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.