“But not shiny and sustainable social democratic states”

Interesting angle on the UN’s peacekeeping effort. Richard Gowan blogs a summary of his own report International Peacekeeping in which he says the UN “is being asked to go to too many places at once, including places where peacekeeping stands no chance…” Places he quotes include the Irish and French deployment in Chad, where he has argued elsewhere (in Spanish) the real need is for negotiators, not soldiers.On Darfur he notes:

I pick up on David and Alex’s concept of “intentional systems disruption”, which involves bringing down a complex system by exploiting its most vulnerable points – in the case of Darfur, those vulnerabilities have been (i) the UN’s political reliance on winning consent for its operations, which Sudan has denied and (ii) its shortage of specialized assets like helicopters. My hunch (shared by a lot of UN officials) is that Darfur is a textbook for how to block a UN operation that will be used elsewhere, weakening the whole system’s credibility…

His more general point though is that the world has changed, and the UN has failed to keep pace:

…the idea of large-scale, multi-dimensional UN missions overseeing countries stumbling out of conflict may have run out of road. That’s not only because nasty governments know how disrupt UN ops, but because the UN model for building liberal, democratic and Western-oriented regimes doesn’t make so much sense in a world defined by a fit of Western self-doubt.

So what’s the alternative:

…we have to adjust to an environment in which UN operations can only deliver limited goods: some stability, perhaps, and a limited amount of time to do political deals and maybe get to work on early economic recovery (for guidance on that part, check out the excellent new study by my colleagues at CIC). But not shiny and sustainable social democratic states.


  • RepublicanStones

    Mick, I think the UN has a good heart, but too many heads. The difficulties faced when attempting to get ‘boots on the ground’ is the biggest stumbling block to effective peacekeeping as opposed to what actually happens once in theatre. Irelands triple lock system for instance can be quite a lenghty process, and anything which involves several different countries committing is always a nightmare to get consensus on. And i mean anything, not just peacekeeping. These variables coupled with the fact that the UN can seem like the eurovision with competing interests and side-show alliances means there is never going an easy way to go about these things. Never mind the foopahs the UN is capable of such as commiting Belgian troops to Rwanda.
    The current Defence Forces Review has a few excellent articles pertaining to the history of the UN, I’d recommend trying to get your hands on a copy.

  • The problem comes from confusing peace keeping with peace enforcement.

    Missions like Chad are about peace enforcement. Somewhere, let’s say like the reasonably successful deployment in the Ivory Coast is about peace keeping. The UN tries to do peace keeping well – look at how Cyprus has been peaceful since 1974 despite the lack of peace making.

    Peace enforcement is a tougher call. After Bosnia/Rwanda/Zimbabwe/Burma some group of people will call for more action from the UN to stop bad things happening in bad parts of the world. The problem is, if you’re going to do that, you have to get used to the idea of your son dying in a corner of a foreign field you’ve never even heard of, and many Iraq-style military quagmires.

  • Thanks for the write-up! I agree with both the comments above. It’s also worth checking out this op-ed from today’s IHT:


  • earnan

    without significant US forces any attempts well probably fail

  • Slugger O’Toole Admin