Halifax, Canada — Nearly 65 years after then-Prime Minister of Canada Lester Pearson received the Nobel Peace Prize for launching the first United Nations peacekeeping mission, his country – long proud of its role in subsequent missions – The U.S. has only a few dozen remaining peacekeepers stationed around the world.
This is down from a record 3,300 Canadian soldiers deployed in peacekeeping operations in the early 1990s, part of a broader trend that Canadian military experts attribute to the changing nature of conflict in the post-Cold War world.
United Nations peacekeeping is “going out of fashion,” says Major Tim Dunne, a retired public affairs officer in the Canadian Armed Forces who was deployed in several peacekeeping missions beginning in the 1970s and currently in Canadian Global Affairs. He is a Research Fellow with the Institute.
Until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Dunne tells VOA, most global conflicts were driven by competition between the United States and the Soviet Union, creating the need for a fair military to stand between them.
But, he says, most modern conflicts – whether in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Rwanda during the 1990s or in Syria and Iraq today – are too messy and chaotic for older models of peacebuilding to work.
“The factors allowing for effective peacekeeping are no more,” Dunne says. “You don’t have the same factions that allow the easy creation of a ceasefire. You get into other kinds of conflicts.”
It is not only Canada that has second thoughts about the value of UN peacekeeping, which currently supports only 13 missions, seven of which are in Africa.
“Another case you might consider is the Sahel,” says Emily Estelle of the American Enterprise Institute in Washington. She points to the lack of public support in Western countries for the costly and sometimes dangerous missions.
“France leads the counter-terrorism mission in Mali, but due to domestic pressure and the upcoming election, is working to reduce its involvement and end the mission,” Estelle said in a telephone interview. “This is in line with what we’ve seen in Canada and the US,” she says.
Estelle points to the conflicts of the African Union mission in Somalia as another example.
“Overall, the lack of support for peacekeeping in the West is spreading to sub-Saharan Africa,” she says. “Neither Malian nor Somali forces have been able to fill the gap left by peacekeepers and other foreign forces when they retreat.”
Charlie Herbert, a former senior NATO adviser to the Afghan Interior Ministry and a former director at the United Kingdom’s Defense Academy, points to the success of military power in overthrowing rogue regimes such as Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and Moammar Gaddafi’s Libya. Later struggles to stabilize those nations.
“It is hard to imagine that any Western nation is committed to a discretionary ‘war of choice’ over the next decade or two, and with both a rising China and a resurgent Russia challenging the rules-based international order, it Perhaps inevitable given the greater resistance and more traditional models of competition once a NATO nation,” he says.
“Operations in the so-called ‘grey zone’ and hybrid warfare have become the lexicon of 2020 the way COIN [counterinsurgency] and whistle [counterterrorism] The thinking dominated the early years of this century. “
Herbert was referring to unconventional warfare and conflicts that stemmed from war.
In Canada’s case, the country’s long-standing commitment to UN peacekeeping operations has largely been replaced by involvement in NATO missions such as its participation in coalitions that have led Islamic State extremist groups in Iraq and Syria. defeated, and the NATO mission is now winding down in Afghanistan.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s administration has promised to commit more troops and police to international peacekeeping, but the proposed number remains only in the hundreds.
According to Herbert, Britain is also showing some interest in the revival of UN peacekeeping, which it sees as a reaction to the decision to pull NATO forces out of Afghanistan.
“The withdrawal from Afghanistan marks the end of an era, and for now the end of permanent stabilization works in distant places,” says Herbert. “It provides an opportunity for all Western countries to reconsider the use of their military as an instrument of their foreign policy.
“In the UK, for example, it has been a catalyst for reinvestment in high-end UN peacekeeping operations, following the hiatus of the entire Iraq and Afghan wars. The UK commitment to MINUSMA – the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Mali – peacekeeping operations An interesting and positive example of NATO member reinvestment in the
It remains to be seen whether other Western countries will follow London’s lead.