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Does Peacekeeping Work?
Shaping Belligerents' Choices after Civil War
Virginia Page Fortna

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Chapter One

Peacekeeping and the Peacekept

The Questions

IN COUNTRIES WRACKED BY CIVIL WAR, the international community is frequently called upon to deploy monitors and troops to try to keep the peace. 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 the Central African Republic, Namibia, and Papua New Guinea. How effective are these international interventions? Does peacekeeping work? Does it actually keep the peace in the aftermath of civil war? And if so, how? How do peacekeepers change things on the ground, from the perspective of the “peacekept,” such that war is less likely to resume? These are the questions that motivate this book.

As a tool for maintaining peace, international peacekeeping was only rarely used in internal conflicts during the Cold War, but the number, size, and scope of missions deployed in the aftermath of civil wars has exploded since 1989. Early optimism about the potential of the UN and regional organizations to help settle internal conflicts after the fall of the Berlin Wall was soon tempered by the initial failure of the mission in Bosnia and the scapegoating of the UN mission in Somalia.1 The United States in particular became disillusioned with peacekeeping, objecting to anything more than a minimal international response in war-torn countries (most notoriously in Rwanda). Even in Afghanistan and Iraq, where vital interests are now at stake, the United States has been reluctant to countenance widespread multilateral peacekeeping missions. But the demand for peacekeeping continues apace. In recent years, the UN has taken up an unprecedented number of large, complex peacekeeping missions, in places such as the Congo, Liberia, Haiti, and Sudan.

Through these ups and downs, scholars and practitioners of peacekeeping have debated the merits of the new wave of more “robust” and complex forms of peacekeeping and peace enforcement developed after the Cold War, and even the effectiveness of more traditional forms of peacekeeping.2 However, this debate is hampered by shortcomings in our knowledge about peacekeeping. Despite a now vast literature on the topic, very little rigorous testing of the effectiveness of peacekeeping has taken place. We do not have a very good idea of whether it really works. Nor do we have an adequate sense of how exactly peacekeeping helps to keep the peace.

Casual observers and many policymakers opposed to a greater peacekeeping role for the international community can point to the dramatic failures that dominate news coverage of peacekeeping, but rarely acknowledge the success stories that make less exciting news. Meanwhile, most analysts of peacekeeping draw lessons from a literature that compares cases and missions, but with few exceptions, examines only cases in which peacekeepers are deployed, not cases in which belligerents are left to their own devices. This literature therefore cannot tell us whether peace is more likely to last when peacekeepers are present than when they are absent. Surprisingly little empirical work has addressed this question. Moreover, the few studies that do address it, at least in passing, come to contradictory findings. Some find that peacekeeping makes peace last longer, some find that it does not, and some find that only some kinds of peacekeeping are effective.3 A closer look is clearly needed.

The literature on peacekeeping is also surprisingly underdeveloped theoretically. Causal arguments about peacekeeping are therefore often misinformed. Opponents of intervention dismiss peacekeeping as irrelevant, or worse, counterproductive.4 Proponents, on the other hand, simply list the functions of peacekeeping (monitoring, interposition, electoral oversight, etc.), describing its practices with little discussion of how exactly the presence of peacekeepers might influence the prospects for peace. Little theoretical work has been done to specify what peacekeepers do to help belligerents maintain a cease-fire, or how peacekeepers might shape the choices made by the peacekept about war and peace.

Further, most existing studies of peacekeeping focus almost exclusively on the perspective of the peacekeepers or the international community. In discussions of mandates, equipment and personnel, relations among national contingents or between the field and headquarters, and so on, it is easy to lose track of the fundamental fact that it is the belligerents themselves who ultimately make decisions about maintaining peace or resuming the fight. Only by considering the perspective of the peacekept—their incentives, the information available to them, and their decision making— can we understand whether and how peacekeeping makes a difference.

In short, our current understanding of peacekeeping suffers from three gaps: we know too little about whether or how much peacekeepers contribute empirically to lasting peace, we lack a solid understanding of the causal mechanisms through which peacekeepers affect the stability of peace, and we know too little about the perspective of the peacekept on these matters. This project aims to rectify these shortcomings. The book draws on theories of cooperation and bargaining in international relations to develop the causal mechanisms through which peacekeepers might affect the decisions belligerents make about maintaining peace or returning to war. It assesses the empirical effects of peacekeeping by comparing (both quantitatively and qualitatively) civil conflicts in which peacekeeping was used to conflicts in which peacekeepers were not deployed. And it evaluates the causal mechanisms of peacekeeping by drawing on the perspective of the belligerents themselves.

Two simple questions drive this study: does peacekeeping work? And if so, how? Answering these questions is not so simple, however. To know whether peace lasts longer when international personnel are present than when belligerents are left to their own devices, we need to compare both types of cases. But we also need to know something about where peacekeepers tend to be deployed. Unlike treatments in a controlled laboratory experiment, peacekeeping is not “applied” to war-torn states at random. If the international community follows the common policy prescriptions to send peacekeepers when there is strong “political will” for peace and where the chances for success are high (that is, to the easy cases), then a simple comparison of how long peace lasts with and without peacekeeping would misleadingly suggest a very strong effect for peacekeeping. If, on the other hand, peacekeepers are sent where they are most needed—where peace is otherwise hardest to keep, then a simple comparison would lead us to conclude, again incorrectly, that peacekeeping is useless or even counterproductive.5 To address whether and how peacekeeping works, I must first answer the question of why peacekeepers deploy to some cases and not others. The first empirical step in this project must therefore be to examine where peacekeepers go. The book therefore addresses three questions: Where do peacekeepers go? Do they make peace more likely to last? Through what causal mechanisms do they operate?

This project aims to have a direct impact on the policy debates over peacekeeping. It furthers our understanding of why some conflicts draw in international peacekeepers while others do not. It goes on to provide clear evidence that this policy tool is indeed extremely effective at maintaining peace, substantially reducing the risk of another war. And it spells out how peacekeeping works, so that more effective strategies for maintaining peace can be developed by the international community.

Scope and Definitions

This study encompasses civil wars, those with peacekeeping and those without, in the post–Cold War period. Peacekeeping during the Cold War was used primarily in interstate conflicts. In the few exceptional cases of peacekeeping in civil wars prior to 1989 (for example, Cyprus and the Congo), the primary purpose was less to prevent the resumption of war than to contain the conflict to prevent direct superpower intervention. Examining civil wars that ended before 1989 thus sheds little additional light on analysis of peacekeeping as a tool for maintaining peace, while restricting the time period covered in the study allows me to focus more attention on the cases covered.6

Much of the theory proposed and tested here would apply to interstate conflicts as well as to conflicts within states.7 But maintaining peace after civil conflicts presents particular challenges, as recent enemies generally have to disarm, agree to a single legitimate government and a unified army, and live alongside one another.8 Some of the causal mechanisms discussed here, for example, managing electoral processes in an impartial manner, maintaining law and order, and helping former belligerents transform into political parties, apply only to civil conflicts. Wars within states have become the most common type of war, and create almost all of the current need for peacekeeping in the international system.9

The burgeoning literature on peacekeeping has brought with it a proliferation of definitions, distinctions, and taxonomies of the concept. Some clarification of what I mean by the term is thus in order. I use the term peacekeeping to refer to the deployment of international personnel to help maintain peace and security in the aftermath of war. All peacekeeping missions involve military personnel, though they may or may not be armed, and many missions include substantial civilian components as well.10 This study encompasses peacekeeping performed by the UN and by regional organizations or ad hoc groups of states. While it is possible that a unilateral intervention could perform a peacekeeping role, peacekeeping has in practice been a multilateral activity. The multilateral nature of peacekeeping arguably helps to ensure its impartiality and to bolster its legitimacy, both in the eyes of the peacekept and in the eyes of the rest of the international community.11

This definition includes both operations based on the traditional principles of peacekeeping, specifically the consent of the belligerents themselves and the defensive use of force, as well as peace enforcement missions that relax these conditions considerably. Some studies use the term peace operations to encompass both consent-based and enforcement missions, reserving the term peacekeeping solely for the former.12 I use the term peacekeeping to encompass both types of mission, in part because it allows me to refer to those keeping the peace as subjects—peacekeepers, rather than the awkward “peace operators,” but also because much of what I have to say about the effect of peacekeeping on the duration of peace is applicable to both types of mission. When I need to distinguish between them, I refer to consent-based peacekeeping, and to peace enforcement missions. As shorthand, I also sometimes follow the UN lingo, using the terms Chapter VI and Chapter VII missions, respectively, though these are technically misnomers.13 Until recently, it was rare for the mandates of peacekeeping missions to make explicit reference to the UN Charter,14 and even Chapter VII–mandated missions rely to some extent on the consent of the belligerents.15

While I use the term peacekeeping quite broadly, this study does not examine all types of peace operations. I do not assess the effects of humanitarian intervention during warfare, for example. And because I am interested in the effect of peacekeeping on the duration of peace, I study cases in which a cease-fire has been reached, however tenuous and temporary it might prove to be. This means that the peacemaking, or more accurately, the cease-fire-making,16 efforts of the international community are not examined in this study. I do not assess the effects of preventive deployment to keep war from breaking out in the first place, nor the effects of mediation missions sent when the fighting is still raging, nor military interventions that attempt to bring about a cessation of hostilities. Many of these latter missions stay on once a cease-fire is in place, and these peacekeeping missions are included in this study. But I am examining their effects on whether peace lasts, not on whether peace is achieved in the first place. The latter is an important topic in its own right, but it is beyond the scope of this work.17 In other words, this is not a study of all of the effects of peace operations; it is a study of the effects of peace operations on only one of their possible goals—that is, maintaining peace. Similarly, I do not include in this study international efforts to wage war in the name of collective security, as in Korea or the 1991 Gulf War.18

Of the range of operations covered by the term peacekeeping, not all missions are alike, of course. This study distinguishes among four types of peacekeeping operation (the first three of which are consent-based, Chapter VI missions, while the fourth is Chapter VII missions):

  • Observation missions are small deployments of military and sometimes civilian observers to monitor a cease-fire, the withdrawal or cantonment of troops, or other terms of an agreement, such as elections. They are unarmed, and their main tasks are simply to watch and report on what they see. The peacekeepers deployed in Angola in 1991 (UNAVEM II) or in the Western Sahara (MINURSO) are examples, as are the missions led by New Zealand and then Australia in Papua New Guinea in 1997–98 (the Truce Monitoring Group and Peace Monitoring Group, respectively).
  • Interpositional missions (also sometimes referred to as traditional peacekeeping missions) are somewhat larger deployments of lightly armed troops. Like observer missions, they are meant to monitor and report on compliance with an agreement, but they also often serve to separate forces by positioning themselves in a buffer zone or to help demobilize and disarm military factions. Examples include the UN missions in Angola in 1994 (UNAVEM III) and in Guatemala in 1996 (MINUGUA).
  • Multidimensional missions consist of both military and civilian components helping to implement a comprehensive peace settlement. In addition to the roles played by observer or interpositional missions, they perform tasks such as the organizing of elections,19 human rights training and monitoring, police reform, institution building, economic development, and so on. The missions in Namibia (UNTAG), El Salvador (ONUSAL), and Mozambique (ONUMOZ) fall in this category.
  • Peace enforcement missions involve substantial military forces to provide security and ensure compliance with a cease-fire. They have a mandate to use force for purposes in addition to self-defense. Examples include the West African and UN missions in Sierra Leone in 1999 (ECOMOG and UNAMSIL) and NATO missions in Bosnia (IFOR and SFOR). Some peace enforcement missions are also multidimensional in nature, including substantial military force as well as many of the civilian components of multidimensional missions. Most Chapter VII missions do enjoy the consent of the belligerents, at least at the beginning of the mission. But unlike Chapter VI missions, they are not obligated to depart should they lose that consent. Other peace enforcement missions enjoy the consent of one side (most often the government), but not necessarily the other. In other words, Chapter VII missions may have the consent of the belligerents, but it is not a necessary condition for their operation.

In the empirical analyses that follow, I pay particular attention to the difference between consent-based Chapter VI missions and Chapter VII enforcement missions because both the selection process by which they deploy to some cases and not others, and the causal mechanisms through which they operate may be very different.

Most peacekeeping is undertaken by the United Nations, but sometimes regional organizations or ad hoc coalitions have deployed missions to keep the peace. NATO did much of the heavy lifting of peacekeeping in the Balkans, Russia has deployed peacekeeping missions to its near-abroad, the Organization of African Unity sent a small mission to Rwanda,20 and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has deployed peacekeeping missions in West Africa.

I use the term international community as a catchall shorthand phrase to refer to interested states and international or regional organizations potentially involved in maintaining peace. It includes, most notably, the United Nations, but also organizations such as NATO, the European Union, the Organization of American States, and the Organization of African Unity (now the African Union). It also includes the great powers, especially the United States, although in some cases a former colonial power or a regional hegemon may be as important.

I use the term peacekept to refer to decision makers within the government and rebel organizations.21 These are the people who decide whether to maintain peace or return to war. The wordplay in the term should not be taken to connote that they are “owned” or passively “kept” by outsiders. Quite the contrary; the focus on these actors is meant to emphasize the importance of these critical players as active decision-makers.

What do I mean by “work” when I ask, “Does peacekeeping work?” I mean simply, does peacekeeping increase the chances that peace will last? If peacekeeping works, conflicts in which peacekeepers deploy to help maintain a cease-fire will be less likely, all else equal, to slide back to civil war than cases in which no peacekeepers are present. If peacekeeping does not work or is ineffectual, the recidivism rate should be no different for peacekeeping and nonpeacekeeping cases. The conclusion I reach, that peacekeeping does indeed work, is a probabilistic one, not a deterministic one. The claim is not that peacekeepers will absolutely ensure lasting peace in every case, only that it will significantly improve the chances that peace will hold.22

Overview of the Book

The remainder of this chapter discusses the research design of the project, describing the statistical models and data used for the quantitative portion of the study, as well as the selection criteria for the case studies chosen for fieldwork and interviews.

Chapters 2 and 3 treat peacekeeping as the dependent variable, asking where peacekeepers tend to be deployed. Chapter 2 develops hypotheses about where peacekeepers are most likely to be sent, from both the supply side (where the international community is most likely to intervene) and the demand side (where belligerents are most likely to request or accept peacekeeping). It then uses statistical evidence to test these hypotheses empirically, examining the selection process that determines whether international personnel are deployed to keep peace, or whether belligerents are left to their own devices. Chapter 3 first introduces the case studies, providing background information on the Chittagong Hill Tracts conflict in Bangladesh, the Mozambique case, and the Sierra Leone case(s) (the Sierra Leone conflict encompasses three attempts to maintain peace). It then examines qualitatively why peacekeepers were deployed to some of these conflicts and not others. Together, chapters 2 and 3 demonstrate clearly that peacekeepers tend to deploy to the most difficult rather than the easiest cases. They also show that where peacekeepers go is determined not just by the international community, but also by the incentives of the peacekept.

Chapter 4 lays out a causal argument of peacekeeping. It draws on the existing literature on peacekeeping, moving beyond descriptions of peacekeepers’ functions to hypothesize specific causal mechanisms through which their presence may make peace more stable. It suggests that peacekeepers can disrupt potential pathways back to war (1) by changing the incentives for war and peace of the peacekept; (2) by reducing their uncertainty about each other’s intentions; (3) by preventing and controlling accidents or skirmishes that might otherwise escalate to war; and (4) by preventing either side from permanently excluding others from the political process. Through these causal mechanisms, peacekeepers can shape belligerents’ decisions about whether to maintain peace or return to war.

Chapter 5 assesses the overall effects of peacekeeping, asking whether peace lasts longer when peacekeepers deploy than when they are absent. It employs primarily quantitative evidence to demonstrate that, all else equal, peacekeeping has a significant positive impact on the stability of peace. Conservative estimates indicate that peacekeeping reduces the risk of another war by more than half. Less conservative, but probably more accurate, estimates show that peacekeeping cuts the risk of renewed war by 75%–85%. A brief qualitative comparison of the cases supports this conclusion. In short, peacekeeping works.

Chapter 6 addresses the question of how peacekeeping works. It draws on the case studies, and especially evidence from interviews, to assess the causal mechanisms of peacekeeping. It pays particular attention to the perspective of the peacekept in evaluating the causal impact of the presence or absence of peacekeepers. Chapter 7 summarizes conclusions and implications of this study, emphasizing lessons for policymakers.

Research Design

This project employs both quantitative analysis of a data set encompassing cease-fires in all civil wars from 1989 to 2000 and in-depth case studies of three carefully selected conflicts. These methods complement each other and compensate for each other’s weaknesses. The statistical analysis provides breadth, while the case studies provide depth. The quantitative analysis allows me to control for many variables to handle the fact that peacekeeping is not applied randomly, while the case studies allow me to investigate nuances lost when political processes are reduced to numbers. Most important, the statistical survey is best suited to establishing that peacekeeping has an effect, while the fieldwork and interviews conducted for the cases studies allow me to examine the causal processes of peacekeeping from the perspective of the peacekept.23

Quantitative Analysis

Statistical analysis is used to answer two questions: where peacekeepers go (chapter 2) and whether they make peace more durable (chapter 5). The quantitative analysis in chapter 2 employs logit and multinomial logit regression. These models are appropriate for dichotomous (no peacekeeping or peacekeeping) and discrete (no peacekeeping, consent-based peacekeeping, or peace enforcement) variables, respectively.24

The statistical analyses in chapter 5 employ duration models (sometimes also known as hazard, or survival models) designed for exploring the effects, in this case of peacekeeping, on the length of time something, such as peace, will last. And they can do this even for cases in which we know that peace has lasted to date (the end of the data set), but do not know how long it will last in the future. This is known as “censored” data in the statistical jargon. For example, peace was holding in Kosovo when data collection for this project ended, and continues to do so as of this writing, but it may falter after the book goes to press. Duration models do not assume that peace that has lasted to date will continue to do so. Another advantage is that we can treat the duration of peace as continuous rather than specifying an arbitrary cutoff point (five years, say) as constituting “successful” peace. Peace that falls apart within a few months is thus treated as less stable than peace that lasts four years. And peace that falters after six years is treated as less successful than peace that has held to date.

Of the duration models available, I employ both Cox proportional hazard models and Weibull models. The Cox makes no assumptions about the underlying “hazard function” of war resumption. This means that it makes no assumptions about whether peace becomes more or less likely to last, given that it has held thus far, or whether this likelihood fluctuates over time. The Weibull can be preferable for use with relatively small data sets, but is more restrictive, assuming that the hazard is monotonically rising or falling; that is, that peace does not first become harder to keep over time and then easier, or vice versa.25 In all cases, the results are robust to this model choice.

The data set created for this project consists of 94 cease-fires, or breaks in the fighting, from 1989 through 1999 in almost 60 civil wars.26 The data build on those compiled by Doyle and Sambanis,27 but I have added a number of short-lived cease-fires not included in their data or in other data on civil wars. For example, research on the war in Guinea-Bissau in 1998–99 identified several unsuccessful attempts to maintain peace, including a cease-fire negotiated in Cape Verde in August 1998 that faltered two months later, and a peace agreement reached in Abuja in November 1998 that lasted until the end of January 1999.28 Inclusion of these ultimately unsuccessful attempts to maintain peace is particularly important for a study of postwar stability, as their omission would truncate variation in the dependent variable and introduce selection bias.29 Adding these cases also provides more leverage in understanding why peace sometimes lasts and sometimes falls apart quite quickly.30

I include cases only through the end of 1999 for two reasons. Data for some key control variables are unavailable after that time. More important, this cutoff allows me to observe whether peace lasts for at least five years after the point of a cease-fire for all of my cases. So while to be included in this study, a break in the fighting must occur before the beginning of 2000, observation of the main dependent variable—whether peace lasts— continues to the beginning of 2005.

The data set compiled for this project includes information on the date of each break in the fighting, and the date, if any, war resumed. If war had not resumed by December 31, 2004, the observation is treated as censored at that point. The data also include information on the type ofpeacekeeping mission, if any, and on any changes in peacekeeping over time. In other words, the data record when peacekeeping missions arrive and depart, or significant changes in mission type over time.31 The data set also incorporates information on a number of variables that may affect whether peacekeepers are likely to be deployed and the probability that peace will last. These include the outcome of the war at the time the fighting stops (victory for one side, a truce, or a settlement), the number of deaths caused by the war, the size of the government’s army, economic indicators, measures of democracy, whether the parties have reached an agreement in the past, and so forth. Many of these control variables are taken from existing data sets, but the central variables in this study, the duration of peace and peacekeeping missions, I coded myself.

Data on civil wars are notoriously messy. It is not always clear how many factions are involved in the fighting, and data on war-related deaths are often very sketchy. It is not always obvious exactly when fighting starts or stops or even whether a particular case qualifies as a civil war. Wherever coding decisions had to be made, particularly those about how long peace lasted or the inclusion or exclusion of cases, I coded so as to work against my own argument that peacekeeping is effective. For example, some data sets on civil wars include a case for the secessionist rebellion in Cabinda in Angola, while others do not. This questionable case encompasses a number of short-lived attempts to make peace, none of them with peacekeepers present. Because their inclusion would support the argument that peacekeepers help maintain peace, I exclude them. Similarly, the first break in the fighting in the war in Congo-Brazzaville is variously dated in January 1994, December 1994, and January 1995. Because this is a case with no peacekeepers present, I use the earliest date so that peace is coded as lasting, if anything, longer than it actually lasted, thus favoring the counterargument that peacekeeping does not work. Therefore, the quantitative results reported here, if anything, underestimate the effect of peacekeeping on peace. The list of cases and information on data sources can be found in appendix A.32

Case Studies

While statistical analysis can give us a fairly good idea of whether peacekeeping works, it cannot tell us how works. For this we must look at individual cases in more detail. This study examines three conflicts in depth: the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) conflict in Bangladesh, the civil war in Mozambique, and the conflict in Sierra Leone.

The first of these is a case of peace with no peacekeepers. Its inclusion is important to avoid the problem, mentioned above, of studies that examine only instances in which peacekeepers were actually deployed. The CHT conflict affords examination of the null case—what happens when belligerents try to maintain peace on their own, without the help of international peacekeepers? There are many cases of civil wars ending with no deployment of peacekeepers in the post–Cold War era; peacekeepers deploy in under 40% of the cases examined here. But to set up an especially difficult test of the argument that peacekeeping matters, I chose a no-peacekeeping case in which neither side clearly defeated the other, and in which peace has lasted to date. Of the conflicts that fit this description, I chose one with little international involvement and a relatively large total death toll.33 An added benefit was that English is widely spoken in Bangladesh, making fieldwork and interviews much more feasible.

The Mozambique case provides a look at a consent-based peacekeeping mission widely touted as a success. Of the Chapter VI peacekeeping cases in which war has not resumed, I again chose a relatively large conflict in terms of numbers killed.34 Mozambique makes for a potentially difficult test case for the argument that peacekeeping makes a difference. Most case studies of the Mozambican peace process emphasize the belligerents’ “political will” for peace. If the parties were strongly committed to peace, the question arises whether the peacekeepers mattered or whether peace would have lasted regardless. I thus focus the analysis on determining whether and how the peacekept thought that peacekeeping was instrumental (as opposed to epiphenomenal) to maintaining peace. In-depth research on this case thus allows me to investigate whether the causal mechanisms hypothesized in chapter 4 were in fact at work.35

The war in Sierra Leone involved numerous attempts to make peace. Several of them were unsuccessful, including the Abidjan cease-fire of 1996 with no peacekeepers present, and the Lomé agreement of 1999, when peacekeepers were deployed. A final peace deal reached in Abuja in late 2000 and early 2001 has so far held, overseen by a large peace enforcement mission.36 These three distinct attempts to maintain peace allow for comparison in a single setting of both failed and (so far) successful peacekeeping attempts. The variation within this case, while tragic for the Sierra Leoneans who lived through the conflict, makes it a good one for analysis. As in Bangladesh, Sierra Leone had the additional attraction of being an English-speaking country, facilitating fieldwork there.37

Together, the three case studies allow me to explore both successful (Bangladesh, Mozambique, and Sierra Leone–Abuja) and failed (Sierra Leone–Abidjan and Lomé) efforts to create lasting peace; as well as instances with no peacekeeping (Bangladesh and Abidjan), consent-based peacekeeping (Mozambique), and enforcement missions (Lomé and Abuja). The cases cover the range of variation in both the primary independent variable (peacekeeping), and the dependent variable (whether peace lasts), as indicated in table 1.1. Most important, they provide the insights of the belligerents themselves into how the presence or absence of peacekeepers affected the prospects for peace.

In several trips over the course of 2002, I conducted field research in all three countries.38 I interviewed over 75 political and military leaders from the government and from rebel groups (particularly those who were involved in negotiating and implementing the peace accords), diplomats, and members of NGOs and academics, both foreign and domestic. My intent was to learn from those on the ground, especially from the recent belligerents themselves, that is, the “peacekept,” whether and how the presence of peacekeepers made a difference. In Bangladesh, I interviewed members of the government and the Shanti Bahini rebel group (including its leader, Shantu Larma), as well as members of a breakaway faction, the United People’s Democratic Front (UPDF) that has not accepted the peace deal. In Mozambique, I interviewed political and military leaders from both the government and the former rebel group, Renamo (now an opposition party).39 In Sierra Leone, I interviewed government officials, high-ranking members of the main rebel group, the RUF, as well as the head of the progovernment militia, the Civil Defense Forces (CDF).40 In Sierra Leone, where I could observe peacekeeping “in action,” I also interviewed military and political leaders in the UN mission. Interviews with the peacekept (or not peacekept in the Bangladesh case) in these three countries allow me to examine the causal mechanisms of peacekeeping.41 While chapter 5 briefly compares the outcome across the cases, I use them more for process tracing than for controlled case comparison.42 Background information on these three cases is provided in chapter 3.

The research methods used in this project dovetail to allow me to address both whether and how peacekeeping works. By studying the full universe of cases, including those to which peacekeepers did not deploy, I can assess whether peacekeeping makes a substantive difference in the prospects for lasting peace. By conducting fieldwork and interviews with the government and rebel leaders in three carefully chosen conflicts, I can investigate the causal mechanisms through which peacekeepers make a difference in the decision making of the peacekept.


The “invention” of peacekeeping after World War II and its extension to civil conflicts after the Cold War represent crucial innovations in the international community’s ability to make and maintain peace in war-torn areas around the globe. But despite a burgeoning literature on the subject, this policy tool remains poorly understood. We do not yet have many systematic studies of the effects of peacekeeping on the duration of peace, nor do we yet have a thorough understanding of how peacekeeping works on the ground from the perspective of the peacekept. This book aims to fill these gaps. It tests rigorously whether peace lasts longer when peacekeepers are present than when belligerents are left to their own devices, taking into account the fact that peacekeepers are not deployed to war-torn spots at random. It also examines how the presence of international personnel affects the decision making of the belligerents themselves, exploring the ways in which peacekeepers make peace more likely to last.

I show that peacekeeping is a very effective tool. Peacekeepers tend to go to the most difficult cases. And peace lasts significantly longer, all else equal, when international personnel deploy to maintain peace than when they do not. Moreover, I argue that peacekeepers make peace more likely by changing the incentives of the parties, providing them with credible information about each other’s intentions, preventing and managing accidental violations of the peace, and preventing either side from hijacking the political process during the transition to peace.

Peacekeeping does not guarantee stable peace in every case, but it greatly improves the chances that peace will last. This is true, not only of large, militarily robust enforcement missions, but also of smaller consent-based missions. This is because many of the ways peacekeeping works are not primarily military in nature, but rather economic and political.

The findings of this study have important implications for the conflicts that fill today’s newspapers. They suggest, for example, that the fractured peace efforts in Palestine, both between Palestinians and Israelis, and among Palestinian factions, would be much more likely to succeed if international peacekeepers were actively involved. They suggest that the United Nations mission in the Sudan will improve the chances for stable peace between that government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, and that efforts to create and fund a peacekeeping mission in Darfur will be well worth it. They suggest that efforts to keep peace in Afghanistan should focus at least as much on maximizing political and economic leverage as on military efforts (but also that peacekeeping is particularly difficult where contraband financing, such as opium, fuels conflicts). This study does not tell us how to stop the fighting in Iraq. But now that civil war has begun, it does suggest that once a cease-fire is reached, whether through the defeat of one side, a political settlement, or even just a truce, peace will be much more likely to hold if an international peacekeeping mission deploys.43 Such a mission will need to use economic and political leverage as well as military force to create incentives for peace, and will need to focus on alleviating the security and political concerns of the Iraqis. Peacekeeping may be the only hope for something resembling stability after a US military withdrawal.

The conclusions of this study are ultimately optimistic. Civil wars face a serious recidivism problem. It is not easy to maintain peace after civil war, but it is not impossible. Where the belligerents and the international community are willing to countenance peacekeeping, the risk of renewed war is substantially lowered. By showing not only that peacekeeping works, but how it works, I hope that this book will inform ongoing policy debates and improve the international community’s efforts to maintain peace in states torn apart by civil war.

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File created: 6/4/2008

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