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  • Peacekeeping in the Abyss: British and American Peacekeeping Doctrine and Practice after the Cold War
  • John P. Cann
Peacekeeping in the Abyss: British and American Peacekeeping Doctrine and Practice after the Cold War. By Robert M. Cassidy. Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 2004. ISBN 0-275-97696-3. Figures. Notes. Bibliography. Index. Pp. 284. $67.95.

Robert Cassidy takes a fresh look at the differences in the organizational culture of the British and U.S. armies, how this difference affected their respective approaches to peace operations in Bosnia and Somalia, and how it contributed to a more effective participation for one than for the other. The volume is strongly recommended for students of peace operations, as it is well crafted and draws on extensive primary sources and secondary research. It is lucidly written despite its ponderously laborious academic style.

The purpose of the book is to explain the British and U.S. "military strategic cultural preferences" for the use of force and to analyze how these preferences influenced doctrine and actions in Bosnia and Somalia. First, the British enjoy a rich tapestry of "peacekeeping" experience gained from policing their far-flung Empire from the reign of Queen Victoria through its dissolution following World War II, but even so this experience often has had to be relearned. The "cultural preferences" of this period are catalogued in such volumes as Colonel C. E. Callwell's Small Wars: A Textbook for Imperial Soldiers and Sir Charles Gwynn's Imperial Policing. Yet during World War II [End Page 291] these concepts and their associated skills were overshadowed by the need for large conventional forces capable of fighting a very different conflict. Following World War II, the British Army was involved in no less than a dozen insurgencies. The learning curve was persistently steep in each of these conflicts, as the military leaders in place had gained their experience and military maturity in the fight against the Axis powers and little understood a coordinated civil-military response. They treated each new conflict with a conventional approach and struggled to adapt. Theater doctrines for Malaya (The Conduct of Anti-Terrorist Operations in Malaya) and Kenya (A Handbook of Anti-Mau Mau Operations) are classics, for instance, but each had to be written from scratch from the experience gained there. When General George Erskine, who had fought in Malaya, arrived to assume command in Kenya, he was amazed to find that personnel there were unaware of the Malayan doctrinal handbook. The troubles in Northern Ireland and the British response are yet another example of forgetting history. The culture of the British Army was only able to change when the officers who had fought in Malaya and the like rose to senior positions of responsibility and could exert an influence on changing the "cultural preferences" of the service. British Army performance in Bosnia reflected this hard-won adaptation.

In the second instance, the author takes a selective look at the U.S. Army in Somalia. In his treatment of this conflict he fails to develop the crucial point that the mission there changed from one of protecting the distribution of aid to a starving population to one of "nation building" in the vision of UN secretary-general Boutros Boutros-Ghali. The U.S. Marines, who are essentially a light infantry force and who have a long history of participating in small, politically charged conflicts, entered Somalia on 9 December 1992 as the key participant in a multi-country coalition known as the Unified Task Force (UNITAF). President Bush's special envoy, the skilled diplomat, Ambassador Robert Oakley, would oversee Lieutenant General Robert Johnson and his 28,000 Marines. Johnson announced that the operation would be strictly humanitarian and that his troops would use only sufficient force to protect themselves and the humanitarian relief organizations (HROs).

UNITAF was dissolved on 4 May 1993 with the departure of Oakley and the U.S. Marines having achieved their goal of getting food to elements of the starving populace, establishing a relatively secure environment in which to do so, and fostering local political institutions. The new entity, UN Operation in Somalia II (UNOSOM II), would be the vehicle for Boutros-Ghali's...


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pp. 291-293
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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Archived 2010
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