More the pen, not the sword needed for peacekeeping

June 30, 2000|By Jack Seymour

WASHINGTON -- It should be clear by now that a major flaw in peacekeeping operations has been the failure to plan for and invest in the peace that must follow a military intervention.

Haiti, Somalia, Rwanda, Bosnia, Kosovo, East Timor, Sierra Leone -- the list goes on. U.S. interventions in this new era, with their ongoing political, economic, and humanitarian ramifications, pose new problems for Americans. When the United States has reluctantly deployed its forces, as in Bosnia or Kosovo, there has been early and heavy emphasis on "exit strategy." That is, how soon can we bring them home?

Last fall, Gen. Wesley Clark, who led the military campaign for Kosovo, spoke of NATO's future challenges, wondering "why our societies seem able to mobilize support for the military" but have so much difficulty "mobilizing support for the civilian side [of peacekeeping operations]."

The military focus has been widely visible in coping with the violent disintegration of Yugoslavia. But military is only half of the equation; the United States and its partners have found it difficult to do the low-tech, long-term work of patching together or restoring a society after conflict.

Failure in the civilian role of peacekeeping operations has become endemic in Haiti, Somalia, Bosnia, East Timor, Kosovo. In post-Dayton Bosnia, for example, there emerged a "public security gap," that is, inability to field sufficient paramilitary police units to reinforce neighborhood police and lift an unwanted burden from regular military forces.

What is needed are specialized units trained and equipped for riot control, defusing roadblock situations, criminal investigation, police intelligence and similar duties. There also emerged a less-talked about deficiency of resources to operate a judicial penal system while assisting local authorities to build one for themselves. Without such a system, suspects cannot be prosecuted and imprisoned.

Today, in Kosovo and elsewhere, these same deficiencies appear. Even one year into the United Nations mission in Kosovo, the agreed level of 4,500 police has not been met, and those in place are overwhelmed with homicides alone.

Beyond restoring security lies the matter of rebuilding society. This means forming local governments, providing services such as garbage collection, transport and, in the aftermath of trauma, psychological counseling, reunification of families, return of refugees, restitution of property, home building, restoration of water, energy, and many other services. Funding and organizing to meet those needs quickly are critical.

Yet, in contrast to the great effort and close attention devoted to military operations, the international community has approached the civilian side of the equation, seemingly, on a pick-up basis. Priority and resources have simply not gone to ensure the planning, organizing, training and funding necessary to carry out rapid and sufficient deployment of civilian assets.

Inability to mobilize support for the civilian side of peacekeeping is surprising in that the costs are not great, especially when compared to military expenditures. Analysts at the British American Security Information Council, a non-profit group, estimate that the annual cost of maintaining a civilian force of up to 15,000 people is between $1.5 billion and $2 billion.

There is hope, however. The U.S. government is improving efforts to train police and build criminal justice systems abroad and to overcome the fragmentation of governmental responses to humanitarian emergencies. The United Nations has launched a major review of its entire peacekeeping function for completion this fall.

The European Union and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) are working out different plans to provide, rapidly, a whole range of civilian services from conflict resolution and mediation of disputes, to human rights monitoring, emergency search and rescue, medical assistance and policing. EU leaders agreed on June 20 in Portugal to establish a capability of sending 1,000 police in 30 days, and 5,000 overall to a crisis situation.

These initiatives, both European and U.S., deserve the support of the American people and Congress. Assisting recovery of conflict-ridden states by helping them restore law and order, provide normal societal services and build healthy political and economic systems promotes America's interests in global security.

Planning for peace by building an effective civilian response to crisis is the best exit strategy. It can enable military forces, American or international, to withdraw sooner after a job well done.

Jack Seymour, a senior fellow at the British American Security Information Council (BASIC), served in the State Department Office of Eastern European and Yugoslav Affairs and the Office of Central and European Affairs, with postings in Poland, Yugoslavia, Germany and the U.S. Mission to the European Union.

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