Peacekeepin Peace Building And World Politics International Relations Essay

At the end of the cold war, internal conflicts around the world accounted for enormous loss of lives in which civilian non-combatant involved were estimated at about 90% (UNDP 2002, P.85). This trend represented a huge threat to regional and global stability as the spillover effect of these internal conflicts witnessed mass deaths and refugee movements across borders. The search for succor to this fiasco beamed a search light towards liberal peace building which aims to prevent a recurring violence and enduring long lasting peace in post conflict environments.

The liberal peace paradigm is therefore predicated on a fundamental essence of establishing stability in post conflict societies through a prevailing peace building consciousness. As a post-mortem approach to conflict circumstances, liberal peace seeks to lay the foundation for long term stability through strengthened democracy and open market economics embedded in a framework for international peace.

However, the historical experiment of the liberal peace model has been consequentially fratricidal especially in fragile and divided societies just emerging from civil war (Paris 2004, p.151). It therefore puzzles some commentators that the liberal peace model translates into a world view of a benevolent concept, which seeks to consolidate peace through concrete strategies of establishing socio-economic foundations juxtaposed with solid political framework for long term sustainable peace. This gap between the normative liberal peace concept and the empirical evidence obtained, paves way for criticism.

This essay therefore seeks to inquire the conduct of liberal peace operations in post conflict societies by engaging existing debates that questions the practical consequences of the liberal peace project as evident in post civil war societies. Therefore the essay will be divided into four parts, the first part delves into the discursive debates of liberal peace, with a view to understanding the ideological choice of the subject matter. The second part looks at the empirical illustration that touches upon international institutions involvement in promoting liberal peace particularly in non advanced democracies and closed market societies around the world, this will help clarify and validate the inherent tensions in international peace building proposals.

The thirdly part will underscore some of the challenges in establishing liberal peace, while the paper concludes by giving plausible recommendations as to how best the liberal peace model can be established without necessarily generating skepticism on its long term strategy towards a feasible world order. I find solace in the contention that liberal peace continuous to offer a more comprehensive international policy frame work for global peace, based on the assumptions that liberal market democracies rarely engage in violent war (Doyle 1986, P.1151).

Uncapping Liberal Peace:

The term liberal peace illustrates a policy agenda to locate alternatives to traditional peace keeping. Hence the liberal peace concept provides a comprehensive approach that entails, creates, and sustains a broad spectrum of processes, patterns, and stages necessary to transform hitherto conflict societies toward peaceful and sustainable ones. (Lederach 1997, P.20). Liberal peace however offers a robust range of structural options that precede formal peace making in violent societies. It stresses the key stages of peace to encompass a dynamic social condition that allows for non violent cessation alternative to civil conflict.

The United Nations `agenda for peace` offers a valid insight into liberal peace, when the secretary general through a policy statement opined that post conflict peace building will vehemently seek to identify and nurture structures capable of strengthening and consolidating peace in the aftermath of civil war (Ghali 1992, p.32). By this statement it meant that the United Nations as a leading international security body identifies with the task that liberal peace sought to achieve. In accomplishing this task, the United Nations had to pioneer post conflict peace building efforts alongside other international agencies as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the European Union, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe and a host of others. Giving the enormity of international peace builders in global discourse, a wide range of actors where involved, and their operational manifestations revealed that common strategies for consolidating peace in war-shattered societies was adopted (Paris 2004, p. 19).

Liberal peace has therefore been conceived to be a western consensus to pioneer a global shift towards political and economic reform. In almost all parts of the world, liberal peace became “something close to a global theology” in post cold war era (Ake 1997, p.287). As a remedy for conflict prevention, multi-nationals also played roles of peace building agent through the promotion of good governance in developing countries. In today`s global politics, liberal peace has been transformed into a new interventionist norm within international security framework guided by a widely held assumption of conflict management theory (Chandler 2004, p.59).

Interestingly, the principles that necessitated peace building experiments particularly at post civil conflict situations have attracted the attention of keen observers. Since there are no indications that peace building operations will be on the decline owing to `currency new wars`, in today`s international domain. The liberal peace debate does offer an opportunity to vigorously investigate into the prevailing conduct of peace building operations with a view to establishing effective strategies that suits the task of lasting peace in domestic post conflict environment and the world in a broader sense.

Liberal Peace Building Records – An Empirical analysis:

Drawing on the ideas of Wilson that liberalism is essential to attaining peace and security within domestic and international political discourse. He asserts that democracy promotes the “ascendancy of reason over passion” and promises “the supreme and peaceful rule of counsel” offering a recipe for “peace and progress” in political life (Wilson 1968, p.90).

Therefore the marketization and democratisation of post conflict societies especially after the cold war was in tandem with Wilson`s faith in the actual peace that liberalization could produce. Surprisingly the entrenchment of this optimistic formula in countries just emanating from internal conflict has exposed and provoked enormous tension, resulting in the constant questioning of the process of liberalization.

The end of the cold war marked a water-shed in the promotion of liberal peace building across nation states. The United Nation and other international organizations became directly involved in several measures to proffer lasting peace on long-standing conflicts. During this period international organizations were willing to put in energies and resources in rehabilitating ‘failed states’, as such the United Nations became increasingly proactive in cases of humanitarian crises on a large scale.

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Consequently, new peace building missions were launched by the United Nations Security Council to cope with the cases of civil conflicts that preceded the cold war. However, it is of interest to note that the pattern of peace building during this period was observed to have shifted beyond the traditional peace keeping in Westphalia sense. For instance in Cambodia the UN transitional authority (UNTAC) through its mandate temporarily took over administration of the domestic affairs (Schear 1996, p.174). The peace building manifestations saw UNTAC through an election and in that sense it was applauded for fostering peace through political liberalization, although the long term legacy of democratization in Cambodia showed that the elections brought relative calm to Cambodia during the election, but soon after the United Nation withdrew UNTAC the status quo returned.

UNTAC, whose mandate was leveraged on a robust peace agreement between the warring groups in Cambodia, operated within the liberal peace building framework. The peace agreement was in principle a master plan to bring lasting peace to Cambodians through drafting a new constitution to accommodate the entrenchment of liberal democracy and a committed human rights declaration. This approach assumes that transforming Cambodia from a troubled state, to a liberal democratic one will move the country from its “far civil” situation to a peaceful political atmosphere.

Indeed this prescription is what the liberal peace model identifies with in principle. In practice however, UNTAC penetrated the Cambodian local administrative network and in so doing lured Cambodia into adopting a market-disposed economic reform. These matrix of a liberal market democracy saw UNTAC accomplishing a transition process within six months to scheduled elections in Cambodia by may 1993 (Prasso 1995, P,39). By implication a thorough demobilization of belligerents which, was crucial to both an immediate peaceful electoral environment and after was hastily carried out. The short transition time table was excused on the need to deploy the military “to protect voter registration and subsequently, the electoral and polling processes, particularly in remote or insecure areas” (Boutros 1993, p. 4-5). The elections were held as scheduled with 90% registered voter’s participation and it seemed that the election was a reasonable vaccine that cured a dangerous political problem at the time.

Because this was perceived as a successful operation the United Nation deemed UNTAC withdrawal from Cambodia appropriate. Unfortunately, the election left a precarious plural society without necessarily having on ground a strong and established political institution to manage any tension that might occur. This point was fundamentally stressed by James Schear when he opined that: “The injection of political pluralism into the country, though welcomed in many respects, opened the door to an upsurge in violence that UNTAC was ill prepared to handle” (1996, p.174).

Not astonishing however a catastrophic political wave rocked Cambodia again four years later, the outbreak of violence was majorly between two contending political party FUNCINPEC and CPP preparatory to an election. It is however necessary to note that, the democratization of Cambodia was not by implication a solely destabilizing factor responsible for an awakened violence in Cambodia, nevertheless democratization cause an unhealthy political competition that ignited the new fight leading up to the 1998 elections. Again it is difficult to argue that the peace builders in promoting liberalization in Cambodia deliberately left the country in a worst state, perhaps the case to be made here is that the empirical liberal peace approach of UNTAC as peace builders in Cambodia brings to fore a major weakness in the establishment of lasting peace, even though the mission (UNTAC) deserve some credit for implementing the peace agreement to the extent that the elections were held. A phenomenal difference would have been possible, if institutions strong enough to sustain liberal democracy in Cambodia were built before leaving it in the hands of local actors. In other words, as a long term strategy for long standing peace UNTAC could have consolidated on the accomplished elections through erecting liberal structures that can manage and implement the rule of law, human right declaration, civil liberty and individual freedom in Cambodia.

Also, liberal peace has been held accountable in explaining the ideological assumptions that created policies leading to the invasion in Iraq. Although liberalism was not exclusively the policy agenda that nurtured the United States invasion of Iraq in March 2003, the invasion finds origin on the need to spread liberty and uphold individual freedom. As the president of the United States at the time did say on the eve to the invasion, “A new regime in Iraq would serve as a dramatic and inspiring example of freedom for other nations in the region” (Bush 2003) he meant by this statement that, establishing democratic norm all over the middle east was crucial to freedom in the region. This helps to explain the discourse with which liberal peace has become topical on global affairs, the argument in liberal peace has become increasingly controversial as it clearly touches on sovereignty.

The national interest of the United States under the leadership of Bush after 9/11 set the pace for a complex definition of security. The explanatory philosophy within which Bush`s agenda setting can be understood was multifaceted. This was corroborated by Smith when he admits that from 2001, the United States presidents public statement on foreign policy began to build towards ‘a plausible rendering of a sophisticated ideology’ (2007, p.14). On this note, the philosophical premise upon which the United States invaded and occupied Iraq in 2003 can also be linked to neo-conservatism (Owen 2007, p 266). But more clearly neo-liberalism best prescribes the long term development strategy in which the invaders use to defend their actions. Since the liberal ideology does embrace the socio-political and economic gains of capitalism, the United States interprets invasion as pursuant to its commitment for improved human liberty by delivering freedom to all states in the international system, in the assumption that if nations and societies are free to choose their political and economic liberty there is a likelihood for international peace and stability

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It can therefore be pointed out that liberal peace influenced the policy of the United States in a strategic long term sense. The quest for regime change and individual freedom by the United States was based on the suspicion that the state poses a threat in enabling its citizens to exercise their free will. The corollary of which the United States as a progressive world body and a promoter of virtuous government (Williams 2005, p.318) invaded in the interest of international peace and stability.

Although it is significant to mention that the Iraq circumstances is indeed unique, in the sense that efforts to rebuild Iraq was not born out of a post civil war experience. Rather the need to rebuild Iraq was an aftermath consequence of foreign invasion. Perhaps the inference of Iraq here is to show the desire to establish material economic prosperity and democratic value just after the invasion. Arguably the lessons from Iraq, does not necessarily fit into the general nature of peace building in internally generated conflicts, it bears similar challenges that actual civil war reconstruction pioneered by liberal peace philosophy face.

The challenges of contemporary liberal peace:

The records of entrenching liberal peace have continued to be flawed with failures.

The costs of failure have been phenomenal both to the immediate society where the conflict is present and the international community in general. It is therefore in this context that we are keen to ascertain the obstructing factors towards the construction of lasting peace through liberal peace objectives.

Suffice to mention at this juncture that the `right of humanitarian intervention` deployed by liberal states to protect individual rights internationally has given rise to a legitimacy question. In a bid to safeguard individual rights, the liberals justify intervention in humanitarian terms; they claim that even though the framework for intervention is not clearly embedded in the UN charter, the new consciousness for international peace makes intervention morally legitimate. This view is been refuted by the realist`s school as they continually stress that the international norm for peace is anchored on state oriented collective security agenda of the United Nations.

Therefore, the incompatibility of `state sovereignty` to cope with the new interventionist norm of liberal peace, constitutes a fundamental challenge which undermines the progress of liberal peace. Hence the challenges of liberal peace will be described under the following headings:-

Humanitarian Intervention:-

The concept of humanitarian intervention has been problematic in erecting liberal peace architecture internationally. Since liberal peace often attempts to create the framework for international order via interventions, the moral defense in today’s anarchical world is hard to find. Efforts to legitimize intervention, for human security purpose culminated in the constitution of an Independent Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS).

The commission was mandated to resolve the moral friction between `intervention and sovereignty` in a desire to evolve a holistic agreement on how to shift from debates towards action. Nonetheless the commission argued that Intervention remains a moral and ethical issue, noting that the universal declaration of human rights is a tool for alienating individual rights based on normative liberal claims.

This implies that the onus is morally on the state as a `moral agent` to protect the rights of its citizenry, except in cases where such rights are being abused, external intervention can be excused based on consent. The absence of consent triggered the dilemma on the United Nations involvement in Iraq; perhaps if authorization and endorsement were sought the crisis of legitimacy would not have arisen.

In this circumstance, liberal peace suffers from internationalizing the `right of intervention`, as the primary `responsibility to protect` beckons on the state concerned. The Intervening power of the international community should be exercised where an unprecedented lack of the state willingness to manage its sovereignty is manifest.

Activities on non state actors:-

The activities of non-state actor in some internationally sponsored peace building arrangement may point to a very crucial factor against the success of liberal peace. Since contemporary civil conflict has become large scaled, it practically becomes impossible for the United Nations to solely combat or manage conflict across different locations. Thus, non-state actors get involved in the spread of liberal peace through peace building missions. However it can be argued that this exercise, impacts on an un-even spread of democratic principles, this could be the case when some multi-national firms for instance will assist in establishing liberal peace norms where they operate, partly because the eruption of war disrupts their economic activities. Others may for some reasons support the conflict since its economic activity thrives during war time circumstance.

In the third world particularly, the trend of arms trade by private military companies to insurgents has occasioned huge export capital during the mid 1980`s, constituting a precarious repercussion for peace building efforts. The United Nations secretary general once pointed out that the proliferation of illicit weapons pose a grave threat to democracy, peace, human right and indeed peace keeping mission (Annan 2000 p. 238-47). Given these instances and a variety of other reasons, the consolidation of peace through liberal peace tenets has continued to witness threats and delay capable of undermining the positive effect of liberalisation.

Towards a more efficacious peace building approach

The failure or achievement of liberal peace building mission ought to be seen in the light of the ideological weakness of liberalism. More so the contention in the debate has been the extent to which liberal peace building is been coercively showcased as a constitutive pillar for a sanitized international order. The interventionist pattern of international organizations in civil war circumstance has been described as a blow to state sovereignty especially in developing nations of the world (Dodge, 2004 p. 4-5).

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The recurring destabilizing effect of liberal peace in fragile post conflict societies therefore warrant an alternative approach. While it is still necessary to transform war torn societies towards market oriented democracies, the strategy of building viable institutions as the sub-structure upon which liberal norm is built seem plausible (Paris 2004, p.179). This strategy engages a more thorough process of transforming post conflict states into peace heavens. The apparent immediacy employed by peace building mission to spread democracy has sacrificed the necessary conditions of doing so on the altar of weak state structures. Roland Paris best captures this by opining that:

“What is needed in the immediate post conflict period is not democratic ferment and economic upheaval, but political stability and the establishment of effective administration over the territory” (2004, P.187).

This brings to attention, the central elements of a peace building strategy which stresses the need to institutionalize before liberalizing. It puts at the very core of a democratic agenda, the very conditions that eschew electoral violence during and after election, based on a long term plan through an objective commitment to the moderation of political parties. Rather than hastily conducting elections on the assumption that democratic society are usually less violent.

At the instance of institutionalizing before liberalizing, the success of peace building missions would be anchored on the construction of viable institutional settings capable of absorbing the pressure of elections especially where the contestants and voters alike are just emerging from conflict. More so a functional institution will require the ability to enforce constitutional doctrines with an independent judicial mechanism prior to elections, therefore the idea of institution building ultimately seeks to ensure that transition towards democracy is prolonged in a manner that prepares war shattered states to be ripe for election (Paris 2004. P.188)


It is interesting to observe that even the early coiners of classical liberal theory, wrote about the contemporary challenges peace builders encounter. For instance Thomas Hobbes`s `leviathan` creates an insight on the crucial conditions incumbent for a peaceful and stable society (Hobbes 1968, p.86) although Hobbes was not inclined to liberal believes, his work influenced the thinking of liberal philosophers like John Locke when he opined that the state of nature was anarchical and that the formation of a unanimous government based on consent will help guarantee a lawful and peaceful society (Locke 1963, p.395). Central to these claims is the need to evolve viable government institutions as a pre-condition for both domestic and international peace.

It is true that economically closed societies with repressive political arrangement can be incubators for conflict possibilities, hence constituting a fundamental treat to international peace and security. However a cursory look at the liberal peace building approach shows a deliberately hurried transformation process towards market based economies in post conflict societies.

In sum, the aim of Wilsonian peace building strategy (liberal peace) is not irrelevant in its entirety; rather the broad goal of a peaceful international system has been undermined due to a twist in recent practice. Since democracy which liberal peace advocates, fosters a social contract upon which socio-economic and political tensions that threaten the stability of societies and states can be managed. (Ghali 1996, para. 17-122). The institutionalize before liberalize campaign will aid in the dissemination of a less faulty democratization and marketization formula for long term peace in post civil war states around the world.


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