Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Between War and Peace

Different cultures have different peacekeeping approaches and traditions. This becomes particularly relevant and obvious in an analysis of the EU and their peacekeeping activities within the frameworks of multiple organizations concerned with the matter—OSCE, NATO, EU, UN, AU, OIC, just to mention a few out of the acronym jungle—that all have a more or less longstanding and successful tradition in conflict management and peacebuilding activities. (John S. Duffield provides in his chapter on “regional conflict management in Europe” an excellent introductory overview on these organizations, their history, and tasks).

Although being a “newbie” in the peacekeeping game, the EU has already become a major player in the field and will continue in that status. While NATO is better equipped for military actions, the EU excels in diplomatic actions and in dealing with regional governments. Meanwhile, the UN is a leading player in peace operations due to its elaborate infrastructure and historically rooted traditions. But the EU has even more missions than NATO, which seems surprising given NATO’s military strength and power.

However, the level of cooperation among these organizations varies for different reasons. Paul F. Diehl mentioned one very interesting example in his lecture “EU and Peacekeeping” delivered on 30 September 2011 for the European Union Center at the University of Illinois. Referring to Alexandru Balas, who examined the concept of these multiple simultaneous peace operations, Diehl concluded that the EU shows the greatest level of cooperation with the UN whereas the level of cooperation with NATO and the OSCE is not as high as one would expect. Often enough, there are diplomatic reasons due to the distribution of member states of the respective organizations. Since the EU only includes Greece, and NATO includes Greece and Turkey, a consensus on cooperation decisions is difficult to achieve, for example.

But I also assume other reasons influence the participation and cooperation of the EU in peacekeeping activities. As mentioned in my introduction, there are different cultural traditions and approaches to peacekeeping. One very important difference in European and US perceptions of conflict and war might be the different experiences of the respective populations during the world wars of the twentieth century. Public opinion on peacekeeping and/or military actions has always influenced decision-makers. While Europeans were directly exposed to WWI and WWII on their native soil, the population of the US was mainly spared the fighting within its own borders. The images of fights in their homelands and cities in ruins naturally left marks in the European collective memory. Consequently, public support for military action is also more difficult to guarantee on a large scale.

At the end of the day, the close collaboration between different organizations concerned with maintaining international peace and security seems more important than ever. Conflict potential is increasing and for political, economic, but most of all humanitarian reasons, we need to benefit from each organization`s specific strengths and its related cultural assets during this process. Diplomatic know-how, institutional and military resources all have to be combined to achieve the common goal of peace.

Alexandra Pölzlbauer is currently a Ph.D. student/teaching assistant at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, IL. Before earning an MA from the Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in May 2011, she completed a “Magisterstudium” (German studies, German as a foreign language, English studies, and History) in Vienna. Among other institutions, Alexandra Pölzlbauer has studied and taught at the Lomonossov University in Moscow, at the University of Burjatia in Ulan-Ude, in the Austria-Illinois Exchange Program, at the University of Business and Economics in Vienna, and in the International Summer Program of the University of Vienna in Salzburg. Her academic interests include migration, multiculturalism and cultural identities in globalized worlds, Austrian and German literature after 1945, as well as creative writing. She has written articles and presented scholarly papers focusing on multilingualism, hybridity and migration literature.a


Your an inspiration for many people around the world, including me :)
Keep up the good work.

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