Peacekeeping in Canada

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Peacekeeping in Canada

The Canadian military as peacekeepers is a very prominent notion of the majority of Canadians. It is what distinguishes Canada most strongly from the United States, and what has become an important aspect of their foreign policy. Peacekeeping, since the conclusion of the Cold War, however, is a myth. This essay will explore the history of peacekeeping, its use as a tool during the Cold War, and Canada's very prominent role in its development and use. Peacekeeping, in the traditional sense of the word, ended in the 1980s.

The treaty of Westphalia dictated the fundamentals of European and world affairs. It stated that it was the sovereign right of the state to determine what goes on within its borders, and to be in control of its security and to hold the right to declare war. This right turned into a problem, particularly after 1890, when Europe engaged in an arms race. World War I brought a desire for change. War was declared illegal and idealism and utopianism became the new norm. Unfortunately, it was short-lived, as WWII followed quickly. However, the second Great War renewed the pursuit for peace, and resulted in the creation of the United Nations.

Although peacekeeping became a key role for the United Nations and is one of its main identifiers, there are no provisions in the UN Charter for peacekeeping. When the signatories of the Charter were first discussing roles for the UN, they had wanted to develop a multi-national United Nations military force that would serve as "policemen" for the world. The original concept proposed a force consisting of personnel from the countries that made up the Security Council, with other countries joining on at a later date. However, member states couldn't agree on the basics, and they never got around to discussing who was going to pay for the force. Therefore, no provisions for a military force, peacekeeping or otherwise, made it into the Charter.

The War had created a huge power vacuum in Europe, and there existed the competing ideologies of the United States and the Soviet Union. There was no common enemy to keep the signatories focused, and nothing in the Charter to allow them to supervise or enforce world peace. NATO was created in 1949 to fill this void, and the Soviets retaliated in 1955 with the creation of the Warsaw Pact. In this atmosphere, the UN developed a special function to settle disputes; peacekeeping.

In 1947, General Charles Foulkesm, the Canadian Chief of the General Staff was tasked with commenting on several proposals for a multinational army for policing the world. His staff concluded that the Cold War would not allow for this development. However, a smaller force under the banner and reputation of the UN could be employed in dispute resolution and containment. This concept was used in 1948 (The United Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan – UNMOGIIP) through an agreement with India and Pakistan over their conflict regarding Kashmir. This small multi-national force patrolled a buffer zone and reported to the UN. A similar observer group (the United Nations Truce Supervisory Organization – UNTSO) was established in 1948 in Israel/Palestine.

It was Major-General Burns, another Canadian, who took command of UNTSO in 1954. He noted that the UN observers in place there had no influence on the events because they lacked the mandate to use force. At the time, they were unarmed, and could only observe. This group was often pushed around by the opposing sides, leading Burns to suggest that an armed force be put in place.

This armed force was developed due to the influence of Lester B. Pearson. Pearson was secretary of state for external affairs for Canada at the time. He suggested that armed peacekeepers be deployed to stabilize the situation that had developed during the Suez Crisis in 1956. Britain and France had co-operated with Israel and attacked Egypt. The United States...
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