A recent Globe and Mail article asked the simple question do Canadians want our troops in conflict or peacekeeping?
The overall consensus was for peacekeeping (only 21 per cent of Canadians rated overseas combat missions as an important role for the military).
That's obvious but the real questions are being avoided.
Peace support operations?
In 1956 Canada became part of the first peacekeeping missions that we as the people of Canada are so proud of. Peacekeeping is not a neutral occurrence; countries, diplomats and armed forces go to these types of places to help secure peace, separate belligerent parties and even to uphold treaty commitments. The first peacekeeping operation came about as Britain lost face and was losing in the Suez Crisis. Canada as a close ally allowed them to walk away and still have a reliable ally in its place. Egyptian forces often complained that the Canadian Forces replacing the UK forces had a bias in the implementation of peace and security. The UK style uniforms from units such as the Kings Own Rifles and Princes Patrica's Canadian light Infantry did not help sell the Canadian independence and moral authority espoused by the UN that, instead, came over time and through each soldiers efforts and experience.
Canada is good at peacekeeping because it brings to the table a certain moral authority that other countries truly understand and expect. Now we find ourselves as 55th (out of 108 troop contributing countries 2006) involved in UN missions. Canada's involvement in the war in Afghanistan (approved by the UN) but now under NATO mandate has taken its toll both financially and in personnel since October of 2001. The CF is in much better shape than it was in 2001 no longer wearing green in a desert, no longer driving small jeeps with no armour protection we now find us as one of the worlds most highly trained, well equipped fighting forces in the world. But one of the costs is the traditional UN peacekeeping mandate.
The question is now that we this force what do we do with it?
Is our job to force parties to stop fighting?
Force parties to stop genocide?
Prevent invasion and stop it when it occurs?
Kill or immobilize leadership that a UN body or our allies find unacceptable?
Do we as a western power go into a sovereign nation and force our belief structure on the local populace?
The easy answer is of course we don't.
The reality is much more complex when we put names to places.
Do we go into Darfur to stop the tyrannical regime of Sudan from authorizing genocide against its own people?
When Southern Sudan votes on independence in January 2011 are we prepared for the outcomes?
If the South becomes independent and is Christian and tribal African and the north is Arab and Muslim does that matter to the outcome?
The oil is in the South and all financial gains go through the north mainly to Chinese, European and Canadian companies (Tailsman energy sold off its shares in the south in 2003).
Do we call for action from governments and the business sector to ensure that Sudan’s oil wealth contributes to peace and equitable development?
Does this change our response?
Do we help the African Union peace support operations?
Do we send the special forces in and capture the president?
Do we support the Southern Independence vote?
This is but one country and the complex issues that surround it.
What of Yemen, Somalia, ensuring Kenya's borders are secure, ensuring Macedonia does not fall back under Serbian control, Central Asian republics, the issues of the Chinese Muslim population in the Western deserts, the military regime of Bangladesh, North Korea, the Congo and its own horrors, ensuring that peace remains in Rwanda, Madagascar and the problems of the military coup government destroying the ecology, Haiti and its corruption, its economy, Venezuela and its military push and nuclear ambitions, Israel and Palestine, and a powerful group of middle East countries that are flexing their political muscle.
These are just some of the challenges that the world now faces, it is no longer easy to just say peacekeeping or combat missions.
Some definitions from the UN:
"Peacekeeping refers to the prevention of further conflict between parties. The deployment of peacekeepers, both international military and civilian personnel, occurs once a cease-fire has been negotiated and requires the consent of the parties to the conflict. In general, peacekeepers are deployed in order to monitor the implementation of the cease-fire and to oversee the resolution of conflict. Peacekeepers may also be asked to assist in a number of additional tasks, including promoting human security, disarming opponents, repatriating refugees, providing electoral support, strengthening the rule of law, protecting the delivery of humanitarian relief, and train local police forces.
Peacemaking, on the other hand, refers to peaceful efforts to stop a conflict or prevent its spread by bringing hostile parties to an agreement. These efforts are usually peaceful in nature; they incorporate diplomatic techniques such as facilitation, mediation, and arbitration. Peacemaking occurs prior to or during a conflict with the objective of negotiating a resolution to the conflict.
While both terms are different, they remain integrally related. Both peacemaking and peacekeeping efforts provide a strong foundation for post-conflict peace building, and help to prevent the re-emergence of violence."
UN Associations Canada