chapter  1
21 Pages

Legitimacy in stability operations

This book focuses on the notion of legitimacy to explain the success (or failure) of stability operations in the post-Cold War era. The end of the Cold War witnessed a dramatic and rapid rise in stability operations. In the immediate post-Cold War era, the triumphant Western democracies embarked on a range of peace operations, intended primarily to address internal crises and their humanitarian consequences, which ended with varied levels of success. Efforts to support nation-building with multilateral stability missions received a serious setback in Somalia in the early 1990s, after which the use of armed forces for stability purposes became more restricted, although it continued throughout the 1990s and into the 2000s in places such as the Balkans, East Timor and West Africa. In the aftermath of the Iraq War in 2003, too, lingering violence there led to deepreaching re-evaluation of the strategic value of stability operations. In Afghanistan, operations that started in 2001 entered a new phase as the Taliban re-emerged around 2005 to 2006, posing a significant challenge to the Western nations involved. In the success of stability operations, I argue, legitimacy is key. The intervening force must create an enduring sense of the legitimacy of its mission among various parties such as the people of the host nation, the host government (whose relations with the local people must be legitimate), political elites and the general public worldwide (including the intervening parties’ own domestic constituencies, who will sway the course of the intervention by offering or withdrawing support), and states in the international community that will determine and establish conditions regarding legitimate intervention. The importance of legitimacy has long been recognised in the history of counterinsurgency and stability operations,1 but the difficulty of establishing it in specific intervention contexts is today felt even more acutely due to the complexity and diversity of actors, the difficulty of defining “success,” and the complications involved in setting specific goals and priorities in order to achieve that success.2