chapter  7
37 Pages

Future visions of conflict management

Introduction The half-hearted reaction of the international community to the plight of Darfurians has been widely perceived to be indicative of the sorry state of current intervention mechanisms. ‘Too late, too little’ was the blunt statement of Human Rights Watch concerning international action in Rwanda (Human Rights Watch 2004b). Lieutenant-General Roméo A. Dallaire, commander of UN troops in Rwanda at the time of the genocide, formulated his verdict as follows: ‘Looking at Darfur, seeing Rwanda’ (Dallaire 2004). This chapter, however, will claim that the international response to Darfur should not be assessed against the yardstick of Western greater missions. That is simply because such operations have either existed only as unrealistic, arrogant visions or deceptive paper tigers, as Alternative I in the Rwandan case, or have engendered a disastrous number of casualties, irresponsible withdrawals and unsustainable activities, as in UNOSOM II. The ‘new yardstick’ proposed here is the degree of structural transformation with regard to the operation and strategy of peacekeeping. By applying this new unit, or level, of analysis, the case of Darfur may appear in a less pessimistic light than in previous literature. Such an analysis could reveal various strategies by which future PKOs avoid potential pitfalls that have plagued UN peacekeeping since the early 1990s. The greatest benefit of an approach based on critical realism lies in the opportunity it offers both to uncover underlying forces or ‘troublemaking’ mechanisms constraining PKOs and to devise strategies through which their effects can be counterbalanced or diminished. The first section will suggest that ‘body-bag syndrome’, triggered and aggravated by Western normalisation, can be assuaged or even eliminated by a ‘new division of labour’ between regional actors. Darfur serves as a laboratory for a new arrangement of cooperation in which richer organisations of developed countries, such as NATO, contribute material equipment and logistical support, while African organisations provide troops. The second section will claim that UN and AU engagement in Darfur indicates another innovative strategy, namely a pragmatic turn with regard to peacekeeping in general and the protection of civilians in particular. As demonstrated in the previous chapter, PKOs have been

prevented from conducting civilian protection by rigid bureaucratic categories, such as the uncompromising distinction between peacekeeping and peaceenforcement, and by grand strategies pursued by international organisations that have diverted their attention away from practical means of protecting civilians. Although civilian protection has not yet become the guiding star of peacekeeping, the case of Darfur reveals several useful, though piecemeal, measures that together imply a pragmatic turn in peacekeeping by dint of which the protection of civilians can gradually become an integral component of any PKO. The third section will claim that the case of Darfur reveals another innovation in humanitarian intervention, namely an increased synchronisation between mechanisms that aim to monitor and control genocidal governments. In opposition to the common presumption, this section will demonstrate that avoidance of the term ‘genocide’ indicates less political unwillingness to respond to atrocities in Darfur than a careful balancing act between the requirement to exert diplomatic pressure on the Sudanese government and the need to ensure its compliance in protecting Darfurian civilians. On the one hand, the condemnation of the Sudanese government’s actions would necessitate the use of the term ‘genocide’. On the other, diplomats have pragmatically calculated that use of the term would jeopardise the government’s co-operation with the AU and UN operations and thus hinder their civilian protection functions, especially in light of the harsh security conditions in Darfur, which make it impossible for AU and UN troops to disarm the Janjaweed without the government’s consent and co-operation. The final three sections of this chapter will build upon the lessons learned of UN conflict management in order to outline future visions for the Organisation. The UN has been confronted by a disturbing, yet necessary, question as to its proper role in the international security architecture. In the 1990s, this question was prompted by the side-lining of the UN in Kosovo and the devastating failures of UN peacekeeping, not least in Bosnia and Rwanda. During the first decade of the new millennium, the question has re-emerged in connection to the failure in Darfur. At the same time, the UN’s prestige has been further undermined by suggestions for possible substitutes to the UN, such as the League or Concert of Democracies, which would provide an alternative platform for democratic governments to deal with various multilateral problems ranging from HIV/ AIDS to the conflict in Darfur.1 This chapter will identify two ways in which the UN could deliver indispensable value added vis-à-vis other international and regional organisations, and fill a unique niche in the international security architecture. These two paths – or, to be accurate, parallel lanes – are the visions of the UN as a defender of the baseline of humanity and as a wheelwork of knowledge-producing mechanisms which could generate objective information for the ‘consumption’ of universal audiences. The main impetus that can push the UN forward into that direction is an unorthodox and innovative way to think out of bureaucratic boxes and categories.