chapter  2
20 Pages

Peacekeeping before the UN: the inter-war years

The problem, even the impossibility, that we have just explored – that of arriving at a firm definition of peacekeeping – creates obvious difficulties when we try to put a date to its beginnings. Collective military intervention arranged between the forces of different nations – multilateralism – is as old as armed conflict itself. These interventions, whatever their underlying motives, have frequently been justified as contributions to the greater good and the security of the international community. Claims of good international citizenship that are designed to distract attention from what is really the pursuit of national interests are not a recent invention. While examples of military interventions that could conceivably be called peacekeeping can be found over the centuries since the Treaty of Westphalia set the terms of the contemporary state system, it is probably reasonable to begin our excavation of the ‘archaeology’ of peacekeeping in the nineteenth century as leaders became increasingly conscious of the broader implications of conflict in one part of the system for the security of the system as a whole. The modern history of peacekeeping grew out of these beginnings and is associated with the unprecedented attempts to impose mechanisms of regulation on the international system after the shock of the First World War.