the peacekeeping industry doesn't want to hear about is "failed states." These
are countries that exist in name only. There are a lot of them. Always has
been. Since the establishment of the UN, it's been fashionable to believe that
such places don't exist. This is also a
result of the European nations giving up all their colonies after World
War II. Most of those colonies had been acquired in the previous two centuries,
as the West sought to bring order to many parts of the world that were anything
but. Conventional wisdom is that the colonial period was an unmitigated
disaster for the colonized. It was actually anything but. Just take a look at
the population figures for those parts of the world. They skyrocketed during
the colonial period. So did economies, literacy rates and all manner of good
things. That included law and order. These areas were usually in a constant state
of warfare or disorder before the colonial troops arrived. While there was
often great brutality used against the locals, it wasn't much different from
what the locals had been doing to each other for centuries.
When the colonial powers
departed, they left behind the semblance of a government. But the appearance
was deceiving. The factionalism of these areas was largely unchanged. Most
post-colonial African nations have dozens, and sometimes hundreds, of ethnic
groups within their borders. These groups frequently feuded, or fought, with
each other. The colonial governments established security forces (an army and
national police) that kept the violence levels down after the colonial powers
departed. But the new governments often did not work. That's because tribalism
demanded that the senior officials favor their own tribe, usually to the extent
that everyone else was noticeably shut out. This often created a lot of unhappy
people, because no African nation had one tribe that constituted a majority. So
you have all these minorities struggling with each other, against the one that
is in power, and in control of the army.
You have similar
situations in Asia, especially places like Afghanistan, and elsewhere in
Central Asia. In the last few centuries, you had similar situations throughout
the world, but you didn't have the modern communications and weapons that
enable a small group to control a much larger population. In a word, you did
not have the modern police state. You also didn't have mass media to remind
everyone of what are ancestors were able to ignore.
The people in these
countries may be loyal to their tribe, but they are not stupid. Half a century
has gone by since the great decolonialization, and the former colonies have
figured out that their problems are local, not the result of colonial
oppression. Indeed, many people in former colonies (like Somalia and Sierra
Leone) openly talk about how much nicer things were when they were a colony.
Some colonies, when given the choice, choose to remain colonies, and have
prospered as a result (of clean government, mainly).
All this brings us back to
failed states, like Somalia, Afghanistan and west African places like Liberia
and Sierra Leone. What's a peacekeeper to do? Sending in troops and police will
bring peace for a while, but unless you can fix the underlying problems
(corruption and ethnic favoritism), the violence will return once the
peacekeepers leave. Haiti is a classic example of this. Here, the problem isn't
tribalism (most of the population is descended from former slaves), but
corruption, and the inability of enough honest and able politicians to be
found. Haiti has been trying to get it together for over two centuries. They
had three decades of U.S. peacekeepers early in the 20th century. Times were
good while the marines were in charge. But once the marines departed, the bad
guys, bad habits and bad times returned within a decade. Look at the historical
record, and you will see that it takes several generations to move from chaotic
tribalism to peaceful prosperity.
The peacekeeping industry
(the UN, and other international organizations that organize peacekeeping
missions, and the nations that pay for them) don't like to dwell on Haiti, or
Somalia, or Afghanistan, or Iraq, or most of the countries in Africa. The
peacekeeping crew doesn't like to look at the past either. For example, how did
these situations resolve themselves in the past? With lots of violence, until
people got tired of the killing and settled down for a generation or so.
Eventually, the ethnic frictions would trigger another spasm of mass violence.
The history books are full of these "wars." Archeologists are now finding that
there were even more, largely unrecorded, wars in Africa and the Americas. The
violence that calls forth peacekeepers, is nothing new.
So what is the formula for
peace? No one has found one yet. In the past, peacekeeping, so to speak, was
called "pacification" and consisted of a lot of actions that would, today, be
considered war crimes. One crucial factor appears to be the money. Even a poor
nation has some income, and foreign aid, for government officials to steal. If
you can stop, or at least control, the stealing, and do those things that are
known to create vibrant economies (education and a just legal system), you will
get prosperity and a brighter future. This scenario has played out many times
since World War II. Being poor and ignorant is not a permanent condition. But
getting the locals to produce honest officials is, time and again, the key failing.
It takes a long time, longer than proponents of peacekeeping are willing to
admit. And it doesn't always work.
If you want to know if a
peacekeeping mission will succeed, just follow the money. If the locals are
more inclined to steal it, than invest it in things like education, health,
infrastructure and a working justice system, you will fail. It's a message the
peacekeeping industry does not want to hear, but cannot ignore.