Expanding Global Military Capacity for Humanitarian Intervention [NOOK Book]


Humanitarian military intervention and muscular peace operations have been partially effective in recent years in saving thousands of lives from the Balkans to Haiti to Somalia to Cambodia to Mozambique. However, success has often been mitigated by the international community's unwillingness or inability to quickly send enough forces capable of dealing with a situation decisively. In other cases, the international community has essentially stood aside as massive but possibly preventable humanitarian tragedies ...

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Expanding Global Military Capacity for Humanitarian Intervention

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Humanitarian military intervention and muscular peace operations have been partially effective in recent years in saving thousands of lives from the Balkans to Haiti to Somalia to Cambodia to Mozambique. However, success has often been mitigated by the international community's unwillingness or inability to quickly send enough forces capable of dealing with a situation decisively. In other cases, the international community has essentially stood aside as massive but possibly preventable humanitarian tragedies took place for instance, in Angola and Rwanda in the mid-1990s and in Congo as this book goes to press. Sometimes these failures have simply been the result of an insufficient pool of available military and police forces to conduct the needed intervention or stabilization missions.

In this timely new book, Michael O'Hanlon presents a blueprint for developing sufficient global intervention capacity to save many more lives with force. He contends, at least for now, that individual countries rather than the United Nations should develop the aggregate capacity to address several crises of varying scale and severity, and that many more countries should share in the effort. The United States' role is twofold: it must make slight redesigns to its own military and, even more important, encourage other nations to join it in this type of intervention, including training and support of troops in countries, such as those in Africa, that are willing to take the necessary steps to prevent humanitarian disaster but lack the resources.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"A straightforward and passionate appeal to the United States' and the United Nations' role in preventing mass atrocities, Expanding Global Military Capacity for Humanitarian Intervention is a highly commended effort to personal, professional, governmental, academic, and community library Contemporary International Studies collections." — Bookwatch

"With this extended essay, Michael E. O'Hanlon, a thoughtful and respected policy analyst with the Brookings Institution in Washington DC, has made and effective and, on the whole, persuasive case for a greater international effort to increase the 'global capacity for humanitarian intervention and peace operations.'" —Mats Berdal, Kings College London, RUSI Journal, 8/1/2003

"The book's most useful contribution is its third chapter, a global survey of force projection capability. It reaches the remarkable conclusion that whereas 62 per cent of US troops are quickly deployable, only three per cent of the seven million standing forces in the rest of the world are (p. 56)." —Alan J. Kuperman, School of Advanced International Studies, Bologna, Italy, Contemporary Security Policy, 8/1/2003

"Expanding Global Military Capacity for Humanitarian Intervention, by Michael O'Hanlon, provides an insightful look at this overlooked area that often accompanies U.S. conflicts." —Captain George Galdorisi, U.S. Navy (retired), United States Naval Institute Proceedings, 3/1/2004

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780815764311
  • Publisher: Brookings Institution Press
  • Publication date: 5/13/2004
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 168
  • File size: 2 MB

Meet the Author

Michael E. O'Hanlon is a senior fellow in Foreign Policy Studies at the Brookings Institution, where he holds the Sydney Stein Jr. Chair. His recent books include The Future of Arms Control (Brookings, 2005; with Michael A. Levi), Neither Star Wars nor Sanctuary (Brookings, 2004), and Crisis on the Korean Peninsula (McGraw Hill, 2003; with Mike Mochizuki).

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Read an Excerpt

Expanding Global Military Capacity for Humanitarian Intervention

By Michael E. O'Hanlon

Brookings Institution Press

Copyright © 2003 Brookings Institution Press
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0815764421

Chapter One


Since the end of the cold war, a number of writers and pundits have forecast increasing conflict and violence around the world. Largely because of the Balkan wars and the 1994 Rwanda genocide, they have predicted escalating ethnic conflicts, a global contagion of substate violence, and a coming international anarchy in the less-developed parts of the world. By their logic, the end of superpower conflict lifted a restraint on numerous countries and ethnic groups that had previously limited the prevalence and severity of warfare. These observers also thought the negative side of globalization-rising expectations and widening gaps between rich and poor, set against a backdrop of growing populations and deteriorating environments-would exacerbate tensions and produce the kindling for civil conflict in many regions.

Thankfully, however, the worst of these fears has not come to pass-at least to date. Civil warfare has not escalated appreciably since the latter part of the cold war, and in fact some data sets show that it has declined somewhat in recent years. UN peace operations did expand greatly in number at the end of the cold war. In addition, large-scale conflict did occur in Europe for the first time since the end of World War II. Those facts do not mean, however, that the prevalence of civil war increased or that wars became more severe.

Nonetheless, the international community faces a real problem and a major challenge. Civil conflicts remain numerous and deadly. Trends in demographics, economics, the global weapons market, and international politics suggest that, whether or not these conflicts get worse over time, they are unlikely to diminish much further on their own. Several hundred thousand people still lose their lives each year due to the direct effects of war and to war-related famine and disease. Very serious and deadly conflicts continue in Algeria, Burundi, Congo, Sudan, Colombia, Palestine and Israel, Indonesia, and Kashmir. Dozens of smaller conflicts are under way elsewhere, in places ranging from Nepal to Chechnya to Georgia to Somalia.

These wars seem unlikely to lead to large-scale armed conflict among the world's major powers, but they have many other serious costs. They have an obvious and extremely tragic toll in lost human lives-with most of the dead being innocent noncombatants and a distressingly high number of combatants being child soldiers. They can produce conditions that provide terrorist groups with havens or sources of illicit income, as in Afghanistan, Somalia, and Sierra Leone in recent times, as well as with motivating causes, as in much of the Middle East. They do much to keep Africa mired in misery, economic stagnation, and disease. They can cause massive refugee movements, which have the potential to affect the domestic stability of nearby countries. They also undercut the common western argument that democracies protect and promote human rights. The frequent failure of the industrial democracies to do much about such conflicts weakens their moral authority and their international legitimacy as global leaders.

The world community cannot excuse its neglect of many civil conflicts on the grounds that humanitarian intervention would violate international law and the UN Charter. Russia and China are only occasionally inclined to wield their UN Security Council vetoes against such operations. NATO's war against Serbia over Kosovo, which proceeded at first on a shaky international legal foundation, underscored that difficult cases can arise. For the world's most deadly conflicts, however, legal mechanisms for intervention are generally available. Individuals from developing countries themselves now argue that sovereignty requires a sense of responsibility on the part of national leadership toward its citizenry; to ignore that responsibility is to surrender many of the traditional prerogatives and protections of state sovereignty. A number of developing countries are also willing to use national military assets to forcibly reduce the severity of civil conflict within their own regions. For example, the Constitutive Act of the new African Union, which replaced the Organization of African Unity in 2002, notes in Article 4 "the right of the Union to intervene in a Member State pursuant to a decision of the Assembly in respect of grave circumstances, namely: war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity."

To be fair, governments and international institutions have made numerous efforts to mitigate civil conflicts since the cold war ended. Longstanding peacekeeping missions continue in places such as Cyprus and the Sinai. In addition, a new and more comprehensive type of approach-involving not only peacekeeping but also election monitoring, demilitarization, and state building-has been applied in places such as Cambodia, Mozambique, Haiti, El Salvador, and the Balkans. Several of these missions have been successes, or at least partial successes, in the sense that intervention made conditions better than they might otherwise have been. Specifically, missions in Cambodia, Mozambique, Albania, Kosovo, and East Timor all probably made a significant difference for the better. The NATO-led mission in Bosnia ultimately helped matters as well, even if the roles played by NATO and UNPROFOR in the first three years of the war were less impressive. Even the aborted mission in Somalia mitigated the famine there, saving tens of thousands of lives.

Missions in Angola and Rwanda were outright and major failures, however, in the sense that bloodshed intensified after the deployment of foreign forces. Moreover, the world's noninterventions in places such as Sudan and Liberia allowed extremely brutal wars to continue even though it seems likely that effective missions could have been designed to stop or to contain them.

On balance, the international community deserves no more than a mixed grade for its humanitarian military operations of the first post-cold war decade. It has made reasonable efforts, though not always with excellent results, in places where humanitarian imperatives have been juxtaposed with strategic interests-the Balkans, Haiti, Afghanistan. It has been much less inclined to act decisively elsewhere. Surveying his native continent of Africa in 1998, for example, UN secretary general Kofi Annan put it bluntly and accurately: "By not averting these colossal human tragedies, African leaders have failed the peoples of Africa; the international community has failed them; the United Nations has failed them."

Throughout this period, much of the international scholarly and diplomatic community has sought better means of dealing with severe civil conflicts and their human consequences. Insights have been gained about the strong linkages between economic crises and violence, the need for early action when possible, the role of war crimes processes, and the importance-but also the difficulties-of crafting exit strategies.

However, much of the literature on peace and conflict resolution suffers from several excessively optimistic assumptions that require rethinking. Some of the optimism concerns the potential for negotiations to prevent or stop conflict; some of it relates to the military feasibility of forcibly quelling warfare when negotiations fail. Taken together, this literature tends to underrate the importance of physical intervention capabilities for saving lives with force if other means fail.

For example, proponents of peace operations and preventive action often assert that neutral and relatively apolitical deployments can solve many civil wars by "separating militias" and "disarming combatants." Sometimes such missions will work. In many cases, however, militias and combatants will not wish to be separated or disarmed-and would not assent to such operations if asked. In other words, warring parties are frequently motivated by more than fear of the other side; they often choose war to pursue power, wealth, or land.

Many argue that if only better preventive action were undertaken by the international community, many wars could be avoided or nipped in the bud. That is a good argument in favor of greater international support for development assistance, debt relief, favorable trade agreements with developing countries, and favorable prices for drugs to counter HIV/AIDS; it is a good argument for preventive negotiations and crisis diplomacy a well. However, preventive action will not work in places where the chance for it has already been missed and conflict has begun. In addition, the list of places where preventive action might be required is quite long; policymakers will not always be able to send forces where they might be helpful, and they will sometimes guess wrong about where they are truly needed. Prevention will often fail.

Others claim that just a small standing UN force could make a major difference in reducing civil conflict around the world. Proponents often cite a goal of 5,000 troops, motivated in large part by the claim of Canadian general Romeo Dallaire that such a capability, if added to his small UN force in Rwanda in 1994, could have stopped the genocide there. However, Rwanda is a small country that is not representative of many places where civil conflict occurs. In addition, although there is little doubt that General Dallaire would have used 5,000 more troops bravely and with some effectiveness, it appears a low estimate even for Rwanda, based on standard criteria for sizing intervention forces. Furthermore, if there were two or more simultaneous conflicts requiring rapid attention, such a force would certainly be much too small, necessitating tragic choices about whom to help.

The international community needs to organize itself more systematically to deal with the problem of civil conflict. The military capacity of the great powers for humanitarian or peace operations is probably adequate for conflicts in which their strategic interests are also clearly at stake. However, the international community has insufficient capacity for addressing other conflicts. Such capacity is only a prerequisite to successful intervention, not a sufficient condition, but it is a prerequisite that is often lacking.

Rather than thinking in terms of a 5,000-person UN force, the international community should develop the capacity to deploy and sustain much larger numbers of troops abroad, above and beyond those forces it possesses today. The international community should try to double its current intervention capacity. That is, it should develop the wherewithal to deploy and sustain about 100,000 more troops than it can today. It should create substantial capabilities because serious conflicts, even if generally not numerous, can each require tens of thousands of troops if they are to be handled properly. Smaller numbers of elite or even private soldiers can sometimes handle discrete tasks, but the broader problem of stabilizing a country requires significant forces. Once a decision on intervention is reached, moreover, it is generally preferable to send forces promptly and in decisive quantities. Such an approach conveys resolve, discourages resistance, and improves the odds of success-especially in the most difficult of conflicts. It also offers the greatest hope of ending a conflict with minimum loss of life to intervening soldiers as well as local populations.

Standing up a dedicated UN force with 100,000 or more personnel would be very expensive and politically challenging. Fortunately, it is not necessary. National armies around the world are already paid and equipped, so building on their capacities rather than creating new institutions from scratch is the soundest course of action.

Even if individual countries provide the bulk of the forces, there is a need for standing multilateral capabilities in certain realms. Greater numbers of talented people and greater financial resources are needed for UN command and control capabilities, for example. Other organizations, including NATO, various subregional groups in Africa, and others, also need to improve their command, control, and planning capabilities for humanitarian intervention and peace operations. In many cases, such regional or subregional organizations will be better choices for leading humanitarian or peace operations than the United Nations, especially when operations are complex and forcible. Regarding physical capacity for intervention-the primary focus of this study-the case is strong that it should rely primarily on states, however.

Even if the international community expands its intervention capabilities dramatically, it should often choose not to intervene in civil conflicts. This point is elaborated in chapter 2. In many cases, the prospects for success do not justify the associated costs and risks. However, decisions about whether to intervene should be based on the merits of a given case-on detailed consideration of a conflict at hand. They should not be predetermined by the fact that the international community simply lacks the necessary military capabilities to make an intervention practical. In today's world, that is often precisely what occurs.

There are limits to what robust and timely military interventions can accomplish, even in situations where the international community does decide to respond. For example, in the case of the Rwanda genocide, so much killing happened so quickly that even a U.S.-led operation to stop it could have taken several weeks to complete its deployment and hence might not have saved many of the victims. However, in many cases, rapid and assertive intervention can succeed in quelling conflict, provided that policymakers are prepared to act on compelling evidence when it is presented to them. Even in Rwanda, the robust and prompt deployment of force could have made a major difference. Before the genocide began, a robust preventive force could have been effective. After the genocide began, the very act of beginning a deployment might have affected the behavior of the locals and persuaded them to desist or to scatter out of fear of retribution. Even if a preventive deployment had not been tried, intervention after the genocide began could have saved 200,000 or more victims. This calculation is based on the conservative assumption that an intervening force could have arrived by mid-May if a decision to intervene had occurred by mid- to late April and on conservative assumptions about how quickly a force could have been airlifted into Rwanda.

Moreover, given the extreme pace of the genocide, Rwanda was very much the exception and not the rule, so the international community should hardly be discouraged by this one example.


Excerpted from Expanding Global Military Capacity for Humanitarian Intervention by Michael E. O'Hanlon Copyright © 2003 by Brookings Institution Press
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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Table of Contents

1 Saving Lives with Force 1
2 The Need to Double the Global Effort 17
How to Intervene 23
How Many Forces Does the International Community Need? 26
Requirements for Police 45
Summary 48
3 Projectable Military Forces in the World Today 51
The Major Industrialized Democracies 54
Developing Countries 66
China and Russia 76
The United States 78
4 An Agenda for Improving Intervention Capacity 85
The Major Industrialized Democracies 87
Developing Countries 98
The United States 105
Conclusion 111
Index 117
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