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The Army and Multinational Peace Operations: Problems and Solutions

Authored by COL William J. Doll. | November 1993

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Since current U.S. policy stresses multilateral peace operations, the military services are attempting to better understand this type of activity. To contribute to this process, the Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army College and the U.S. Army Peacekeeping Institute sponsored two roundtables in late 1993 which brought together experts from the strategic community. The first examined grand strategic issues; the second, problis of a regional combatant commander and the commander of the U.S. contingent of a multinational force. This is the report of the second roundtable.

Recent peace operations suggest a number of persistent problis:

  • · Dual loyalties, ulterior motives, hidden agendas, dual chains of command, and constrained terms of reference among the contingents in a multinational force;
  • · Weak understanding of Third World conflicts and wavering commitment on the part of the United States;
  • · The tendency of the United States to dominate a coalition once it is committed.

    The roundtable participants considered changes in attitudes the most pressing task for the Army. Leaders must understand and value peace operations. Most of the roundtable's recommendations for U.S. commanders in peace operations concern intellectual challenges:

  • · Seek clarity concerning endstates, capabilities,parameters, rules of engagement, procedures, and objectives.
  • · Coordinate and synchronize with other national military contingents, government agencies, nongovernmental organizations, and U.N. headquarters before and during a crisis. Encourage the development of combined doctrine, procedures, and training.
  • · Understand the conflict using new methods of conflict assessment and planning.
  • · Understand national contingent capabilities and leaders' personalities.
  • · Institutionalize staff experience with peace operations.

    Roundtable participants encouraged further analysis of key issues:

  • · Profile of successful multinational force commanders;
  • · The process of force structuring used by the UnitedNations;
  • · The notion of "stand off" peace operations;
  • · Techniques to assess the resolvability of a conflict or its ripeness for resolution;
  • · Adequacy of the Joint Strategic Planning Process for multinational peace operations.

    The roundtable focused on the concerns of a U.S. military commander anticipating near-term involvement in a peace operation. Full effectiveness, however, also depends on long-term changes. The ideas discussed at the roundtable suggest a program to improve Army support to multilateral peace operations. This would have four objectives:

  • · A healthy intellectual environment for improvements in understanding and capability;
  • · Assignment of top-quality personnel;
  • · Mature doctrine, planning procedures, and training;
  • · A holistic perspective.


    International cooperation to resolve crises can lessen the burden on the United States and disperse responsibility for global stability, thus leading to a more frugal national security strategy. Multinational peace operations, most under the aegis of the United Nations, have become one important form of such security cooperation. Current U.S. policy stresses multinational peace operations1. As a result, the military services are attempting to improve doctrine, training, and procedures. This first requires a deeper understanding of the problis associated with this type of activity.

    Traditionally, peace operations are not a strong suit of the U.S. Army. With great deliberation, the modern Army was designed for warfighting. Unit for unit and individual for individual, it is probably the most effective land combat force in history, a finely honed tool for the use or threat of violence. Given the inherent difficulties of preserving this proficiency in a time of declining resources, it is easy to see multinational peace operations as a distraction. They demand time and money needed to retain warfighting skill and post uncomfortable and difficult intellectual challenges. For some critics, it is simply unrealistic to expect a solider to be both effective warfighter and talented peacemaker.2

    Faced with these problis, many Army leaders might prefer to avoid multinational peace operations all together. Most, however, recognize their potential importance and are committed to increasing the Army's contribution. The key is preserving warfighting skill while augmenting effectiveness at peace operations. Warfighting and peace operations must not become alternatives but compatible and symbiotic techniques aimed at a common goal. To complete this union, Army leaders must fully understand peace operations, their potential and problis. This is not easy. Multinational peace operations themselves are changing rapidly, making old wisdom obsolete. Like any moving target, peace operations can be mastered, but only by deliberately developed skill.

    During the cold war, United Nations peacekeeping did help resolve conflicts, but only under special conditions.3 If the antagonists in a conflict were superpower clients or did not want outside intervention, the U.N. was helpless. For most Third World conflicts, staliate in the Security Council prevented U.N. action and limited peacekeeping to the periphery of the international system. Only the dogged determination of U.N. officials and nations such as Canada, Austria, Australia and the Scandinavian countries gave peacekeeping any utility at all.

    When the cold war ended, it seemed peacekeeping's utility would expand dramatically. As the United Nations successfully intervened in a spate of festering Third World conflicts, peacekeeping became a true growth industry. For every U.N. peacekeeping force deployed, there were two, three, or four other nations clamoring for multinational involvement. This change was also qualitative as traditional peacekeeping evolved into "second generation peace operations."4 While traditional peacekeeping was usually monitoring of a negotiated cease-fire or truce by a neutral multinational force, second generation operations-- championed by U.N. Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali-- included more intrusive actions such as coalition peace enforcement in violent environments and the attempted reconstruction of "failed states" facing what Andrew S. Natsios calls "complex humanitarian emergencies."5 Reflecting changes in the notion of national sovereignty, coercive international intervention will likely remain an important elient of the future security environment.6

    This expansion and evolution of peacekeeping initially spawned great expectations. Optimists, both within and outside governments, considered multinational peace operations a panacea for Third World conflict, a model for mature cooperative security, and the fruition of dreams spun by U.N. founders. But as rapidly as these dizzy expectations emerged, they were shattered by failure in the Balkans and Somalia. Suddenly, the world community questioned the effectiveness of multinational peace operations and the Clinton administration--initially an ardent advocate of a more active U.N.--took a second, more critical, look.7 With the demise of Secretary of Defense Les Aspin and the withdrawal of the nomination of Clinton confidant Morton Halperin to the post of Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Peacekeeping and Democracy, peace operations lost two of their strongest proponents.8 While calls for U.N. involvement persisted among the conflict-ridden nations of the Third World, support from the rest of the world faded and 1993 became, according to Madeleine K. Albright, the U.N.'s "summer of discontent."9

    Deflation of unrealistic expectations is often rapid and severe. This seems to hold for multinational peace operations. Driven by the horrors of Somalia and Bosnia, heady optimism disintegrated into debilitating pessimism.10 But, as is frequently the case, extremism is misguided; the truth lies somewhere between euphoria and disillusionment. We now need a sober, realistic, and balanced examination of multinational peace operations. The world must understand that they cannot solve all conflict, but can be a useful adjunct to diplomacy and humanitarian relief. The key is to both understand the limitations of multinational peace operations and improve their effectiveness. The U.S. Army must play a role in this. The question is: How?

    A full answer will take extensive study, debate and analysis. To contribute to this process, the Strategic Studies Institute and the U.S. Army Peacekeeping Institute brought together experts from the strategic community in two roundtables in late 1993. The first dealt with grand strategy, covering issues such as the future architecture of the international system and trends within the United Nations.11 The second discussed the concerns of a commander of a regional combatant command (CINC) supporting a multinational peace operation and the commander of the U.S. contingent of a multinational force. This is the report of the second roundtable.

    Participants came from within the government and outside it (a participant list is an appendix to this report). To facilitate the free flow of ideas, discussion was non-attribution. This report is not a verbatim transcript of the proceedings, but an attempt to capture the issues raised and suggest some conclusions.

    Conclusion: A Program For Action.

    As our post-cold war national security strategy coalesces, the United States may conclude that multinational peace operations are not as useful as they seemed in the heady days of the early 1990s. That is a decision for our top policymakers. Unless such a decision is made, the U.S. military should implient programs to maximize effectiveness and efficiency in multinational peace operations. As the service with the greatest traditional concern for peace operations, the Army should lead this process.21

    The roundtable focused on issues and actions of interest to a U.S. commander preparing for a peace operation next month or next year. We must also consider the future. Ultimate effectiveness and efficiency depends on a long-term program for action. As part of this, the U.S. military should dedicate itself to four objectives, all attainable within a 5-year period:

    A healthy intellectual environment. Senior leaders must take peace operations seriously. Skill and expertise--even if not the same as those required for warfighting--must be nurtured. Success in peace operations should be valued by promotion and command selection boards as much as success with large troop units. Peace operations must be debated throughout the military services, particularly within the Army. Healthy criticism of Army shortcomings should be encouraged. Creativity should be stressed rather than adherence to precedent. Peace operations should be exercised at the Army's combat training centers and form a vital part of the curricula of the military schools, from basic courses to the war colleges. Finally, the Army should actively and enthusiastically learn from other countries with experience in multinational peace operations.22

    Assignment of high quality personnel. Assignments involving peace operations should receive a high priority. Those who serve successfully in these positions should be rewarded. Care should be taken that only top quality officers and soldiers work on peace operations, whether in staff positions or in the field. A highly skilled senior officer should be responsible for development and implientation of this program for action. Various staffs including the Joint Staff, the Army Staff, and the staffs of the unified and specified commands should develop permanent peace operations planning cells.

    Mature doctrine, planning procedures, and training. Current doctrine--both Army specific and joint--is backward looking in that it focuses on traditional peacekeeping rather than second generation peace operations. It should be rebuilt from the ground up. The Army's FM 100-23 and Joint Pub 3-07.3 are good starts, but must be further developed. Planning procedures should imbue peace operations with the high degree of coordination required for success. These should be interagency as well as joint.23 Training for peace operations should occur at all levels, including senior staff. There should be a regular program ranging from tactical field training to high-level staff exercises or, for lack of a better word, wargames. The growing simulation and computer capability of the Army should be adapted to this. All training should be done in cooperation with other governmental agencies, nongovernment organizations, and other nations. Coordination should be a persistent characteristic of training, not a program. Since such training would create a new demand for scarce resources, a macro-level analysis should proceed any requirement to increase peace operations training.

    A holistic perspective. The military should take the lead in developing common perspectives and procedures with other government agencies and nongovernment groups. Even though not the lead organization in peace operations, the military does, through joint and combined efforts, have considerable institutional experience at complex cooperation. This is translatable to peace operations. A system of military liaisons or seconded officers should be developed to work with nonmilitary organizations and nongovernment groups. To cultivate these ties, there should be a coherently designed series of studies, publications, conferences, and symposia co-organized and coauthored by representatives of the military and nonmilitary organizations.

    Peace operations and warfighting may seem diametric. In fact, they are inextricably linked. The U.S. Army has long accepted the value of deterrence for avoiding full-scale war and preserving national security. It must now recognize that multinational peace operations fill the same role, and thus give them appropriate care and attention.


    1. R. Jeffrey Smith and Julia Preston, "U.S. Plans Wider Role In U.N. Peace Keeping," Washington Post, June 18, 1993, p. A1.

    2. For an explanation of this concern, see James H. Baker, "Peace Missions Dull the Army's Combat Edge," Army Times, December 6, 1993, p. 37.

    3. Traditional peacekeeping operations were usually established by the Security Council; directed by the Secretary-General; established with the consent of the antagonists in a conflict; impartial; staffed by military personnel provided by a number of member states on a voluntary basis; lightly armed; and, authorized to use force only in self defense (Geoff Forrester, "Peacekeeping at the Crossroads," in Hugh Smith, ed., Peacekeeping: Challenges for the Future, Canberra: Australian Defence Studies Centre, Australian Defence Force Academy, 1993. p. 3) . For descriptions and analysis, see William J. Durch, ed., The Evolution of U.N. Peacekeeping, New York: St. Martin's, 1992; Alan James, Peacekeeping and International Politics, London: Macmillan, 1990; Paul Diehl, International Peacekeeping, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1993; and Augustus Richard Norton and Thomas George Weiss, UN Peacekeepers: Soldiers With a Difference, Headline Series No. 292, New York: Foreign Policy Association, 1990.

    4. U.N. Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali established the policy framework for second generation peace operations. See Boutros Boutros-Ghali, An Agenda for Peace: Preventive Diplomacy. Peacemaking and Peace-keeping, Report of the Secretary-General pursuant to the statement adopted by the Summit Meeting of the Security Council on 31 January 1992, New York: United Nations, 1992; idem, "Empowering the United Nations," Foreign Affairs, Vol. 71, No. 5, Winter 1992/93, pp 89-102; idem, "An Agenda for Peace: One Year Later," Orbis, Vol. 37, No. 3, Summer 1993, pp. 323-332; and, idem, "Don't Make the U.N.'s Hard Job Harder," New York Times, August 20, 1993, p. A29. For analysis, see William J. Durch, The United Nations and Collective Security in the 21st Century, Carlisle Barracks, PA: U.S. Army War College, Strategic Studies Institute, 1993; Ronald J. Fisher, "The Potential for Peacebuilding: Forging a Bridge from Peacekeeping to Peacemaking," Peace and Change, Vol. 18, No. 3, July 1993, pp. 247-266; Marrack Goulding, "The Evolution of United Nations Peacekeeping," International Affairs, Vol. 69, No. 3, July 1993, pp. 451-464; John Mackinlay and Jarat Chopra, "Second Generation Multinational Operations," Washington Quarterly, Vol. 15, No. 3, Summer 1992, pp. 113-134; Michael Renner, Critical Juncture: The Future of Peacekeeping, Washington, DC: Worldwatch Institute, 1993; Thomas G. Weiss, ed. Collective Security in a Changing World, Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 1993; idem, "New Challenges for UN Military Operations: Implienting an Agenda for Peace," Washington Quarterly, Vol. 16, No. 1, Winter 1993, pp. 51-66; andDonald M. Snow, Peacekeeping, Peacemaking and Peace-Enforcement: The U.S. Role in the New International Order, Carlisle Barracks, PA: U.S. Army War College, Strategic Studies Institute, 1993.

    5. Andrew S. Natsios, "Food Through Force: Humanitarian Intervention and U.S. Policy," Washigton Quarterly, Vol. 17, No. 1, p. 130. On the distinction between second generation peace operations and peace enforcement, see Cathy Downes, "Challenges for Smaller Nations in the New Era of UN and Multinational Operations," in Smith, ed., Peacekeeping: Challenges for the Future, pp. 20-27.

    6. Thomas G. Weiss, "Intervention: Whither the United Nations?" Washington Quarterly, Vol. 17, No. 1, Winter 1994, pp. 109-128.

    7. David Rogers, "House Strips Pentagon Budget of Funds For Future Peacekeeping Operations," Wall Street Journal, October 1, 1993, p. 4; and Dick Kirschten, "Missions Impossible," National Journal, October 30, 1993, pp. 2576-2579.

    8. Stephen S. Rosenfeld, "Peace-Keeping: The Doctor Is Indisposed," Washington Post, January 14, 1994, p. A23.

    9. Madeleine K. Albright, "Measured Success at the United Nations," Washington Post, January 6, 1994, p. A27. For details on wavering global support for peace operations, see Geraldine Brooks, "Peacekeeping Missions of U.N. Are Pursued On a Wing and a Prayer," Wall Street Journal, December 28, 1993, p. A1.

    10. Paul Lewis, "Reluctant Warriors: U.N. Member States Retreat From Peacekeeping Roles," New York Times, December 12, 1993, p. 22; Brian Hall, "Blue Helmets," New York Times Magazine, January 2, 1994, pp. 19-29; and Richard Bernstein, "Sniping Is Growing at U.N.'s Weakness as a Peacekeeper," New York Times, June 21, 1993, p. A1. For detailed analysis of the potential shortcomings of multinational peace operations, see Laurence Martin, "Peacekeeping as a Growth Industry," The National Interest, Vol. 32, Summer 1993, pp. 3-11.

    11. See Steven Metz, The Future of the United Nations: Implications For Peace Operations, Report of a Roundtable Sponsored by Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College, October 5, 1993, Carlisle Barracks, PA: U.S. Army War College, Strategic Studies Institute, 1993.

    21. On the potential contributions of the other services, see Steven Metz, "The Air Force Role in United Nations Peacekeeping," Airpower Journal, Vol. VII, No. 4, Winter 1993, pp. 68-81; and George Allison, "The United States Navy and United Nations Peace-Keeping," Naval War College Review, Vol. XLVI, No .3, Summer 1993, pp. 22-35.

    22. Many of these nations are currently capturing and analyzing their experience. For example, see Smith, ed., Peacekeeping: Challenges for the Future which is an Australian collection with chapters by peacekeepers from Fiji, Singapore, and Thailand, and John Gardam, The Canadian Peacekeeper, Burnstown, Ontario: General Store Publishing House, 1993. The Department of Defense is also taking steps to better understand the approach of other nations. See the contract study Preparations for Peacekeeping: A Survey of Nine Nations, McLean, VA: Science Applications International Corporation, August 1993.

    23.The military is developing coordinated planning procedures. See United States Atlantic Command Air Land Sea Application Center, Multi-Service Procedures for Foreign Humanitarian Assistance Operations, Worldwide Coordination Version 3, October 1993.@Chapternumber =