) and the UN Observer Group in Central America (ONUCA) emboldened the international community. UNTAG involved the observance of a ceasefire and the regrouping and demobilization of resistance factions in order to hold a UN-supervised election. ONUCA, on the other hand, started as a truce observation force along the boundaries of several Central American states, but the mandate was later expanded to include the supervision of disarmament and demobilization activities. In this instance, the expansion of the mission was lauded, rather than decried as mission creep. At the time, it seemed that the United Nations could reach in to disrupted states and supervise their internal affairs until a new and just form of governance prevailed.
Following Vietnam's withdrawal from Cambodia, the establishment of the UN Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC) settled the much debated and argued problem of how to get that nation back together again. UNTAC's mission was to guide the factions through a ceasefire, political transition, an election of a constituent assembly and the formation of a government. Although appearing relatively simple, the mission was in fact enormously complex; the United Nations had accepted conventions and protocols that protect individual rights of all people and therefore could not become deeply involved in a country's internal affairs without demanding compliance with the established international norms. The Cambodian peace agreements were based on the acceptance of a wide range of human rights measures, but the accords also accepted the sovereign authority of faction leaders who claimed to represent fully the interests of their jurisdiction.
UNTAC became the first truly complex, multi-faceted operation of the post-Cold War era, with seven components addressing all the modalities of the peace agreements, from ceasefire arrangements to elections to the establishment of a neutral political environment with a just human fights regime. In theory, peacekeeping was only a part of the operation, and the military's primary objective was the supervision of a ceasefire, including the cantonment and disarming of military factions. Most civilian components expected that the factions would comply quickly and they could complete their tasks without having to interact too closely with the UN military forces--whom they viewed as counterproductive in implementing civil components of the agreement. The UNTAC mission turned out differently, however, and the military had to be involved in every aspect of the mission to make it work.
Almost immediately it became clear that the peacekeeping force was going to be held accountable for security issues that were not included in the mandate. The civilian components had little understanding of the danger they were in until a member of the electoral component was killed while on duty in a remote location. UN participants, as well as the media and NGOs (who had no responsibility for and little understanding of the issues), questioned why the military component would not force the factions to comply with the things they had agreed to do in Paris.
The emerging truth was that all functions, both military and civilian, affected each other in some way and needed strategic oversight and coordination if they were to be successfully conducted. But there was no strategic level headquarters in New York and no proper coordination headquarters in Cambodia. The military headquarters assumed most of the coordination role and managed the details until the conduct of the election. Afterward, there was little it could do to coordinate UN oversight of post-election issues such as writing the constitution and forming the government.
Cambodia is now viewed as a paradigm for the changing role of the military from merely supervising truces to being involved with all aspects of a UN peacekeeping mission. The biggest problem with this changed role comes when peace enforcement and peacebuilding overlap in one mission. The risk of drawing the civilian components into the conflict and preventing them from fulfilling their humanitarian mandate should not happen, but it does happen increasingly. It has occurred in Somalia, Bosnia and Rwanda, in Kosovo and East Timor. Currently, situations involving complex humanitarian emergencies offer the greatest challenge for the United Nations.
COMPLEX HUMANITARIAN EMERGENCIES
In September 1999, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan called for a reconsideration of the issue of state sovereignty versus the sovereignty of the individual or "the fundamental freedom of each individual, enshrined in the Charter of the UN and subsequent international treaties.... When we read the Charter today, we are more than ever conscious that its aim is to protect individual human beings, not to protect those who abuse them." (3) Not everyone agrees with this interpretation of the Charter. Nevertheless, it captures the modern reality, even if decisions over when and where to intervene occur in a random and often incomprehensible manner. More and more, UN peace forces find themselves trying to save people from actions by their governments or from the inaction of those governments in the face of natural disasters.
This is a recent innovation, if one discounts the aftermath of the Second World War. The first of the modern humanitarian relief operations was Operation Provide Comfort, which provided assistance to the distressed Kurdish populations in northern Iraq. This was an international operation, but not UN-run, and it was overlain by a strategic component to prevent Iran from taking advantage of the Gulf War in the Iraq/Turkey border regions of northern Iraq. Essentially, it was an enforcement operation, conducted under the overpowering umbrella of American air cover.
The Somalia Case
This prelude to later humanitarian emergencies exemplifies the problems posed by humanitarian intervention. There are always both internal and external strategic elements, and it is almost impossible to intervene without becoming engaged in, and ultimately responsible, for these elements. Somalia is a primary example. The United Nations, with the best intentions, provided a peacekeeping force (UNOSOM I) to support and protect the humanitarian effort in that country. This force quickly found itself at odds with the clans that controlled access to the Somali populations. UN soldiers, ill-equipped for fighting, found themselves in pitched battles and taking large numbers of casualties. As a consequence, the Security Council mandated the United States to enforce the relief operations through the United Task Force (UNITAF). In turn, the Americans found they could not solve Somalia's problems without a far more comprehensive mandate that included setting up a government. Inevitably, this resulted in mission creep, whereby the military became increasingly engaged in operations for which, it was assumed, there was no domestic consensus.
Added to this was the problem of differing interpretations about mission objectives and operating procedures among the coalition members participating in the enforcement operation. After several tactical mishaps, the most serious resulting in a pitched battle over Mogadishu, the Americans withdrew, deciding that they had no desire to engage in a full-scale conflict with Somali clans. The mission returned to a peacekeeping one (UNOSOM II), but UN humanitarian intervention was doomed from that time on.
Despite this, there is evidence to support the continuing assertion that the operations in Somalia saved many lives. The key question, then, is how to get an intervention launched before the massive loss of human life rather than after a tragedy has occurred. It is useful to speculate on whether there is a direct causal link between the delay of intervention in Rwanda and the US experience in Somalia.
The Balkans Experience
The same question can also be asked of the strange relationship that emerged between the United Nations and NATO in Bosnia, where the peacekeeping mission of UNPROFOR tried to bluff its way through humanitarian support operations while threatening the use of NATO airpower. It was only when American-led NATO ground forces entered Bosnia, after the Serbs were forced to acquiesce to the Dayton Accords, that the humanitarian effort became relatively unencumbered. The threats of NATO air attack and the realization that they were fighting on too many fronts undoubtedly encouraged Serbia to end its support for the Bosnian Serbs, which in turn forced the Bosnian Serbs to accept the boundaries of the Dayton agreement and to allow an armed Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) force to enter and enforce compliance in the country.
In Bosnia, humanitarian imperatives and strategic interests coincided. The dreadful humanitarian situation was instrumental in giving Western forces sufficient domestic support to pursue strategic objectives in a way they had not been able to accomplish often. Ordinary people suffered visibly for a long time before the Western (and particularly US) governments were confident that they had the numbers at home to proceed. Even in the case of the Gulf War, in which the attack on Kuwait gave clear license for a Chapter VII mandate, enormous effort was undertaken to demonize Saddam Hussein and to emphasize the humanitarian plight of the Kuwaitis in order to ensure domestic support.
In the former Yugoslavia, Western governments have options for achieving strategic goals (which in Europe's case often seem to correspond to economic objectives). Normally the best way is a peaceful negotiated reconciliation process. If that fails, as it has in Yugoslavia, then the humanitarian card has its place. However, then domestic constituencies start to ask questions about why their governments intervene where strategic advantage applies but not in all gross humanitarian emergencies.
Applying Lessons to East Timor
The Australian people recently asked their government this question with respect to East Timor after an alliance of local militias and Indonesian military elements reacted with violence to a UN-supervised referendum in which the majority of East Timorese voted for secession from Indonesia. Although the Australian government would have preferred to avoid a confrontation with Indonesia over this issue, it would have been political suicide for them to ignore it. They therefore had to work diligently and spend much international capital to secure a UN mandate for an Australian-led enforcement mission made up of regional contributors and old friends. In large part, this achievement was due to the way the humanitarian plight of East Timor was portrayed to the world at large and to the Australian electorate in particular.
The UN Secretary-General praised Australia as a model member state over this intervention, especially because it was set up and conducted in line with the regional initiatives that Annan was proposing in the address mentioned above. There is plenty of evidence to suggest Indonesia sees this differently, and much effort now has to be applied to mending bridges between the two countries.
From an Australian perspective, there appear to be plenty of opportunities gathering on the regional horizon to repeat this type of humanitarian intervention if the interest of the Australian people can be sustained. With that in mind, it seems timely to convince nations to consider a regional initiative aimed at cooperative intervention. So far only NATO has the capacity and the command capability to approach such initiatives with confidence. If, in the future, regional nations will be asked to Solve humanitarian problems within their midst, some prior arrangement for regional command and control would be beneficial. This would also remove part of their dependence on what is unquestionably a Euro-centric institution, the Security Council, to secure an international mandate. This level of regional cooperation is a tall order, particularly in the Asia-Pacific region where multilateralism is construed by some countries as being directed against them.
HUMANITARIAN EMERGENCIES AND PEACEKEEPING
What can be gained from an analysis of military involvement in humanitarian emergencies in recent years? At first glance, humanitarian emergencies and peacekeeping do not go together. If a military presence is required in humanitarian emergencies, it is for enforcement. Humanitarian emergencies and peace enforcement are more attuned as concepts--by this, I mean true enforcement, not the pretend variety that comes with soldiers in blue berets who have neither the capacity nor the wit to do anything about the breaches of international law occurring around them.
Consequently, education is needed to ensure that human rights are seen as a strategic issue for all people rather than just for one's compatriots. Despite the Secretary-General's assertion that the Charter intends to protect all human beings equally, further progress is needed before it is obvious to everyone.
Underlying all this is the issue of UN reform. The central questions of this era are:
* Who decides who is right and who is wrong? At present, the Charter says it is the Security Council that makes these decisions, but is it a trusted and representative body, and do its members fail on questions of vested interest?
* Should whole peoples be punished for the crimes of their criminal leadership? This is a justice question, which has particular relevance to the application of sanctions against people such as the Iraqis and the Serbs, and the targeting of life-sustaining infrastructure. It is a question for the new world order, if there is to be one. If one believes that international intervention is a necessary part of that order, then the answer is probably no, but if one believes that state sovereignty should remain sacrosanct, then the answer should probably be yes! And finally,
* How can intervention occur without committing crimes against that international law that is the basis of the intervention?
Unless these questions can be addressed satisfactorily, then it should be expected that the international community will continue to attempt to solve humanitarian problems with inadequate peacekeeping forces, and these forces will continue to suffer the moral impediment of ineffectiveness while the world watches on television and blames them for its own shortcomings. If this is to be the case, it can be expected that high quality professional troops will not be available for peacekeeping.
Essentially, peacekeepers have been asked to go way beyond Chapter 6 1/2. When peacekeeping is simply about its traditional roles of truce observance and interposition, the real challenge is for politicians and diplomats to negotiate an agreement with practical modalities that are capable of being implemented. However, when it is about solving the increasing number of humanitarian emergencies caused by the environmental pressures of too few resources for too many people and the consequent arousal of old tribal and religious differences, then the military has dynamic and chaotic challenges that must be managed as such.
Two images will always remain burned into my memory. The first is that of a young Belgian paratrooper using his bayonet to cut up his blue UN beret when his nation withdrew from UN peacekeeping forces in Rwanda after suffering losses. The second is the bloody stain left on the Netherlands army as a result of Srebrenica. Such challenges can only be addressed by effective alliances with other international forces and a wide range of civilian agencies. This must be accompanied by strong, continuous and anticipatory strategic oversight. At present, the United Nations has a long way to go.
(1) Michael Ignatieff, "A Bungling U.N. Undermines Itself," New York Times, 15 May 2000, p. A19.
(2) Chapter VI of the UN Charter deals with the "pacific settlement of disputes," while Chapter VII encompasses issues of "any threat to the peace, breach of the peace or act of aggression." As peacekeeping operations were not included in the Charter, the term "Chapter 6 1/2 operations" was coined.
(3) "By Invitation: Two concepts of sovereignty," Economist, 18 September 1999, p. 49.
John Sanderson, This article is drawn from a speech delivered by His Excellency Lieutenant General John Sanderson at the United Nations Association of Australia and Australian Red Cross Dinner on 28 February 2001.
John Sanderson, the governor of Western Australia, spent most of his career in the Australian army, attaining the rank of Lieutenant General. After nearly four decades of service, he was appointed chief of the army in 1995. In November 1991, Sanderson was seconded to the secretary-general of the United Nations to complete planning for the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC), where he commanded an international force of 16,000 troops from 34 nations, securing Cambodia and supporting the conduct of an election of a constitutional assembly. He has also been an instructor at the Australian and British Army Staff Colleges and the Australian and British Schools of Military Engineering. Trained and educated as both a military and civil engineer, Sanderson spent his early military career in construction and training appointments, including operational deployments to both Borneo and South Vietnam. He commanded Engineer units at both squadron and regimental levels, and was both a mechanized brigade commander and airborne force commander for the Australian Defence Force.…
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Publication information: Article title: The Changing Face of Peace Operations: A View from the Field. (the Military Component). Contributors: Sanderson, John - Author. Journal title: Journal of International Affairs. Volume: 55. Issue: 2 Publication date: Spring 2002. Page number: 277+. © 1997 Columbia University School of International Public Affairs. COPYRIGHT 2002 Gale Group.
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