Friday, February 21, 2014

Keeping the Peace

 --Peaceable Kingdom, Edward Hicks 
 Do those eyes look at peace? 

Ain't it funny how you feel
when you're finding out it's real
 -- Sugar Mountain, Neil Young

 Blessed are the peacemakers:
for they shall be called the children of God 
--KJV, Matthew 5:9 

Ev'rybody's talking about 
Revolution, evolution, masturbation,
flagellation, regulation, integrations,
meditations, United Nations,
All we are saying is give peace a chance 
--Give Peace a Chance, John Lennon

One of RangerAgainstWar's gripes is the misuse of words in the Phony War on Terror (PWOT  ©). Take the term, "Peacekeeping".

In  the book Blind into Baghdad: America's War in Iraq, James Fallows quotes Army War College scholar and Afghanistan War veteran Larry Goodson thusly:

"When the security situation in Afghanistan was collapsing, we might have come much more quickly to the peacekeeping and "nation-building" strategy we're beginning to employ now (125)"

Aside from the fact that strategy -- a word which implies a thought-out and concerted effort to achieve a desired goal -- is NOT a word which describes the United States' PWOT efforts, let us look instead at the term "Peacekeeping", a term often misunderstood and misused, often in an effort to justify a military presence.

Who doesn't want peace? Peacekeeping Operations (PKO) is an admirable yet elusive concept usually pertaining to efforts to lessen violence and chaos in failed states or in Low-intensity conflict situations. PKO can be a long-term or short-term solution to a problem, if not a resolution of the situation. The three United Nations' guidelines for PKO's are:

1) The consent of all parties
2) Impartiality
3) Non-use of force, except in self-defense and the defense of the mandate

Think of the efficacy of peacekeeping while considering some recent PKOs:

1) The British effort in Northern Ireland --

Was this PKO? Were the British impartial since they were supporting the Royal Ulster Constabulary? The reason for the violence was the Irish Republican Army's desire to rid Northern Ireland of the British presence.

2) Beirut, 1983 --

Was this U.S. operation a PKO? Were the U.S. forces impartial? Did both sides in the violence accept the legitimacy of the U.S. unilateral effort? Since the Marines were bombed in their barracks and HQ, it would seem not, so this was not a PKO.

3) The NATO effort in Kosovo --

Were the NATO forces impartial? No, since NATO warplanes were bombing one side of the equation, so another "no".

4) U.S. in Afghanistan --

Was the U.S. impartial? Did the anti-government coalition accept our presence? Did the U.S. have legitimacy?

A PKO that met UN guidelines but was ineffective was what we call the Rwandan Genocide. While the PKOs were impartial and accepted by both parties, still the genocide continued apace. So simply following UN guidelines may not be an adequate yardstick to measure a successful PKO.

An exception to the general failure of PKOs would be the Sinai PKO separating the Egyptian and the Israelis, keeping peace between former enemies. The peacekeepers are impartial and are there at the behest of both parties. The peace has been maintained.

For a PKO to succeed, both the peacekeepers and the opposing parties must be dealing from the top of the deck, and this is usually not the case in the usual scenarios, unfortunately.

So, is there such a thing as Peacekeeping? "Peacekeeping" is not the same thing as "Peace Making". Peacekeeping is a bit bromidic and euphemistic. One is not so much "keeping the peace" but holding the boxers apart until they can join in the fray once again. PKO's are doomed to fail, until the day honest brokers step up to the table and resolve their differences otherwise. Diogenes is still out there with his lamp ...

Being as we inheritors of the primate legacy, we do not look for rational, non-fighting solutions anytime soon. Perhaps, as with the schoolyard bully, the fight should be allowed, and until someone appears who can trounce him, the most brutish wins they day.


  1. "Peacekeeping" is often an effort to delay or prevent a decision by force, executed by those who expect that they would not like the outcome of such a decision by force.

    The 'humanitarian' and the 'power politics game' motivations often appear to play into such aversion in parallel.

  2. Well, I think you can make a distinction between what the party in question claims to be doing versus a more descriptive term for what they're actually doing; as Sven notes, "peacekeeping" can mean "Leveraging the side I want to win/not to lose" or "Holding down the pot lid to prevent something I fear from boiling over".

    So, while I'm sure that the British Army would have wanted to describe their actions in Northern Ireland as "peacekeeping" but I'd argue that "rebellion suppression" would be a more accurate term for its conduct during the Troubles.

    Beirut in '83 seems to have initially been a genuine peacekeeping operation along the lines of the Sinai MFO; to oversee and guarantee a negotiated ceasefire in the Lebanese Civil War. But Washington was seen as an ally of both the invading Israelis and the Christian Phalange which made U.S. forces a target of anti-Israeli and anti-Phalangeist factions including Syria, the PLO, Hezbollah and the usual assortment of jihadists. The only ones who didn't seem to "get" this was the U.S. foreign policy mavens and the MNF commanders.

    I would argue that Kosovo was not intended to "keep peace". The UNSC Resolution 1199 that authorized the Western intervention was directed at Serbia/Yugoslavia and demanded a ceasefire and acceptance of a UN-mandate in Kosovo. Again, the U.S. government sopkescritters may have called this "peacekeeping" but there was no peace to keep; this was "peace-imposition through aerial firepower".

    And, again, ISAF may want to call what its doing a "peacekeeping" mission in Afghanistan but, as you point out, it is in fact suppressing a factional rebellion against the Kabul government.

    Being as we inheritors of the primate legacy, we do not look for rational, non-fighting solutions anytime soon. Perhaps, as with the schoolyard bully, the fight should be allowed, and until someone appears who can trounce him, the most brutish wins they day.

    Well, I'd say that this would depend. Is standing by while "the bully" wins genuinely in the U.S. national interests? ARE there any national interest in the polity where this beatdown is occurring.

    Which, in turn, raises the question of "whose interests"? If the bully promises to force his subject populace to make cheap goods for the American markets so I can by cheaper crap from Buttfuckistan, is that in my and my country's interest? But what if in doing so my company decides to relocate to Buttfuckistan and I lose my job? Now is that in my interests?

    So not prehaps as simple a question as it first appears...

  3. As I have aged, the whole issue of diddling in another nation's sovereign affairs has given me more and more pause. I can understand "humanitarian" operations somewhat, and I can accept creating a mutually accepted "buffer zone" (Sinai). What really becomes difficult is "taking sides" in what may or may not be a popular uprising, which is all too often what "peacekeeping" means. But then, it would be awkward to call a given operation a "propping up our desired thug operation".

  4. "But then, it would be awkward to call a given operation a "propping up our desired thug operation".

    Which is why you never read about "Operation Wog-Bash" or "Operation United Fruit".

    It's always less painful for the proles to be told that their tax dollars are going to feed adorable dusky urchins than to bitchslap furriners with political goals objectionable to the Adminstration's top donors.