The military is generally considered to act as a professional when it comes to retreating forces from military battleground or international conflict areas. At the same time recent national experiences with the withdrawal of national troops from international peacekeeping operations are filled with disappointments and crises. In this article the authors question the idea that these disappointments and crises are simply due to problems of reduced military competence or military morale. They argue that the military is still the alleged expert who knows how to perform military retreats and other military actions. At the same time they show that network-like decision-making structures that are inherent to the deployment of troops in international peacekeeping missions, have become a major obstacle for the military to act in its own right. The lessons that government can learn from the military experience are firstly, that decisions for national public cutbacks should be accompanied by a more in-depth (re)consideration of public (key) tasks than up to now was considered appropriate, and secondly, that more trust should be shown in the skills, knowledge and motivation of professionals to delineate and constrain the boundaries of their own fields of expertise.
Klep, Christ, Somalië, Rwanda, Srebrenica. De nasleep van drie ontspoorde vredesmissies (Dissertatie Utrecht 2008; Amsterdam: Boom, 2008, 385 blz., ISBN 978 90 8506 668 2).ResponseThe validity of my comparative approach (Somalia-Rwanda-Srebrenica) still stands, in my opinion. At the level of political responsibility and the process of coming to terms with events, the similarities are stronger than the differences. My estimation that the Inquiry reports were ‘hijacked’ by almost all of the stakeholders involved (especially the Canadian, Belgian and Dutch governments) is more of a matter of fact and a political reality than a reproach that ought to have legal implications. Finally, the question of how far the three governments that were involved learned lessons from the three affairs is difficult to answer. Was it not also the wider developments (for example, the switch from the ‘blue’ missions to the more robust ‘green’ missions) that compelled the lessons to be drawn out?