Royal Military College of Canada / Collège militaire royale du Canada

War Studies 508

International Peacekeeping


National Defence Headquarters, Ottawa, 2002/2003

Instructors: Dr. Walter Dorn and Dr. David Harries

Course Outline

This course examines the evolution of international peacekeeping with an emphasis on the role of the United Nations and other multilateral organizations. The political, strategic and tactical dimensions of peacekeeping are covered, drawing on the academic disciplines of history, political science, and social psychology, as well as experience in the field. The course reviews efforts to reform the conduct and improve the performance of international peacekeeping in light of recent experience, and promotes debate on its future.

Seminar, one 3 hr period per week (Two Terms)

Student Evaluation:

The course will be evaluated as follows:

10% Fall term presentation

15% Fall term minor paper (3,000-5,000 words, may be on same topic as presentation)

25% Fall term major paper (7,000-9,000 words)

10% Winter term presentation

15% Winter term minor paper (3,000-5,000 words, questions provided by faculty)

25% Winter term major paper (7,000-9,000 words)

Student presentations will start in week 4 of each term (October 1 and January 28). Minor papers are due in week 8 (October 29 and February 25) and major papers in week 13 (December 3 and April 1). Visits to the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) and the Department of National Defence (DND) Headquarters are planned.


Shawcross, William, Deliver Us from Evil: Peacekeepers, Warlords and a World of Endless Conflict, New York: Touchstone/Simon and Schuster, first edition, 2001.

United Nations, The Blue Helmets: A Review of United Nations Peacekeeping, third edition, New York: United Nations Department of Public Information, Third Edition, 1996.


Students are expected to read the lessons on the course Compact Disk (CD), which will be provided. Specific readings will be assigned during the course itself, taking into account student preferences. Wherever possible, the readings will be available electronically (e.g., on the Internet or on the course CD). The CD also includes an annotated bibliography with many recommended readings.

“While we differ widely in the various little pieces that we know, we are all alike in our infinite ignorance.”

- Bertrand Russell

“Even if you are on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.”

- Will Rogers

“There is a better way to do it. Find it.”

- Thomas Edison


Part I. The Nature of Peacekeeping

1. Introduction. A historical overview of peacekeeping will demonstrate the evolution of the practice and the widening roles given of peacekeepers. This process will be illustrated using images from past and present operations. Various definitions of peacekeeping and other relevant terms will be discussed. The disciplines that contribute to the study of peacekeeping will be reviewed, all within the context of the approaches that can be taken to prevent and manage conflict.

2. The Sponsors: International, Regional and Other Organizations. The United Nations is the primary sponsor of peacekeeping operations. However, some regional organizations (and coalitions and alliances) have followed suit. The structures and processes of the UN and various regional arrangements will be described. The pros and cons of using regional organizations to conduct peacekeeping will be considered, using examples from operations in the former Yugoslavia, Central America, Africa and Asia.

3. The Dynamics of Conflict and International Intervention. Peacekeeping will be situated in the larger field of conflict prevention, management and resolution. The possible causes, structures and dynamics of conflict will be presented, drawing on lessons learned and studies by Galtung, Mitchell, Kriesberg, Sandole and others. Both general and specific conflict timelines will be presented, as will various intervention strategies of third parties at different stages in escalating and declining phases of violence. Individually and collectively, students will analyse and map a variety of conflicts. As well, research methods for the study of peacekeeping will be presented.

Part II. The Evolution of Peacekeeping

4. 4. Precursors of “Peace Keeping”: Imperial Policing, Regionalism and Multinational Forces. Although the term "peacekeeping" became popular only in the 1960s, there are many historical antecedents and factors that have influenced the way we think and act in peacekeeping today. How did imperial powers keep the peace in their domains? Both peace studies and strategic studies have clear precursors in 19th and early 20th century thinking about the maintenance of peace and order. The Hague Conferences and the Red Cross Movement of the 19th century informed peace movements and international humanitarian impulses that became foundations of policy and practise in the 20th century. The efforts of European powers to preserve order on their periphery contributed to ideas about constabulary operations.

5. League of Nations Era Peacekeeping. The League of Nations was the precursor to the United Nations. Although it failed in its main objective – the prevention of a second World War, it did provided valuable guidance for the design of its successor. The League sponsored a number of missions that can be considered as peacekeeping. The experiences and lessons from a variety of peacekeeping operations of this era will be reviewed and compared with modern operations.

6. Observer Missions and the Soldier-Diplomat. Early observer missions and special UN commissions are set against the high early expectations of the UN system. Capability gaps that prevented the UN and its early missions from meeting expectations and fulfilling mandates are examined. Some observer missions did much more than observation; providing mediation and reconciliation, as well as supervision of agreements. There are definite limits to the utility of unarmed observer missions, but they can provide contribute significantly to conflict prevention and early warning.

7. UNEF: a New Form of Peacekeeping. Locating large numbers of armed peacekeepers between combatants was a new action which won great praise for the United Nations, its Secretary-General Dag Hammarskold and Canadian Foreign Minister Lester Pearson, after the Suez Crisis (1956). But it has great limitations, as was shown by the effects of the withdrawal of UNEF in 1967 and of other interpositional missions (e.g., in Cyprus and Bosnia) when caught in a cross-fire. The legacy and lessons of UNEF will be reviewed.

8. UNTEA – Forgotten Case of Transitional Administration. One of the first multidimensional peacekeeping missions was established in West New Guinea in 1962. It included a military force, observers, police, election monitors, and civil administration. UNTEA provides an example of the resort to the UN during the Cold War to ease the transition from colonial status. . It offers interesting contrasts with and lessons for transitional missions in Namibia, Cambodia, Central America, Kosovo and East Timor. Indeed, because of UNTEA’s results and the evolution of Indonesia and Papua since, the region may well host a future peacekeeping operation.

9. ONUC – Foreshadowing Modern Multidimensional Missions. The first UN mission to the Congo demonstrated the limits and legacy of force in peacekeeping , illustrated the problem with multiple mandates, exposed the variety of interpretations of “self-defence”, and provoked responses from the international community to UN attempts at conflict management, in a Cold War setting.

10. UNFICYP – Peacekeeping as Stagnation or Conflict Resolution? The UN mission in Cyprus (as with those in Lebanon and the Sinai) provides an excellent example of a buffer zone operation. An externally imposed military solution ensured that combatants could postpone indefinitely the necessary and sufficient political solution. Such peacekeeping can be a recipe for inertia (stagnation). New peacebuilding tools are needed to avoid and remove such this stagnation. Perhaps separation by force is not in the long-term common good.

11. Somalia A Humanitarian Force?. The UN and other missions in Somalia are, arguably, illustrations of the "humanitarian fallacy": How it is futile to intervene for “humanitarian” purposes if there is no framework for military security and political stability. Fallacy or not, important lessons about the co-ordination of military and humanitarian effort were learned in Somalia, many of which have since been applied (for better or worse) to missions elsewhere, and to academic and training programmes. Humanitarian action may contribute to peace and stability when short-term relief can be connected to and followed on by long-term sustainable development. The experience of NATO and the OSCE in the Balkans and the UN-authorised mission in East Timor provide case-specific conclusions about the appropriateness of humanitarian interventions.

12. UNTAC et al. – New Hopes for Managing Transitions. The history of multinational transitional missions since the end of the Cold War includes UN efforts in Namibia, Cambodia, and Eastern Slavonia (Croatia), Kosovo and East Timor. ONUSAL, ONUCA and MINUGUA in Central America, as well as several missions in Haiti might be also be considered as transition missions. Such operations have been most effective when they engaged the support of the principal domestic actors, integrated the efforts of different mission components, and promoted capacity-building to generate local independence.

Part III. Special Topics in Contemporary Peacekeeping

13. Balkan Peacekeeping – Bugger’s Muddle or Peacekeeping’s Future? At the Cold War’s end, when the hopes for peacekeeping were rising and a peace dividend was eagerly anticipated, a decade of the Balkan explosions provided the world with a laboratory for, arguably, every conceivable form of peacekeeping. The experiments were a "very mixed success." But, drawing lessons from the best and the worst experiences, the UN, NATO, and the OSCE are making progress, individually and collectively, within their organisations and the regimes and processes they put in place. Contributions to security sector reform and economic and social peacebuilding are being realized. But the process is slow and rough, and the experiment continues. Understanding that every case is different (and different possibly every day) is required to create the resources, processes and political will that can allow military and civilian peacekeepers to prevent and manage conflict.

14. Peacekeeping Technology and Engineering. Technology and engineering offer peacekeepers options and tools to expand the scope of their work, increase their performance. However, the manner in which the international community responds to each unique crisis, the variety and diversity of the resources pledged and allocated to each peacekeeping mission, and the huge differences in the engineering capacity, technical skills and best practises of individual peacekeepers render peacekeeping technology and engineering problematic. The “revolution in military affairs”, the increasing number and variety of NGOs in aid and development and the chaotic globalization of finance and business complicate the problems, especially in multi-dimensional, high-cost, multi-national missions under critical media scrutiny. Technology and engineering are vital tools but they can weaken peacekeeping if not wisely managed.

15. The “Business” of the Peacekeeping. Public and private businesses play a major and growing role in modern peacekeeping. The impact of developments and trends in business will be examined. The focus will be on three facts:

- the UN is a multi-billion dollar “business” continuously dealing with small, medium, large and trans-national companies in most of its member states. Increasingly the UN is partnering with business with the intent of improving structures and processes.

- business crime is global and growing. Crime obstructs peacekeeping and provokes conditions that peacekeeping attempts to prevent, mitigate and recover from.

- the increasing global recognition of human security means peacekeeping interfaces with all elements of civil society, particularly with businesses that are a key to poverty alleviation and a foundation of peace and stability.

16. Intelligence and Early Warning in Peacekeeping. Accurate and current information is vital for the management of a peacekeeping operation. Threats may exists both to the mission objectives and to the peacekeepers themselves. Early warning and preventive action requires a proactive approach to information gathering. But the UN cannot afford to engage in undercover operations and espionage. So the limits of "intelligence-gathering" activities need to clearly defined. In past and present peacekeeping operations, the UN has created dedicated information/intelligence units which have used a variety of means to gather information. The examples and lessons from past operations are helpful in defining the limits of intelligence in future operations.

17. The Future of Peacekeeping – Darkness or Lightness? Preparing for future international peacekeeping is a high-risk activity. Which scenarios, mission-types, conflict-forms should indicate the plans that are developed? What history is useful? Should peacekeeping be considered in terms of generations over time? Or should the dozens of past and continuing operations be considered as discrete examples? Perhaps, given the chaotic nature of conflicts since the Cold War, we should avoid the cost and effort of peacekeeping during and after conflict that may be inappropriate or insufficient, and focus much more on prevention, buttressed by the hope that, when prevention fails, the traditional, ad-hoc reaction will be at least minimally effective?

The assistance of Dr. David Last in preparing this course is gratefully acknowledged and much appreciated.