International Affairs Forum:
How important do you think it is to have the UN involved with the peacekeeping operation?
Dr. Donald C.F. Daniel:
The UN is vitally important in at least two ways. One is that it can provide an operation with a legitimacy which is probably better than that provided by any other organization or group. The Security Council (and in rare cases the General assembly) can confer a global stamp of approval on a peacekeeping operation including one conducted by an organization or group other than the UN. The legitimacy of the UN’s own operations, furthermore, probably benefits from the UN’s drawing contributors from around the globe. That does not mean, however, that troop contributors are fully representative of all groups in the world. Our recent research here shows that basically three groups of states now engage in peace operations. One is what we call the UN group. A second is what we have labeled the cross-cutting Western agenda group of states. The third set is a mixed bag of countries with relatively idiosyncratic patterns of contributions. Most of the third group—with France being the most notable exception—tend to be small contributors.
The big players generally are in the UN group or in the cross-cutting Western agenda group. And hardly the twain meet. That is, states in the UN group don’t participate for the most part in cross-cutting Western agenda operations. And states that go into the cross-cutting Western agenda operations don’t much participate in UN operations even though some of them used to be part of the old UN Fire Brigade. They have since moved off and been replaced by states largely from the developing world or “South.” The East Timor missions in the first part of the decade and the Lebanon operation from 2006 onward have been exceptions where UN and Western agenda states have worked alongside in the same mission.
That the twain don’t meet much in the same operations doesn’t mean that there’s not consultation within the Security Council between “Western” and “Southern” states. And if the US and Britain don’t take part in a UN mission, they’ve still voted for it.
Implied in my answer to this point is that the UN is very important not only from a legitimacy perspective but also from an on-the-ground perspective in that, as I’ve just noted, it is one of the two main pillars for response. There is a division of labor in the world where the UN and the crosscutting group each roughly account for the vast bulk of deployed peacekeepers. The UN is the more spread out and has responsibility for more missions. It is, for instance, the chief peacekeeper in Africa, the Middle East, and by virtue of the Haiti mission, in the Americas as well. It has taken on greater and greater on-the-ground responsibility since about 2003. As a result it has become badly overstretched, and that condition is a function of the many demands placed on it. It is indispensable now and there is no reason to believe that it will be less so in the foreseeable future, but attention must be paid to the overstretch problem lest a disaster occur in some mission.
Some small countries don’t have significant capabilities yet are still interested in participating in peace operations. What’s the best way to bring them into the fold?
There are a number of ways. One way, depending on how small the country is, and how small its military is, is that it can contribute a niche unit that meets minimum desired standards. The UN can usually assemble twenty or thirty countries in an operation, and thereby augment the level of legitimacy for the operation. But are all twenty or thirty really important? The answer is no since some are pretty limited in terms of their capacity. But if a country is interested in making a difference, then it could do so by developing a niche capability. That is, it can specialize in one thing, let’s say, anti-mining or some aspect of the engineering function.
The other way in which small states can make a difference is through working with others to form a multinational battalion. The basic building block for an UN operation for the most part is the battalion. There could be countries that aren’t capable of providing a full battalion. But that doesn’t mean they can’t be working with other countries, maybe their neighbors next door, and between the two or the three of them, whatever it is, they could come up with a multinational battalion. Prior to any deployment, they might exercise together, increase the interoperability of their equipment and communications gear, and agree on common rules of engagement.
We’ve seen multinational battalions in the past, but they’ve often been ad hoc. I think that we need to think in terms of almost permanently institutionalized multinational battalions. And if you’re a small country, you can probably figure out a way to do that with other small countries or with a “big brother.”
More and more private military contractors are becoming involved in operations internationally. What’s the best way to work them in? Or what’s the best way to deal with them in peacekeeping operations?
It depends. A private military company can be involved in everything from the pointy end of the sword so to speak - although there aren’t many that involved in that - to serving as bodyguards and providing hotel services, food, barracks, or tents. There’s probably maybe even room for medical services.
There are shortfalls in operations, particularly in areas like surveillance and reconnaissance assets or in lift such as helicopter aviation or certain kinds of ground transportation. I’d like to see private military companies, military probably being in quotes, provide for those shortages. It would be invaluable to be able to call up two or three companies whose job it is to provide helicopters, and say we need six helicopters for this amount of time and to have a company reply: “Sure, I can do it and at a cost that’s reasonable to all sides.”
I think that the UN and others can work the people who work for a profit motive, as long as the latter are willing to stay with the mission. You can’t have somebody say, “I’ll give you my helicopters”, and then, a few months later, when you’re relying on them, have them say, “well, I’ve got to pull them out because the next guy is going to give me a better offer”. So you need to insure sustainability. You have to accept that some companies will be risk-averse and avoid dangerous missions.
There’s a real role for private people to do the kinds of things that could be done by anybody, as opposed to the things specialized to soldiers. So figure out what some of those capacities are, and see if you can come up with some way to get them at reasonable cost and assurance. That’s important because the UN relies so much on outsiders as it is. Countries can be slow sometimes to pony up, and private contractors can be quicker to do so if they’re in it for the money.
Finally, some people question the accountability of private military firms. That’s been a serious issue with Blackwater in Iraq, for example. Such problems are not, I believe, showstoppers when it comes to the more benign functions of what private companies can do. As I said, the UN has relied on such companies for many years to provide basic services. A satisfactory modus vivendi seems to have been worked out.
How would you compare the effectiveness of a force comprised of sheer large numbers versus a smaller, very qualified force?
What you’d like to get is both. Sheer numbers themselves constitute a certain amount of quality. But if you’re asking, would you rather have ten thousand soldiers that basically can’t do very much, or five thousand that are well qualified to do the whole gamut? I’d say, give me the five thousand because that’s much more efficient. If a lot of people basically just sit around and protect the airport perimeter, for instance, they can become a management problem. They still need to be billeted, fed, and cared for generally regardless of how useful they are. Thus, they can constitute a net drain. You get fewer command headaches and more utility from a smaller more effective force. But of course, the more quality you need or desire, the harder it may be to get it. It's like anything else, the more qualified people are, the more they are in demand and probably the fewer are available. You need your mix to be towards at least minimum quality, because if you don't get that, then it's probably not even worth going out in the first place.
Do you see the EU taking on more of a peacekeeping role as opposed situations in the past where you just have individual Euro-states involved?
Yes, I think the EU wants to do more, and they're talking about ready brigades, that kind of thing. They've gone in and out of Africa a bit, and while there's been a certain amount of inconsistency, on the whole they've done a lot more good than not. While I see them doing more, you have things like the global financial crisis that's hurting their budgets pretty badly.
There were some people in the EU, particularly during the Bush 43 years, who weren't particularly happy with the U.S. and were thinking about disengaging from Washington and wanted to lessen reliance on it. I suspect there's still some of that now, even though Bush 43 is out of office. Relying less on the US means relying less on NATO. NATO is seen as a U.S. instrument, whereas the EU is seen as kind of NATO without the U.S. But NATO without the U.S. is not near as capable as NATO with it. The EU is having a hard time, for instance, coming up with transport aircraft.
So the EU, in terms of doing things, must provide itself the requisite capabilities. It's not that some European leaders might not want to do more (although some might want a lower global profile), but they may not be willing to pay the financial and domestic political costs required. If they have to sacrifice a lot to do good, then they might not do much at all.
There is serious questioning going on in Europe about whether or not they should be part of ISAF mission in Afghanistan. ISAF has become increasingly important to what occurs in Afghanistan and it is a NATO operation. Many in Europe question NATO’s role and missions. If the Europeans draw down from ISAF, this could give the EU greater assets to do peacekeeping elsewhere.
Of note is that a division of labor has arisen between the EU and NATO with the EU, for example, taking over NATO missions like KFOR. But what would withdrawal from ISAF mean in terms of the future division of labor? I don't know. We'd have to see.
On the whole, from their written statements, the EU wants to do more. From budgetary and domestic political perspectives, there's a question of how quickly it can get to do it.
What did you find in the course of putting your book together that you thought was most pertinent towards the issues facing Afghanistan?
Maybe the most pertinent goes back to the EU question, and that was the unevenness in terms of the willingness of states that went to Afghanistan to take on some of the more dangerous missions. You have some relatively capable states, richer states than others, that basically say, “We’ll participate, but we’re not going to go to areas of great danger and we’re not going to put troops at risk”. The issue of national caveats is a significant one. It's one that affects the commanders in Afghanistan every day. They have to ask constantly: Are there caveats from this country that are going to get in the way of it doing what I need for it to do?
Germany was reported to be the major country taking such a position…
The Germans and others were holding back in different degrees. But the Germans in particular tended to say “No, we're not going to do that or we're not going to go there. We're going to stay mainly the northern and western parts of Afghanistan, but we're not going to do much south and east. It’s too dangerous there.”
If I were the German Chancellor and the German people, maybe I'd agree with the German position, but personally I'd like every country that's in ISAF to follow the same rules and support one another without conditions. But if it doesn’t work out, then it doesn’t work out. Even with caveats, having German troops in Afghanistan is better than not having them. The Germans are contributing in their own way.
The national caveat issue is probably driven by public opinion polls showing that there is not strong German popular support for sending troops to Afghanistan. If there isn't strong support, then you have to question what's going to happen in the long run. I was just reading about the Afghan elections for president, which are in two weeks, and there are serious questions as to whether or not the elections are going to come across as legitimate and as giving everybody the right to vote free of intimidation. It seems that the Taliban is going to be strong enough to prevent some people from voting. But the newspapers tell us that many people aren't going to vote because they are not going to feel safe either walking to the polling place or at the polling place itself, and in ten percent of the country there probably will not be polling places because it will just be too unsafe to establish them. So you wish that you had enough troops to provide that kind of safety.
Would the Germans go off to those parts of the country? I guess not. I don't know on this specific issue, but it's clear that we don't have enough troops to provide that basic security that you'd like to have that allows the country to be able to hold this election in a way that whoever gets elected people will say, “Yes, he really was the winner, and everybody who wanted to vote did vote.”
What about their southern neighbor? As Pakistan has a pretty large peacekeeping force available, what impact, it any, do you see their internal problems having on international peacekeeping operations?
Their deployed numbers are very good. They continue to send people out. Internal instability could negatively affect their deployments, but it does not seem to have had much effect through the end of 2008. We’ll have to wait and see.
Even in the midst of troubles in the earlier years, Pakistan was right at the top of the UN contributors along with Bangladesh and India. If it wasn't for all three, for instance, you could not do the missions in Africa. These three provide about forty percent of the UN troops there, and without them, the other sixty percent would clearly not be enough. They were the linchpin in some of those missions because their large contingents constituted the center core around which smaller contingents coalesced.
What about the U.S.? What do you think the current administration should do to improve peacekeeping operations?
US forces, of course, are tied up. So much of what they're doing occurs in Iraq and Afghanistan. Everything else has a far lower priority. I don't expect the U.S. to provide peacekeepers to many places around the world, certainly not peacekeeping units. Individual detaillees will still be sent out and special commitments such the one in Sinai will still be met, but new unit commitments should not be expected.
But the United States could still take a lead in working with the UN and others to upgrade troop standards. An example is the Global Peace Operations Initiative that, within the context of the G8, helps countries around the world – especially African ones - improve their capacities to engage at least in traditional peacekeeping.
Another point for the U.S. is just simply paying its dues to the UN on time, without there being drama every year. That by itself would be highly beneficial.
There are numerous initiatives going on right now in the UN about how to better improve peacekeeping. The UN is spending a lot of time and effort, and the U.S. has to be a central part of that dialogue and show that it's willing to help. You don't even necessarily need U.S. troops on the ground. Statements by Obama’s US Ambassador to the UN give reason for optimism on this score.
One area that I would like to see progress in concersn what the US can on the sidelines to help stand up and sustain UN missions. In the past, the U.S. used to provide a lot of help, much of it gratis, particularly in missions that it wanted to see happen, by providing lift, intelligence, and generally helping put an operation together. If we could do more of that, it would be extremely useful but we should not, as we have at times in the 1990s and later, then present a hefty bill for our work.
Something the Army has done is to raise the priority of peace and stability operations as a mission area. That mission is now equated to the war fighting mission. Doing so is important because such priorities govern how the Army buys things, how it trains, and how it measures its readiness. If you tell me as an Army commander that my task is exclusively war fighting, then the more I do peace or stability operations, the more I will resent it because it lowers my readiness to fight wars. But now if you tell me I'm supposed to be ready to do both missions, then I’ll concentrate on both and do so without feeling I am harming my readiness or my prospects for promotion. I think the Army is working as fast as a big lumbering organization can work. General Petraeus, General Odierno and others in Iraq have changed the Army's way of looking at its mission structure. The Army doesn’t like the term “peacekeeping,” but its emphasis on post-conflict stability operation is very consistent with peacekeeping and is a good thing, as far as I'm concerned.
Indeed, the Army has not gotten the credit maybe it should deserve from some people. There's a sense that some of these organizations are hidebound, never change but the Army has shown itself to be adept at change. I think it's moving about as fast as it can and it deserves acknowledgement of that.
Dr. Donald C F Daniel is Professor at the Georgetown University Walsh School of Foreign Service, Security Studies Program. Professor Daniel was Special Assistant to the Chairman of the National Intelligence Council and prior to that he held the Milton E. Miles Chair of International Relations at the US Naval War College, Newport, RI, where he also chaired the Strategic Research Department in the College's Center for Naval Warfare Studies. Professor Daniel has also served as a Fellow in the Departments of Military History of the Swedish National Defence College, Stockholm. He has been a Research Associate at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London, a Visiting Fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington, and a resident Research Fellow in the Disarmament and Conflict Resolution Project of the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research in the Palais des Nations in Geneva. He is co-editor of Peace Operations: Trends, Progress, and Prospects.
Peace Operations: Trends, Progress, and Prospects
is available at Georgetown University Press
|Comments in Chronological order (0 total comments)