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Promoting Peace with Information:
Transparency as a Tool of Security Regimes
Dan Lindley

Book Description | Endorsements | Table of Contents

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Published by Princeton University Press and copyrighted, © 2007, by Princeton University Press. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form by any electronic or mechanical means (including photocopying, recording, or information storage and retrieval) without permission in writing from the publisher, except for reading and browsing via the World Wide Web. Users are not permitted to mount this file on any network servers. Follow links for Class Use and other Permissions. For more information, send e-mail to permissions@press.princeton.edu

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CHAPTER ONE

Promoting Peace with Information

After more than twenty years of civil war, foreign interference, and massacres by the Khmer Rouge, Cambodia finally seemed ready for peace. In 1991, a peace agreement was signed by the principle parties, and the United Nations sent peacekeepers to Cambodia to help maintain the cease-fire and rebuild the war-torn country. The U.N.’s prime objective was to hold an election to seal the peace with a new democratic government. Success depended on the U.N.’s ability to teach the country about elections, monitor the elections, and legitimize the results with a high turnout. A number of wild and false rumors and fears, however, threatened to jeopardize the elections. Some potential voters suspected that the ballot-marking pencils contained radio beacons that broadcast to satellites, revealing who had voted for whom. Others feared spying by secret electronic eyes in the polling places. With radio and other educational efforts, the U.N. defused these rumors about what the Khmer Rouge and others were imagined to be doing to sabotage the elections, assured voters that the ballots would be secret, and taught the Cambodians about democracy. The turnout was a resounding 90 percent.

What happened here? The U.N. used accurate information to calm false rumors. This is but one example of a security regime increasing transparency—what adversaries know about each other’s intentions, capabilities, and actions—to promote peace. There are many ways institutions can increase transparency and promote peace, ranging from providing a forum to broadcasting, inspecting, verifying, and monitoring.

Almost 200 years earlier, transparency also helped one of the first security regimes promote peace—though not in the way many think. At the end of 1814 and into 1815, the great powers of Europe met together in Vienna in what would become the first international crisis management forum in history: the Concert of Europe. Russia’s occupation of Poland and Prussian claims to Saxony caused a growing crisis. Supporting Prussia’s designs on Saxony with blustery belligerence, Tsar Alexander of Russia said in October 1814, “I have two hundred thousand men in the duchy of Warsaw. Let them drive me out if they can! I have given Saxony to Prussia. . . . If the King of Saxony refuses to abdicate, he shall be led to Russia; where he will die.”1 In December, Prince Hardenburg of Prussia said that Austrian, British, and French resistance to his plans was “tantamount to a declaration of war.” British Viscount Castlereagh termed this “a most alarming and unheard-of menace.”2 Talk of war swept through Vienna.

On January 3, 1815, Austria, Britain, and France signed a secret treaty to counter Russia and Prussia. Castlereagh revealed the treaty to Alexander the next day. Faced with hardened opposition, Russia forced Prussia to back down, and this quickly resolved the crisis. The great powers used the new forum to communicate threats and reach bargains far more rapidly than they could before. Information exchanged during forum diplomacy clarified the stakes at issue and the balance of power. Increased transparency did not calm fears, the most commonly imagined effect of transparency. Instead, it enhanced coercive diplomacy and bargaining.

International institutions in which states cooperate to prevent war are called security regimes. One of the main tools at a security regime’s disposal is increasing transparency. Scholars and policymakers often assume that increased transparency reduces unwarranted fears, misperceptions, and miscalculation, but few have examined how transparency is provided or how it operates in practice.

This book answers two main questions about transparency: How and when do security regimes increase transparency? How and when do these efforts to increase transparency promote peace?

I examine the role of transparency in crisis management by the Concert of Europe and in several different U.N. peacekeeping operations. While there are many different security regimes, these cases allow examination of the provision and effects of transparency in a variety of contexts. The Concert brought diplomats together in a forum to manage crises, something they had never done before. Today, in U.N. operations, peacekeepers more actively generate and exchange information. Findings based on these cases have global importance. Today, there are many forums from the Association of Southeast Asia Nations (ASEAN) to the African Union, and proposals for additional forums often cite the Concert as a model.3 In 2005, some sixteen U.N. and ten non-U.N. peacekeeping missions around the world monitored cease-fires and elections, verified disarmament and arms control agreements, and patrolled buffer zones and other areas of conflict.4

The mechanisms for providing transparency vary greatly, as do transparency’s effects. As this book demonstrates, sometimes transparency succeeds in promoting peace, sometimes it fails, and sometimes it makes things worse. By helping figure out how and when security regimes can make transparency work, this book bolsters scholarship on security institutions, advances emerging debates about transparency, and helps policy-makers more effectively use regimes to promote peace.

Why Study Transparency and Security Regimes?

There are three practical and scholarly reasons for studying security regimes and transparency. The first is policy relevance. States have turned to security regimes to help prevent war for the past two hundred years. Recent years have seen renewed interest in the two types of security regimes examined here: peacekeeping and forums. Wherever one stands on debates about security regimes’ ultimate influence in international relations, such discussion consumes considerable attention and resources from decision-makers. Second, security regimes in general are understudied by academics, and the large policy-oriented literature on peacekeeping remains a surprisingly theory-free zone. Few scholars have used the subject to develop and test international relations theories. Third, transparency is a reasonably manipulable product for security regimes, and transparency in the context of security regimes is understudied. Knowledge about transparency also helps us understand the role and practice of public diplomacy, because it too aims to influence the information environment. Thus, figuring out whether and how transparency contributes to security regimes’ effectiveness will help policymakers use them better and will advance international relations scholarship on several fronts. I discuss these three points in turn, looking first at the topic of security regimes in policy and scholarly debates, then explaining the specific focus on transparency.

Security Regimes and Policy

Security regimes are of perennial concern to policymakers. Every time a major war ends, the participants set up a security regime to help prevent a “next” war. The Napoleonic Wars were followed by the Concert of Europe; World War I by the League of Nations; and World War II by the United Nations. Similarly, the end of the Cold War rekindled enthusiasm for the U.N. and sparked a number of new peacekeeping operations. Over time, the number of security regimes has grown, ranging from the Open Skies agreement in Europe to the African Union.

Security regimes are of immediate interest to today’s leaders. The 1990s were marked by a surge of debate and new policies focused on the U.N. and other security regimes. To replace the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) or supplement the U.N., a number of analysts proposed new security forums modeled after the Concert of Europe.5 Others proposed strengthening the U.N. and moving it closer toward being an ideal all-against-any-aggressor collective security system.6

These proposals for new forums and the initial post–Cold War enthusiasm for the U.N., followed by the U.N.’s troubles in Bosnia and Somalia, provoked a backlash. Critics charged that peacekeeping is useless or counterproductive: that it makes peace only between those who want peace; that it works only between small countries; or that it prevents adversaries from negotiating an end to their dispute by removing the strongest incentive to compromise, the pain of continuing war.7

As a result of these critiques and real-world failures, U.N. peacekeeping declined in the mid-1990s, but demand for these operations soon returned. The number of U.N. military personnel and civilian police jumped from 10,000 in 1987–91 to 78,000 in mid-1993, falling back to around 10,000 in 1999 and rising again to almost 66,000 in May 2005. Accordingly, costs for peacekeeping rose from the typical Cold War level of less than $300 million per year to $640 million in 1989 to $3.6 billion in 1993, dropping to about $1.0 billion in 1998, and rising to $4.47 billion for the year July 2004 –June 2005.8

Despite this history and these policy debates, few scholars have stepped back to take a theoretically informed look at security regimes. With peacekeeping in particular, much analysis is directed at policymakers, but the subject is little used to test and develop international relations theories. Some scholarly debates about security institutions are heated, but do not contribute detailed analysis.9

Security Regimes and Scholarship

The study of security regimes is the study of how institutions affect security policies and the probability of war. This intersection of two core streams of international relations scholarship—liberal institutionalism and security studies—remains largely uncharted. Those who study institutions have contributed greatly to the political science subfield of international political economy, but relatively little to security studies. Few institutionalists have a background in security studies.

Regime theory originated in the subfield of international political economy (IPE), and theoretically driven work on international institutions continues to be dominated by the IPE subfield. Work here started with the question, Do regimes matter? It moved on to the questions, How and under what conditions do regimes matter?10 Stephan Haggard and Beth Simmons wrote that regimes could be shown to matter if case studies showed that decision-makers

were actually concerned with reputation, reducing transactions costs, the need for transparency, and so forth, when facing decisions about regime creation and compliance. . . . An even stronger claim [could be made if such analysis showed that regimes] can alter actors’ interests and preferences. . . . Surprisingly little work of this kind has been done.11

That statement is still true, particularly in security studies. That work is the aim of this book.

Robert Keohane, a leading international political economist and proponent of international institutions, laments the lack of attention that the field of international relations has paid to security regimes—a concern echoed more recently by David Lake.12 The best work on security regimes is by Robert Jervis, Charles Lipson, and Charles Kupchan and Clifford Kupchan, who have used the Concert of Europe to discuss transparency and other peace-promoting effects of institutions such as the promotion of rules and norms.13 I advance this research program by focusing on transparency and expanding the analysis to U.N. peacekeeping. Other scholars of security regimes examine how institutional momentum, persistence, or form affect states’ policies. For example, John Duffield brings institutional analysis to bear on the contentious issue of weapons procurement within NATO.14

Some of the most insightful work on institutions and information comes from literatures on cooperation and bargaining, and security issues are especially prominent in the bargaining literature. Cooperation theorists have identified a number of barriers to cooperation among states and have studied how actors can overcome these hurdles. Barriers to cooperation include deadlock, inability or unwillingness to forecast or take into account the long-term consequences of policies (theorists call this inability a short shadow of the future), large numbers of actors that cause collective action problems, uncertainty about the costs and benefits of cooperation, and insufficient capabilities to monitor compliance with agreements and punish defectors (which in turn increases the likelihood of cheating and defection). Regimes can promote cooperation by giving states forums for discussion and helping them bargain and horse trade across different issue areas (issue linkage). Regimes can increase the shadow of the future, reduce transaction costs, and increase the amount of information available to actors.15

Bargaining theorists have focused on why states fail to arrive at negotiated settlements to their conflicts, why this sometimes leads to war, and how war is itself a bargaining process. Even though the word “transparency” may not be frequently or explicitly used, the arguments in this burgeoning literature often hinge on the quality of information available to the actors. For example, war may result if two sides disagree about their relative power, or if both sides cannot credibly commit to peace due to an inability to monitor the agreement. In the first case, increased transparency may help states calculate their relative power, better predict the outcome of a possible war, and negotiate to avoid that war. In the second case, increased transparency can help verify an accord, making commitments to that accord more credible and enforceable.16

By serving as forums, by monitoring, or by otherwise increasing information, regimes can increase transparency. Transparency in turn can reduce uncertainties about others’ actions, intentions, and capabilities, and can help states calculate the consequences of their policies. Transparency can increase the ability to identify defectors and help states identify the payoffs from cooperation (or defection).17

This literature review, and the citations in the methods chapter, make clear that many different literatures talk about the effects of false information and transparency in similar ways despite their different angles and methods. The apparent differences among the political psychologists, rationalists, institutionalists, and qualitative causes of war scholars obscure these similarities, and cross-citations are rarer than they should be.

The Focus on Transparency

The first reason I focus on transparency as a tool of regimes is because of its relevance to issues of war and peace. Due to the effects described earlier, many believe that the promise of transparency can help seal a peace agreement or cease-fire. Transparency may also reduce arms races and security spirals, reduce misperceptions and miscalculations that can lead to war, and help adversaries bargain their way to agreements.

The second reason to focus on transparency is that it should be something relatively easy for security regimes to provide. Realist critics of institutions are correct that the U.N. is incapable of sending divisions of troops to quell a crisis. Security regimes are not that powerful. One should not ignore, however, other benefits that regimes may offer.

Increasing transparency means exchanging or providing information. Compared to sending forces, increasing transparency is relatively easy for regimes to accomplish. This is true whether one is looking at cost, logistics, institutional or technical expertise, number of necessary personnel, or political sensitivity.18 Transparency is a fairly manipulable variable in the realm of security. Whatever good that security regimes can do in a dangerous world should be studied and welcomed.

Finally, transparency is of growing interest to scholars and policymakers. As mentioned, Jervis, Lipson, and Kupchan and Kupchan have led the study of transparency as applied to security regimes, while John Lewis Gaddis is the leading historian grappling with the subject. They have developed arguments about different peace-promoting effects of transparency ranging from calming arms races to reducing miscalculation.19 These arguments are the conventional wisdom for arms controllers and institutionalists.

A new wave of scholarship by Ann Florini, James Marquardt, Ronald Mitchell, Bernard Finel, and Kirsten Lord has begun to explore arguments about the potentially negative effects of transparency. These findings suggest that transparency may exacerbate tensions, make bargaining more difficult, and even lead to conflict.20 Bargaining theorists are also developing arguments about the negative effects of transparency and about the conditions under which transparency helps or hurts cooperation. Some argue that noisy information and uncertainty can hurt cooperation even when the parties want cooperation, but help cooperation when the parties are hostile. Others argue that transparency can remove peace-promoting ambiguity and encourage deadlock or even preventive war.21 Within and across various literatures, the debate is engaged between transparency optimists and pessimists. This is one of the first attempts to lay out and test these conflicting contentions about transparency.

Cases and Methods

To learn about the provision of transparency and its effects in a range of contexts, I study the Concert of Europe and several U.N. peacekeeping operations. The Concert was the first multilateral crisis management forum. I study the role of transparency as the forum handled its first five crises from 1814 into the middle 1830s. While the Concert is 200 years old, its lessons help us predict what will happen when forums convene to confront crises or when adversaries with few means of communication, such as North and South Korea, meet.

The four peacekeeping cases consist of two exemplars each of the two main types of U.N. operations: traditional and multifunctional.22 Traditional operations monitor buffer zones and verify areas of limited armaments, as in the cases of the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) and the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) on the Golan Heights. Multifunctional (or complex) operations organize and monitor elections, and take on other tasks to administer a conflict area. I assess these in the cases of the United Nations Transition Assistance Group (UNTAG) in Namibia and the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC).

I study these cases for two reasons. First, they are historically significant and policy relevant. Second, the crises, incidents, and activities within the cases provide multiple observations of, and variations in, the variables that I study: regime activity, transparency, and levels of tension between adversaries. To examine these variables, I first develop a number of hypotheses on the provision and various possible effects of transparency. I then test these hypotheses by process tracing events within each case to see whether the regimes increased transparency and to assess the effects of any transparency provided. I explain methods and case selection in detail in the next chapter.

Why should these cases have anything to do with transparency? Prior to the Concert, multilateral meetings between states happened at peace conferences, but crisis diplomacy was limited to bilateral exchanges. In contrast, multilateral meetings should increase transparency because they allow more states to exchange information more easily. To assess whether this is true, and to determine the effect of any transparency provided on crisis management, I not only examine five crises confronted by the Concert, but I also compare Concert diplomacy with diplomacy prior to its formation. The ability to compare diplomacy before and after the Concert distills the effects of forum diplomacy and makes the Concert a valuable case for understanding how multilateral forums work.

U.N. peacekeepers may increase transparency by patrolling buffer zones, verifying arms control agreements, and monitoring elections. A central purpose of these activities is to generate, provide, or exchange information about adversaries’ capabilities, intentions, and actions. From the very beginning, peacekeeping has been about transparency:

UN OBSERVERS. Their beat—no man’s land. Their job—to get the facts straight. A frontier incident, an outbreak of fighting. . . . Which nation is responsible, whose story is true? The UN must know. So its peace patrols keep vigil to prevent flareups, supervise truces, investigate and report.    —UN Department of Public Information poster, c. 196023

Does this actually promote peace?

Findings

Testing hypotheses about transparency across these cases generates a range of findings that indicate when transparency can most easily be increased, and what transparency’s effects will be. These findings advance academic debates on the Concert, peacekeeping, international institutions, cooperation, and bargaining. They also provide the basis for a number of policy recommendations.

I find that the Concert often modestly increased transparency. This made coercive bargaining easier, while sometimes highlighting deadlock. Transparency helped bring peaceful endings to two crises, and it led to peaceful standoffs in two other cases. For example, during the Poland-Saxony crisis, three states made a secret alliance, revealed it the next day, and successfully coerced two other states into backing down. I argue that such a quick exchange of information would have been impossible prior to the forum.

With transparency, the Concert made power politics work more quickly and peacefully. This argument occupies the middle ground between Concert optimists who find that the Concert transformed European politics and call it the “best example of a security regime”24 and those of recent Concert pessimists who find nothing to support institutional arguments.25 Because transparency helped coercion or clarified the existence of schisms, the cases reveal darker sides of transparency that contrast with the conventional wisdom of the arms control and liberal advocacy communities that transparency is a prescription for peace. Transparency did not overcome realpolitik, it just made it work better. At several points, transparency aggravated the crises and heightened the odds of war. While at first this might seem to support transparency pessimists, communication of positions and threats were also necessary to resolve the crisis.

Turning to the peacekeeping operations, I argue that traditional U.N. operations that monitor buffer zones face many previously unidentified barriers to their attempts to increase transparency. Scholars such as Michael Doyle may be too quick to assume that transparency works well in traditional operations.26 For example, a close examination at UNDOF’s inspection system reveals a number of deficiencies. The personnel, procedures, and equipment look good on paper but are not sufficient to monitor adequately the elaborate arms control agreement on the Golan Heights. These flaws suggest that the verification procedures in arms control agreements have to be carefully thought out, down to a fine-grained level of detail. This case also shows that it is hard for a regime to increase transparency when the adversaries already know a good deal about each other. When this is true, the regime cannot add much value to the flow of information.

The UNFICYP case reveals that efforts to increase transparency may not be able to overcome strong biases and enemy-imaging of adversaries.27 For example, there is sometimes uncertainty about the nature of military construction along the buffer zone: is a fortification being repaired (allowed) or upgraded (not allowed)? Each side often fears the worst about the other. In theory, transparency could reduce these fears when they are unwarranted and exacerbated by uncertainty. In reality, several incidents reveal that each side is so suspicious that UNFICYP may not assuage fears no matter what it says in its reports. On the other hand, UNFICYP often uses information to coerce aggressors and troublemakers into backing down, thus preventing incidents from escalating.

In contrast, multifunctional operations show more promise. In Namibia and Cambodia, where there were scanty media outlets and poorly informed and often illiterate citizens, information campaigns by UNTAG and UNTAC helped these operations succeed. In both cases, harmful rumors abounded, and the U.N. stopped these rumors with superior information firepower. As shown earlier, during the Cambodian elections of 1991, U.N. radio broadcasts reassured Cambodians that their votes would be kept secret. Other transparency-increasing mechanisms, including puppet shows, singers, and town meetings, taught voters about the U.N.’s mission and refuted rumors of violence that might have thwarted the elections. Transparency helped generate turnouts of 96 and 90 percent in these two operations’ elections.

These peacekeeping missions suggest that efforts to increase transparency work best under the following conditions:

  • there are poor information environments where the regime can more easily add value to existing information;
  • adversaries are not so plagued by biases that new information cannot shift perceptions;
  • adversaries are sufficiently weak relative to the U.N. so that they cannot thwart the U.N.’s efforts;
  • the U.N. has sufficient resources and adequate procedures in place to accomplish its mandate.

These conditions for success are also likely to apply to information operations and public diplomacy, including efforts by the U.S. Department of Defense and State Department.28

Policy Implications

The study of forum diplomacy helps predict what will happen when states that do not regularly consult are brought together. Despite the Internet and globalization, there are still areas like the Korean Peninsula and parts of Africa where adversaries scarcely communicate. Many analysts extol the virtues of concert-like forums, and my findings help make clear what we should expect from their recommendations.29 Forums beat the alternative of no forums, but only because forum diplomacy enhances tough bargaining.

The peacekeeping cases offer a number of lessonsfor both traditional buffer zone–monitoring and multifunctional democracy-promoting operations. While promoting democracy is a task now almost taken for granted at the U.N., the mandates of several recent U.N. and NATO missions include establishing and supervising buffer zones. These include operations in Kosovo-Serbia, Eritrea-Ethiopia, and inter-Congo.

The first lesson is that policymakers and U.N. officials should recognize the value of increasing transparency to the success of some of their peacekeeping operations. There is institutional resistance to wielding information in ways that may affect conflicts. These fears remain, even though many in the U.N. recognize the successes of UNTAC and UNTAG. These missions showed that active information operations and transparency can reduce tensions, defuse crises, and help peacekeepers fulfill their mandates.

U.N. information efforts remain deficient. For example, in the U.N. Mission in Eritrea and Ethiopia (UNMEE), the U.N. broadcasts about its mission for one hour a week on Eritrean radio, but it is denied access to Ethiopian radio, and has no independent radio facilities. This study suggests that conditions in UNMEE’s area of operations might be ripe for increased information efforts and transparency: the local information environment is poor, and uncertainties remain about the mission, the border, and the activities of the adversaries.

Second, peacekeepers can expand their transparency-increasing roles to new roles and missions. For example, peacekeepers could go beyond often-passive border patrols and post-hoc incident reports and try to increase transparency proactively. By monitoring each sides’ policies and statements, peacekeepers and truth squads could combat dangerous falsehoods, rumors, and myths with relevant facts. This would combat false fears and fear-mongering as well as help get the adversaries operating with more common and accurate information.

Third, the U.N. should experiment with limited peacekeeping operations that seek only to increase transparency in cases where a full scale peacekeeping operation is not possible or desirable. A U.N. news radio station located near a troubled area might do some good if it helped reduce fears, correct misperceptions, and deflate myths held by each side.

In all cases, new doctrines, procedures, and equipment would have to be provided to bolster the small in-house information and media departments that are organic to most peacekeeping operations. Operations need enhanced expertise and information-gathering capabilities to separate myth from fact adequately and to provide tension-reducing information. Unfortunately, there is resistance within the U.N. to the development of these capabilities. Perhaps this book will bolster the forces of change.

Structure of the Book

Chapters 1 and 2 introduce the subject, the hypotheses, and the methodology. Chapter 3 begins by reviewing diplomacy and crisis management before the Concert of Europe. This provides a baseline, which I then use to assess how well the Concert used the new tool of forum diplomacy to manage its first five crises. Chapters 4 and 5 examine traditional buffer zone–monitoring operations in two cases: UNFICYP and UNDOF. Chapters 6 and 7 shift the peacekeeping focus to multifunctional operations that sponsor and monitor elections. I examine UNTAG and UNTAC, respectively. Chapter 8 concludes the book, summarizing my findings and presenting their implications for scholars and policymakers.

To help extend my findings and explore their limits, one appendix assesses the state of U.N. information operations in several recent missions while a second appendix looks at the role of transparency in mini-cases ranging from the Open Skies regime and strategic arms control, to the non-proliferation regime.

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