Academic journal article Naval War College Review

What Color Is the Peacekeeper's Helmet?

Academic journal article Naval War College Review

What Color Is the Peacekeeper's Helmet?

Article excerpt

THE TERM "PEACEKEEPING" SUFFERS FROM imprecision, and part of the reason is that the concept derived from United Nations and state practice, not from express terms in the UN Charter. The advantage of the loose, ordinary sense in which the term is commonly employed by the press and the general public is that it conveys an idea that people believe they understand. It is for that reason that the expression "peacekeeping operation" is used here to encompass both traditional peacekeeping and enforcement operations. Let me stress, however, that these two phrases refer to markedly different concepts under the UN Charter-the former to be run by the Secretariat (primarily under Chapter VI provisions) and the latter by the Security Council (in accordance with the specifications of Chapter VII or VIII). The most important result is that a traditional Chapter VI peacekeeping mandate implies, in principle, no need for armed force, while a typical Chapter VII enforcement action mandate authorizes, again in principle, the use of armed force. We have limited experience with Chapter VIII peacekeeping, but it may be the wave of the future. In any case, traditional peacekeepers operate at the behest of all the parties to the conflict or dispute. Enforcement troops, by contrast, are tasked to impose the will of the Security Council on non-consenting factions or states.

This distinction is, in practice, easily blurred, with serious ramifications that may include nullification of the peacekeeping operation's goals. Examples of this tendency among recent operations include UNOSOM II (Somalia) and UNPROFOR (Bosnia-Herzegovina).

Nato leaders decided in 1992 that the Alliance would undertake peacekeeping operations out of its own region only under a mandate of the UN or the Organization on Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). This decision was consistent with Nato's status (under Article 51 of the UN Charter) as a self-defense organization-as distinguished from an Article 53 collective security organization-since it was never contemplated that Nato would be subject to the veto of the Security Council, as is an Article 53 organization. But the door was left open for Nato to undertake peacekeeping operations within the region either as it was, or as an expanded alliance, or as a regional self-defense organization composed of both Nato states and new "partners" from the former Soviet bloc. We have now seen the Nato Implementation Force (IFOR) operating in Bosnia, outside the North Atlantic Treaty region, and there is also discussion about using Alliance forces well outside the region on Nato's southern flank.

Whatever form multilateral peacekeeping operations take within the Nato environment, development of a common doctrine for the use of armed force must be a priority. To apply that doctrine, combined exercises with diverse national participation prior to an actual military deployment are highly desirable. Moreover, multilateral exercises seem to play well politically. This encourages even greater efforts at coordination among the prospective national military forces, and that is all to the good. However, neither games nor peacekeeping activities are the same as actual armed conflict, which is what enforcement actions are or could quickly become. An expanded Nato has a long way to go before new states operate smoothly in truly hostile situations without unacceptable dangers and unnecessary casualties. Accordingly, careful attention must be given to the framing of Security Council mandates and the essential operating requirements, so as to implement them well before the time arrives to deploy Nato forces in combat.

A Security Council mandate for any combined multinational peacekeeping operation that might include traditional peacekeeping as well as enforcement operations ought to respect the following principles:

Peacekeeping operations in which armed hostilities are expected will be carried out only at the request and under the authority of the UN Security Council, as required by the UN Charter under Chapter VII, or of the OSCE under Chapter VIII. …

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