Peace Operations is a recent study focusing on, as the title of the book suggests, peacekeeping activities; though emphasis is paid to the role of the United Nations (UN) in peacekeeping efforts. The book provides a very clear and coherent understanding of the historical developments, organization and structure of peacekeeping operations, and Diehl explains how peacekeeping has gradually evolved into a wide-range of conflict management missions and tech¬niques, for the purposes of inducing peace in conflict-prone regions, providing international buffers between conflicting states and assisting in post-conflict reconciliation efforts.
Peace operations have become a very important conceptual and practical tool in conflict management, whether utilized by the UN, other organizations or by states. Thus, understanding the problematic associated to peacekeeping – when to deploy peacekeepers, with what mandate – is crucial for revealing approaches to contemporary international security. This book researches peace operations, and serves to illustrate their reason and impact in wider international relations.
Diehl distinguishes several varieties of peace operations including: traditional peacekeeping, peace-building, second generation peacekeeping, robust peacekeeping, peace enforcement, preventive diplomacy, and peacemaking (pp. 4–12). Diehl also explains the implicit and explicit differences between peacekeeping operations and more traditional military operations, distinctions which are needed to clear away some confusion that naturally emerge when discussing the deployment of armed forces into a combat zone. Indeed, Diehl analyses traditional peacekeeping with the help of the “holy trinity:” host state consent, impartiality, and minimum use of force (p. 6) to set the tone for the rest of the book.
To date, more than one hundred peace missions have been deployed in¬ternationally with the majority of them occurring within the last two decades – since the end of the Cold War – and chapter two provides a historical narrative for peace operations beginning with the creation of the League of Nations, over-viewing early peace operations and summarizing the findings for when and where peace operations were deployed since they do not accompany all conflicts around the world (p. 2). This chapter provides a historical, rather than an analytical approach, though it clearly explains the evolution of peacekeeping, and clarifies how it evolved. It also encompasses a brief highlight of the United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF I) and the UN Operation in the Congo (ONUC).
In an attempt to highlight the organization of peace operations, Diehl builds on different kinds of organizational schemes for peace operations as they vary in how they are organized, funded and supplied. First, Diehl analyses the pros and cons of having a peace operation organized by the UN. He then examines the peace operations conducted by regional organizations, multilateral and unilateral organizations and other alternatives (pp. 68–77). The following part is dedicated to personnel, and focus is also paid to financing operations and includes various examples of how operations may be funded (pp. 98–117). The UN, among other organizations, usually does not maintain a standing army, and are therefore dependent on member states’ contributions. Diehl thus elaborates important organizational problems related to predicting the size of peace operations, where he describes the factors that affect the size of a deployed force. Moreover, Diehl also deals with the question of who provides the peacekeepers, for example which states contribute to which operations (p. 98).
In addition, Diehl examines the ingredients of successful and failed operations. In this part he discusses different criteria and indicators according to various participants to the conflict-disputants, local population, and the international community. Prior to this undertaking however, it is important to qualify Diehl’s ‘successes in such operations. What follows is the impact of such operations on the actual outcome of a conflict. Diehl asserts that “(p)eace operations have multiple purposes, but all of them seek to ameliorate the conditions associated with a conflict” (pp. 123). Typically, the success of a peace operation lies in the “duration of peace” since the mission has been deployed. Nonetheless, there are other factors that distinguish peace operations as successful or a failure. Diehl employs the following yardsticks to measure whether peace operations could be considered successful: operational, contextual and behavioral (pp. 132–142). Although Diehl offers many good examples, he could have also included complete case studies of one successful, and one failed operation. This would help the reader to better conceptualize such operations in practice and understand what made them successful or what factors contributed to their failure.
The final part of the book discusses some challenges to peace operations. Diehl asks the question of “what is the future of peace operations,” and classifies ten challenges according to their origins (p. 3). Here the focus is on environmental, political and capacity related issues. Diehl, for example, addresses such problems as sovereignty; as past operations were deployed only with host-country consent and its cooperation (at least partial). International relations have been undergoing significant changes when it comes to sovereignty, though states are still sensitive to foreign interventions, and it seems likely that the norm of sovereignty will prevent the UN (among others) from being able to pursue a truly international peacekeeping agenda.
Another problem concerns ‘carrying capacity,’ which is the maximum limit of services that can be provided to a peace operation. Since such operations are entirely reliant on members’ military contributions, it stands to reason that such operations will receive great attention if the interests of great powers are concerned and scant attention if great powers are disinterested. This poses a significant challenge to establishing a norm of peacekeeping as motivation and means are reliant on interests beyond the scope or scale of the localized or regional problem a peacekeeping mission aims to remedy. The next issue concerns the length of stay of peacekeeping troops in a specific theatre, as the premature withdrawal (or overstaying) of soldiers in a country may undermine the operation (pp. 152–157). These are examples of serious constrictions regarding peace operations. Nevertheless, Diehl points out many others, and tries to stress these concerns so that they may affect the international agenda.
One weakness of the book is that it lacks practice. It is a pity that Diehl did not include more practical examples as the book is mainly theory-oriented and only provides an overview of peace operations. It would be very useful to include also something as a “troubleshooting guide” to show how some specific situations may be resolved.
In sum, Diehl answers all the questions he poses, and covers a wide range of peace operations. Diehl also provides a comparative analysis of some peacekeeping missions so it is easier to imagine the real operation. Definitely, Peace Operations is an excellent book, is readable for both novices to the issue of peace operations, as well as for veterans. It offers an in-depth analysis of peace operations using a broad range of examples from the oldest to the most recent conflicts. The book’s greatest strength is its coherent and comprehensive interpretation of peace operations and Diehl has clearly ‘raised the bar’ on other studies of peacekeeping. Despite a few shortcomings, Peace Operations it is a must read for anyone interested in peace operations not only theoretically but also for its comparative analysis and insights into the workings of current international relations.