Realist scholarship and peacekeeping scholarship are rarely brought together, and this is to the detriment of both fields, suggests this chapter. This chapter shows how IR realism would help to enrich and boost the study of peacekeeping, and, conversely, how the study of peacekeeping may provide fertile new ground for realist investigations of world politics. The chapter reiterates the fact that peacekeeping concerns some of the most fundamental questions of political science such as peace, war, and order, and that realism may help significantly to broaden the scope of peacekeeping studies to macro-political questions. The chapter discusses different varieties of realism, and suggests that, if there is to be a new distribution of power within the international system, then realism may offer particularly timely insights to study the future development of peacekeeping operations in a multipolar world.
This chapter applies a sociological institutionalist frame to UN peacekeeping and explains the role of norms, rules, and culture in shaping the behaviour of peacekeeping actors. More specifically, sociological institutionalism focuses on actors as social agents whose behaviour is culturally specific and constructed around ideas of appropriateness; we can thus better understand not only why UN peacekeeping takes the form that it does but also how and why it changes over time through an examination of the internal institutional environment of the UN and the self-images and values of UN staff. These dynamics are illustrated empirically with a discussion of local ownership in UN peacekeeping that demonstrates how UN staff engage in inefficient or contradictory behaviours because of their need to perceive that their actions are appropriate and legitimate and to remain aligned with their own institutional standards.
UN peacekeeping is a core pillar of the multilateral peace and security architecture and a multi-billion-dollar undertaking reshaping lives around the world. In spite of this, the engagement between the literatures on UN peacekeeping and International Relations theory has been a slow development. This has changed in recent years, and there is now a growing interest tin examining UN peacekeeping from various theoretical perspectives to yield insights about how international relations are changing and developing. The volume is the first comprehensive overview of multiple theoretical perspectives on UN peacekeeping. There are two main uses of this volume. First, this volume provides the reader with insights into different theoretical lenses and how they can be applied practically to understanding UN peacekeeping better. Second, through case studies in each chapter, the volume provides practical examples of how International Relations theories – such as realism, liberal institutionalism, rational choice institutionalism, sociological institutionalism, feminist institutionalism, constructivism, critical security studies, practice theory, and complexity theory – can be applied to a specific policy issue. Applying these theories enhances our understanding of why UN peacekeeping, as an international institution, has evolved in a particular direction and functions the way that it does. The insights generated in the volume can also help shed light on other international institutions as well as the broader issue of international co-operation.
Although the literature on UN peacekeeping has been growing steadily in the last three decades, the engagement with International Relations theory has been slow. However, in the last few years, the scholarly attention to UN peacekeeping from a range of theoretical starting points has been burgeoning. The chapter first discusses this development, provides a brief overview of the history of peacekeeping, and outlines how peacekeeping is governed. It then summarises the main strands in the literature on peacekeeping and the accompanying methodological development of peacekeeping scholarship. Finally, the chapter provides a brief introduction to each of the chapters of the book.
This chapter introduces the idea that, in the Arab–Israeli context, the dominant belief has been that military force is the best way for Egypt, Israel, the Palestinians, and Syria to achieve their goals. While there are some historical episodes that align with this idea, the reliance on military force often backfires. When it comes to signing peace agreements, military force cannot replace negotiations and mutual concessions. The threat or use of force often produces greater insecurity or even war. Force and coercion often obscure diplomatic openings, leading to missed diplomatic opportunities and an unsuccessful peace process.
In the Arab–Israeli conflict, the dominant idea has been that force is the best way to achieve state aims while negotiations and concessions are a poor choice. What makes that idea hard to change? Three factors reinforce a commitment to military force as the dominant means: the realist structure of global politics; the multi-actor, non-unitary nature of global politics; and the impact that fear has in reinforcing the idea that force and sometimes violence are the best approach for achieving one’s national objectives or advancing one’s national security. At the same time, sometimes a secondary idea, that negotiations and concessions are the best available means and military force is counterproductive, has prevailed in this conflict. What leads to a change in the ideas? They include leadership from within the warring parties that embraces the idea of negotiations as a more effective policy tool, external mediation, an unexpected event or technological change, tit-for-tat interactions that build toward talking or even a mutually agreeable outcome, and changing threat environments. Both the 1970s and 1990s (with the Oslo process) witnessed some shifting in the dominant idea as Arabs and Israelis negotiated.
The conclusion considers the limits of military force in the central contested relationship, the Israeli–Palestinian one. Hamas and Israel clung to force as the best tool in 2014 and both paid a steep price. The chapter considers US foreign policy as well. US administrations have bolstered the dominance of the idea that force is the answer through a strong alliance with Israel while simultaneously pushing diplomatic processes that are meant to raise the profile of negotiations and mutual concessions. Israeli and Palestinian policy today both reflect the prioritization of military force and reveal the expected ramifications like insecurity and missed diplomatic opportunities. One or both could turn in a different direction, but that would require challenging the over-emphasis on forceful instruments of statecraft.
In documents and statements, some Arab and Israeli leaders and analysts tout the effectiveness of using force for advancing their basic goals like national security and independence. In 2008–2009, the battle between Israel and Hamas contained multiple examples of this perspective. There are also other historical cases where this idea is a plausible explanation: the 1967 Arab–Israeli war and how it shifted Egyptian and Syrian policy toward Israel; Israel’s strength in the late 1960s and early 1970s as a factor undermining the Palestinian national movement’s military approach; the first intifada, which pushed Israel toward a negotiated resolution of the Palestinian question; and two Israeli unilateral territorial withdrawals that emboldened the ‘force works’ narrative, from Lebanon in 2000 and from Gaza in 2005.
The primacy of military force as an instrument of statecraft can often create greater insecurity, failed political objectives, and new problems. The reliance on force may cause the possibility of peace to grow more distant as the threat and use of force result in increasing counter-attacks, an arms race, bolstering a rival’s international political standing, undermining support in one’s own society for negotiations, strengthening a rival’s view that one is hostile, casualties and loss of territory, and the creation of a wholly new enemy organization. Moshe Sharett, in the 1950s, and Mahmoud Abbas, in the 2000s, both pushed for recognition of the dangers of always turning to a forceful resolution. Case studies of the Gaza Raid and Suez war (1955–1956), the 1967 Arab–Israeli war, the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon, and the second Palestinian intifada (uprising) that began in late 2000 show how force may backfire.
The flipside of thinking military force is the best policy tool available to achieve national aims has often been the notion that negotiations and concessions are an inferior means, one that signals weakness and leads to being taken advantage of by one’s rival. In addition, structures of violence and coercion exert themselves, thereby undermining or leading to the premature closure of negotiating opportunities. In short, ideas and institutions combine to undermine diplomatic pathways. If a government or organization really have wanted to try to change the direction of Arab–Israeli or Israeli–Palestinian relations by de-emphasizing the reliance on military force, violence, and coercion, there were numerous moments that could have been creatively built upon to effect change. Case studies of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s ten-point programme in 1974, the Arab Peace Initiative in 2002, and Israel’s disengagement in 2005 illustrate missed opportunities and some of the muddled signals that go along with those moments.