Does Peacekeeping Work? Why or Why Not?

The act of peacekeeping throughout the international realm is a successful procedure implemented to nations “wracked by civil war” (Fortna, 2008, 1). As Fortna explains, groups such as the “United Nations, regional organizations, and sometimes ad hoc groups of states have sent peacekeepers to high-profile trouble-spots such as Rwanda and Bosnia and to lesser-known conflicts in places like Central African Republic, Namibia, and Papua New Guinea” (Fortna 2008, 1). These peacekeepers have excelled in ensuring that the chance of war reoccurring is much lower as a result of their work and presence than it would have been with the inhabitants attempting to deal with the issue themselves. Through the use of military forces and resources such as food and water, “a country is much less likely to fall back into civil war (Chenoweth, 2014, Np) with armed peacekeepers and medical staff providing aid, assistance, and reorganization. The overall goal of peacekeeping is to ensure that peace is kept in the nation after the peacekeepers have left. As Fortna suggests, when examining peacekeeping from this suggested angle of peace being kept, it can be seen statistically that peacekeeping is much more effective than perceived.


Statistically, it can be seen that peace keeping is a successful method in the majority of cases where violence and civil war has left countries in shambles. However, studies, the media, and the general public, tend to only focus on cases in which peacekeeping failed and countries underwent recidivism of violence, which is why peacekeeping is seen as ineffective, pointless, and a waste of money. In reality, studies show that peacekeepers actions alone while in the specific violent countries reduce the “risk of another war by 55%-60%” (Fortna 2008, 173). In addition, in cases where the peacekeepers are deployed and then leave after an extended period of time, “recidivism falls by at least 75%-85%” (Fortna 2008, 173). Furthermore, through interviews with rebels and governments, “the belligerents themselves view peacekeeping as an important tool that has helped them maintain peace” (Fortna 2008, 173).


Lastly, the method of peacekeeping, aside from preventing war from reoccurring, helps to “alleviate fear and mistrust, to some degree, merely by existing” (Fortna 2008, 177). The peacekeepers work in establishing communications between the two opposing parties of the nation, so that they can communicate their true intentions to one another without the use of violence. By doing so, the peacekeepers are “preventing either side from shutting the other out of a political process in a way that makes the political loser chose war” (Fortna 2008, 179). In addition, peacekeepers can essentially take over the entire administration or government of a country temporarily, in order to “prevent either side from dominating the political process during the most dangerous phase of the transition to peace” (Fortna 2008, 178). As a result, the peacekeepers are creating incentives for the opposing parties to follow while also establishing structure, security, communication, and peace. Finally, peacekeeping helps in identifying and eliminating hard-liners who pose a threat to peace, as well as control territory where violence could occur. Thus, I agree with Fortna’s argument that peacekeeping is effective and can continue to be of assistance to countries in need. Peacekeeping, specifically the work on the UN, is “aimed to maintain peace and prevent relapse into conflicts that caused so much suffering in the world” (Powers 2015, Np), and despite the publicity of its failures, statistics show that is has truly succeeded “in some of the worlds most dangerous places” (Ladsous 2015).


Works Cited:

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

Chenoweth, Erica. “Peacekeeping Works Better Than You May Think.” Political Violence at a Glance.  August 12th, 2014.  Accessed December 6th, 2015.     

Ladsous, Herves. “United Nations Peacekeeping.” The New York Times. September 18th, 2015. Accessed December 6th, 2015.

Powers, Samantha. “Effective Peacekeeping in the 21st Century.” Sri Lanka Guardian.  November 21st, 2015. Accessed December 6th, 2015.  


14 thoughts on “Does Peacekeeping Work? Why or Why Not?

  1. I agree with you, Jon. I believe that peacekeeping is an effective method implemented throughout countries who have suffered from violence and civil war. I believe the problem is that society and the public only focus on the negative aspects of peacekeeping and the situations in which it has failed. Also, I think the public focuses entirely too much on the negative economic costs of peacekeeping and does not realize how important peacekeeping organizations, such as the UN, really are to maintain peace in the international realm.

  2. While not underplaying the importance of peacekeeping forces, there’s usually a lot more to be learned from failure than success.

    Success is typically the result of applied knowledge, often gathered from previous failings: personal or cases studied.

    For that reason alone, I think the emphasis on when peacekeeping forces fail is far more important than simply pointing to statistical accuracy of the operation.

    Even with a hypothetical 90% success rate, there’s no guarantee future conflicts will fall into the category of “resolvable by deploying peace-keeping forces”.

    The success of future peacekeeping operations rely on expanding the list of situations where peace can be achieved, which means studying where it failed, rather than defending it with statistics, no matter how accurate.

  3. I believe that your argument brings to light an important issue that goes far beyond the subject of peacekeeping alone. The statistics that you provided reveal that peacekeeping has proven itself to be a successful and effective tool in various nations. Media, however, primarily places their focus on providing news stories that illustrate instances in which these policies failed. Unfortunately, the vast majority of Americans have lost their ability to form their own opinions on controversial issues and rely heavily on the viewpoints and beliefs of the various media sources. This is why individuals continue to believe that peacekeeping is ineffective, despite statistics proving otherwise. Americans must take the time to do individual research in order to form an educated opinion on a certain matter, rather than simply accepting the media’s portrayal without hesitation.

  4. In utilizing both quantitative and qualitative data Fortna is able to find abundant evidence proving the effectiveness of peacekeeping around the world. While I agree that peacekeeping overall is effective and should be used presently as well as in the future I believe it is important to note the importance of consent-based peacekeeping. This strategy was used in Mozambique with great success and Fortna has shown that it is not imperative to use force or even weaponry as a means to make peace in war torn countries.

    I also agree that Americans at home have some rather large misconceptions regarding peacekeeping globally. Americans believe that it is ineffective and wasteful to use resources in order to try and make peace overseas. Fortna has shown with abundant statistics that this is just not the case and peacekeeping can be a true force for good.

  5. I agree with the fact that peacekeeping has been heavily misrepresented by the media to the west. While viewed as completely ineffective, peacekeeper actually play a big role in fixing broken countries. They are a sign of hope, but most importantly, I think they are a sign that those countries are not alone in their struggle to resolve their issues. Essentially, peacekeepers are a symbol that other countries care for the unity of the one in question, reminding the people what they should be fighting for, as it’s easy to confuse the final goal of unity with the desire for victory.

    It should also be mentioned, however, that this articles sheds light upon another misconception about peacekeeping. Specifically, the viewing of peacekeeping as a solely military and violent act. While there are some qualifications for usage of force, the primary actions undertaken by peacekeepers are not at all military-based, but are more socio-economic. It’s often believed that the help provided by other countries is simply in the form of murderous lunatics; however, after reading the article and understanding all the other aspects of assistance provided by peacekeepers, it becomes apparent what their actual goal is.

    • Jon, I thought you argument for peacekeeping was well thought-out and insightful, particularly in the way you address the “perceptions” of peacekeeping versus the realities of the situations. Fortuna makes clear that the reasons behind the negative views on the subject are due to the focus on the situations in which peacekeeping was not successful. In today’s society where violence and pessimistic stories dominate the news, it is oftentimes difficult to find the less dramatic, positive stories that do exist. Both you and Fortuna do the important job of acknowledging the misconceptions of peacekeeping, and countering them with the statistics that explain the actuality of the situations. The fact of the matter is that peacekeeping does work, as proven by Fortuna’s quantitative analysis, yet the instances in which it is unsuccessful are glorified to the public as horrible failures. While these are tragic instances, to go into “some of the worlds most dangerous places” and have a success rate of over 50% is an impressive statistic that should be more widely publicized.

  6. I agree with Jon, I think that peacekeeping can be misrepresented but plays an extremely vital role in many countries who are war-stricken both domestic and foreign. I also agree with Brendan, I too believe society, namely the media, focus on the negative outcomes of not only peacekeeping but every situation that is under scrutiny. The cost of saving lives should not be as large of a factor, and should not be one of the main reasons peacekeeping is viewed with any sort of negative connotation. The peacekeeping organizations such as the UN and many others may seem like they are not doing enough, however if their aid stopped, I think the whole world would feel the repercussions.

  7. I agree with Jon’s post that peacekeeping is often more successful than perceived as he demonstrated through statistics. The media often portrays only the failures in peace keeping giving it a bad reputation amongst the public. It is important to note that statistics only provide a quantitative measure rather than qualitative. This leaves out any analysis of the situation of the countries that have had success with peace keeping. An important condition to the outcome of peacekeeping relies on the specific situation of that country. For example, the consent of the country as well as the factions’ decisions in maintaining peace determine the ability of the peacekeepers to succeed. It is also important to note that the purpose of peacekeeping is to leave a country in peace for the long-term. It is necessary to look at the specifics of the country and their consent in order to determine the ability of peacekeeping to be successful rather than simplifying to only statistical analysis.

  8. Overall I agree with the point that peacekeeping works and is an effective tool in preventing conflict. But there is an inherent problem with peacekeeping that is done through the UN. The problem is that the structure of the UN allows permanent nations, such as the US and Russia, to veto any peacekeeping mission they are against. This allows large conflicts like ones in the middle-east to continue indefinitely because a permanent security council nation vetos a peacekeeping mission. If the goal of peacekeeping is to effectively solve all conflicts and save lives, then the UN must change and provide a means for all nations to have a say on peacekeeping.

  9. I agree that peacekeeping can certainly be an effective measure in war torn areas. Additionally, I agree with Tyler that the media often overlook successful efforts, in favor of failed peacekeeping missions. However, I feel that to overlook all of the failed instances is also a mistake. I feel that it is difficult to make overarching generalizations about these efforts, and rather, these efforts should be studied on a case by case basis. Broad statistics can overlook specific downfalls that still need attention in order to rectify these failings. Of course to discredit all peacekeeping efforts based on the failed operations is also a mistake. I would argue that efforts certainly need to be continued but could also be improved by a case by base study of the failed operations to prevent them from reoccurring.

  10. I agree, Jon. Peacekeeping is most definitely effective in today’s world. Although it is seen as “a waste of money”, as you put it, it has shown positive results in a majority of places it has been used. The media has expertise in manipulating how the public feel because they have the power to report on whatever they want. Because they focus on instances where peacekeeping failed and not where it has succeeded, the public thinks that peacekeeping almost never works, which is obviously not true. If the media were perhaps more honest, the world would be a much different place.

  11. Like others have previously stated, I too agree that peacekeeping can often be misrepresented. We are constantly bombarded with various forms of media that suggest that peace keeping is ineffective, regardless of actual facts. Failed peacekeeping attempts are propagated by the media because they make “better” stories than successful attempts. In reality, I do believe that peace keeping can be effective. I thought you made a great point when you stated that “peacekeepers work in establishing communications between the two opposing parties of the nation, so that they can communicate their true intentions to one another without the use of violence”. Nonviolent communication a far superior way to resolve conflicts than violence and peacekeepers help make this possible.

  12. While the sources you have referenced create a strong argument in favor of peacekeeping, they fail to bring analyze the source of instability in the countries you mentioned. For example, in Central African Republic during the 1900s under French colonial rule, there was a system of forced labor and the presence of Protestant missionaries who sought to spread Christianity. There were many insurrections that demonstrated native’s opposition to Western influence and exploitation. It could easily be argued that intervention from outsiders (even if well intentioned) can and does contribute to instability.

  13. After reading the argument of this author, I have come to the conclusion that he clearly does not fully comprehend the geopolitical ramifications that U.N. and U.S. intervention has caused in further destabilization of countries and regions. Take the case of Libya, where the U.S. in conjunction with our Western allies intervened in the Civil War occurring and help topple the government of Gaddafi. Now, Gaddafi was not a good man, I would never invite the guy over because he mostly likely would put a tent in my yard after I told him he couldn’t sleep in my guest room, but toppling him was a major mistake. Our desire to aid the rebels led us to attack and destroy the majority of infrastructure that was set up by the government. When the rebels took over, they were unable to form a strong government that eventually led to extremists groups like Daesh gaining influence and eventually power within the country. Because of our intervention, we have given an additional safe haven by which Daesh can operate in Northern Africa. And it would be easy to mention the Syria crisis, where the civil war has only further aided Daesh with gaining a strategic foothold in both Syria and Iraq.

    Going back in time a bit, recent intervention under the guise of aiding a civil war would be in the country of Vietnam. During the late 50’s Eisenhower provided U.S. special forces to aid our French allies to repel off the rebels of Ho Chi Minh, a former ally against Imperial Japan during WW2. Our desire to intervene within the civil war between free South Vietnam and Communist North Vietnam eventually led to one of the most prolonged and scaring foreign policy blunders of the 20th century. We acted because we were trying to save the South Vietnamese from the scourge of Communism but in fact our intervention only embolden the Communist rebels and forced us to prop up corrupt dictators. The U.S. has constantly intervened on behalf of the U.N. or our own interests and it has generally backfired. We intervened in Afghanistan only to create the precursor to Al-Qaeda and trained many of their senior level operatives.

    Peacekeeping in the abstract is a grand concept. Unfortunately, as Fareed Zakaria has explained, unless countries have concepts of liberty and functional governments, peacekeeping itself will not bring about the change desired. To blindly go forward for the sake of peacekeeping simply isn’t feasible or effective The United States can not and should not commit itself to such missions unless a proper government can be put in its place that will allow equal rights and a functioning government. Otherwise, we will only repeat the mistakes of the Cold War where we propped up dictators that brought us such great moments like Saddam Hussein, the Iranian Revolution and Gaddafi. Troops do not bring peace, fair, equal and civilian controlled democratic governments do.

    Dylan Jennings – friend of Ignacio and Mark Rooney

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