Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Research Report

Enforcing the Peace:: An American Bird’s Eye View

David C. Acheson
Copyright Date: Apr. 1, 2001
Published by: Atlantic Council
Pages: 29
OPEN ACCESS
https://www.jstor.org/stable/resrep03307
  • Cite this Item

Table of Contents

  1. (pp. v-vi)
    Christopher J. Makins

    Few foreign policy challenges have provoked greater discussion and dissension in the United States and other countries over the last decade than that of how to deal with humanitarian crises. Both at the level of principle – in what circumstances is international intervention justified and of what kind? – and at the level of operational practice – how can intervention be made effective and reasonable in its costs in money and lives? – these crises have raised serious and difficult questions that have preoccupied and frustrated experts and citizens alike. Most recently, in the U.S. presidential campaign debates of late...

  2. (pp. 1-2)

    Enforcing the peace in troubled parts of the world plays upon the paradoxes in the American character, perhaps in human nature. Americans, and perhaps the civilized world, generally regard genocide, and mass slaughter falling short of the particular definition of genocide, as abhorrent and something to be prevented. Such outrages offend our humane instincts and our standards of civilization. Yet we have doubts about whether intervention is any of our business, particularly when the area afflicted is distant and not obviously relevant to American security concerns. We feel something like the citizen who observes a robbery in progress. His instinct...

  3. (pp. 2-4)

    Experience teaches us that democracies and their potential coalitions are slow to intervene in situations of ethnic slaughter. There are human and political reasons for this. Often these crises start small, the violence seems highly localized, the scale of killing regrettable but not alarming, and it is hard to know whether the violence will remain localized or spread in scale and area. The Serbian shelling of Dubrovnik affords a good example of this. Before the powers that are capable of effective intervention can become sufficiently outraged the scale of atrocities must, it seems, reach sufficient scale to feature in the...

  4. (pp. 4-5)

    Few doctrines have been as entrenched in international law and acceptance as the sanctity of territorial sovereignty, the principle that the government of a nation is the exclusive authority over what transpires within its borders. Nevertheless, this doctrine has taken some hits, thanks to the excesses of Hitler and particularly his genocide program against the Jews of Europe, and, more recently, thanks to outrageous carnage in the Balkans, Africa and Indonesia. The evolution of international recognition of crimes against humanity and genocide, two rather different bodies of jurisprudence, has been a significant incursion into the sanctity of sovereignty. Yet there...

  5. (pp. 5-7)

    The pretensions of the UN to be the sole arbiter of intervention for peace enforcement seem to rest upon the view that nothing less than the nod of an organization of universal membership will bestow legitimacy upon intervention in another nation’s jurisdiction. Indeed, Kofi Annan, in his article in The Economist cited above, takes the position that the NATO action in Kosovo, in the absence of such legitimation, lacked “international consensus and clear legal authority”. This view raises problems that can frustrate any timely intervention.

    Experience shows that waiting for the UN to deal with the matter can sacrifice crucial...

  6. (pp. 8-8)

    It is obvious to say that humanitarian intervention to stop mass killing and genocide requires political will, but political will does not come easily. Basically, neither the voters nor the U.S. Congress nor foreign parliaments wish to spend their money or risk their citizens’ lives to intervene in foreign civil wars or mass murder, unless their natural aversion is counterweighed by a revulsion of conscience against the manner and scale of the violence. Often, as in the Bosnia, Kosovo and Sierra Leone cases, this revulsion depends upon the repetitive impact of news photos and television scenes and upon the growth...

  7. (pp. 9-10)

    To say that enforcing the peace is profoundly influenced in its effectiveness by the determination of the objective sounds obvious, but is fundamental. This is dramatically apparent in Kosovo, where NATO and the UN both have insisted that their mission is not to interfere with Serbian sovereignty in Kosovo. This, of course, is the principle of the sanctity of sovereignty coming back to haunt the restoration of peace. A majority of Kosovars appear to want independence and the Kosovo Liberation Army plainly stated that objective from the start. The insistence of NATO and the UN that the KLA be effectively...

  8. (pp. 10-12)

    The timidity of weak governments has put a malign stamp on peace enforcement in several ways. All have been alluded to already, but the point should be knit up here. Weak governments have difficulty with hard decisions, particularly in foreign policy which is usually seen by politicians, and correctly, as a theater in which there are few political rewards and a high risk of political penalties.

    In addressing a crisis calling for peace enforcement, governments must first explain the challenge and the national interest to their parliaments and publics. But weak governments are loath to tell these audiences how bad...

  9. (pp. 12-13)

    Peace enforcement operations have stretched U.S. forces in all services, severely strained the training and operational cycles in certain specialties, and increased the difficulty of maintaining re-enlistment rates and retention of officers.

    First, most ground troops are not trained for peace enforcement. They are taught combat doctrine and weapons, but what to do when faced by a stone-throwing crowd of civilians is normally not in the training manual nor the exercises. Repeated exposure to hostile civilians, some armed, some not, knowing that killing civilians can touch off a major conflagration, can test discipline and morale in ways that straight armed...

  10. (pp. 14-14)

    The European Union is presently evolving a new military role that will bear significantly on the peace enforcement functions of NATO and of the NATO allies that are not members of the EU including, of course, the United States. For a couple of years now, the EU has embraced a concept of a rapid reaction force of 60,000 troops to be available by 2003. A French version of this concept is to give the EU its own policy making authority for defense activities and peace enforcement and its own forces, both independent of NATO and of U.S. influence. The majority...

  11. (pp. 15-16)

    It is a false dichotomy, I submit, to regard moral instincts to restore peace and prevent or stop slaughter as antithetical to national interest. If it were, there could be little discussion of intervention for humanitarian reasons. Just as morality should influence personal conduct, so should the instinct to alleviate human suffering operate as a factor in foreign policy. Governments, like individuals, but more diffusely than individuals, wish to have reputations for decency and humanity and to have the good opinion of their own citizens and other governments thereby. National interest does not require us to be narrow or churlish...

  12. (pp. 16-18)

    Owing to the relatively recent nature of the U.S. and international experience in peace enforcement, conclusions must proceed partly from evidence and partly from faith. Two general conclusions are possible, then we will turn to more specific conclusions. First, for the United States, Europe is a high priority. Peace enforcement will be important in completing the modernization of Europe, which cannot long be stable while containing an area of inter-ethnic barbarity, producing major flows of refugees, terrorism and arms traffic. Second, peace enforcement operations anywhere must be prompt and effective or the exercise loses its credibility for the future. It...