Magazine article Stability Operations

Stability Operations and Peace: Connecting Stabilizers and Civil Society

Magazine article Stability Operations

Stability Operations and Peace: Connecting Stabilizers and Civil Society

Article excerpt

STRANGELY ENOUGH, peace operations and peace building professionals do not work together anywhere near enough. That should not be the case, because we need each other. In the simplest terms, stability operations are most needed when we peace builders fail in our primary mission- preventing conflict from turning violent. Similarly, if stability operations fail after the fighting ends, it becomes all but impossible for us to do our other job- forging lasting agreements after the fighting stops that lead to reconciliation and equitable, sustainable societies.

In this article, I try to make the case that there are places we can turn to find models of how we could and should work together. I conclude by suggesting that there are also some signs that we are moving in directions that could make cooperation between us easier.

In an ideal world, we would do our work together. As everything from Defense Department doctrine to United Nations sequencing of peace building show, they are intellectually part of a seamless whole.

In practice, our two worlds rarely interact in ways that turn what we do into a seamless whole. In fact, projects that combine our two worlds are few and far between. Therefore, it is not surprising that the inspiration for this article comes from a project that at first glance seems quite removed from either peace building or stability operations.

Over the last few years, Cease Fire Chicago ( has developed an integrated program for combating urban violence that is now in use in more than 35 American cities and a dozen foreign countries. Cease Fire Chicago uses an epidemiological model in which urban violence spreads very much like a disease. As with everything from plague to HIV/AIDS, their first challenge is to stop its spread, which they do through the use of carefully trained young men and women who were once part of the problem, not the solution. The "interrupters" intervene in their communities to keep incidents from turning violent or, once a shooting has occurred, to help prevent retaliation and other escalatory acts. Once that "cease fire" is secure, the rest of the Cease Fire Chicago team has the time and emotional space to begin addressing the long-term causes of the "disease" in all aspects of urban society. In other words, Cease Fire Chicago does both a version of stability operations and a version of peace building.

Unlike Cease Fire Chicago, we tend to work in isolation, whether in planning or carrying out our operations. That is hardly surprising, since we tend to come from different worlds.

Most people I know in stability operations have either been in the military or are comfortable working with soldiers. That is as it should be since stability operations almost always involve working in dangerous situations where, if the fighting has stopped, it could easily break out again.

I'm typical of most people in the peace building world. My roots are squarely in the peace movement, beginning with my high school and undergraduate days protesting the war in Vietnam. I have never fired a gun. Few of my colleagues have served in the military. A large (but happily declining) number of us are skeptical about or even hostile toward working with the military.

Our differences start with the way we are educated, which you can quickly see by comparing an Internet search on graduate education in peace building and stability operations. There is almost no overlap.

Stability operations can most frequently be found in curricula for professional military education. Typical (and exemplary) on that front is the U.S. Army's Peace Keeping and Stabilization Operations Institute ( or the Pearson Peacekeeping Centre in Canada ( Their students tend to be mid-career soldiers, but their services are made more widely available through a variety of outreach programs.

By contrast, almost all graduate programs in conflict resolution and peace building are housed in civilian universities and typically lead to a masters or doctoral degree. …

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