Many who oppose Canada’s role in Afghanistan say we should not be there since it is not a "Peacekeeping" mission. Canadians cling to the myth of peacekeeping without any real understanding of the origins and nature of UN (or Pearsonian) peacekeeping. This lack of understanding is leading to unrealistic expectations of what can or should be done in Afghanistan and elsewhere, or even why Canadian troops should be deployed at all. This confusion on the part of the Canadian public, press and politicians is dangerous; dangerous in preventing us from protecting and promoting our national interests, and dangerous to the brave men and women who serve. Confusion about our national purpose can lead to choosing the wrong aims for missions and selecting the wrong courses of action to achieve those aims. Perhaps worse, the enemy sees this confusion as evidence of a lack of will and may step up violent attacks against our service members in an attempt to break our will. Without a proper understanding of difference between traditional, Pearsonian peacekeeping and keeping the peace in the 21st century, we could spend our blood and treasure without achieving any useful result.
The condition that led to the invention of UN peacekeeping in 1948 by Ralph Bunche (United States) and Brian Urquhart (United Kingdom), was the emerging cold war. Bunche and Urquhart (and Canadian Foreign Minister Louis St Laurent, too) pursued a military/diplomatic strategy designed to dampen conflicts and focus our strength and attention on the main task of the Cold War: the containment and deterrence of the Soviet Union. The UN of the ‘50s was a creation and, essentially a creature of the liberal, democratic West; it was natural that it should be used to contain Soviet aggression. The first peacekeeping missions (Palestine (UNTSO, which is still working nearly 60 years later) and Kashmir, 1948) were all about containing or confining wars and insurrections to well defined areas far, far from Washington, London, Ottawa and Sydney. By preventing small conflicts from escalating, we could keep our attention on the things that mattered. Viewed this way, UN peacekeeping was a global "Economy of Force" mission designed to support the ultimate goal: victory over the Soviet Union.
Mike Pearson won a Nobel Prize for very adroit political and diplomatic stick-handling when he manoeuvred the 1956 UN Emergency Force resolution through the UN General Assembly while the Russians were otherwise occupied. UNEF was a fine example of classical peacekeeping as an economy of force operation in the interest of the West. UN peacekeeping was a legitimate response to small-scale regional crises in the bipolar, nuclear tipped world of the ‘50s through to the ‘80s. It has, consistently, failed to live up to its early successes in and after the ‘90s. There are many reasons for this, beyond the post cold war new world order, including:
• Bureaucratic ineptitude of the highest (worst) possible order at UN HQ in New York;
• Lack of support by OECD countries - support levels worsen as UN missions fail again and again due, in some measure, to a lack of support; and
• The ‘peace’ is, too often, not there to be kept, in the first place. Peacemakers are required before peacekeepers can do their good works. The UN has shown even less aptitude to make peace.
With the fall of the Soviet Union, the need for classical, Pearsonian, UN peacekeeping disappeared. With no enemy offering a military threat in sight, many in the West felt it was possible to stand down the military machine and cash in a "peace dividend", without looking at the effects of the disintegration of the Soviet Empire on its former possessions and colonies. The emergence of many small, distributed threats growing in the anarchy that followed the fall of the Soviet Union requires a response, not the same sort of response as facing down a nuclear armed adversary, but a response none the less. Traditional peacekeeping failed miserably in the Balkans and in the African crises of the mid-90s and has all but disappeared as a result. One only need look at the efficiency of the UN mission in the Congo to see how little has changed. The alternative is what has worked - intervention by NATO or similar UN-authorized coalitions in peace support and security and stability operations.
Canadian soldiers are operating, keeping the peace as we now understand it, in the far corners of the earth in peace support, security and stabilization operations in an effort to end anarchy, restore the rule of law and, thereby, enhance our own security. This is a long-term job, and requires hard work, not only by soldiers to provide security, but also by government development agencies and diplomats who work to build and sustain these new pockets of stability as part of the "3D" approach.
Canada is spending domestic and international political capital, treasure and lives in Afghanistan in an operation which serves two overwhelming vital interests:
• Preventing Afghanistan from falling back into enemy hands (the Taliban made Afghanistan available to al Qaeda which has declared itself our (Canada’s) enemy); and
• Sending a message to other countries or regions inclined to give groups such as al Qaeda a ‘home’ that to do so is to invite action by nations including Canada, in pursuit global and national security interests.
Canadians need to be aware of what needs to be done to secure our peace and prosperity and to bear a full and fair share of the burden of bringing peace and security to a troubled world.
For situations which do not directly affect our national interests, such as Darfur, we should pursue diplomatic ways and means to bring about peace and security - for Darfur, indeed, to all of Africa and the world. We should do this as members of an American led Western team in the UN and, perhaps more importantly, outside of that contentious body. We cannot and should not attempt unilateral action – we may be a leader but we are not a superpower.
The Ruxted Group recommends that Canadian political leaders and opinion makers focus, clearly and carefully, on the existing mission in Afghanistan. They must affirm and reaffirm, for Canadians, the goals of that mission. We should prepare our citizens and our military for ten, twenty or even thirty more years of tough soldiering in that unfortunate country to achieve our goals. By understanding that Pearsonian peacekeeping is no longer the best tool for Canada or the UN, Canada can and should play a lead role in keeping the peace in the 21st century – serving and protecting our own national interests wherever and whenever necessary; recognizing that our national interests are global in nature and they can be found in the dusty streets of Kandahar as well as in Toronto and Vancouver.
The Ruxted Group on : Ignorance, dishonesty and Canada’s mission in Afghanistan
Over a year ago The Ruxted Group explained that ‘traditional’ (Pearsonian) UN Peacekeeping is in decline because the conditions (a ‘bipolar’ nuclear standoff, etc) which made it a good idea have been superseded by new conflict models. Nearly six months a
The Ruxted Group on : The Truth About Peacekeeping
The Truth About Peacekeeping The Globe and Mail cites a poll which finds 65% of Canadians (nearly 70% in Ontario) “believe their role on the world stage is more suited to peacekeeping than as enforcers of peace.” According