COL Should we be keeping the peace?

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Ever since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization has been scrambling to come up with a new mission to keep the alliance viable. Over the last decade NATO has weighed in on peacekeeping as a principle mission. Should the United States be involved? If so, how much should we contribute?

Peacekeeping is an umbrella term, which includes peacekeeping, peace-support operations and peacemaking. The latter term refers to the injection of outside military force to stop hostilities by making war on one, both, or all of the sparring nations. Assuming the peacemakers are successful at halting the immediate hostilities, peace talks could then begin.

During the peace talks and upon agreement of the parties, peace-support operations begin. Peace-support operations include a variety of missions. including separating the warring armies, securing road networks, key infrastructure, and transportation of refugees and bands of fighters back to their home countries. It also could include establishing a zone of separation between the warring countries.

Once everything above has been accomplished, the peacekeeping force is positioned to literally "keep" the peace agreement in place. Peacekeeping and peace support operations in the recent past in Bosnia, Croatia and other places require force protection in literally a 360-degree cluster. In Vietnam we called many of these clusters, which included the artillery, firebases. Please, not again.

I recently returned from a 42nd Infantry Division of the New York Army National Guard exercise entitled Cooperative Nugget 2002. It was designed as a peace-support operations exercise with players from 20 countries, including Sweden, Denmark, Austria, Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania, Tunisia and the Ukraine to name a few. It was a National Guard exercise because elements of the Pennsylvania Army National Guard's 28th Infantry Division are scheduled to replace our active duty forces in Bosnia next year, followed by New York's 42nd Infantry Division units the following year. These exercises are required to train up for these new military missions as previously described.


I made two interesting observations while the military exercise ensued. One, most of the 20 NATO "partners for peace" nations already had peace support and peacekeeping experience. They have structured their forces for such work, and all are competing for the peacekeeper funding provided by the United Nations. The Americans had few players or exercise controllers with real world experience in this kind of work.

Secondly, I was amazed that there was no security classification for this exercise. How we tactically do things was on display for all these "partners for peace" attendees to see and study. Oh, well. That's another column down the road.

Peacemaking is the role of U.S. forces. American military forces are war fighters, not peacekeepers. And we surely don't want to be involved in another Vietnam! Let these countries perform peace support and peacekeeping. Our job is creating the environment for peace, not trying to perform the police work that follows.

My hat is off to the Bush administration for refusing to join the United Nations-sponsored International Criminal Court, which would allow any of the 135 nations in the organization to prosecute American peacekeeping soldiers for war crimes, rather than each nation prosecuting its own. If we are able to negotiate the correct legal wording, and resolve the sovereignty issue I have just described, then we'll be OK.

In any case, we have to get out of this business and do what we do best -- fight for and win the peace.

Shaver is a retired, tenured faculty member of the U.S. Army War College. Your comments concerning this column can be e-mailed to him at

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