One People Oration 2000

Peacekeeping and modern warfare

Speaker: General Sir Michael Rose

Monday, 10th July 2000 at 6.15 PM


1 A former candidate in the current Presidential election asked why America with a population of 260m should send 100k soldiers to defend a rich Europe that has a population of 360m to defend it from an impoverished Russia that only has a population of 160m? Putting it another way, he queried whether the US, as a super power, has a duty to use its wealth and military might to re-shape the world in its image, - or whether America is, in the words of its founding fathers, 'a land of liberty to be preserved for itself', - without regard for what is happening elsewhere in the world.

2. He answers these questions by saying that the US should withdraw its forces from Europe and re-negotiate article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty, which in his view should be an option not a binding obligation. In doing so he reveals himself to be an isolationist of the old school, - in fact he is a little like Lord Walpole who once proudly reported to the Queen'50k people killed in the Balkans, but not one Englishman'.

3. Leaving aside the moral position so eloquently expressed by the

17th century poet John Donne when he said that no man was an island,

it is clear that political reality and national self-interest also suggest that we all have to stay engaged, - if only, because the inevitable shift towards the globalisation of national economies means that trade in the 21st century will increasingly have to be with developing nations, instead of being either domestic or between the triad of wealthy nations as it tended to be in the past.

4. For it is their populations who now make up 80% of the world, and it will therefore be amongst these poorer nations that the greatest growth in GDP is likely to occur and where consequently the greatest commercial opportunities will arise. To take advantage of these opportunities, the West in the future will require very different commercial strategies; - one's based on long-term investment rather than quick profit. 90% of medical research, for example, carried out at present, by the large pharmaceutical companies is concerned with rich men's diseases, - because this is where the greatest and most immediate profits lie. To invest in research into poor people's diseases such as malaria, or leptospirosis, will not reap comparable rewards. Yet how can a country or economy develop when so much of its productive capacity is destroyed by disease? We need a vision for the future in which long term investment would unlock a tremendous human and market potential, and also reap a benefit ourselves.

5. Sadly the poorer regions of the world are also regions where political uncertainty, civil war, and corruption, make it difficult, if not impossible, to carry out trade. And as with health, without order there can be no economic or human development. We therefore also need to revisit our ideas about how to bring peace and security to the troubled parts of the world, for the old traditional concepts of peacekeeping have not been able to deal effectively with the chaos and brutality of the modern world. If civilisation is to survive in the future, we must accept that global security is a human problem that confronts us all. We are indeed all One People.


6. Caspar Weinberger, at the end of the Cold War, once remarked that 'The future ain't what it used to be'. And it is indeed true that since 1989. World history has been one of political disintegration and conflict, rather than the advent of a new order. Although the prospect of super power conflict has now receded and the chances of a major regional war seem remote, there are some 30 major conflicts in the world today, - excluding terrorism, - and most of these are civil wars taking place in regions where nation states have ceased to exist. In these wars, most of the .25m people killed each year are civilians and half of those are children, - many of whom are killed by other children. The human consequences of these wars are enormous. In the last decade of the last millennium the world witnessed in the Great Lakes area of Africa, the largest mass movement of populations that it has ever seen. Over 30m people are displaced or have become refugees, and now need to be looked after by the richer countries of the world. Over a quarter of the world population has inadequate food and water, no education and has never seen a doctor, - much of this as a result of war. All this is happening in a world where the population is around 5bn people. Yet before the next century has run half is course, there will be 10bn people trying to live on this planet. Something needs to be done.

7. Lord Melbourne, another British Prime Minister, once said that 'When 1 hear people saying something must be done, 1 know something foolish is about to happen. And although it has not yet been possible to make a full or objective assessment of the war in Kosovo, it is 1 think, already clear that NATO became engaged last year in a new form of conflict. It was a humanitarian war whose purpose should have been the preservation of human life rather than the destruction of an enemy war machine. Although 1 believe that it was right for the international community to have intervened in Kosovo, it is clear to me that in Kosovo, NATO fought the wrong war, - having failed to understand the implications of becoming engaged in humanitarian conflict.

8. NATO 's failure was a tragedy for the people of Kosovo. In spite of launching one of the most intensive bombing campaigns in the history of war, - and whilst the combat troops of the most powerful military Alliance in the world stood helplessly by, - thousands of Kosovo Albanians were brutally slaughtered and a million people were driven from their homes. Notwithstanding the frequently made suggestion that somehow NATO 'won', it is a fact that the Alliance failed to achieve its primary objective when it went to war on 24th March 99. In the words of Mr Solana the Secretary General of NATO its object was 'to prevent more human suffering and more repression and violence against the civilian population of Kosovo'. It did not do so. Nor indeed did the NATO bombing campaign succeed, - for far from being progressively disrupted, degraded and finally destroyed', to use the words of General Clarke, NATO 's commanding general, the Serb Army withdrew to Serbia undefeated and virtually unscathed.

9 If the West is to develop a more effective response to the security challenges of this century, then we will need to look further than the belief, apparently widespread amongst today's generation of politicians, that global security can be provided through the unique application of air power. It is simply not possible to solve complex political, social, economic or even military problems on the ground from 15,000 ft. When 1 was in command of the UN forces in Bosnia in 1994 - a similar strategy called 'Lift and Strike' was being strongly advocated at that time by the proponents of air power. Had we listened to these siren voices calling us to war, the result would have undoubtedly been the end of the state of Bosnia, much further slaughter and suffering of the population and a flood of at least 4m refugees. As the Head of UNHCR told the US Secretary of Defence at the time, you cannot feed people by bombing. Fortunately, William Perry not only understood this, - but had the courage to take back to Washington the message that the international community needed to support the UN humanitarian mission on the ground. In the future, our political leaders must likewise have the courage to deploy soldiers and aid workers on the ground into these civil war situations, - if we are to prevent the sort of dreadful thing that happened in Kosovo from becoming the common condition of so much of mankind. And Kosovo has shown us just how quickly a tyrant like Milosevic can create a major humanitarian problem. The British Army deployment in Sierra Leone also showed how quick an impact well-trained troops on the ground can have.

The Right to Intervene

10 As we examine the changed operational circumstances which faces the international community today, as it struggles with the new concept of humanitarian war, it is of course important that we understand the legal and moral basis on which we ignore the principle of non-intervention which under Article 2 of the UN Charter clearly establishes the equal sovereignty of all nations under international law.

11 We need to remind ourselves that the UN Charter was written by a generation of statesmen who themselves had lived through two world wars and who, in the words of the preamble to the Charter, 'were determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war'. Yet today the international community seems increasingly to be opting for a policy of military intervention on the grounds that where nation states no longer exist, where civil wars that are in danger of spreading, where there is a dire need for humanitarian aid, or where there are gross violations of human rights, the UN has a duty to intervene. These are ill-defined criteria, although somehow, 1 suppose they do provide some justification for NATO 's intervention in Kosovo. Although 1 believe that NATO was wrong in failing to obtain prior authority from the Security Council before acting, - thus setting a very dangerous precedent for the future.

12. There are also many moral questions posed by such military interventions. To which crises should we, the international community, respond, and which ones should we ignore? Not even the UN can act as a world policeman everywhere, - nor is it appropriate to intervene in all crises. 1 do not suppose that the British would have been particularly pleased to see blue helmets of the UN deployed in the streets of Belfast in 1969. Nor must we allow the media to determine our policy in the way it so often seems to do. BBG once referred to there being 16 members of the Security Council, - the 15 national representatives, and CNN. Is the international community only to react to those conflicts where the media moguls have sent their most capable teams and whose slick sound bites and clever camera angles have attracted the concern of the viewer and thereby hi-jacked public debate?

13. The peacekeeping mission in the Balkans was the largest that the world has ever seen. 36,000 peacekeepers were deployed in an operation which cost billions of dollars, Yet when General Dallaire asked for three thousand soldiers to go to Rwanda, to stop what was a genuine genocide in which at least a million people died, the world failed to respond. It is said that today the international community is spending $50k on each Kosovo Albanian, - and yet we only spent 30 cents on each Orissa Indian whose lives were devastated by floods last year. What is the moral basis for such inequality?

Specific Mandate

14. Liddell Hart once said that 'strategy was the 'art of distributing and applying military means to fulfil the ends of policy'. In the confused and brutal circumstances prevailing in much of the world today, it is often impossible -to define clearly what are the 'ends of policy'. Certainly there has been a wide variety of reasons given for NATO going to war in the Balkans. On 23rd Marsh in the House of Commons the Prime Minister stated that the prime 'casus belli' was to avert a humanitarian disaster in Kosovo. President Clinton stated that it was to maintain the security of Europe. Others believed that it was to sustain the credibility of NATO. Military commanders need greater clarity in the mission statements.

15. In any military intervention, but especially in humanitarian conflicts, it is obvious that the prime requirement is for there to be a clear, unequivocal mandate which is continuously backed by adequate resources and the political will of the international community. But it is less widely understood that in operations short of all-out war the mandate must also define the limitations of the operation, not merely the aspirations of the international community. This will prevent confused aims, as for example happened in Bosnia in which the peacekeeping mission was asked to deliver war fighting goals, something that it clearly cannot do, or when NATO was asked to deliver humanitarian objectives but given the wrong means. A clear mandate is something that all military men will ask for, but is rarely forthcoming, - even less so in an alliance or coalition of forces. In an organisation such as the UN in which there are 185 different nations each with their own political agendas, it is most probable that UN military commanders will probably have to do what 1 did in Bosnia, and pluck from the often contradictory UNSCR' s (743 -990) their own mission statement ... which in my case was to sustain the people of Bosnia in the midst of a three sided civil war, try and bring about the conditions necessary for a peace agreement and finally to contain the conflict to Bosnia.

16. It is my contention that the UN mission in Bosnia, if judged against this mandate, and the tasks that the peacekeepers were actually given, was indeed accomplished in a most heroic way by the twenty three and a half thousand young men and women who volunteered to go to Bosnia as peacekeepers and risk their lives so that others could live in peace -- or, indeed, could live at all. That the opportunities for peace so painfully won were ignored by the political leaders of Bosnia, and also by some Politicians abroad, can scarcely be blamed on the UN.

17. Nevertheless 2.7 million people were sustained by the UN throughout three and half years of bloody, and at times three-sided civil war. Over 2.000 metric tons of stores a day were delivered to even the remotest parts of Bosnia along roads built by the UN and using airfields operated by the UN. Without this aid many thousands of Bosnians, Muslims, Croats and Serbs would have died.

18. The second part of the mission was also achieved, - as after the deployment of the UN into Bosnia the casualty rate from the war dropped from 130k in 1992, to 30k in 1993, to around 3k by 1994. Far from presiding over genocide as a number of propagandists have subsequently accused the UN of doing, the presence of the UN peacekeepers effectively halted the slaughter and finally created the conditions in which there could be some political initiative ... initially by implementing the peace deal between the Muslims and Croats- a necessary first step in bringing peace to the region. For if you are going to halt a three sided civil war, you will almost certainly first have to stop the fighting between at least two out of the three warring parties.

19. And finally the conflict was indeed contained within Bosnia with only minimal spill over into other parts of the Balkans.

Use of Force

20. In order to achieve the successful outcome of a mission that is humanitarian based, - in the new conditions of the world disorder, any peacekeeping force will have to be extremely robust in its use of force. In the circumstances in which they are likely to find themselves, peacekeepers cannot afford to be pacifists, - and the UNPROFOR was no exception .... millions of rounds of small arms, tank main armament, artillery and mortars were used as was air strikes by NATO aircraft. However in any peacekeeping mission there will always be limits on the use of force, - indeed this is what distinguishes it from war fighting. For, every time force is used, there will be a halt to the flow of aid and people most at risk will immediately start to die. This is a consideration that commanders in any humanitarian conflict must take into account, especially where the level of consent, on the part of the warring factions it at best patchy. After all, it is the sustainment of the civilian population that provided the moral and legal justification for intervention in the first place, - not the defeat of an enemy.

21. The line between a peacekeeping mission or humanitarian conflict and all-out war is, however, determined less by the level of force used, than by how it is used. For the goals of military force must be appropriate to the type of conflict in which it is engaged - in this case humanitarian conflict. This level of force used may be far removed from the level of force, which applies in war fighting. This is not widely understood. In Bosnia when 1 called for Nato close air support, 1 was often accused of using pinpricks against the Serbs. This would have been true if 1 had been at war. But 1 was not. At the other end of the spectrum, the application of air power in Kosovo was manifestly disproportionate to the humanitarian objectives of the war.

22. In a peacekeeping operation, force used must be proportional to the objectives of the mission and only a minimum level of force should be used to achieve a specific aim, - such as ensuring the passage of a convoy, the maintenance of the regime of a TEZ or deterring attacks against safe areas. The use of force should be even handed, impartial and only applied after due warning. Force cannot be used to punish an aggressor, obtain military objectives, or solve the underlying political problems of a country in the midst of civil war. These are war-fighting goals. A peacekeeping or humanitarian mission can merely help create the necessary conditions for a peaceful resolution of the conflict. It is vital that war fighting goals are never pursued by humanitarian or peacekeeping forces, - as happened in Somalia for such force can never become a combatant itself For you do not go to war in white painted vehicles.

23. One of the most dangerous, and incorrect lessons that was drawn from the interlocution in Bosnia was the assertion that NATO delivered the Dayton peace agreement by bombing the Serbs in the late summer of 1995, - the inference being that bombing can therefore succeed in Iraq, Sudan, Afghanistan, or Kosovo. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Dayton Peace Accord was not delivered by Nato bombing. It was achieved over a protracted period of time, through a combination of political, humanitarian and military actions in which NATO of course played a part. When, by the end of 1995 it had become clear that no political compromise between the Bosnia Federation and the Serbs could be reached, and the people and state of Bosnia were no longer dependent on the presence of the UN for their survival, the UN mission was suspended and for a brief period NATO launched air strikes against the Serbs. However, in military terms this proved to be relatively insignificant, and the decisive military blow against the Serb military machine was struck when the Croatian forces seized the Kryenias and those parts of western Bosnia which the Serbs hoped to trade for peace on their terms.

24. In any humanitarian conflict therefore there have to be three elements present, political action, humanitarian action and military action. No one element can act without a consequent effect on the other. There is no such thing as neutral aid, for to deliver aid to a city under siege is to act against the strategic interests of the warring party setting that siege. Humanitarian aid also tends to fuel the war, going to the fighters and their families first and only then to the displaced people who need it. This is something that has to be minimised by the way that the aid delivery system is structured, - the best aid of course being that which is delivered directly to the people, - not to their governments.

25. The command and control infrastructure of the mission should reflect the interdependence of the political humanitarian and security elements, with the civil authority being in overall control. Sadly it often does not. In Bosnia, one of the greatest difficulties facing the mission was the exclusion of the political element caused by the creation of the Contact Group. This allowed the warring parties to fragment the efforts of the international community often for reasons that had nothing to do with the war, and to the great detriment of the ordinary people trying to survive the war. Both Dayton and the Kosovo peace agreement have made the same mistake in separating the civil and military infrastructures.

Affect of the Media on Policy Making & Peacekeeping

26. Thucydides once commented that it was never sensible to believe the first messenger who arrived with reports of a battle, - for inevitably he was likely to be the person who had run away first and therefore most of his report was likely to have been invented! Today, in the same way it is unwise for politicians to base national and international policy on simple news reports emanating from the field, particularly in complex civil war situations where the solutions are likely to be long term and multi-functional. Too often in the past we have seen decisions being taken by Governments whose peoples have been exposed to exaggerated or incorrect TV reports. It is, of course widely understood by the leaders of the warring parties in these civil war situations how important it is to win the sympathy of the international community and the moral high ground.

27. The International Commission to Inquire into the Causes and Conduct of the Balkan Wars of 1912 and 1913 declared that 'The real culprits in this long list of executions, assassinations, drownings, burnings, massacres and atrocities ... are those who mislead public opinion and take advantage of the people's ignorance...'

28. Today nothing much has changed. The war in Bosnia was described as a war of information and misinformation, - a war for the sympathy of the world in which the media itself all too often became manipulated by the propaganda machines of the protagonists. One of the greatest failures of the UN in Bosnia was its inability to win in the information battle.

29. Truth it is said is often the first casualty of war. In Kosovo NATO was certainly in danger of losing its grip on the truth as it desperately sought to cover up its own failures, initially blaming the Serbs for its killing of civilians, then justifying these deaths by telling the world that because Milosevic was committing worse atrocities their actions were therefore acceptable. 1 do not believe that a soldier in Northern Ireland who had used undue force would have been acquitted on the grounds that the IRA were killing more innocent civilians than he was. Even today we have the dismal sight of NATO politicians claiming that the Alliance had somehow 'won', and that their strategy of bombing therefore had succeeded. Those who questioned NATO' s bombing campaign during the war were accused of being defeatist and undermining the morale of the troops. Yet as Wingate once said, it is the assurance of victory, not failure, that will best get men to risk their lives. Surely in any conflict, especially a humanitarian one, politicians in democratic countries who act to extend the concept of freedom to others should be the last people to engage in the same propaganda tactics of tyrants like Milosevic.

The Way Ahead

30. One of the consequences of the post Cold War experience is that the UN has become dangerously marginalised. It is seen increasingly as an organisation that has failed, and peacekeeping is likewise regarded as having little relevance to modem conflict resolution. Such views are, 1 believe, highly dangerous for the future of world order. The UN with all its failings still remains the principal intergovernmental organisation responsible for peace and security, in the world today. Those who try to ignore it will be making the same mistake as those who ignored the League of Nations in the 1930s. And of course peacekeeping and humanitarian intervention are actions that provide and alternative to the two extremes of war and peace.

31. If the international community is going to be able to respond better to human emergencies as complex as the one in the Balkans, then it will need to give greater support to the UN. Certainly the UN, for its part, needs to reorganise its own structure and refine its peacekeeping doctrine. It needs to develop a whole new approach to humanitarian conflict. Above all it needs a crisis management machinery capable of early and preventative action. It needs new technical capabilities, especially in the field of intelligence gathering, and it needs to insist on operational standards from the troop contributors.

32. Just how far we can go in terms of reorganisation remains to be seen. The idea of having permanent UN strategic forces, is at first thought an attractive one, but 1 doubt if such a standing force would retain the same level of capability as that produced by the defence forces contributed by individual nations.

33. At the end of the day, the UN is, of course, us. We can will the organisation to do whatever we wish. We cannot blame it for what are ultimately our own failures.


34. Modem conflicts are about people. It is their condition that should dictate our approach to both war and peace. It is obvious that we need to devote as much thinking and resources to the prevention of conflict and to humanitarian intervention as we do to war fighting. What is less clear is how we should set about winning the peace that we win in the post conflict phase of reconstruction, - for today we see in Bosnia and Kosovo two countries that have become virtual dependencies of NATO. We should not expend resources on civil reconstruction until the essential institutions which safeguard civilised society, notably freedom of speech, democracy, and a just legal system. Otherwise we will be in danger of institutionalising the corruption and oppression of the political leaders and war criminals who were responsible for the war in the first place.

35. It is clear that the road to peace is long and difficult and costly, but as President Truman once said. "If you do not wish to pay the price of peace, then you had better be prepared to pay the price of War.