Yea, numerous interventions in Africa have served as prime examples of the many problems with this kind of action. Disregarding for the moment whether intervention can be seen as legitimate/appropriate or not, just for the sake of discussion assume it is justified and therefore should be executed as effectively as possible. After all, these must be the assumptions that those responsible for the missions operate on. The UN peacekeeping of today is almost completely useless. We saw this a short while ago when M23 rebels took over Goma (a regional capital in the Eastern DR Congo) and the outlying area- the Congolese military fled and the UN forces simply observed the rebel occupation happen around them, even though they were a numerically superior force, no doubt much better armed and trained, and with air support at their disposal, if I’m not mistaken. This inaction is also despite the fact that resolutions which give the peacekeepers their mandate, like UNSC 1376, specifically affirm Congolese territorial integrity. The RoE for UN forces (or at least for the mission in DR Congo) don’t allow them to use force unless taking fire or acting jointly with the national army, or in case of an “imminent threat of physical violence to civilians”, and only in the areas where their infantry battalions are stationed- if they are attacked they can’t pursue after a certain point, which from a military standpoint is just idiotic. So the MONUSCO forces could really easily have upheld their mandate and protected DR Congo’s national integrity, but weren’t allowed to because official forces had fled.
Why constrain the powers these troops have to such a great extent, especially when it is known that a sizable portion of situations demanding peacekeepers will arise in places where the national military is incapable in just about every way it can be- poor, disorganised, unable to maintain troop loyalty or morale, officers that sell weapons to the enemy, etc.
So, one change that could be implemented very easily and at no cost- make agreements with host nations whereby UN forces can act in the national military’s absence, subject to approval from some level in the national chain of command (which, I’m sure, would not mind being given time to regroup and then simply re-enter UN-defended territory, rather than expending lives and resources to regain it).
This alone would bring massive results in making missions effective, obviously I’m not the first to think of it so I wonder on what principle it is rejected. Someone from MONUSCO commented on the aforementioned situation saying something to the effect of UN peacekeepers not being there to replace the national army- obviously they are not, but why should the UN commander in the field be disallowed from judging whether action should be taken or not, and then seeking approval from the national authorities? That way the UN troops aren’t under any obligation to put themselves at risk alone but can if it would be beneficial, and national sovereignty wouldn’t be violated by foreign troops taking action independently because they would have to seek the host’s approval.
Another practical aspect, which you mentioned, Pete: where it would be most appropriate to draw peacekeepers from. I think it should be judged on a case-by-case basis, taking into account any ulterior motives a potential contributor nation may have in putting forces into a country, as well as whether there is any ethnic/religious/historical/political/etc animosity between the populaces of the potential contributor and host. These conditions make neighbouring nations some of the least likely picks for peacekeeping force contributors, at least in Africa and the Middle East. I will again use DR Congo as an example because I just know the most about it off the top of my head- neighbouring Rwanda is allegedly arming the rebels and plundering East Congolese mineral deposits. IIRC, neighbours Uganda and Burundi have at times supported rebel factions as well.
Georgia exemplifies this point as well- from the time when Abkhazia and South Ossetia won de facto independence in 1992, the peacekeeping in and around South Ossetia was done by a Joint Peacekeeping Force made up of Russian, Georgian, and South Ossetian contingents (equal members of the force), overseen by the “Joint Control Commission”, made up of the 3 parties mentioned just now plus North Ossetia (an autonomous republic of the Russian Federation- the Ossetian national homeland had been divided between the Georgian and Russian SSRs in the early days of Soviet rule), also all equal members. Obviously, with Georgia seeking to regain control over South Ossetia, South Ossetia intent on maintaining independence and achieving international recognition, Russia looking to regain influence in the former USSR, and absolutely no chance of a negotiated resolution due to the fact that either Georgia or South Ossetia would have to give up its most basic demand, there was no way this mission could be successful. It was marred from the start by periodic low-intensity incidents like mortal shellings and culminated in Georgia’s 2008 attempt to retake the territory by surprise, without even withdrawing from the peacekeeping mission.
My point is that ‘blue helmets’ MUST be drawn from nations with as little stake in the conflict as possible, otherwise situations like Libya arise, where the “peacekeepers” just advance their national geopolitical goals while wielding the ability to dismiss criticism by pointing to a UNSC resolution. One of my options for a PoliSci essay last semester was “Is UN peacekeeping the new imperialism”, and there are certainly enough examples to make a case for that being true.
The US, as the current hegemonic power and with global influence and interests, should not participate in peacekeeping missions. This is just the largest example, not a dig at the US- any state will most likely attempt to assert its own interests in another, given the chance. So, ideally for me, supposing Mexico were to need a peacekeeping mission, the troops should come from places like India, Germany, etc, whose cultures and history don’t conflict with those of Mexico and who lack motives to abuse their position there.
France may be pushing for it (Mali having been part of France’s colonial empire), but is outside intervention even appropriate? Is splintering the right solution for tribalism/Balkanization (a European analog)? Or would it worsen it by feeding it and giving tribal hatreds secure power bases? And a practical question, is the majority-Tuareg area large enough and sufficiently contiguous to be an economically viable nation?
Thought-provoking, multifaceted questions.
By “is outside intervention even appropriate” do you specifically mean the current situation in Mali or are you asking the broader question of “Is national sovereignty supreme, or are there situations that mandate violating it without the nation being outwardly aggressive?” Assuming you meant the former- I think intervention is appropriate in this case, but my opinion here is not objective because of my fear of Jihadist expansion. However, I only think it is appropriate if they can be absolutely routed in the area, otherwise the conflict just leads to more Jihadists. Has there been even one real victory against them in modern times? I suppose Chechnya and the surrounding republics would come closest, but even there, Russia had to accept a former rebel commander who once said “every Chechen must kill 150 Russians” as President of the Chechen Republic, he got blown up by some separatists who kept fighting and now has a Hero of Russia award (the highest medal possible, and his having it implies ) and a street and memorial in Moscow- for a person who participated in ethnic cleansing of Russians- disgusting! And his son now runs the republic like a personal fiefdom, has a private army, and slowly introduces Islamic laws like requiring women to cover their heads in government buildings, while Muslim regions get up to 10x more spending from the federal budget than the average in order to keep them pacified. But I’ve gone off topic.
Assuming you mean the latter, my opinion may vary somewhat based on the details of a case, but in principle I believe national sovereignty is supreme. There is a popular quote or saying in Russia that goes “Every nation deserves its government”- meaning if a government works badly, is immoral, is ineffective- the fault lies with the citizenry, who allow this government to exist and cannot control it, etc.
More importantly though, the international system is anarchic, there is no authority to decide when intervention is appropriate and when it isn’t, which means there is room for an unlimited number of standards for justification, and for the uneven application of the same standard, if it suits the intervening party. The UNSC is the closest thing the world has to a global setter of such standards, and it is so democratically deficient and influenced by the Veto members (who still get special privileges for something that happened almost 7 decades ago) that regarding it as legitimate is laughable. And since it is dominated by great powers who will at some point or other be justifying or blocking intervention (whatever their interests dictate in the situation), it is completely biased. Therefore, the current structure of the international system precludes a legitimate way to justify military intervention from outside as a part of the “Responsibility to Protect”, as the UN calls it, because there would have to be a set standard applied equally across the board- obviously, China won’t be invaded for its actions in Tibet, while a weaker state could be for similar actions. It will be used as a justification, by powers strong enough to do so, for military action necessary for political or economic gain.
Whether splintering or trying to reconcile differences within a national unit is a better approach depends on a multitude of factors, ranging from the type of government and the power of subnational governments, to which cultures are in conflict, how the area is doing economically and what splintering would mean for the regional economy, as well as many more. Tatarstan, a republic on the Volga which is split approximately equally between Muslims and Christians and has slightly more Tatar than Russian residents, proclaimed independence in 1990 but was peacefully coaxed into the Russian Federation with some grants of autonomy, and are now a prosperous autonomous republic, which has for centuries been the site of peaceful coexistence between different ethnic and religious groups, even though they have known conflict in the past.
The Chechens, on the other hand, started their bid for independence by throwing the leader of the local administration out of the council window and eventually won something more than de facto independence- Federal forces were withdrawn from the republic and the Chechens were left to administer themselves and provide for their own defense, while a negotiated decision on the final relationship between the Chechen Republic and the Russian Federation would be put on hold for up to five years. That was at the treaty of Khasav-Yurt, 1995 just one concession made to the separatists/Jihadists after the First Chechen War- Yeltsin also agreed to pay them reparations for example, despite the ethnic cleansing of Russians that had occurred, which no Chechen militant was held accountable for. Around half a year after Khasav-Yurt, another top-ranking Chechen came to Moscow for negotiations and signed an accord on “peace and the foundations of Russian-Chechen relations”.
After successfully kicking out the broken post-Soviet Russian army, then normalising relations and, as demonstrated by the aforementioned treaties, achieving de facto independence with a shot at upping it to de jure in the future, what did they do? Chechnya descended into a state of near-anarchy run by Islamist warlords, central control in the republic failed and elements of Sharia law were put in place. Warlords who had free reign in Chechnya raised an army with the stated aims of establishing an Emirate in the Caucasus and cleansing it of Russians. In 1999, using Chechnya as a staging ground, they invaded the neighbouring Russian republic of Ingushetia, and in doing so prompted the Second Chechen War after being repelled, causing Chechnya to come firmly back into Russia’s grip.
So that was an example of splintering giving tribal/religious hatred a secure power base, but as contrasted with Tatarstan, it really depends on the culture, among other things. The question is, is it a nation whos people generally just want to live secure lives and believe they have a right to determine their own country’s fate? Or is it a nation of warmongering barbarians who will happily destroy the secular independent order they fought to achieve and replace it with a lawless outpost for international jihad, or something similarly aggressive? Both plintering and coexisting on negotiated terms work for civilised nations like the Czechs and Slovaks, Russians and Tatars, Russians and the whole bunch of other republics we released in 1991 because it was their right under the Soviet constitution.
I know very little about the Taureg people so it’s hard for me to speculate what a Taureg state would be like, but they seem not to be the extremist type of Muslim. From what little I read, their motivation in all the conflicts they have been involved in since colonisation seems to be a desire for self-determination, not any fundamentalism. As for the physical properties of the area they dominate, this map suggests it has no problems in terms of size or contiguity, seems to me like it could be a viable state. The level of development of infrastructure there hardly even matters, since Tauregs are nomadic.