By Major (ret'd) F. Roy Thomas
Thanks for publishing the article by Paul LaRose-Edwards and the column by Colonel (ret’d) Pat Stogran on the topic of “peace deployments” (Volume 24 Issue 12, January 2018). I would like to add my voice to the question of boots on the ground, the United Nations (UN) and success.
As a veteran of CF service in seven different UN missions, I detest the word peacekeeping! It was conjured up to serve politicians and pundits as a sound byte in the 1950s. Ideally, peace interventions should occur to prevent wars, either internal or between state entities, from starting. My service in Macedonia was on such a mission.
Unfortunately, most missions involve trying to obtain a peace pause in the middle of combat. My service in Cyprus, the Golan Heights, South Lebanon and Sarajevo involved obtaining a pause in ongoing conflicts. Attempts at pauses in the shooting of bullets large and small were, to a degree, largely unsuccessful.
Other peace interventions involve attempting to assist in the termination of violent conflict. My service in Afghanistan after the Soviet withdrawal can be best put in this category. My service in Haiti constituted providing UN security to permit attempts at nation building.
There was and is no template for any form of peace intervention. Each mission is different. Success, for media purposes, can simply be measured by the number of “bullets or shells still killing or NOT killing.” Burials impede peace talks in any mission, whether preventing, creating a peace pause, or terminating combat.
The long peace pause on Cyprus has often been cited as an example of the failure of a UN peace intervention. That is arguable as no bullets have been fired there in a long time. But there can be no disagreement that Cyprus represents an astounding NATO success. Two of the largest armies in NATO, those of Turkey and Greece, have been kept from fighting each other over Cyprus. Moreover, the key UK/U.S. intelligence facility on Cyprus has functioned since independence and still does under the shadow of the UN umbrella on Cyprus. Ironically the Turkish invasion of 1974 involved Canadians coming under fire from one of our NATO allies and thus awarding of some of the first “Canadian vice British” valour medals for heroics under “unfriendly” fire from so-called Alliance friends. The Greeks postured but did not intervene in 1974. Cyprus was and still is a cost-effective NATO success writ large, achieved under UN auspices.
Another successful peace pause has been obtained under the orange not blue headgear of the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO) in the Sinai. Since the 1980s the MFO has kept Egypt and Israel from combat with only two battalions on the ground, fewer than are found on the Israeli-Lebanese border with the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL). It can be argued that the number of “boots on the ground” isn’t as important as whose boots they are as an American battalion serves in the MFO. Unlike UN missions, the belligerents, Israeli and Egypt, pay the costs. No doubt United Nations Emergency Forces (UNEF) I and 2, and the Sinai Field Mission played a role in this success story which continues today. Of note, direction for the MFO comes from an independent Rome HQ, not anyone at UN HQ in New York.
A third successful peace pause intervention in South America in the 1990s involved neither the UN nor boots on the ground. Rather, the Military Observer Mission Ecuador Peru (MOMEP) was created in 1995 to obtain a peace pause in the combat between Ecuador and Peru. The four guarantors of the Rio Protocol of 1941 — Argentina, Brazil, Chile and the United States — worked to bring about a ceasefire and created MOMEP. (The Rio Protocol ended the 1941 combat between Ecuador and Peru.) The combination of diplomacy and observers on the ground brought about the signing of an agreement acceptable to the belligerents in 1998 and thus the end of MOMEP. The guarantors of 1941 “made good” on their guarantees. Least anyone doubt the intensity of this fight between South American neighbours, although tracts of land changed hands, a special piece of ground did not change hands but was kept for a memorial to the stalwart defence of one group of soldiers.
It can be noted that the “UN” and “boots on the ground” do not necessarily add up to success in the many scenarios challenging those attempting peace interventions in today’s world. I strongly support careful evaluation of possible missions before any attempt at a Canadian contribution is made. A contribution may not be significant numbers, but rather specialists with significant equipment such as radio jammers (Rwanda, 1994). The first step should be to disown any connection with the word “peacekeeping” and make clear that not all peace interventions will be under UN auspices or involve boots on the ground.