Prof. Hans Geser 



International Policing

A new Evolutionary Stage of Military Organization? Peace-keeping missions in a sociological perspective

(14 May 1996)


  1. Police and armed forces - two polar types of coercive organizations
  2. Decentralized Conflicts and Enlarged Policing Ambitions: the New Era of Global Policing.
  3. Ambiguities, Dilemmas and Incompatibilities: The New Problems of Policing Militaries
  4. Conclusions
  5. References

1. Police and armed forces - two polar types of coercive organizations

Given the increasing number of UN blue helmet deployments as well as the growing complexity of their tasks and the rising public expectations concerning their performances, the question is raised how such international missions affect the structure of military organization.

Considering the fact that many activities of these troops clearly transcend classical military tasks, it seems adequate to analyze these changes not exclusively in the perspective of military sociology, but from a more general theoretical point of view. In the following, it is argued that organizational sociology  offers many concepts, theoretical insights and empirical regularities that may be fruitfully applied for understanding how peace-keeping and peace-enforcing activities affect the internal structure and environmental relationships the of deployed troops as well as the situational conditions, motivational states skills and role behavior of individual soldiers.

As a most fundamental premise, organization theory assumes that all formal organizations and informal cooperative groupings are profoundly shaped by the characteristics of their salient environment and the kind of tasks they have to fulfill. Among many others, two major determinants have proved to be particularly consequential:

1) "Task complexity": resulting from the degree of variability, unpredictability and idiosyncrasy of emerging problems as well as from the  lack of knowledge about effective problem solving procedures.

2) "Resource tension": resulting from the scarcity of time, personnel and various material means of action. (Lawrence 1981).

Up to the present, most research on the causal impact of the environment on intraorganizational structure has been conducted in the realm of non-coercive organizations like firms, hospitals, schools or public administration. Nevertheless, it is evident that coercive organizations have also to be conceptualized as "open social systems" constantly adapting to external conditions.

Seen under the perspective of task complexity, organizations dealing with the application of violence typically fall into two opposite categories: police and military organizations.

For police forces, it is most important to react quickly and adequately to any type of disturbing events occurring at any unpredictable points in space and time. Adapting to this turbulent conditions, a bottom-up organization is installed where the lowest ranking members are burdened with the responsibility of scanning the environment, taking notice of relevant events, deciding immediately on the spot whether and in what way intervention shall occur, and whether it is necessary to mobilize higher levels of the organization. Given the limitless manifold of salient events on the one hand and this high discretion on the other, it is evident that the roles of policemen are notoriously complex and conflictive because three extremely diverging functional expectations have to be reconciled:

1) enforcing law and public order (the "guardian of society " role)

2) mediating and solving conflicts (the "peacekeeper" role)

3) helping in cases of emergencies (the "public servant" role) (Regoli /Poole 1980).

Consequently, the quality of police work is heavily dependent on the capabilities of lower level policemen: on their moral integrity, sound judgment and personal authority as well as on various professional skills. In addition, successful policing relies heavily on cooperative relationships with many civilian citizens and institutions (e.g. for getting relevant information). This again implies that police forces are accepted by the population as representing a legitimate societal order and political regime.

On the other hand, the major concern of military organizations is to focus huge amounts  of resources for decisive violent actions against enemy forces or other clearly defined targets. This goal definition is giving rise to a top-down organization, because effectiveness in focused striking is heavily dependent on adequate strategic and operational planning, well-coordinated supply systems and highly effective systems of centralized leadership and hierarchical controls.


2. Decentralized Conflicts and Enlarged Policing Ambitions: the New Era of Global Policing

The Cold-War period can be considered as a historical epoch where a higher polarization between "policing" and "soldiering" prevailed than in almost any other epoch of known history.

At least for Western and for Socialist countries, the following conditions prevailed:

1) On the intranational level, very decentralized “micro violence” prevailed because organized criminality was relatively weak, terrorism was quite sporadic and larger insurgencies (by dissident provinces , ethnic minorities etc,.) almost inexistent.

2) In the international sphere, the major threat to be dealt with was unquestionably uttermost “macro-violence”: the contingency of (worldwide) nuclear war : giving rise to an extremely centralized system of mutual deterrence on the basis of encompassing military alliances, highly specified structures of strategic and operational planning and extremely complex socio-technical organization.

For sure, there were some phenomena of “meso-violence” evoking feelings of helplessness because they were not neatly falling into the functional spheres of conventional police and military organization. On the one hand, terrorist activities called for new kinds of police action characterized by higher levels of planning and cooperation; on the other hand guerilla warfare (e.g. in Viet Nam, Cambodia or Afghanistan) proved to be an embarrassing challenge for too highly centralized and bureaucratized military organizations (Gabriel/Savage 1978).

But as both phenomena were seen to be relatively marginal and transitory, they didn't give rise to major measures of reorganization - and even less to the emergence of "third kinds" of coercive organizations filling the large gap between the two conventional polar types.

In the following, it is argued that recent international developments have brought a major shift toward new types of security problems which are too complex and too variable to be be assigned either to police forces nor to military forces, Instead, search processes for new organizational forms have to started in order to combine high-level police and military capacities on the level of political goal-setting and strategic planning as well as on the level of operational activities.

 This change is caused by two very different, causally independent factors:

1) On the level of geopolitical power structures, the end of the Cold War has substituted the single nuclear threat by a multitude of smaller and less predictable intra- and international security problems associated with local and regional conflicts all over the World. This is mainly caused by the fact that in this post hegemonic age, no authority structures are effective to suppress manifold conflicts between states as well as within nations. Europe is particularly affected by this change, because the Soviet Union has been replaced by many smaller risks stemming from conflicts in its many "potential mini-Weimar Republics" at its Eastern and Southern Border. (Freedman, 1991:12; Asmus/Kugler/Larrabee 1993). On a global scale, it is now understood that the main problem of world peace-keeping is no longer the prevention of overt wars, but the confinement (or at best: the solution) of many local and regional conflicts going on at the same time (Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, Liberia, Angola, Rwanda etc.). This may imply that actual conflicts are allowed to develop and to be acted out , because to prevent them is not possible and to end them would imply too high costs (in terms of infringements in intranational affairs, loss if life etc.). Instead, the conflicts are "administered" in order to prevent them from escalating and/or to shorten them by discouraging the use force and facilitating  processes of mediation.

2) On the cultural and normative level, the last decades have been characterized by major redefinitions in the basic values and goals of international policy and law. There is a growing tendency to define "peace" not only as the absence international warfare, but as a more ambitious condition of "civil order" including the absence of intranational armed conflicts as well as the the observation of basic human rights (Däniker 1992: passim). In fact, most actual missions (in Somalia, Bosnia, Angola etc.) are partially or even predominantly motivated by humanitarian concerns, and modern international law has changed to lend more legitimacy to acts of foreign intervention in cases where the fundamental rights of (individual citizens or  subnational collectivities (like ethnic or religious groups) are drastically violated (Greenwood 1993:40; Berdal 1993: 3). At least since the end of World War II, the preservation of "national sovereignty" has lost its place as the single dominant goal to which all other considerations have to be subordinated. Instead, a more complex, multidimensional conception of international law (more in accordance with the German notion of "Völkerrecht") seems to be emerging where equal weight is assigned to the rights of subnational collectivities and human individuals (Dimitrijevic 1992).  These changes may at least partially be explained by a shift toward "postmaterialist" values in highly developed western countries (Gobbicchi 1994).

Thus, it would be short-sighted to attribute the recent increase in UN peace-enforcing and peace-keeping missions solely to the geopolitical changes precipitating since 1989. Since several decades, the rising salience of human rights considerations has steadily paved the way for the humanitarian interventions we see at the present. Of course, the end of the Cold War is causal insofar as some major obstacles inhibiting such interventions (particularly the fear that they may engender escalating conflicts between the two superpowers) have been removed.

On the one hand, the emerging system of peace-enforcing and peace-keeping institutions may be conceptualized as a “Global Police Service" because its main task is to deal reactively with a multitude of smaller, highly unpredictable disturbances and to maintain or re-establish an integral civil order. On the other hand, it is equally justified to call it a "Global Military Organization" because the troops must be prepared to apply potent means for defending themselves and/or their clientele, for imposing sanctions or mediating arrangements and for deterring conflicting parties from using force. As a consequence, international missions are  "ianus-faced" activities in the sense they can only be successful when highly focused coercive potentials (needed for generating  encompassing states of order) and highly decentralized and flexible applications of violence (essential for the deterrence or diversion of  unpredictable small disturbances) are effectively combined.

While the ongoing missions may represent the rather modest and awkward first steps in exploring new ways of dealing with such new problems, it is to be expected that "Global Policing" will become a regular and widespread activity in the future, so that a framework of institutionalized values, norms, programs, procedures and organizational arrangements will develop for making it more effective and channelling it into regular forms.

In the following, it is argued that the way toward stable organizational forms may be rather cumbersome because the blending of military and police functions engenders a multitude of ambiguities and dilemmas for which there are no ready-made solutions.


3. Ambiguities, Dilemmas and Incompatibilities: The New Problems of Policing Militaries

3.1 Unspecified intervention criteria, strategic goals and functional expectations

Conventional coercive organizations are typically working within a highly structured framework of explicit goals and rules which facilitate the establishment of stable and highly elaborated organizational structures. In the case of police forces, it is clear ex ante which kind of "disturbing events" necessitate intervention, and what is precisely implied by the duty to "restore civil order"; and military forces have the unequivocal task of serving the vital interests of their nation by deterring or diverting inimical external attacks, and it is quite consensual to everybody whether they are successful or not.

This specificity of military goal-setting was particularly pronounced during the Cold War, where there was absolute agreement that a single dominant security problem had to be coped with: the nuclear threat by the Warsaw pact nations. By contrast, all international peace-keeping and peace-enforcing missions are plagued by the lack of clearly stated criteria concerning the rationale, courses and aims of their missions.

First of all, the number of salient conflicts has increased so much that very many policing missions seem "justified" or even "necessary", while only a few are "possible" (for any political, organizational , logistic or financial reasons,. It is evident that the preservation of world peace as well as regional peace is still a consensual goal, but it is less and less clear what kind of interventions are necessary or at least helpful to achieve it, so that "national interest" (or in German: "Staatsraison") is no longer a clear-cut criterion for deciding what shall be done or omitted. This problem is particularly salient for the United States whose major role in preserving world peace is clearly underdefined, because it cannot be made evident to everybody that starvation in Somalia or ethnical struggles on the Balkan are threats to “National Security”.

Secondly, the policing goals to "enforce human rights" , to "provide humanitarian help", to "protect discriminated minorities" or to "restore political order" are so diffuse and encompassing that they generate inflationary expectations concerning the number and duration of "necessary" interventions as well as the range of goals missions should achieve.

Thus, neither political nor moral criteria are sufficiently selective to determine ex ante the where, when and how of international intervention, so that such specifications have to be produced ad hoc by often very cumbersome and unpredictable processes of consensus-building and deliberation:

1) More elaborated mechanisms and procedures of internal communication, coordination and negotiation will be necessary in order to generate consensual cognitive definitions (e.g. about the salience and urgency of different threats or conflicts), as well as consensual opinions about when and how to respond. For instance, the decision of the NATO to support international peace-keeping 'on a case-by-case basis' (instead of formulating  standing rules) implies that in every single case, a fundamental deliberation process has to be enacted for deciding if and to what extent the alliance will participate in a mission.

2) Compared with former periods where foreign policy and military policy was structured by rather exclusive elites in the perspective of "national interests", contemporary security policies tend to be specified by a multitude of different actors and a broad range of competing values and ethical considerations. In particular, the mass media are very active and influential in informing public opinion about the existence, nature and salience of different conflicts and in constructing opinions about what should be done or omitted. The larger the number of different conflicts coexisting at the same time, the more it depends on the focus of the media which of them are given attention and which sink into oblivion1.It may be hypothesized that media influence promotes the "moralization" of foreign policy because attention is focused mainly on crises going along with manifest suffering on the individual levels, while blending out many other international conflict developments that may result to be more detrimental in the longer run (e.g. by promoting a longer and more extensive  war). Democratic western nations have no choice than to give public opinion its due weight: even to the degree of not being able to subordinate foreign politics and defense policy to "classical" goals of preserving national security and power in the long run. As a consequence, military organizations have to face a second "unpredictable environment" within their own country: generated by a political regime unable to act consistently and predictably because of its constant responsiveness to public opinion and various moralistic concerns. Future military missions are very likely to be motivated almost exclusively by humanitarian considerations, because its is far more likely to mobilize world public opinion for providing help to suffering people (particularly children) than for achieving any of long-range geopolitical goals (because on this level, extremely divergent or even opposing positions would have to be reconciled).

3) When a military mission is started, it is highly probable that such value conflicts are intrinsic to its task definition, so that commanders as well as individuals soldiers find themselves in the uneasy position of not being able to live up to all major expectations at the same time (e.g. preserving overall security of a region without causing heavy casualties). Given the multitude of tasks and goals, it is difficult to determine in advance what kinds of recruitment, training, military organizations and technical equipments are optimally functional for a conducting a specific mission. Thus, the institutionalization of a "standing global intervention force" is severely hampered by the basic premise that it cannot be known at what time what types of tensions and conflicts are arising on which locations on earth, in what ways they will evolve and what kinds of military action will be adequate in the light of given political, cultural and socio-economic conditions. Therefore, pre-programmed strategic planning has to be restricted to rather general purposes (e.g. instituting decision procedures, access to logistic capacities etc.). Decisions on more specific levels have to wait until the actual crisis is actualized and has been properly recognized and evaluated. Actually, UN-missions are outstanding by their almost complete lack of strategic planning and programming (Berdal 1993: 9) This is not only conditioned by a conspicuous lack of organizational resources, but also by the fact that deployment decisions are based on very fluid and unpredictable processes of political deliberation, because in "post hegemonic age", all countries are free to take sides. As a consequence, UN missions have to be initiated in a very short time, so that the way they are specified is very much dependent on current opinions and on the positions of  the countries ready to participate. Thus, each strategic mission necessitates a process of fundamental military organization: tailoring a specific combination of forces and a specific course of action according to the given circumstances. Therefore, all military units have to be disposed to be mobilized for very different kinds of action and to be asked to cooperate with any other units (of various national origin; von Ondarza 1993).

As precise strategic goals and operational programs are lacking, specifications have to be made largely by using the hierarchy for phrasing and implementing orders: so that the discretion of military leaders is very much increased. In fact, operative units "at the front" may result to be most influential because their "first-hand knowledge” about local conditions is unmatched by anybody else, so that they acquire a monopoly in defining the situation and in prescribing the required course of action.3.
Consequently, actions of UN troops may be plagued by the basic fact that means-end relationships are very uncertain: so that no learning processes can be started in order to optimize the effectiveness and efficiency of policing missions.

4) Finally, the absence of common problem definitions and consensual goals makes it difficult to get an objective, encompassing and consensual assessment whether a specific mission has been "successful" or not. Typically, blue helmet troops are only rather small causal agents in a set of different developmental factors involving the local governments and military forces, regional alliances etc.


3.2 Policing soldiers: ambiguous role models and uneasy relationships to civilian society

 By cumulating classical combat functions with various policing tasks, international missions give rise to a new type of solider who is at the same time more "militaristic" and more "civilian" than his counterpart during the Cold War. The cold war era provided optimal conditions for making the the outbreak of open military hostilities a very remote contingency (Kuhlmann 1994). The doctrine of nuclear response (particularly under the heading of "massive retaliation") implied  that not more than a small percentage of military personnel had to be committed to operative combat activities, while all the others could be allocated to various (technical or administrative) roles not strictly specific to military organizations (Janowitz 1971:20; van Doorn 1979:9; Freedman 1991).

On the level of role qualifications, this implied that on the one hand, the military could make extensive use of people transferring occupational capabilities from the civilian sphere, and on the other hand, military training was to a large extent functional for subsequent civilian careers. (a motivating factor for many soldiers, particularly from lower classes and minority origins; Biderman/Sharp 1967; Janowitz 1971; Browning, Lopreato/Poston 1973).

On the level of norms and values, there was ample room for redefining the status and role of soldiers in higher accordance with the status of civilian citizens: emphasizing their obligations to defend fundamental human dignity and their rights to refuse obedience in case of immoral orders. ("Bürger in Uniform"; see Kuhlmann 1994).

It is quite evident that this high interconnection has contributed much more to "civilizing"  the military than to a countervailing militarization of civil society (Biderman/Sharp 1967): thus maximizing the functional synergies and minimizing the potential tensions and conflicts between civilian and military sectors.

Recent UN-Missions have demonstrated that under these conditions, involvement in combat is likely and risks of casualties’ soldiers have to face an environment where scattered and unpredictable outbursts of violence are the rule (Berdal 1993:10)4.
Infantry troops with light equipment and low logistic needs are best able to deal with such contingencies, because they can operate even under various unpredictable and quite unsatisfactory conditions ( e.g. in very poor and devastated third world regions, where supply of fuels or heavy ammunition cannot be secured, where supply by air is impossible etc). This emphasis on infantry deployment implies that almost every country of the world is potentially capable of making a contribution. In fact, many smaller countries are particularly disposed for policing activities because their armies mainly consist of infantry forces 5.

On the other hand, the new need for combatting soldiers setting their physical life at risk collides with the growing weight given to humanitarian considerations, particularly in highly developed, "postmaterialist" societies." (Rühle 1993; Gobbicchi 1994). Especially under democratic conditions, governments find it increasingly harder to expose their citizens to such risks in "out-of area"-conflicts not clearly related to national interests.

Paradoxically then, growing concerns given to moral considerations and "human rights" engenders two contradictory consequences. On the one hand., it legitimizes or even demands active intervention into domestic affairs of certain countries; on the other hand, it makes such interventions less tolerable because governments are less able to win domestic support for risking its citizen's life in military activities far away from home (Berdal 1993: 31, Rühle 1992). The high priority given to the prevention of casualties may easily act as a catalyst for the escalation of war. For example, when blue helmets are getting in a very dangerous situation, they may be successful in getting protection by NATO air-strikes (which may again evoke more aggression by the attacked parties). On the other hand, the deployment of UN infantry troops may work as a constraint on war escalation because it is envisaged that in the case of larger attacks, they may be seized as hostages or suffer various kinds of retaliatory measures.

On a more general level, fundamental ethical dilemmas are inherent in the notion that the achievement of humanitarian goals justifies not only policing measures, but also the application of potent military force. The growing global consensus on this issue - contrasting with the bluntly pacifist tendencies of the late Cold War period - does not solve the problem that on every single occasion, explicit thoughts have to be given to the question whether the "profits" are worth the costs (including in the calculation the more indirect "collateral damages" always associated with any violent activities) 6.

In simplified Weberian terms, it might be said that the international policing perspective implies "Wertrationalität": in the sense that in contrast to conventional warfare between nations, the use of force is no longer harnessed to rather precise utilitarian interests , but to the furtherance  of diffuse (humanitarian) values. The problem with values is that they are a rather shaky basis for justifying concrete policing commitments, because they are too general (as well as too conflictive among each other) to imply definite courses of action.

For example, humanitarian considerations may equally justify dozens of innumerable long-term and extensive interventions all over the world, so that evidently, non-axiological criteria have to be added in order to decide where something should be done and where not. Thus, there may emerge an urgent need to define new normative constraints in the application of violence in order to prevent processes of uncontrolled self-escalation which may finally cause much more damage than good.


3.3 The growing significance and broadening range of non-combat goals

 In the new international missions, the traditional goal of deterring foreign attacks (or if this fails: conducting wars) is replaced by the much broader conception of "crisis management" (von Ondarza 1993):  a quite imprecise notion that may easily encourage inflationary expectations, never-ending deployments and "integralistic" endeavors to bring "failed nations" fully in line with Western conceptions of government, law and moral order (Elliott 1994).

Given such unspecific goal perspectives, it is also clear that military missions can no longer be confined to combat actions (even in the largest sense of this term), but many other more "civilian" functions  have to be included.(like providing security for civilians, organizing or supervising the distribution of food, mediating conflicts between tribal "warlords", providing provisional forms of political and judicial authority when endogenous political structures are in decay, securing elementary services of medical treatment etc. ). Particularly, the new notion of "post-conflict peace-building" (Boutros Ghali) implies an encompassing role for military forces after all fighting activities have ceased: to maintain a framework of public security for political structure to evolve, for economic institutions to develop and for daily life to normalize.

As a consequence, military missions as a whole become more complex and variable kinds of actions. Typically, the type and mixture of problems and tasks to be coped with cannot be forseen, because - as was seen in Somalia - pure humanitarian missions may easily transform into combat situations (Berdal 1993:76; Sertorio 1994:5). Therefore, it is not possible to allocate these different functions to different organizational subunits or individuals (e.g. by segregating "public service" units from classical combat troops). Thus, the new "miles protector" (portrayed by Gustav Däniker) is necessarily a polyvalent soldier: ideally combing classical combat qualities with capacities for providing protection, humanitarian help, medical treatment and with empathy for humans of different cultures 7.

The spectrum of "necessary" (or at least "useful") qualifications is so large that is is likely to be unmatched by any civilian occupation. Consequently, there is no clearly delimited "field of competence" or "professional knowledge" on which specific training programs and occupational role definitions could be based. Like social workers, modern soldiers will rather follow the model of "semi-professionals" (Toren 1969): combining various kinds of acquired capacities with qualifications that cannot be acquired at all because they are intrinsic to individual character (like: personal sense of justice, empathy for foreign cultures, talents of persuasion etc.).

Thus, the paradox is created that despite the growing significance of civilian tasks, policing soldiers will find that participation in international missions is not very instrumental for specific civilian careers, because they are not given the opportunity to acquire specific occupational qualifications. On the other hand, blue helmet missions have their own charm and attractiveness because they offer younger people opportunities for rich personal experiences and for displaying many kinds of capabilities and character traits which have no place in normal civilian life (Allemann 1993).

 The low degree of role specialization makes it very difficult to assess personal capabilities and to predict individual behavior. Even in conventional military organization, optimal recruitment and role allocation are difficult task because neither diagnostic tests nor other evaluative procedures prove to be very adequate predictors of combat proneness or leadership ability (Nelson 1971). All these problems are intensified in policing armies, because the range of needed qualifications and character traits is so broad that a multitude of competing selection criteria will persist and no standardizable procedures for optimizing recruitment, role allocation and promotion will ever be in sight. Nevertheless, a strong professional identity of the "policing soldiers" may emerge on the basis of a highly elaborated system of ethical values and rules. The "miles protector" is a specialist in "Verantwortungsethik": applying all means (explicitly included the "ultissima ratio" of killing people) in his effort to maintain or restore peace, law, order and welfare in the perspectives of individual human rights and minority self-determination.

 The need for a professional "service ethic" is also evident from a motivational point of view. In conventional national armies, soldiers tend to be strongly motivated by feelings of patriotism, by a wide-spread commitment to defend the borders of their native country and the autonomy of  their ethnic group. Thus, individual motivations are largely coincident with the strategic goals

In the case of international out-of area policing missions, this coincidence will usually not exist (Kuhlmann 1994). In fact, very determinate and fixed motivations would even undermine the possibility to redefine the goals of missions or to deploy the same soldiers in missions with very different aims.

Therefore, the morale of soldiers has to be based on factors not much related to the level of fundamental mission purposes and strategic goals. Pure "extrinsic" incentives (like pay and career mobility) may be indispensable, but unlikely to motivate sufficiently for  such complex and polyvalent tasks.

Success is more probable when soldiers maintain an intrinsic role-related (=professional )motivation: e.g. when their major aspiration is to "do their things right" and to participate in the realization of certain values and normative standards they have acquired in previous training and education (Gobbicchi 1994). Seen in this perspective, it is evident that global policing missions will function as laboratories where such an encompassing "global ethic" is worked out and tested. While the traditional UN was conceived for defining an implementing "macro-ethical" norms governing the relationships between nations, the new UN will have to add to this a much richer pool of "micro ethical" values and behavioral standards designed to produce orderly and humane relationships between individuals and (infranational) collective groups.


3.4 The challenges of "centralized decentralization"

Like police forces, UN missions operate in a very decentralized fashion by adapting constantly to local circumstances and reacting to localized events.

But on the other hand, they are integrated in the most centralized institutional framework available on the globe: by being mandated and supervised by the Security Council and the Secretary General of the UN (acting as a kind of "protogovernmental executive").

Evidently, this embedment is extremely functional peace-keeping and peace-enforcing missions for two reasons:

1) The missions can be  based on the  most far-reaching consensus international achievable in the contemporary World community, so that their legitimacy  is very high.

2) The widely spread international participation (on the level of strategic decision, military command and specific operations) offers the best premises for neutrality and impartiality , because multinational troops are better able than regional forces to maintain equidistance to all conflicting parties.

Of course, both of these factors are particularly salient in the case of peace-enforcing missions where the problem arises to justify the application of focused military power.

But it is equally evident that they engender fundamental problems of vertical integration, because the poorly staffed UN headquarters are not all all equipped for effective mission guidance and leadership, particularly when

- a multitude of different missions are proceeding simultaneously in very different regions;

- the idiosyncracies and rapid changes in local conditions make it difficult for the command centers to keep themselves informed and to update constantly their decisions.

Organization research has shown that organizations are in need of a highly elaborated hierarchy (= a low span of control) when subordinates are occupied with highly complex and variable tasks. (Meyer 1968; Brewer 1971). In typical policing missions, operational activities are highly complex, variable and unpredictable, so that intensive supervision efforts are needed in order to keep them under centralized control. Officers have to be very busy to inform themselves about specific ongoing actions for knowing whether they are in conformity with rules and goals and for deciding where and when to intervene. Consequently, superiors tend to be heavily burdened with vertical interactions (receiving information and exerting leadership), so that they have less time for being involved in horizontal staff interactions (for deliberating, planning etc.).

As the need for supervision rises, a larger percentage of high ranking personnel has to be allocated to line positions. Thus, the disproportionate growth of higher staff positions (observed by Kurt Lang during the Cold War era; Lang 1968:180) may be stopped or even reversed.

The more imprecise the definition of the mission and the more variable and multifaceted the encountered problems and tasks, the more need for permanent vertical communication in order to redefine constantly the mission in accord with higher-order goals. (Berdal 1993: 43). In the case of UN commitments, the vertical upward links between the local operational units and the headquarters in New York are known to be very weak (Berdal 1993: 31ff.) Consequently, there has evolved a growing dissociation between ongoing operational activities on the one hand and the production of free-wheeling security council resolutions (thought to be "self-executing") on the other (James 1993).

Given the insufficiency of formal channels, effective coordination depends heavily on informal social networks and personalized ad hoc contacts among the responsible role incumbents (Berdal 1993: 56; 59).

A most problematic consequence of policing missions stems from the fact that regardless of the real causes and responsibilities, mission failures are readily attributed to the UN headquarters, thus undermining the reputation and credibility of the World organization as a whole. As the recent negative course of events in Somalia and Bosnia has shown, peace enforcement activities are particularly risky endeavors for a World organization which has to base  legitimacy and authority on the reputation of being a strictly neutral arbiter universally disposable for any kind of intermediation.

The problems are stemming from the two facts that (1) any involvements in active battles are exposed to extremely different interpretations by the fighting parties; and (2) such involvements cannot be precisely pre-planned and strictly kept within intended limits, because they are exposed to uncontrollable processes of mutual reactions and escalation.

Thus, even successful peace enforcement actions can be extremely harmful

1) to the role of the UN vis-à-vis the specific conflict: because whenever peace is enforced, the UN is not likely to be accepted as an impartial mediation agent by all the conflicting parties;

2) to the authority and legitimcacy of the UN in general: because it gets the reputation of "imposing" peace settlements (according to the preferences of the member states in the security council).

Therefore a peace enforcing UN is likely to generate a new demand for "really neutral" third parties not involved in any way in the ongoing conflict. The problem may be that this reputation of "strict neutrality" is only enjoyed by smaller nations or regional organizations which lack the necessary authority to exercise pressure and leadership in the processes of negotiations.

Given this basic condition that there is so much to lose and relatively little to win, it seems extremely unwise of the UN to undertake policing missions under its own guidance. A a more promising way may be to create missions as "joint ventures" created ad hoc by intergovernmental cooperation, so that the UN could constrain its function to provide them with legitimacy and various kinds of "support". Thus, it is rather improbable that the UN will continue to deploy international missions without finding ways to divert responsibilities to lower decision making bodies. Undeniably, this is highly imperative because the World has no ready substitute for a discredited UN which has lost its credibility and good reputation.


3.5 The growing tension between centrifugal informality and integrative formal structures

The historical evolution of military organization is dominated by two contradictory developments:

1) a trend toward increasing bureaucratization (=centralization, formalization and standardization) that was particularly prominent between the 16th and the 19th century;

2) a development in the direction of increasing decentralization and informality that has gained momentum during the two World Wars and subsequent guerilla warfare (van Doorn 1976: 13).

Particularly since the second World war, it has become common wisdom that operational combat activity (particularly in infantry troops) is increasingly dominated by informal behavior, because modern weaponry has the effect of confronting each soldiers with unpredictable and rapidly changing threats (George 1971, Little 1964). This development is in accordance  with one of the most general hypothesis of organization theory: the more variable and heterogeneous the tasks an organization has to cope with, the less ongoing processes can be guided by standardized formal rules or continuous hierarchical supervision. Instead, lower level individuals have to rely either on their internalized subjective judgments or on informal orientations on the level of small informal groups (Hage/Aiken 1969; Reimann 1974; Ziegler 1968:30).

As cold-war armies had specialized in preventing open open hostilities, informal structures could easily be suppressed by the formal structures dominating during "normal periods of peace". In the new era of policing missions, by contrast, operational activity resumes its traditional status as the "normal state of affairs", and in comparison with strict combat activities, there is far more room for informality because many new kinds of problems (e.g. humanitarian help, mediation of local conflicts) have to be solved for which no formal procedures have ever been worked out.

When conventional soldiers in combat are rather autonomous to decide when and where to use their gun or other weapons, modern policing soldiers are typically confronted with the much more fundamental problem to decide between the use of force and many other possible courses of action. As in any other organization with highly fluid and unpredictable tasks, almost all participants in policing forces occupy "boundary roles": in the sense that they are burdened with the tensions and conflicts stemming from the discrepancies between intraorganizational rules and orders on the one hand and the exigencies of environmental conditions and external interactions on the other (Reimann 1974; Neghandi/Reimann 1973) As a consequence, there is a dramatic change in the kind of norms an rules governing the behavior of soldiers.

Compared to traditional combat activities where ethical rules focus on restraining or proscribing the use of force, there is much more room for a wide range of prescriptive norms that encourage or demand a specific kind of active behavior. For example, soldiers distributing food or providing medical help or commanders called to mediate between conflictive parties have to care about obeying rules of impartiality and nondiscrimination in their treatment of different categories of people. Many of  these prescriptive norms vary significantly across different cultures, so that there may be discrepancies in the behavior of different national contingents, and helpers always are always run the risk of acting in disaccordance with the values and expectations of the domestic population.

As the decentralized character of policing missions makes it difficult for the encompassing formal organization to set and enforce common standards, the different units are very likely to rely on the ideas and habits brought from their country of origin.

Actually, these tendencies toward "multiculturalism" are encouraged

1) by various organizational characteristics of mission battalions: e.g. by the autonomy of the participating nations to apply their own military law within their contingents, to define their role in direct bilateral negotiation processes with the UN headquarter and to withdraw them anytime when they disagree with the course of a mission (Siegenthaler 1994: 16);

2) by the fact that strategic mission goals are typically imprecisely defined and variable during time: a condition which invites the national contingents to develop their own views about action priorities and the relative importance of different aims.

For overcoming this centrifugalism, potent mechanisms for implementing common doctrines and behavioral standards and for neutralizing loyalties to national governments would be necessary (Berdal 1993: 42; Battistelli 1994). In particular, mission commanders carry the burden to generate cohesiveness and cooperation by specifying goals, procedures and behavioral rules and by implementing these standards by making use of his personal influence as well as his formal competences of supervision and control.  As it is quite typical for new organizations directed toward innovative goals, much guidance has to be produced on the basis of personalized (e.g. "charismatic") leadership in order to substitute the lack of established, well-tested rules and procedures. Thus, UN missions may offer excellent opportunities for quite idiosyncratic "military entrepreneurs" not fitting into the far more institutionalized military organizations of their native countries. This revival of personalized leadership is another correlate of the growing dissociation between civilian and military life, because it contrasts with the increasingly depersonalized social controls in private firms and other organizations.

Beside the need for leadership, a high demand for explicit formal rules is created because very small units or even individual soldiers often face the need to take their own decisions "on the spot", without  having time and opportunity for consulting higher command levels and awaiting their authoritative orders. As research studies in social psychology have shown, individuals tend to evoke their most routinized responses when they have to act very quickly, without having much time for reflections and deliberations (Fentress, 1976). This regularity implies that the disposition of policing soldiers to display predictable and uniform responses in urgent situation is critically dependent on habitualized routines acquired in prior training.

When no thorough transnational training for blue helmet missions is installed, they will certainly "fall back" on more conventional (combat-related) role behavior learned in previous  (national) processes of socialization. 

It is evident that at least at the beginning if their deployment, blue helmet may experience a state of "anomie" because they feel confronted with quite unfamiliar surroundings and ambiguous tasks for which they have not been explicitly prepared (Mackinley 1989: 8; Gobbicchi 1994).

During this initial phase, they will be quite responsive for new norms and role expectations directed at integrating them into a new cohesive organization.

But as long as the national battalions cling to their particularistic prerogatives, there is no room for such encompassing strategies of formal integration.


3.6 Ambivalent environmental relationships

While conventional military forces usually act on the premise that environmental actors are unfriendly and are offering resistance to be overcome, policing troops are fundamentally dependent on being accepted and receiving support by a large variety of civilian institutions and individuals:

First of all, their capacities to conduct any kinds of investigations (e.g., in order to seize terrorists or prevent planned attacks) are severely hampered when civilians are not helpful by providing useful information. And secondly, the concept of "peace-making" (and even the concept of "post-conflict peace building") implies complex procedures that necessitate the cooperation of many civilian agencies (e.g. domestic parties and labor unions, various units of public administration, private employers, mass media etc.). Thus, mission success depends heavily on the establishment of densely knit communicative and cooperative relationships with contextual actors.

However, such relationships are difficult to achieve for three reasons:

1) As the troops are at least partially also acting as aggressive (or at least self-defending) military forces, they are likely to evoke hostile reactions: thus undermining the most basic preconditions for later policing work. As the inconsistent behavior of US troops toward the Somalian Clan Leader Aidid (1993) has illustrated, it may be hard to decide at certain moments whether certain persons have to be defined as criminals to be pursued and arrested, as commanders of enemy forces that have to be defeated in warfare, or as legitimated military and political leaders with whom one should seek harmony and cooperation.

2) Given the fact that mission battalions are composed of very different national contingents and deployed without thorough prior training, they are not likely to display empathy to the specific population and their culture, to adapt effectively to local climatic conditions, to make maximum use of helpful contacts with internal leaders etc. Even under optimal conditions, the cultivation of "good relationships” needs much time - thus colliding with the conventional practice to replace servicing soldiers (and even officers) every six months (Berdal 1993: 48). In addition, different national contingents cannot be prevented of displaying quite diverse kinds of behavior - some of it judged to be quite unfriendly or distasteful in the view of domestic population.

Policing missions would be most effective when deployment could be restricted to soldiers being highly qualified in combat a well as non-combat tasks and having been familiarized with the physical, social and cultural conditions in the respective region. In addition, it would be helpful if they would be homogeneous in terms of their own culture and language, so that problems of leadership and coordination (needing so much communication because of the idiosyncratic character of each mission) would be minimized. Taken all together, a

major challenge of "global policing" is to find procedures for circumventing the  inconsistencies and paralyzing effects stemming from simultaneous display of (a) conflict-escalating and conflict reducing procedures and (b) dissociating and associating kinds of behavior.

The solution may be to entrust the primary goals of "peace-enforcement" and the subsequent goals of "post-war peace-building” to completely different kinds of troops: the first more "military" and the second more "police-like" in their organization, mentalities and styles of action.


3.7 Acceptance or rejectance of the political Status quo ?

Conventional police forces and peace-keeping troops have in common that they basically accept the actually reigning political and legal status quo.

Given their light equipment and decentralized organization, they can only operate under the protecting umbrella of an established normative order; and they tend to fortify this order by providing  with international legitimacy and by sanctioning violations. Thus, the blue helmets on Cyprus act neatly within the framework of the truce regulations fixed in 1974 between the two conflicting parties, and their mission will be ended in the moment where either side is deciding to resume open war (Kocher 1994).

Of course, this subordinate role implies that an actually given state of power and authority is acknowledged regardless of the way it came into existence, so that the blue helmets may justifiably be blamed to solidify the results of past violence by acting in the service of the party which has prevailed in the preceding quarrels.

In a very general sense, any commitment to maintain peace logically implies a certain disregard for other, competitive values which may be more important to at least one of the parties: e.g. the restoration of "justice" by regaining lost territories, revenging hostile cruelties etc etc. In some cases, the very goal of sustained peace-keeping may be jeopardized because the short-run goal of preventing the outbreak of - even small - hostilities dominates over the more strategic considerations of dissoluting underlying tensions which may engender new hostilities in the future.

On first sight, this analysis seems not to  apply to peace-enforcing missions which typically take place in situations where no normative agreements have yet been settled.

But also in these cases, policing troops can only function effectively within the framework of an encompassing authoritative order. As this protecting umbrella  is not provided by the local and regional powers, it has to be generated by an external military power (e.g. by the NATO in the Bosnian War 1992-95).

Of course, such dependencies hamper the capacity according to universal and impartial rules, because it is evident that such protection is provided selectively for specific world regions, time spans and situational conditions, and that the protective powers maintain continuously their capacity to determine the course of missions. Thus, peace enforcement troops may also be blamed of "taking sides" : by accepting the goals and regulations set by nations or alliances willing and able to exert international control.

By providing the actions of these national and regional actors with additional legitimacy, UN troops may well contribute to the suppression of short-term violence. But at the same time, they may spread the seed of new future conflicts by evoking the impression the the "West" is engaging anew in colonialist and imperialist endeavors. (Elliott 1994). The use of militias armies is particularly restricted in very democratic political environments, because it proves very hard for any national government to convince public opinion that citizens shall risk their life in a foreign war (Rühle 1993). In particular, the new concept of a "rapid deployment force" implies professional soldiers with completed training and with a  psychological disposition to participate anytime in any different mission.

Particularly within the framework of UN-missions, professionalization is highly needed because mission-specific training and preparation are so minimalistic that everything depends on the resources, qualifications and leadership capabilities provided by the national contingents (Berdal 1993: 9).


4. Conclusions

 The end of the Cold War has facilitated the emergence of numerous conflicts that cannot easily be handled by existing organizations mandated to exercise physical force, because in a long-term evolutionary process, these organizations have specialized to deal with microscopic events of criminal violence on the one hand (police) and very massive organized aggression on the other (armies). As a consequence, international policing missions are plagued by a number of ambiguities, dilemmas and conflicts stemming from the basic fact that contradictory functional expectations, environmental relationships and principles of organizations have to be reconciled.

The concept of "global policing" must not blur the basic fact that peace-enforcement tasks will always  differ fundamentally from  any civilian police action , because they typically don't take place in a legitimated and pacified societal and political order.

Among many other things, this implies, that

1) action is not triggered as an automated response to observed events , but necessitate highly centralized political decisions (e.g. by the NATO or the UN security council).

2) policing work (e.g. the gathering of information) is typically hampered by lack of acceptance and cooperative support by domestic populations and civilian institutions;

3) beside dealing with micro-level problems, mission goals include quite far-reaching societal functions (institution-building, restoration of political and legal order etc.) completely outside the reach of police organizations.

 Therefore, effective peace-enforcement will not call for an organizational structure somewhat midway between conventional armies and civilian police forces, but for a new kind of organization that combines high-profile police capabilities with full-blown conventional military power and that adds some third functional capacities not present in the other two.

The inadequacy of existing organizational structures may either discourage future policing missions because the associated risks of frustration and failure are hard to tolerate for a reputable World organization like the UN. Or it may work as an engine for organizational evolution: by encouraging the search for new structural forms and procedures better compatible with their hybrid tasks.

Thus, contemporary UN missions may have a significance rather unrelated to the achievement  of their manifest goals: as the first "test runs" for exploring empirically new ways of dealing with complex security  problems on a global and intercultural basis. As the best procedures cannot be known a priori, they have to be found out by "trial and error".

Consequently, it would be very fruitful to install various mechanisms of collective learning: e.g. by  inviting participating officers and soldiers to explicate their experiences and conclusions, or by conducting systematic comparative research studies in order to assess causes and conditions of success and failure.

From the perspective of organization theory, it is evident that successful system learning presupposes that

1) personnel is stable rather than rotating: so that individuals are able to accumulate experiences in order to improve their own behavior;

2) informative bottom-up communication rather than commanding top-down communication predominates, so that superiors get sufficient knowledge about successes and failure on the operational levels;

3) future mission planning as well as organizational reforms should rely heavily on the expertise of operationally experienced officers and soldiers.

 Of course, this all means that tactics will pave the way for strategy and informal practices will determine formal rules and structures a reversion of traditional deductive thinking that was far more compatible with elitist leadership and centralized political domination.8.

 According to Karl-Otto Hondrich, War has not ceased to be an indispensable "teacher of mankind" because it catatalyzes processes of collective learning which are much more profound than any proceedings of "rational discourse" or "peaceful negotiation" (Hondrich 1992). If this is accepted, we may add that international policing missions are very useful indeed because all nations can instrumentalize them for such learning processes without engaging themselves in destructive conflicts or even setting  their own existence at risk.

On a political and strategic level, the new tendency to justify foreign intervention and the application of force in the name of various high-standing values (human rights, minority rights, human welfare, ecological protection etc.) has very disturbing implications. Compared to "classical" international law which allowed war only in cases of foreign aggressions, such multidimensional value systems are dangerous because they provide limitless opportunities for legitimizing almost any kind of violent action.

Are we no longer aware of the fundamental merits of classical international law which has painfully evolved out of centuries of fruitless war in order to limit intergovernmental  aggression? Don't we recognize that the traditional principle of respecting national sovereignity was particularly apt to preserve the security of smaller and weaker countries, which nowadays are becoming the preferred targets of international policing missions?

On the one hand, the  the notion of "global policing" implies the attractive perspective of providing the whole planet with a kind of  "civil order" that has been realized up to now only within some (predominantly western and highly developed) nations. On the other hand, it risks to be self-defeating because the rules and goals of interventions are so fuzzy and the conditions for monopolistic institutional enforcement are still so far away. As a consequence, UN missions may notoriously fail to reach their intended aims because they are  too much inspired by whimsical moods of world public opinion and the fluid contingencies of intergovernmental agreements, and because the organizational forms badly needed for their fulfillment are not (yet) in existence.

The conclusion may well be that at least in the forseeable future, the UN should avoid any responsibilities for operational actions, so that its most precious status as a neutral (=uninvolved) international arbiter is not impaired.


5. References

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  1. Thus , the public emotions stirred up by the mortar attack against the central market in -Sarajevo (occurring at the 5. of February 1994) were so pervading that they provided a sufficient reason for the UN and NATO to prepare for air-strikes against the Serbs, despite the fact that it didn't cause any change in the basic strategic situation and equally heavy (but much less visible) murdering went on in smaller Bosnian cities
  2. see for instance for public opinion in Italy: Battistelli 1994).
  3. This is particularly true for peace-keeping , because the mere absence of open violence may be attributed to very different causes. For instance: have the UN troops in Cyprus really been the decisive factor for the long-term peace along the critical borders?
  4. Most extreme dangers are emerging particularly when very heavy arm equipments all into the hands of infranational actors like ethnic groups, competing clans etc. (e.g. in Georgia, Azerbaijan and potential other territories of the former Soviet Union (Berdal 1993: 10).
  5. for the case of Switzerland, see: Roost 1976)
  6. For instance, it cannot be ruled out that policing soldiers will "infiltrate" national armies with the - rather rude and "militaristic" - views, value orientations and behavioral habits they have acquired in international combat missions;
  7. In the long run, it he outcome may be that armies internalize e more and more the functions, of the Red cross and other non-combattant" organizations, because these civil institutions are not able to provide the "umbrella of security" needed for the undisturbed exercise of humanitarian actions (e.g. by diverting violence against convoys or preventing discriminative practices in the distribution of food).
  8. It has to be noted that highly formalized and coercive hierarchical relationships (as they are cultivated in traditional armed forces) are a heavy obstacle to the free flow of upward communication , because suboordinates have to fear sanctions when they transmit critique and negative information. (Julian 1966). Consequently, only troops with highly cooperative relationships between officers and soldiers should be chosen for policing missions. (O'Reilly 1978).

  9. Also in domestic policy, this changes has far-reaching consequences, because national regimes may feel more legitimated to make war against autonomist minorities by stating that these groupings follow practices that violate "fundamental human rights."


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