Does Peacekeeping Work?

Concerning what has been going on in the world lately, it has become ever more important to have discussions about the nature, purpose and mechanisms through which international peacekeeping missions are undertaken. Virginia Page Fortuna’s work titled “Does Peacekeeping Work” is one genuine attempt to foster such a discussion that I believe to be beneficial, but a little naïve.

What this piece does an excellent job of is addressing three major shortcomings associated with the contemporary literature on peacekeeping missions which the author defines as: a lack of empirical data on the outcome of peacekeeping missions, a lack of solid understanding concerning how the specific mechanisms of peacekeeping contribute to the overall peacekeeping efforts, and an ignorance possessed by the peacekeepers concerning the perspective and role of the peacekept (Page Fortuna, 3). She writes that most debates regarding peacekeeping devolve into “casual arguments” resulting in “very little rigorous testing of an effectiveness of peacekeeping (Fortuna, 2).

In hopes of rectifying this lack of empirical data, the author launches an empirically motivated study of “does peacekeeping work? And if so, how? (Fortuna 3). By operationalizing crucial definitions and launching a study of range of cases, I think her conclusion that peacekeeping has a clear, positive impact on the persistence of peace can be accepted as true (Fortuna, 175). Statistically speaking therefore, peacekeeping does work.

While I appreciate this aspect of the study, I think the author’s explanation for why the international community chooses to involve itself into some conflicts and not others is lacking. The author focuses her study on the chance of success versus that of failure; making chance of success the independent variable and international involvement the dependent variable. And while her conclusion that “Peacekeepers tend to go to the most difficult cases” is interesting, this observation does little to explain a nation’s motivation for getting involved (Fortuna, 16). Rather, it serves as little more than an observation.

I believe the author touches on the issue briefly when speaking of how the United States’ public has seemingly become more and more against peacekeeping. She remarks that, “Even in Afghanistan and Iraq, where vital interests are not at stake, the United States has been reluctant to countenance widespread multilateral peacekeeping missions” (Fortuna, 1). I believe this statement illuminates the author’s naiveté concerning two vital aspects of peacekeeping in general. For starters, she recognizes here that vital interests seem to play a part but then excludes their influence from her analysis. Instead of focuses on the chance of success, it might have been more beneficial to study the how persistent exploitable resources or other identifiable motivations were. This might provide a much more causal relationship between independent and dependent variables.

Furthermore, I believe that the author ignores how the United States Public might not be so upset with peacekeeping as a principle and more upset with the way in which the government has undertaken peacekeeping missions. With Iraq in particular, much of the public’s resentment stems from the fact that we feel the government lied to the public about weapons of mass destruction. From my understanding at least, far less people have a problem with the War in Afghanistan than the War in Iraq and I believe this to do with the public perception of why we entered these wars in the first place. Studying ulterior motives other than peacekeeping, in my opinion, would have lead to much more practical insight into this difficult issue. Overall however, I think this work is extremely beneficial.



Fortna, Virginia Page. Does Peacekeeping Work?: Shaping Belligerents’ Choices after Civil War. Princeton: Princeton UP, 2008. Print.



7 thoughts on “Does Peacekeeping Work?

  1. After reading the assigned reading I got a feeling that peacekeeping, while a very noble thought and act, wasn’t entirely effective. This might very well be due to the fact that peacekeeping actions in a state are compared to other peacekeeping actions in another state rather than states where the incumbents are left to their own vices. On top of that, there is little study about how peacekeeping might/might not be affecting sustaining of peace in various states. Some states where peace was a norm before civil war(s) revert back to peace after civil war(s) whereas, nations that have non-peace even before civil war(s) start tend to go back to non-peace even after the end of civil war(s). The process by which peacekeeping projects are determined itself seems somewhat biased. Not all nations that suffer from civil wars/other internal tensions receive peacekeeping support; many-a-times, those that receive peacekeeping support are more than capable of handling the post-war situation on their own because of their ‘inertial’ state of peace. While I do enjoy reading of the successes of peacekeeping in various nations, I remain dubious of its effectiveness. Unless there are studies that prove that peacekeeping has promoted peace, and helped sustain peace that otherwise wouldn’t have been possible, I will remain so. Nevertheless, the article was well-crafted and a good read!

  2. I thoroughly enjoyed this article, I feel as though it contained an excellent analysis of Fortuna’s views. This being said, one small flaw I could not help but notice was that it seemed as though the author had yet to decide on their viewpoint. Fortuna’s work was referred to as “naive” and other times “extremely beneficial”. Other then this small flaw, the article was brilliantly crafted. Especially in the section considering the difference between the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars and the American Public’s perception of those wars.

  3. Peacekeeping forces also have a tendency to ‘fit into’ the corrupted state of the nation. In war-torn nations, the corruption rate is high to begin with and external corruption adding to the existing phenomenon is detrimental to the process and benevolence of peacekeeping.

  4. I agree with the assigned reading. I think that the author proves that peace keeping is helpful. I also agree that there has not been adequate research done on the topic. For example, while people have studied the results of peacekeeping missions, scholars have not sufficiently examined cases where peacekeepers were not present and the difference in the outcomes of those conflicts. I completely agree with the analysis of the Iraq War versus the one in Afghanistan. I do think the American public is not happy with the government’s efforts in Iraq, and is much less so than with our efforts in Afghanistan, and I believe that is directly linked to the public feeling mislead. Therefore, I think the author of te article may have been wrong on their analysis about Iraq. In general, I think peacekeeping does help but could probably be much more helpful if it were properly studied, as the author does and advocates for. While peacekeeping does not guarantee lasting peace, it makes it much more likely and improves the situation significantly.

  5. I would also agree that peacekeeping efforts are helpful. By and large, however, peacekeeping efforts such as those in Rwanda and the Americans’ attempts to establish such forces in Afghanistan and Iraq have failed due to a similar fault: international bureaucracy. The ideals of international liberalism juxtaposed with the reality of international bureaucratic institutions and national agendas of member nations presents a large portion of the problems associated with peacekeeping forces. The Rwandan genocide is one such example where the bureaucratic institutions of the United Nations juxtaposed with the national agendas of the U.S, U.K, and other nations watched the genocide unfold and failed to adequately provide resources for the stationed U.N troops. Therefore, while I believe the establishment of peacekeeping forces are a beneficial resource, it is a new commodity (of sorts) that is not well understood/researched and fails due to multilateral inconsistencies.

  6. I propose that the policy suggestions that the author makes in the assigned article fall under a very ‘westernized’ methodology and fail to accommodate to the political culture of the troubled country. One of the international law implementation that the author suggests is neotrusteeship, where a stable country (like the US) maintains temporary control of the unstable country on the grounds that the state is too incompetent to counterattack the domestic insurgency efforts. While the article explains that the civil conflicts (such as the ones in Latin America) were not a result of the Cold War but of the states’ history with colonialism, the previous suggestion is not in line with the author’s analysis of why conflicts occur in the first place.

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