In his article, Edward N. Luttwak shares his concerns about international organizations entangling in wars which, in his opinion, are none of their business.
His general assumption is that war settles conflicts and in doing so creates peace. Therefore, war is seen as a thoroughly positive phenomenon which’s natural course should not be disturbed by externals.
But exactly this is happening due to the active participation of international organizations like the UN, NATO, EU and international NGO’s.
According to him, those organizations engage in conflicts without a real incentive to resolve them. Consequently their only achievement is to prolong the conflict, thus increasing the losses on all sides.
The author argues that this behavior has led to never-ending conflicts where victory and exhaustion are blocked by outside interventions. He sees the solution to this in a drastic policy change by global policy makers: To stop intervening in foreign conflicts, so that war can again attain its original function, establishing peace.
I will now comment on Luttwak’s article, mainly focusing on the intervention of UN and NATO peacekeeping missions in “other people’s” wars and on the effectiveness of UNRWA refugee camps.
Foreign Intervention in “Other People’s” Wars:
The author recommends global leaders to stop engaging in wars that do not actively concern them “not because they are indifferent to human suffering but precisely because they care about it and want to facilitate the advent of peace” (Luttwak, 1999, p. 44).
But what happened to the protection of human rights? Does not every human being have a right for freedom? Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They […] should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood” (UNHCHR, Article 1).
Is it then not a common goal for everyone to try to prevent wars from happening and to solve conflicts in a peaceful manner? This motivation, in my opinion, justifies an intervention by international organizations even though they might not be affected directly by a conflict.
The author however explains his discontent with the U.N. Peacekeeping mission as follows: They are blamed for inserting themselves into conflicts without solving them, instead rather passively observing them. He also criticizes these missions for deluding citizens into viewing a situation as safe when it is not, thereby preventing civilians from fleeing.
It is true that UN interventions have not ceased wars completely, and there have been major failures, like the Srebrenica massacre. But in most cases, they have helped to prevent further expansion of violence and have brought opposing parties to negotiation. This is proven by a 2005 study which found two out of three peacekeeping operations successful (RAND). The Human Security Centre also found a decline in the number of ongoing wars; a process that, at least partly, has to be attributed to the UN peacekeeping efforts (Human Security Center).
What would have happened if the UN had not intervened?
Luttwak ignores this point completely. Even if the UN does not completely achieve its goal of helping “countries torn by conflict create conditions for sustainable peace” (UNDPK), it still gives positive incentives for negotiations, and can help to begin a peace-building process. Without UN intervention, complete nations, ethnicities and religious groups might have been erased due to genocide and ethnic cleansing on the Balkans and elsewhere, and positive developments like the declaration of independence of the Kosovo and its acknowledgement by most neighbor states in 2008 would not have been possible.
Luttwak, however, proposes a distinct function for UN peacekeepers: to ally with the stronger power in order to defeat the weaker even faster.
I cannot understand how the author reached this conclusion as he completely disregards concepts like the rights to