The New Face of Warfare

Columnist MUMTAZ IQBAL examines peacekeeping as a new form of warfare.

This brief piece reviews the doctrinal impulses behind peacekeeping-or human security, the currently fashionable 'in' term - and how one country, Canada, has debated the conceptual, organisational and logistical aspects inherent in orienting a part of its defence posture to meet peacekeeping needs.


The good thing about the Cold War ending is that conventional war, either global (WWII) or regional (Korean), seems to be on hold everywhere except possibly S. Asia. Even here, Delhi and Islamabad's bark fortunately exceed their bite. Not very surprising given their relatively modest capacity and capability in armaments, tactics, duration and sustainability to wage war, so tellingly demonstrated in 1965 and 1971, and as compared to, say, Desert Storm.

Conventional wars between states being temporarily out doesn't mean saying goodbye to conflicts between countries. In that case, what form will such conflicts take? This is where human security comes in.

Doctrine of Human Security

Baldly put, human security focuses on human and individual security over state security.

Until quite recently, ensuring the security of the state both in theory and practice had been the focus of attention and action of statesmen, scholars and soldiers. Equal attention or concern was not given to what happened to the safety of persons within a state, whether they lived in freedom and safety, under just laws and whether their essential needs were met.

Thus, national sovereignty was sacrosanct and paramount. A state could do pretty much what it liked with and to its citizens. Outsiders should mind their own business, beware and not interfere in a country's internal affairs.

Not a bad theory in international relations, especially as it had worked pretty well so far in practice.

But emergent and long-term universal and regional crosscutting issues have combined to devalue somewhat the traditional locus of security on managing state-to-state relationships to one that additionally recognises the importance of the individual and society.

Some of these issues are of governance (democracy vs dictatorship, centralisation vs local autonomy), development (north vs south, globalisation), environment (global warming) and demographics (population pressures, involuntary mass migrations, burgeoning youth vs aging populations in various countries)

It is in this increasingly hothouse, acrimonious and unstable, even intractable, environment that the concept of human security was born as a somewhat sickly baby only to grow into a somewhat lusty child.

Under human security, how a state treats its citizens is no longer an internal matter but one of legitimate concern of others. If states won't or don't protect their peoples, or treat them brutally, then the international community can apply remedies. 'We live in a new world in which all of us must begin to bear responsibility for everything that occurs' (Vaclav Havel, quoted in Defence and Human Security by Ernie Regehr, Director, Project Ploughshares).

Thus, intervention in the affairs of sovereign states is warranted, permissible and is a core feature of the human security doctrine. Human security's most fervent advocates unsurprisingly are in the North, especially WASP (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant) states, because they have the money and arms to enforce this doctrine.

Of course not all states like human security doctrine with its inherent interventionist ethic. Those protesting loudly are regional or global aspirants with dicey or spotty human rights records in whole or in part. Examples are PRC (Tibet, Xinjiang); India (Kashmir, Seven Sisters); Russia (Chechnya) and Yugoslavia (Bosnia, Kosovo).

How to give legitimacy and authority to this intervention is a thorny question. The safest and most acceptable course is to get UN approval (Cambodia, Haiti, Iraq, East Timor). Failing this, a powerful regional alliance will do (NATO in Kosovo).

The 'robustness' of the military force accompanying human security or peacekeeping intervention operations depends on the permissive attitude or otherwise of the local authorities and circumstances in the area of operations.

In Cambodia, Cyprus, East Timor and Haiti, police and lightly armed infantry sufficed. The Danes and Ukrainians in Bosnia, and Pakistanis in Somalia, deployed tanks to intimidate the opposition. In Iraq and Kosovo, western mainly US sophisticated air, land and naval armaments smashed the enemy.

Peacekeeping operations have been launched and succeeded against relatively inconsequential or weak powers in situations where human rights violations were undeniable (Bosnia) and fundamental interests of the major powers were either not at risk (East Timor) or gravely threatened (Iraq).

Where intervention in defence of marginal interests is likely to be strongly resisted, the west has chickened out with verbal denunciation of human rights violations rather than embarking on a vigorous military response. Chechnya is the classic recent case.

Its no wonder 20th century human security operations are sometimes likened to the old wine of 19th century imperialist gunboat diplomacy in the new bottle of missile weaponry. In E. Timor, a largely white Protestant soldiery aided a million brown Catholics to secede from Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim State. Shades of the clash of civilisations?

But despite this quite legitimate criticism, controlled and limited short duration military intervention of varying degrees of robustness in support of human security is an inalienable feature of the current security landscape and probably here to stay.

The Debate in Canada about Force Structure

Canada is an independent-minded team playing middling military power. Its clout comes from having a small highly professional armed force combined with a close security alliance with the US through NORAD (North American Aerospace Defence) and NATO.

Ottawa has joined muscular (Iraq, Kosovo) and non-lethal (East Timor, Haiti, Somalia) UN peacekeeping operations. These served its larger national interests and core values such as commitment to democracy, human rights, tolerance, international cooperation through UN etc (Canada in the World, Government Statement 1995, p.8).

If human security considerations are increasingly going to influence the shape of future wars and in turn Ottawa's foreign policy, what is the force structure Canada needs in the 21st century?

This was discussed at a CISS seminar on Canadian Defence in the 21st Century last November in Toronto and elaborated by CISS Executive Director David Rudd in Strategic Datalink #81 Can 'Human Security' Influence Force Structure?

Peacekeeping operations where Canadians took part till now were located far from Canada. This is likely to be the case in the future.

Thus, Canadian forces must have strategic sea and airlift capabilities for timely move of men and material to the place of action, and the accompanying C-3 (command, control, communications, computers and intelligence) facilities. The latter will require properly staffed and equipped service units such as signals regiments and human, electronic and mechanical (e.g. unmanned air vehicles or UAVs) means of gathering and disseminating intelligence. A flexible combination of in-house capability, chartered transport and allied (read US) assistance is likely to satisfy these essentials.

How Canadian forces are equipped depends upon the nature (relief, disaster, enforcement, lethal) and permissive or non-permissive environment of human security operations.

At a minimum, all missions will require large amounts of air transport especially helicopters for initial and subsequent deployment of men and essential logistics. For operations in a permissive benign environment, transport, logistical, medical, engineers and military police should suffice.

Under non-permissive conditions, these assets may be bolstered by enhanced logistical and C-3 capabilities with light infantry support for aggressive patrolling and where required to separate hostile elements. Tanks, aircraft and warships may be added for demonstration (showing the flag), deterrence (punitive capacity) and to give tools to the force commander to make a robust response short of outright war where envisaged and permitted under rules of engagement (e.g. Albania-based Apache helicopters in Kosovo operations).

What does this scenario mean for the Canadian armed forces structure and training?

For the army, it means emphasis on infantry and engineer units. They are adequately served by the range of current equipment and those on order. Lighter weapons platforms may replace existing heavy armour and artillery.

The air arm needs fixed and rotary tactical transport especially where airfields may be inadequate or non-existent. Long-range transports are desirable while warplanes are probably not required except in special situations.

The navy requires vessels to transport men, their equipment, bulk and liquid cargo, provide medical care and port facilities. Frigates and destroyers will be important as symbols of national resolve and may come in handy in evacuation of endangered nationals or enforcing quarantine/sanctions.

All-arms combined combat training at battalion or possibly brigade level will still be needed. Besides, front-line troops should receive pre-deployment orientation to sensitise them to the environment and nature of conflict so that unfortunate incidents like the torture and death of a Somali youth by paratroopers - the unit was disbanded following the resulting uproar -doesn't recur.

Time will show how much weight or influence human security considerations have on Ottawa's foreign policy and whether this leads to material and lasting, or peripheral and fleeting, changes in the structure and composition of the Canadian military establishment.