Sunday, January 26, 2014

Arturo C. Sotomayor's "The Myth of the Democratic Peacekeeper"

Arturo C. Sotomayor is an assistant professor in the National Security Affairs Department at the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS), in Monterey, California. His areas of interest include civil-military relations in Latin America; UN peacekeeping participation by democratizing countries; Latin American comparative foreign policy, and nuclear policy in Argentina, Brazil and Mexico. Sotomayor has held research fellowships from the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars, Tulane University, and CIDE in Mexico City.

Sotomayor applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Myth of the Democratic Peacekeeper: Civil-Military Relations and the United Nations, and reported the following:
The Myth of the Democratic Peacekeeper examines how United Nations peacekeeping missions reform (or not) their participating members. Two-thirds of the UN peacekeepers come from developing states, many of which are transitioning to democracy as well. The conventional wisdom is that these blue helmets learn not only to appreciate democratic principles through their mission work, but also develop an international outlook and new ideas about conflict prevention. This book debunks this myth, arguing that peacekeeping has multiple, varying, and divergent effects on participating soldiers. The book aims to answer to three specific questions: (1) Does peacekeeping reform military organizations? (2) Can peacekeeping socialize soldiers to become more liberalized and civilianized? (3) Does peacekeeping improve defense and foreign policy integration?

Chapter four of this book begins, precisely, on page 99, where the author analyzes how peacekeeping socializes the military. The findings in this chapter are surprising. In UN missions in Angola, Cambodia, the DRC, Rwanda, and Sierra Leone, peacekeepers from South America essentially performed internal security missions. Their duties involved policing and internal security functions, sometimes suppressing civilian unrest rather than assisting with civilian reconstruction. Their responsibilities in part resembled their previous dictatorial missions, which focused precisely on counterinsurgency, deterrence of guerrillas, and policing. In many of these UN missions, peacekeepers were accused of bribery, corruption, and even sexual abuse.

What happened to the so-called positive effects of peacekeeping socialization? Peacekeepers with little combat experience learned some hard lessons about internal warfare and civil conflict. Soldiers placed a premium on public order and the surveillance of (and operations against) civilian opponents, leading to excessive and unnecessary force. Moreover, the UN had an inherent institutional weakness: it could not monitor, punish, prosecute, or hold its peacekeepers accountable for serious acts of misconduct. Ultimately, the lack of institutional accountability and transparency in the UN gave rise to negative socialization and diffused illiberal and praetorian practices among the blue helmets from South America.

The Myth of the Democratic Peacekeeper thus provides a novel argument about how peacekeeping works and further insights into how international factors affect domestic politics as well as how international organizations affect democratizing states.

The views expressed in this blog entry are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Naval Postgraduate School, Department of Defense, or the U.S. government.
Learn more about The Myth of the Democratic Peacekeeper at the the Johns Hopkins University Press website and Arturo C. Sotomayor's webpage.

--Marshal Zeringue