Peace Operations

War and Conflict in the Modern World Series

L. Brock, H. Holm, G. Sørensen and M. Stohl, Fragile States

Feargal Cochrane, Ending Wars

Matthew Evangelista, Law, Ethics and the War Terror

J. Michael Greig and Paul F. Diehl, International Mediation

Janie Leatherman, Sexual Violence and Armed Conflict

Andrew Mumford, Proxy Warfare

Dennis Sandole, Peacebuilding

Eric Shibuya, Demobilizing Irregular Forces

Timothy Sisk, Statebuilding

Rachel Stohl and Suzette Grillot, The International Arms Trade

Paul Viotti, American Foreign Policy

Thomas G. Weiss, Humanitarian Intervention

Peace Operations



Copyright © Paul F. Diehl & Alexandru Balas 2014
The right of Paul F. Diehl & Alexandru Balas to be identified as Authors of this Work has been asserted in accordance with the UK Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
First edition published in 2008 by Polity Press
This edition published in 2014 by Polity Press
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ISBN-13: 978-0-7456-8419-2
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List of Figures and Tables
1  Introduction
2  The Historical Evolution and Record of Peace Operations
3  The Organization of Peace Operations
4  The Success and Failure of Peace Operations
5  Ten Challenges for Future Peace Operations
Appendix: Peace Operations 1948–2012
References and Suggested Readings

List of Figures and Tables

Figure 1.1   Phases of conflict
Figure 2.1   Ongoing peace operations (by year)
Figure 4.1   The decision template
Table 1.1    Traditional peacekeeping vs. military operations
Table 2.1    Peace operations by decade
Table 2.2    Total peace operations by region
Table 2.3    Total peace operations by agency type
Table 3.1    Specific organizing agencies of peace operations
Table 3.2    Organizational forms of peace operations
Table 3.3    Peace soldiers in selected ongoing operations, 2012
Table 3.4    Financial cost of selected ongoing operations, 2012
Table 4.1    Illustrative mission goals: violence abatement and restoration, reconciliation, and transformation



Throughout most of the history of the modern state system (post 1648), and even before, the primary mechanisms to deal with violent conflict were limited. Diplomacy was always an option, albeit underutilized, and negotiated agreements between states occurred. Too often, however, diplomacy was more effective in ending a war than in preventing one. More commonly, coercive instruments were the primary mechanisms used by states to deal with threats to peace and security. Strategies based on deterrence, alliance formation, and the direct use of military force were how individual states sought to preserve their security and promote their interests.

In the twentieth century, diplomacy and coercion remained the most prominent tools for foreign policy decision-makers, but the rise of international organizations expanded the range and form of options. Among the most notable was the development of peacekeeping, a novel use of soldiers in non-traditional roles coordinated most often by international organizations rather than national governments. Peacekeeping has gradually evolved to encompass a broad range of different conflict management missions and techniques, which are incorporated under the term “peace operations.”1

This book provides an overview of the central issues surrounding the development, operation, and effectiveness of peace operations. How did peace operations evolve out of more coercive uses of military forces? When did traditional peacekeeping missions give way to more expansive peace operations? Chapter 2 provides a historical narrative on peace operations, beginning in earlier centuries and, most importantly, noting the dramatic changes in conflict management with the creation of the League of Nations. The chapter also provides an overview of early peace operations – traditional peacekeeping during the Cold War and the panoply of missions since the early 1990s. Patterns across time and space are noted and explained. Peace operations are not deployed to all conflicts in the world. Accordingly, the latter part of this chapter summarizes the empirical findings on the conditions for when and where peace operations are deployed, as well as the factors that affect how long they last.

Who organizes peace operations, and how are they managed? Peace operations are now organized by different agencies and with a variety of operational arrangements. Chapter 3 describes the different kinds of organizational schemes. The discussion includes an analysis of the relative advantages and disadvantages of having a peace operation organized by the United Nations (UN), regional organizations, multinational groupings, and other institutional arrangements. Peace operations are generally organized on an ad hoc basis, and the process for supplying personnel and funding the operations is also discussed. Few analysts would argue that such arrangements are optimal, but political and other constraints necessitate this system. Special attention is given to so-called multiple simultaneous peace operations, or MSPOs, in which more than one agent is involved in a given peace operation or set of operations (Balas 2011a). The chapter also provides a description and assessment of various alternatives to the present methods of organization and financing.

What does it mean for peace operations to be successful, and what conditions are associated with such success? Chapter 4 discusses different criteria and operational indicators according to different stakeholders in the conflict – the disputants, the local population, the organizing agency, and the international community. The bulk of the chapter is devoted to summarizing research on peace operation effectiveness, dividing the causal factors into operational (e.g., mandate), contextual (e.g., civil vs. interstate conflict), and behavioral (e.g., behavior of third parties) influences.

What is the future of peace operations? They have evolved over the last almost seventy years in large part as a result of changing conflict conditions and as decision-makers have learned from past mistakes. The concluding chapter looks at the emerging conflict trends and identifies ten challenges for peace operations in the twenty-first century, with special attention to their implications and the possible policy choices to address them.

Before addressing these questions, it is necessary to define the scope of this study. The term “peace operations” may seem obvious, and most people will have the shared image of a blue-helmeted soldier in mind when they hear the term. Yet peace operations encompass a variety of different phenomena, and such distinctions may be critical for the kind of policy choices that the international community must make.


Discussions of peace operations are notorious for their conceptual muddles. It is common for the terms “peacekeeping,” “peacebuilding,” “peace enforcement,” “peacemaking,” and a host of other terms to be used interchangeably. NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, General John Craddock, expressed it well: “Peacekeeping is a very ambiguous term.”2 Indeed, the United Nations labels a broad set of operations over time as “peacekeeping,” implying similar attributes when in fact there are dramatic differences among the operations covered under this umbrella.

Elucidating the conceptual distinctions between different kinds of peace operations is essential for understanding how these have changed over time, and ultimately for the practical limits to the success of those operations. A good starting point is using what might be called “traditional” peacekeeping (also referred to as “Cold War” peacekeeping) as a baseline category; most other forms of peace operations developed from this original conception. In defining traditional peacekeeping operations, a comparison with standard military operations is enlightening for indicating not only what traditional peacekeeping is, but also what it is not.

Traditional Peacekeeping

Traditional peacekeeping forces are deployed to a war-torn area in order to achieve several purposes. Most notably, they seek to limit the violent conflict that occurs in the area. The primary mechanism for this is the deployment of troops as an interposition or buffer force that separates the combatants following a ceasefire. These troops are multinational, coming usually from at least a dozen or more countries, and generally deploy under the leadership of the United Nations. As noted below, the size, rules of engagement, and military capacity of a peacekeeping force are insufficient to stop a determined party from attacking its opponent; Israeli forces quickly broke through peacekeeping lines (UNIFIL) in southern Lebanon during the 1982 invasion. How, then, do peacekeeping forces promote peace? By separating combatants at a physical distance, peacekeepers prevent the accidental engagement of opposing armies, thereby inhibiting small incidents that could escalate to renewed war. They also prevent deliberate cheating on ceasefire agreements, as violations can be more easily detected. The physical separation of the protagonists provides early warning of any attack and thereby decreases the tactical advantages that stem from a surprise attack. Renewed warfare in which the aggressor can be identified by the peacekeepers and in which peacekeepers are partly the target of that aggression is also likely to produce international condemnation. The costs in international reputation and possible sanctions, combined with the decreased likelihood of quick success, are designed to be sufficient to deter any attack (Fortna 2008).

Traditional peacekeeping is also predicated, at least in part, on promoting an environment suitable for conflict resolution. Peacekeepers do not engage in diplomatic initiatives themselves, although other personnel from the sponsoring organizations (e.g., the UN) may do so. Rather, they are thought to create the conditions conducive to the hostile parties resolving their differences (a claim that is evaluated in chapter 4). There are several rationales why intense conflict is deleterious to mediation and negotiation, and why a ceasefire promotes the conditions under which mediators can facilitate an agreement between the opposing sides. First, a cooling-off period, evidenced by a ceasefire, can lessen hostilities and build some trust between the protagonists. In times of armed conflict, leaders and domestic audiences become both habituated and psychologically committed to the conflict, and some segments of the population profit politically and economically from the fighting. Before diplomatic efforts can be successful, this process must be broken or interrupted, something in which peacekeepers can assist by maintaining a ceasefire.

Second, intense conflict puts domestic political constraints on leaders who might otherwise be inclined to sign a peace agreement. Negotiating with the enemy may have significant political costs during active hostilities. Calls for ceasefires or pauses in bombing attacks in order to promote negotiations and diplomatic efforts are consistent with this underlying logic. Of course, this presumes that hostilities harden bargaining positions and attitudes rather than leading to concessions by parties suffering significant costs. Third, and from a somewhat different vantage point, active conflict leads decision-makers to concentrate on those ongoing hostilities (a short-term concern), and therefore they will not place settlement issues (a longer-term concern) high on their agendas. That is, during heightened armed conflict, political and diplomatic attention will be devoted to the conduct of the fighting and, at best, to immediate conflict management issues such as securing a ceasefire. Fourth, that peacekeepers have been provided may signal to the disputants the willingness of the international community to commit additional resources to any settlement that would follow their deployment.

Table 1.1 Traditional peacekeeping vs. military operations
Dimension Traditional peacekeeping Military operations
Host state consent Yes No

Impartiality Yes No

Use of force Self-defense Offensive

Size Small Very large

Equipment Lightly armed Heavily armed

Differences with Military Operations As is evident from the strategy of traditional peacekeeping, such operations are significantly different from military ones. Yet peacekeeping and military missions differ on a number of other dimensions as well, as summarized in table 1.1.

Traditional peacekeeping operations are based on the so-called holy trinity: host-state consent, impartiality, and minimum use of force (Bellamy, Williams, and Griffin 2010). The first requirement is that peacekeeping forces must have the permission of the state on whose territory they will be deployed. Such permission can also be withdrawn, and peacekeepers must leave accordingly, as was the case with UN troops in the Sinai (UNEF I) just before the 1967 Arab– Israeli War when Egypt withdrew its permission. The idea that military forces in war would need the permission of the state against which they are fighting is, of course, absurd. Yet traditional peacekeeping forces rely on host-state consent, just as they rely on the cooperation of the combatants to maintain peace.

The second component, impartiality, indicates that the peacekeepers are not intended to favor one combatant over another; there is no designated aggressor, and the peacekeeping forces are to implement their mandate without discrimination. In contrast, military interventions are usually biased, as soldiers and equipment are sent to alter the balance of power in the conflict by supporting one actor against another. The third leg of the trinity, minimum use of force, refers to the rules of engagement permitted to peacekeeping soldiers. Peacekeepers are usually constrained to use military force only in self-defense. In contrast, military forces regularly employ offensive military tactics, and the level of force is theoretically constrained only by necessity and the rules of international humanitarian law.

Traditional peacekeeping operations are also noticeably different in their appearance from military ones. Peacekeeping forces are relatively small, with an average of fewer than 10,000 troops during the Cold War era. Military actions, such as the 500,000 troops in the first Persian Gulf War and the 150,000 American troops during the occupation of Iraq, are much larger. Consistent with differences in size, purpose, and rules of engagement, traditional peacekeeping units are lightly armed, typically with only rifles or side arms. Military units, especially those of the major powers, are equipped with advanced technology, including armored vehicles, missiles, and precision guided weapons.

For the Cold War period, the overwhelming majority of operations fitted the profile of traditional peacekeeping (see the development of peace operations in chapter 2). An example is the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP), in place since 1964. This changed with the end of the Cold War in the late 1980s and the proliferation of new peace operations. With this, host-state consent, impartiality, and the use of force became less defining features than variables along continuums. So too did the terminology change, as what was covered under peacekeeping became quite expansive. Most prominent in the post-Cold War era has been peacebuilding.


There is not necessarily agreement among scholars and practitioners on the conceptual components of peacebuilding, and therefore it is impossible to specify a single, universally agreed upon definition. Nevertheless, there is some inter-subjective consensus on some of the relevant dimensions of peacebuilding operations. A useful place to begin is the definition put forward by then UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali (1995),3 the baseline conceptualization of all peacekeeping-related definitions used by scholars and poli-cymakers.4 Boutros-Ghali speaks of “peacebuilding” as the “creation of a new environment,” not merely the cessation of hostilities facilitated by traditional peacekeeping. His analysis and the analyses of other scholars seem to suggest a series of characteristics or dimensions by which peacebuilding can be compared with other concepts.

The first dimension concerns the goal(s) of peacebuilding. There is general agreement that, minimally, the purpose of peacebuilding is to prevent the recurrence of conflict. Yet there is some disagreement over whether this idea of “negative peace” (the absence of violent conflict) should be extended to encompass elements of “positive peace,” including reconciliation, value transformation, and justice concerns. This distinction is critical, because virtually all differences in conceptualizations of peacebuilding can be traced back to disagreements on this point.

The second dimension of peacebuilding involves the strategies and accompanying activities designed to achieve the goal(s). Not surprisingly, these vary somewhat according to whether or not one pursues goals broader than preventing conflict recurrence. A minimalist strategy of preventing conflict recurrence adopts strategies consistent with conflict management. That is, peacebuilding is concerned partly with decreasing the opportunity to resort to violence, consistent with the purposes of traditional peacekeeping. Yet, some peacebuilding activities go beyond traditional peacekeeping, including disarming warring parties, destroying weapons, and training indigenous security personnel. Some peacebuilding conceptions are also dedicated to creating mechanisms whereby conflicts can be managed peacefully rather than through violence. Thus, facilitating elections, repatriating refugees, and strengthening government institutions are peacebuilding activities consistent with this strategy.

A broader conception of peacebuilding leads to somewhat different strategies and sets of activities. Some see peacebuilding as addressing the “root causes of conflict.” Minimalist conceptions expect conflict to occur but desire to manage it peacefully. In contrast, the maximalist strategy promotes not merely management but conflict resolution – that is, eliminating the “willingness” of parties to use violence. Accordingly, many peacebuilding activities are designed for attitudinal changes by disputants and their constituents. These include programs to promote economic development and human rights protection.

A third dimension concerns the timing of such activities. Most conceptions of peacebuilding envision its activities to occur following some type of peace settlement between warring parties. This is in contrast to other forms of conflict management. Preventive diplomacy and its accompanying actions are supposed to be put in place before significant levels of violence occur. Coercive military intervention takes place in the context of ongoing armed conflict. Traditional peacekeepers (e.g., the UNDOF force in the Golan Heights) are usually deployed after the cessation of violence but before any peace settlement (hence their primary roles as ceasefire monitors). Peacebuilding then takes places after prevention failed, after traditional peacekeeping (if it occurred), and after peacemaking (see discussion below on conflict phases).

There is an implicit assumption in peacebuilding that the existence of a prior war has fundamentally changed the relationship (and relative risk of future conflict) such that the strategies and activities pursued must be different; diplomatic initiatives alone are likely to be inadequate. Positive peace advocates note that there is no reason to confine peacebuilding activities to post-settlement, as many could be employed with positive results in earlier phases of conflict as well. They are certainly correct in this assertion, and indeed instances of such (e.g., KFOR actions in Kosovo) have occurred, but, in practice, peacebuilding conducted by international governmental organizations, is predominantly a post-war set of actions.

A fourth dimension is the context in which peacebuilding should be carried out. Boutros-Ghali (1995) envisions that it could occur following either interstate or intrastate conflict. De facto, however, most of the discussion of peacebuilding has assumed that it would be employed in a civil context, following an intrastate war or significant ethnic conflict, or even in a failed state. In practice, we should recognize that the distinctions between intrastate and interstate conflict break down when neighboring states intervene in civil conflicts, best illustrated by the Congo war starting in the 1990s.

The fifth and final dimension concerns the actors who will carry out the peacebuilding actions. As Pugh (2000) notes, peacebuilding seems to assume that external actors will play a significant, if not an exclusive, role in this enterprise. Again, an examination of the strategy and activities would not seem to preclude local actors, and indeed some elements (e.g., truth and reconciliation commissions) may be more successful when external actors are not the driving force. Also implicit in the peacebuilding notion is that such actors will act in an impartial fashion for the greater good of the society, exercising some moral authority rather than pursuing private interests. Normatively, most regard peacebuilding as an altruistic enterprise, but, as Pugh argues, such conceptions may still promote particular ideologies (e.g., democracy, neo-capitalism, and the like).5 Peacebuilding operations are confined largely to the post-Cold War era, and indeed most peace operations then have at least some peacebuilding components. Examples are the UN Operation in Burundi (ONUB), the UN Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET), and the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNIOGBIS).

Other Related Terms

In the course of studying peace operations, analysts are likely to come across other terms that may or may not be used in conjunction with such operations. For clarification purposes, several are worth noting. The terms “new peacekeeping” and “second-generation” peacekeeping generally refer to the first wave of post-Cold War peacekeeping operations that adopted certain missions beyond those associated with traditional peacekeeping (e.g., election supervision), including some now associated with peacebuilding (e.g., humanitarian assistance). “Robust” peacekeeping (also referred to as “muscular” peacekeeping) is often used to describe recent peace operations that involve more permissive rules of engagement, including the offensive use of military force to establish order.

At first glance, “peace enforcement” may appear to be an oxymoron, but generally it refers to missions in which soldiers undertake coercive missions (e.g., stopping armed hostilities). Peace enforcement differs from robust peacekeeping largely in degree, in that the former has greater military capacity and a mandate to prevent the renewal of warfare and to punish those responsible for such hostilities, and is thereby closer to a conventional military operation. Many of the terms that relate to specific peace operation missions are discussed more fully in the next section. Two other terms that appear in Boutros-Ghali’s book (1995) and that are part of the peace operation lexicon are “preventive diplomacy” and “peacemaking,” respectively. The former refers to a variety of efforts designed to prevent disputes from arising between actors or to deter their spread once they do occur. Peace operations may play a preventive role, but preventive diplomacy may more likely involve sending special representatives or negotiation teams to a region rather than deploying troops. Similarly, peacemaking involves a range of actions designed to promote a peace agreement or conflict resolution between hostile parties. Peace operations are not generally charged with that responsibility directly, and Boutros-Ghali specifically identifies other diplomatic and legal techniques to achieve this, including mediation and resort to international courts. As noted above, however, traditional peacekeeping is designed to influence the environment under which peacemaking occurs, even if it cannot impose conflict resolution directly. Finally, other, newer terms referring to specific types of peacekeeping activities (humanitarian intervention, human security, and responsibility to protect) are discussed in chapter 2.

Classifying Different Missions

During the Cold War era, peacekeeping missions could be classified largely by the political context of the disputes with which they dealt. Using a broad conception of peace-keeping and reviewing all operations before 1990, James (1990) classified these in four categories according to the relationship of the conflict to surrounding states. “Backyard Problems” were those that take place within the sphere of a major power. “Clubhouse Troubles” occur when a group of states organize an operation to deal with an “in-group” problem. “Neighbourhood Quarrels” are those conflicts that do not fall into the first two categories, remain largely localized, but do not reach the level of “Dangerous Crossroads,” which are those conflicts most prone to escalation and the greater involvement of external parties.

Nevertheless, they all roughly shared the same mandate or mission. Such operations were dedicated to being interposition forces (i.e., separating combatants) which performed ceasefire monitoring functions. Some peace observation missions were too small in number and were unarmed, and therefore did not necessarily function as a buffer between the disputants. Nevertheless, the passive monitoring of a temporary peace agreement was the hallmark of traditional operations.

One of the greatest changes in peace operations over the past decade has been the dramatic expansion in the number and types of tasks they might now be asked to perform. Yet, it is not always clear how different these new missions really are and what implications there might be for the success, and the factors affecting that success, of the mission.

Bellamy, Williams, and Griffin (2010) place operations within seven categories based largely on the broad goals of the operation. “Preventive Deployments” are designed to operate in the first phase of conflict (see below) in contexts in which there is a significant risk of armed conflict, but wide-spread violence has not yet occurred. Preventive peacekeeping operations are designed to forestall the outbreak of violence or prevent its spread from proximate states or areas in which it has already occurred. The United Nations Preventive Deployment Force (UNPREDEP) in Macedonia was put in place toward the end of the Bosnian civil war in order to stabilize this neighboring area. “Traditional Peacekeeping” is as described above, and the first UN Emergency Force (UNEF I) operation deployed to the Sinai in 1956 is the classic example.

“Wider Peacekeeping” occurs with the consent of the disputants, as does traditional peacekeeping, but there are a number of deviations from that conventional model. Wider operations occur during ongoing violence (primarily intrastate), involve broader and often changing sets of tasks (e.g., humanitarian aid, protecting civilians), and require greater coordination with non-governmental organizations (NGOs). The United Nations Protection Force (UNPROFOR) in Bosnia is cited as an example. “Peace Enforcement” refers to missions that are designed to be proactive and authorized under Chapter VII of the UN Charter. These resemble collective or multilateral security operations (e.g., UN actions during the Korean War), with significant use of military coercion to restore peace and redress aggression. Some might argue that such missions do not fall under the peace operation rubric, but Bellamy and his colleagues cite the first United Nations Operation in Somalia (UNOSOM I) as having elements of this kind of operation.

“Assisting Transitions” includes cases in which peace operations help facilitate the change from war to peace, and these are usually carried out in the context of a peace settlement agreement. They rely on the same three components (consent, impartiality, and minimum use of force) as traditional peacekeeping but involve more complex tasks such as election supervision. The UN Transitional Authority in Cambodia, or UNTAC (1992–3), which helped conduct democratic elections after the end of an internationalized civil war, is an example. Similar functions are carried out by “Transitional Administrations,” but there are a number of notable differences. In contrast to assistance missions, these operations involve the temporary assumption of sovereign authority and government functions, as well as the imposition of peace through military force with robust rules of engagement; these administration missions therefore do not follow the aforementioned “holy trinity” principles. Thus far, such operations have been confined to small geographic areas, as evidenced by the UN Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET).

Finally, “Peace Support Operations” are multidimensional missions with a substantial civilian component. In many ways, these are what have been referred to as peacebuilding operations, with greater emphasis on the use of necessary force and a variety of different mission tasks. NATO’s Implementation Force (IFOR) operation in Bosnia, starting in 1995, is listed as an example.

Even accepting such categories does not mean that operations are homogeneous, and indeed some operations mutate over their lifetimes, taking on several different missions. For example, Talentino (2004) divides peacebuilding operations into three categories: limited, extensive, and nation-building. She seems to make such distinctions based on the operation’s enforcement powers, scope of reform activities, timing of deployment, and degree of control over the local government machinery. Empirically, peacebuilding operations vary substantially by mandates and functions according to the kinds of conflicts with which they are asked to deal and the specific contextual needs where they are deployed.

How similar or different are the missions performed within these categories? Diehl, Druckman, and Wall (1998) sought to measure the degrees of difference between missions. They examined twelve different peace missions across twelve different dimensions suggested by the scholarly literature and peacekeeping experts; among such dimensions were the level of control over the conflict, the ease of mission exit, and the clarity of goals.

The way in which the missions are grouped or clustered in the space indicates similarities that serve to reduce the twelve missions to fewer, more general types. Using traditional peacekeeping as a point of reference, four other distinct groupings are apparent. Election supervision, arms control verification, and observation are grouped together; these missions have in common a monitoring function and are relatively passive. Two missions are intended to limit damage to conflicting societies: humanitarian assistance and preventive deployment. Four missions have the function of restoring countries to functioning civil societies: protective services, intervention in support of democracy, pacification, and state-/nation-building. Two missions distant from traditional peacekeeping are combat-oriented coercive (or offensive) missions: sanctions enforcement and collective enforcement.

Placing missions in different groups is not merely a classificatory exercise. There are implications for how we analyze, evaluate, and train for peace operations. First, we know that many peace operations undertake multiple missions either simultaneously or sequentially. For example, UNPROFOR in Bosnia had multiple missions with different characteristics: arms control verification, humanitarian assistance, and some collective enforcement. Some problems might arise when a peace operation assumes functions that are fundamentally incompatible with one another in terms of the roles, attributes, and behaviors used in the classification. For example, intervention in support of democracy, in which peacekeepers assume primary-party roles in the conflict, may be difficult to achieve simultaneously with another mission that casts peacekeepers as third-party mediators. The local population or the combatants may also have difficulty in deciding whether to cooperate with peace soldiers when they perform divergent and seemingly contradictory missions, such as humanitarian assistance and pacification.

In addition there are important implications for how we understand and account for success in peace operations. Different types of missions might be evaluated with different criteria. For example, monitoring missions might be assessed by their ability to limit armed conflict, whereas emergency missions could be measured by their effect on local populations (see chapter 4 for a full discussion on how to evaluate peace operations). In a related fashion, different factors may account for success or failure across missions, and therefore the “lessons” that one draws from analyzing peace operations may be misguided unless one accounts for these. For example, many analysts have attempted to generalize from US problems in Somalia (UNITAF) or the UN failure in Rwanda (UNAMIR) to future operations, but the implication here is that such attempts may lead to incorrect policies, and ultimately failure, unless the types of missions are the same.

Locating Peace Operations in Different Conflict Phases

Another way to classify and compare peace operations is by the timing of the intervention of troops in the conflict situation. The timing of third-party intervention is thought to be a key component for conflict management success, although exactly when a conflict is “ripe” for settlement is poorly defined or specified. Cold War peacekeeping was generally characterized by deployment following a ceasefire between disputants but before a final resolution (often indicated by a peace treaty or agreement for elections). More recent operations have broadened the range of choice for when to intervene. Roughly, there are four different “phases” in which peacekeepers might be initially deployed: pre-violence, during armed conflict, after a ceasefire, and following a peace agreement. Each has different implications for the conduct and success of a peace operation. The timing of deployment is correlated with mission type, as certain operational tasks presume one or more of the four conflict phases being present (see figure 1.1). The timing of intervention is partly within the control of the authorizing agency, but (1) not all conflicts proceed through all phases or do so in a linear fashion, and (2) the timing of deployment may depend on issues of host-state or disputants’ consent.

Figure 1.1 Phases of conflict

Peace operation deployment in the pre-armed conflict phase, sometimes referred to as “preventive deployment,” involves sending troops in anticipation of conflict escalation. The purpose of such forces is to deter violence in the area of deployment and provide a trip-wire that lessens the value to preemptive attacks. Preventive deployments may also implicitly suggest that purpose of such forces is to deter violence in the area of deployment and provide a trip-wire that lessens the value of preemptive attacks. Preventive deployments may also implicitly suggest that, if armed attacks do occur, the organizing agency will respond with greater use of force to stop the conflict or punish the aggressor.

There is strong normative appeal to preventive deployments. If they can deter armed attacks, the local citizenry clearly benefit the most. Widespread killing, waves of refugees, and dislocations of the economy are avoided. At the macro-level, preventing violent conflict may make it easier to promote conflict resolution in the long run, as the increased hatred and mistrust from war are avoided and the consequences of the armed conflict do not have to be factored into potential settlements. Thus, from a policymaking perspective, early intervention is most desirable. Nevertheless, pre-violence deployment presumes a well-developed and effective early warning system that permits the accurate prediction of when and where armed conflict is likely, and therefore when and where soldiers should be deployed. Unfortunately, such a system does not yet exist, and there are significant barriers to its adoption. Furthermore, even given accurate early warning, there is the presumption that the international political will to act on such information also exists. Yet states may be offended by being labeled as sites for potential armed conflict (especially involving internal conflict), and there are serious sovereignty issues raised by preventive deployments. In addition, organizations such as the UN or others are notoriously crisis-driven, and it is difficult to muster political support and resources for problems that are not yet fully manifest. The United Nations Preventive Deployment Force (UNPREDEP) is the only true empirical example of preventive deployment. The purpose of UNPREDEP, which was essentially an offshoot mission of UNPROFOR in Bosnia, was to monitor and report any developments in the border areas and deter the spread of conflict into the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. To its credit, the expansion of the Bosnian conflict was avoided.

Intervention during the second conflict phase, while military hostilities are ongoing, is perhaps the most risky. A traditional peacekeeping force is generally ill-equipped to be thrust into the middle of active hostilities; it usually does not have the capacity to suppress military conflict and may even be limited in its ability to defend itself. A variety of missions might be performed during this phase, with pacification being the most obvious. Yet, peace operations might also provide humanitarian assistance or protect threatened populations during armed conflict. Deployment in this phase has been very rare in interstate conflicts but represents a significant portion (20 percent) of peace operations in civil wars (Wallensteen and Heldt 2008).

Most prominently, UN peacekeepers attempted to intervene during active fighting in Somalia (UNOSOM II) and Bosnia, and African Union (AMIS) forces have tried to discourage genocide in Sudan. By most standards, these efforts were a failure. The peacekeepers were unable to stop the fighting, were involved in several nasty incidents themselves, and ultimately were withdrawn well short of their goals. Certainly, the operations can be given credit for delivering humanitarian assistance to needy populations in a few cases, although it is unclear whether NGOs might have been equally or more effective in those tasks.

The most familiar timing of deployment is following a ceasefire but before resolution of the underlying disputes between the hostile parties. This is traditional peacekeeping deployment. As noted in the presentation on traditional peacekeeping above, the primary mission in this phase is the maintenance of a ceasefire. Yet, certain other missions, including working with the local population to open transit points and to provide relief services, are possible as well. Many traditional missions fit this profile, including the UNFICYP operation, in place since 1964. This indicates that some conflicts may never, or at least only very slowly, move beyond this third phase.

The world community may no longer wait for conflicts to reach this third stage before considering peacekeeping deployment. Yet it is clear that ceasefires are a high priority when intervening in the previous conflict phase, and a peace operation may rapidly move from phase 2 (fighting) to phase 3 (ceasefire). Unfortunately, as the Bosnian (UNPROFOR) and Liberian (ECOMOG) experiences demonstrate, it is quite possible to oscillate back and forth between these two phases. It may be more desirable for peace operations to occur after a ceasefire, but clearly the costs of waiting may be high, and there is no guarantee that ceasefires will be negotiated, much less hold once in place.

The final phase of conflict, after a peace settlement is achieved, is in some ways the optimal time for peacekeepers. Yet one must remember that the combatants and the world community may have had to struggle through the other three phases to reach this point. Peace operations may supervise democratic elections and facilitate the implementation of peace agreements. Those in Cambodia (UNTAC) and Namibia (United Nations Transition Assistance Group, UNTAG) are examples of operations that led to free and fair elections, with participation rates well above projections and disruptions below what might have been expected. The Multinational Force and Observers (MFO) in the Sinai have also monitored troop pullbacks and the return of territory stemming from peace agreements between Egypt and Israel.

Peace operations after conflict resolution, however, are by no means foolproof. Some agreements, such as the Dayton Accords for Bosnia, are far from comprehensive agreements. Peace operations in those contexts (e.g., SFOR) may find themselves closer to phase 3 than in an endgame situation. Peace agreements are also not a guarantee of the parties’ commitment to the peace process, as evidenced by the Sudanese government’s behavior with regard to Darfur. The latest waves of democratization and ethnic conflicts starting in the early 1990s have produced more opportunities for peace operations in this phase; intrastate conflicts and international interventions in said conflicts have constituted the primary threats to international peace and security in the last several decades (Human Security Report Project, 2012). Yet the debacles in Somalia and Bosnia have made states reluctant to assume long-term tasks in nation-building and other post-settlement missions. Finally, initial success may disappear in the long run, after or sometimes even before the peace operations have ended. Democratic elections in Cambodia and Angola have not promoted peace in the long run, no matter how well peacekeepers did their jobs. Indeed, the latter stages of the fourth phase might be conceptualized as the beginning of phase 1, as stability needs to be maintained and is subject to the potential for future conflict (Schnabel 2002).

Peace Operations’ Place in Conflict Management and Resolution

Conflict management generally refers to the mitigation of conflict such that its most violent and undesirable consequences are avoided; issue differences and accompanying hostilities between the protagonists may still exist. In contrast, conflict resolution signifies that the disputants have resolved their differences, with little likelihood of future hostilities, violent or otherwise, over stakes that were previously the source of conflict. Peace operations are only one among many strategies designed to promote conflict management and resolution.

In understanding peace operations, it is useful to consider how they relate to other conflict management and resolution strategies. First, peace operations are not necessarily mutually exclusive with respect to those strategies. Indeed, peace operations are sometimes designed to work synergistically with those other approaches. Second, a comparison of strategies is useful for understanding how peace operations might differ in assumptions and execution from other strategies.

Peace operations are predicated on, or at least consistent with, a number of assumptions common to a philosophy of the peaceful settlement of disputes (see Claude 1971). Most notably, the peaceful settlement of disputes presumes that the parties would rather (1) settle a dispute rather than not, and (2) do so without violence. There are circumstances, of course, in which domestic political interests are served by the continuation of conflict, but most disputants do wish to resolve disagreements; the problem is not usually with the willingness to settle but with the conditions of any such settlement. The preference for settlement without violence is based on risk and costs; leaders are thought to be rational, in that they prefer an outcome without the costs of combat over one following a war. Peace operations, especially traditional peacekeeping, typically assume that the parties want peace – many peace missions depend on the cooperation of the parties to maintain ceasefires, to conduct free and fair elections, and to undertake other tasks.