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Unmanned Military Weapons: International Humanitarian Law without Human Terrain

Dr. Nafees Ahmad

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Unmanned Military Weapons (UMW) system based on Autonomous Weapons Technologies (AWT)  mesmerizes doppelgängers of Terminator-style robots; deadly machines backed by convoluted artificial intelligence which is qualified of exterminating human beings devoid of being impeded by human sentiments and traditional constrictions. This image is akin to science fiction and raises challenges about the development of UMW that vanguard the international legal discourse in the contemporary circumstances.UMW is innovation,and its adherence to the core principles of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) must be ensured. It is now obligatory upon the international community to address the lego-political, moral and ethical ramifications of the development of robotic technologies that might have lethal consequences.On October 24, 2010, in a report to the UN General Assembly Human Rights Committee, Christof Heyns—a Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Executions—opined that UMW systems flagged “serious concerns that have been almost entirely unexamined by human rights defenders or humanitarian actors” at the anvil of IHL. Therefore, UN must constitute a panel to evaluate the legal, moral and ethical aspects of UMW that are being mushroomed in the US and deployed fortarget killings in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

In June 2010, another UN official Philip Alston requested for terminationto CIA-guided drone airstrikeson Al-Qaeda and Taliban fugitives and suspects in Afghanistan and Pakistan.Alston articulated that killings ordered far from the battleground could lead to a “PlayStation”mindset. The CIA contested his findings by statingbut without confirming that it conductedthe airstrikes and military operations “within a framework of law and close government oversight.” Heyns—a South African Professor of Law—was of the view that there was a need to discuss responsibility for civilian casualties and how to ensure that the use of robots complied with IHL, and human rights standards for developing the AWT. Thus, Heyns asked the UN to take up the issue head-on by exhorting the then Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to organizea group of national representatives, philosophers, IHL experts,human rights defenders,developers and scientists to promote a debate on the legal, political, ethical, and moral implications of UMW systems. There is a fundamental question that must immediately be addressed,i.e., should lethal force ever be permitted to be fully automated and unmanned? Is it legally and morally correct to allow UMW to kill humans on the battlefields? Is it in compliance with IHL to transfer the decision from human being to machines to kill humans?

International Human Rights Clinic (IHRC) released a document on November 19, 2012,called Losing Humanity: The Case against KillerRobots, wherein a ban on the production and use of UMW was advocated. Subsequently, US Department of Defence (DoD) circulated a Directive 3000.09 wherein DoD adumbrated its policies on the development and use of UMW.   On April 9, 2013, Heyns askedfor a moratorium on the development of UMW until an acceptable legal framework is developed. However, the UN, IHRC,andDoD differed on the solution,andthey together commenced from the hypothesis that UMW would broach challenges of compliance to IHL. Therefore, the core principles of IHL such as principles of distinction and proportionality are insufficient to address the troubles raised by the UMW which require a more planned,controlledand coordinated legal regime to be emplaced to ensure the legality and morality of the use of UMW.There are also questions about the existing principles of command responsibility which are not adequate to provide the adherence of UMW with the IHL principles.

Unmanned Military Weapons?

Aroboticist Noel Sharkeydefines an unmanned machine as one that “carries out a preprogrammed sequence of operations or moves in a well-defined environment.” In contrast, anautonomous machine operates in an amorphous environment. It is de rigueurto distinguish between weapons that are developed and designed as automated and unmanned weapons and weapons that are trulyautonomous. The term “autonomy” can be challenging to define as it alludes to highly intelligent robotsthat are capable of individual decision-making. The reality looks a lot less like science fiction,and more like everyday robotics.Inquintessence, what makes a machine autonomous is its environment of operation rather than its internal procedures. The DoD espouses a comprehensive definition of UMW whereunder “a weapon system once that is activated, can select and engage targets devoid of further intervention by a human hand. It includes human-controlled UMW systems that are designed to allow human operators to supersede theoperation of the weapon structure but can chooseand securetargets without further participationafter activation. The DoD definition’s essential requirement is that once activated; it can “select and engage targets” without further human input. Human Rights Watch (HRW) adopts an identical definition “any robot that can select and engage targets without human input, even if there is a human oversight, will qualify as a fully autonomous robot.” Thus, these definitions encapsulate the distinguishing nature of UMW that humans are not indispensable for the targeting decision-making process. In essence, there is a difference of predictability between UMW automatic weaponry. An automatic weapon system is wholly predictable except a breakdown. However, the UMW can only be anticipated as a sequence of similar results. It is crucial to have the determination of distinction to appreciate the capability of UMW of having compliance with IHL norms.

The emergence of UMW can develop in two different directions: as the expansionofhuman soldiers or as the replacement of humans in the battleground by unmanned proxies.In other words, the distinction is between UMW that expand or replace our soldiers and those automatic war machines that could be potential soldiers. Currently, the dominant perception is that robots will be deployed only to supplement andbroaden our soldier’s engagement in thehostilities. In this context, UMW system isappreciatedas weapons that keep humans away from combat. Primarily, the UMW is the latesttechnological advancement that originated from the traditional archery. In the same way, the diagnostic responses to the potential introduction of UMW are notunusual. However, any introduction of new weapons is challenged by some as unethical or illegal.However, the idea that UMW will replace our soldiers is gaining currency in the years ahead. The UMW system is more than an extension of humans when they have the potential to decideto kill without human engagement in the hostilities. However, the deployment of drones could be castigated for a multitude of reasons, but their competence of compliance with the principles of IHL is indisputablebecause humans are involved in the targeting process.Whereas the UMW would take human operators out of the decision-making architecturethat has been contemplated under the IHL regime. It is an acceptable war doctrine that human beings have been maintaining distance from war through technology and weapons development since antiquity. But visualizing battle without humans has not yet been imagined and removing human soldiers from the war process would be a paradigmatic shift in the event of UMW system development.

The Future of UMW

Currently, the UMW is not in action entirely,but it has been growing gradually at a pace that has not been seen before. Several weapons systems are attaining full autonomous abilities. International experts like Werner JA Dahm in his piece “Killer Drones Are Science Fiction” published in The Wall Street Journal on February 15, 2012, stated that the deployment of UMW is predestined and impending in the future. He further contends that the technology required for “fully autonomous military strikes” is already present. The development of UMW would augment vertically and horizontally with aspects of operations such as take-off and navigation, and lead to full autonomy over time.With the technological advancements, more and more sophisticated sensing and computational systems will becarried out.The increased tempo of warfare and pressures to minimize casualties will also create demand forUMW. Several weapons systems include semi-autonomous capabilities already, and the level of automation in weapons systems is progressively increasing.

Recently, the South Korean military has posted an immobile sentinel robot in the Korean Demilitarized (KDZ) which can detect and select the military objects. Such a robot can respond with lethal or non-lethal force by the attending situation on the ground. However, the final decision about targeting must be of human beings and not of robots as robots would decide without human intervention. Nevertheless, the robot is competent to select and engage targets without human application, but its location in the KDZ makes it uncalled for the robot to differentiate between civilian and military objects. However, arobot treats any person as a hostile combatant who crosses the pre-demarcated line. The Aegis-class cruisers of the US Navy currently has the Phalanx Close-In Weapons Systems (PC-inWS) which are autonomously capable of performing its searches, detection, evaluation, tracking and killing assessment functions.  The PC-inWS has been designed in four types: (1) semi-automatic, where humans command the firing decision; (2) automatic special, where humans decide targets, but the software determines how to execute them; (3) automatic, where humans supervise the system, but it operates without their input; and (4) casualty, where the systems does whatever is necessary to save the ship.

Thus, the UK has been testing a new semi-autonomous aircraft called Taranis and BAE Systems—the Designer—hailed it as an “autonomous and unmanned stealthaircraft” capable of autonomous aviation. However, humans have been retained for the time being,but they are likely to be replaced gradually. The X-47B—a semi-autonomous drone—the US has been developing that will take off and land without human deployment. The developer assertsthat it is a mechanism that “takes off, lands and aviates a preprogrammed mission, and then returns to base with a mouse click administered by its mission operator. The mission operator supervisesthe machine’s operation but does not actively involve in flying it via remote control as is the situation for other unmanned weapons systems currently in operation.The current development of X-47B does not envision autonomous target selection but would be capable of semi-autonomous flight. The development of UMW has been integratedinto all roadmaps of the US forces since 2004.The US Air Force’s Flight Plan proposesthat by the year 2025 completelyautonomous and unmanned flight systems will be a reality. Sharkey claims to have read certain robotics development projects from more than 50 countries including Canada which ispresently engaged in developing UMW systems.The US Air Force Major Michael A. Guetlin states that “[it] is not a matter of ‘will’ we employ [autonomous weapons]; it is a matter of ‘when’ we employ them.”

UMW System Advantages

Some tactical and operational factors promote the development of lethal UMW systems. The UMW systems are cheaper to operate than human-operated weapons and are capable of performing continuously, without the need for rest.Gordon Johnson, a member of the now-defunct Pentagon’s Joint Forces Command, highlighted the benefits of UMW: “They don’t get hungry. They are not afraid. They do not forget commands and directives. They do not worry if the guy next to them has just been hit or targeted. Will UMW do a better job than humans? Of course, Yes.Human operators are susceptible to fatigue and exhaustion.Though it can be possible to broaden mission times for humans of up to 72 hours with performance enhancers, eventually a human needs rest. The UMW is capable of performing for as long as their batteries sustain them. As battery and recharging technologyadvances, the possible mission and target time for UMW will continue to increase. A smaller number of humans are required for the operation of UMW systems. It may soon be possible for a single operator to manage a swarm of semi-autonomous drones, or for a single human commander to assign mission parameters to UMW, and monitor them from a secure distance. Therefore, it will allow for a distancing of the human warfighter and the battle space and expands the battle space. Consequently, the combatwill be able to be conducted over a much larger area than before. UMW has the capability of processing battleground information in a faster and efficient manner than human operators. UMW could be installed with a multitude of sensory technologies like infrared and thermal vision, high definition cameras and state-of-the-art acoustic sensors that would enhance UMW’s superiority over sensory capabilities of humans.

There are vulnerabilities with the modern remotely guided vehicles due to the possibility that would interfere with enemy satellites, radar systems or radio frequencies. However, the UMW systems assuage these anxieties as they would be capable of performing without perennial contact with base camp.At present, remotely piloted systems have a delay time of about1.5 Seconds, restrictingtheirefficacyin a greatertempo battlespace. Thus, the impugned delay would make it impracticalfor a remotely piloted system to combatin aerialwarfare, which UMW aeronautical capabilities would make achievable. The proponents of UMW advocatethat UMW may, in fact,bemore adept at adhering to the principles of IHL than the soldiers logic and emotions. The UMW systems might be capable of performingmore conservatively because they would not lunge forpreservation instinct. Therefore, robotic sensors would be better well-equipped to make battleground observations and surveillancethan human combatants. The UMW would be designed without emotions that are bound to cloud sense of judgment of human soldiers, but UMW would be free from all the psychological infirmities and frailties of scenario fulfillment; the experiencesand occurrencesof human beings which they use as new information to fit their pre-existing belief patterns and combat orientation.

No Wrap-Up

It is, indeed, a reality now that UMW systems are here to stay as inalienable war machinery of the modern world and it is destined to be vertically and horizontally gradational in their advancement. The deployment of UMW systems posesa multitude of challenges including adhering to the IHL principles of distinction and proportionality. In IHL, principles, and standards have been defined for human soldiers and technology might never be able to substitute human beings in entirety. Making a distinction between civilian and combatants needs computational processing capability that has not been accomplished as of now. With the requisite technology development, the definition of civilian may not be adequately specific for UMW software. Therefore, the idiosyncratic and circumstantial nature of proportionality entails an assessment of dynamics that might not be workable for the machines. Further, there are ethical and moral challenges emanate from the UMW systems such as should the decision to kill a human being be assigned to a drone or robot? Having vigorously assessed the potentialchallenges of adherence to the IHL principles, we must not attribute UMW systems a higher standard than human management of warfare. However, there are umpteen instances of war crimes, indiscriminate attacks, crimes against humanity, and disproportionate use of force by the human soldiers in the human history. The introduction of UMW system is flgrantly bound to lead to the moral detachment and unethical expansion of battle space. But UMW has to peregrinate a long way before matching the human mind and human sense of justice. The UMW system is not necessary for making the distinction and calculating proportionality if measured against the human input.Nevertheless, human soldiers would be there in the loop as a goofproof when UMW system is first deployed in the battlefields; their engagement would fade away with the time. With the diminishing of human engagement, the complications confronted by the UMW in adhering to the principles of IHL would be unprecedentedly prominent necessitating the comprehensive lego-institutional analysis to re-conceiving the human terrain of International Humanitarian Law.

Ph. D., LL.M, Faculty of Legal Studies, South Asian University (SAARC)-New Delhi, Nafees Ahmad is an Indian national who holds a Doctorate (Ph.D.) in International Refugee Law and Human Rights. Author teaches and writes on International Forced Migrations, Climate Change Refugees & Human Displacement Refugee, Policy, Asylum, Durable Solutions and Extradition Issus. He conducted research on Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) from Jammu & Kashmir and North-East Region in India and has worked with several research scholars from US, UK and India and consulted with several research institutions and NGO’s in the area of human displacement and forced migration. He has introduced a new Program called Comparative Constitutional Law of SAARC Nations for LLM along with International Human Rights, International Humanitarian Law and International Refugee Law & Forced Migration Studies. He has been serving since 2010 as Senior Visiting Faculty to World Learning (WL)-India under the India-Health and Human Rights Program organized by the World Learning, 1 Kipling Road, Brattleboro VT-05302, USA for Fall & Spring Semesters Batches of US Students by its School for International Training (SIT Study Abroad) in New Delhi-INDIA nafeestarana[at]gmail.com,drnafeesahmad[at]sau.ac.in

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US Nuclear Policy Upgraded

Dmitry Stefanovich

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Experts and politicians are familiar with several variants of the 2018 NPR. The Huffington Post published a draft in mid-January. On February 2, in the run-up to the February 5 deadline to meet the central limits of the US–Russia New START treaty, the NPR was officially presented in the Pentagon by representatives of the Department of Defense, the Department of State, and the Department of Energy. The full text of the document was then briefly deleted from the Pentagon website.

On February 6, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis personally presented the NPR to the House Armed Services Committee. Witnesses point out that this version differed slightly from the previous one. One of the main changes had to do with the appearance of a chart showing how the US is lagging behind Russia, China and North Korea in upgrading its nuclear arsenal (see Fig.1). In the first draft, the entire Korean Peninsula was shown in the colours of the North Korean flag; in the next version, the chart represented Taiwan as a Chinese territory; in the following one, Russia “lost” the Kuril Islands in their entirety. The latest variant of the chart appears to be true to life, but this minor incident may indicate a certain degree of inattention to detail on the part of those who compiled the document. It is worth mentioning that the NPR summary has also been published in Russian, Chinese, Korean, Japanese and French: this suggests that Washington believes it extremely important to inform its allies and adversaries about the US approach to nuclear arms.

The Russian Factor

The Trump administration’s nuclear doctrine specifically emphasizes the degradation of the system of international politico-military relations in the second decade of the 21st century, a process characterized by the quantitative and qualitative increase of challenges and threats to US interests. This situation resulted from the international activity of “revisionist powers”: Russia, China, North Korea and Iran. The document repeatedly mentions this “revisionism”, so it is worth listing the nuclear-related accusations Washington is levelling against Russia.

The NPR accuses Russia of three main “sins”:

  • breaching the INF Treaty by testing and deploying a long-range ground-based cruise missile;
  • pursuing a “escalate-to-deescalate” strategy. This strategy implies delivering a limited tactical nuclear strike should the threat of losing a conventional conflict become imminent, in order to subsequently impose the terms of conflict settlement on the adversary. This concept belonged exclusively to the realm of journalism until recently, even though renowned experts did discuss it actively and aggressively, albeit somewhat sceptically;
  • upgrading its nuclear arsenals, including via the development of various exotic delivery platforms. Everyone seems already accustomed to fantasies about hypersonic glide vehicles, but the mention, in this context, of a strategic intercontinental torpedo with a megaton-class warhead (known as Status-6) is puzzling and unexpected.

The Russian Foreign Ministry’s reaction to the publication of the new US nuclear doctrine came in the form of a prompt and fairly apposite comment: “Russia’s Military Doctrine clearly limits the possibility of using nuclear weapons to two hypothetical defensive scenarios: first, in response to an aggression […] involving the use of nuclear or any other weapons of mass destruction, and second, in response to a non-nuclear aggression, but only if Russia’s survival is endangered. The 2014 Military Doctrine introduced a new term, the ‘system of non-nuclear deterrence’, which implies preventing aggression primarily through reliance on conventional (non-nuclear) forces.”

The comment continues: “We are deeply concerned about Washington’s no-limits approach, under which it might use nuclear weapons in ‘extreme circumstances’, which are not limited to military scenarios in the new US doctrine. […] If this is not the doctrinal enhancement of the role of nuclear weapons, what then does Washington imply when it uses the term with regard to Russia?”

One may mock the lexical peculiarities of the Russian comment, but it does contain a commendably succinct and exhaustive description of the country’s nuclear doctrine. It should be stressed that the Foreign Ministry was merely reacting. Had it been proactive in explaining the country’s stance on nuclear weapons and their qualitative and quantitative parameters to partners, opponents and society, all questions regarding Russia’s conceptions and arms may have been resolved before making their way into the NPR and similar documents.

Such positive promotion of Russia’s strategic non-nuclear deterrence concept merits in-depth analysis. In his speech at an open session of the Defence Ministry’s Board in late 2017, General Valery Gerasimov, Russian Chief of the General Staff, provided an exhaustive description of the “non-nuclear deterrence components” being formed in Russia as applied to the weapons systems currently employed. These include the S-400 SAM system, the Bastion coastal anti-ship missile system, submarines and sea-surface ships armed with Kalibr missiles and also, with certain reservations, the Iskander-M theatre missile system (“operational-tactical”). It is worth mentioning that all the aforementioned systems are, to varying degrees, dual-capable, i.e. they can be tipped with nuclear warheads. The problem of dual-capable nuclear/conventional arms is growing ever more acute. In particular, one of last year’s publications by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, under the editorship of James M. Acton, is devoted to this topic.

The US Response

Washington is planning to employ a combination of the following elements in order to deter Russia:

  • the US nuclear triad (intercontinental ballistic missiles, nuclear submarines armed with ballistic missiles, and heavy bombers);
  • non-strategic nuclear forces from the USA and other countries in Europe, i.e. B611 aerial bombs and the nuclear sharing concept, which Russia has been criticizing for many years;
  • the nuclear forces of British and French allies.

This approach appears to be a serious obstacle to the future of bilateral strategic offensive arms reduction. At the same time, it may also prove instrumental in overcoming the seeming deadlock. Washington, in effect, is introducing its allies’ nuclear arsenals into the Russia–US strategic stability equation, meaning that Russia now has every reason to take these arsenals into account in future talks. Moscow will certainly have to introduce into the equation some of the Russian nuclear components that have until now remained outside the scope of limitation and reduction agreements, and were even excluded from the transparency principle. However, certain progress is possible here, provided that third nuclear countries (ideally China as well) are involved in the process.

Let us now discuss the materiel portion of the NPR: the assessment of America’s needs for nuclear delivery platforms.

Fig. 1 New nuclear delivery systems, with corrections and amendments by Hans Kristensen (Federation of American Scientists) in red.

The Trump administration believes that America is nowhere near being “great again” when it comes to nuclear weapons. This opinion is not entirely true. Nevertheless, the NPR calls for creation and deployment of new systems in addition to the new B-21 Raider bomber, LRSO air-launched cruise missile, GBSD intercontinental ballistic missile, new Columbia-class submarine (all effectively launched under the Obama administration), and the modernization/service life extension programmes for existing nuclear warheads, which are nearing completion. The document identifies the need for nuclear-tipped sea-launched cruise missiles and lower-yield warheads for Trident II submarine-launched ballistic missiles.

The NPR also sets the rather vague objective of developing advanced nuclear delivery platforms and “alternative basing modes”, which may imply mobile ground-based (or airborne!) launchers. Sea-launched cruise missiles are meant to fill the gap caused by the INF-Treaty-related limitations, both in response to Russia’s “transgressions” and in other theatres saturated with missiles of nations not bound by the treaty. Notionally, low-yield warheads for submarine-launched ballistic missiles are meant as a deterrent against attempted use of tactical nuclear weapons in conventional conflict.

The NPR authors believe the US president will thus be able to deliver a nuclear strike that would not result in a full-scale nuclear war. It remains unclear how Washington’s adversary is supposed to distinguish an incoming low-yield munition from a full-blown first-strike weapon. The single-missile argument does not hold water, because a single launch from a submarine with subsequent air burst is considered a classic tactic for blinding enemy early warning and missile defence radars, to be followed by the multiple-launch application of the entire arsenal. Curiously, the UK had such sub-strategic submarine-launched ballistic missiles in its armoury more than 20 years ago. Discussions continue as to whether these munitions are effective. It would appear that the preservation of the “nuclear taboo” proves the usefulness of such munitions. On the other hand, the existence of “serious” strategic weapons in the arsenals of several leading world powers seems no less convincing a reason why nuclear arms have not been used in anger to date.

Apart from the aforementioned aspects of nuclear arms development, the NPR pays special attention to less publicly known components of the US nuclear arsenal: the nuclear command, control and communications (NC3) system and nuclear warheads.

The US NC3 system has long been in need of modernization because it consists largely of slightly modified Cold-War-era technology. At the same time, the NPR emphasizes the increase in, and qualitative changes to, the threats in outer space and cyberspace, the two key command-and-control arenas that apply not only to nuclear arms. To bring the NC3 system up to date and make it reliably stable, the NPR calls for massive reforms, the deployment of new subsystems, and the introduction of protection against all types of threats. It is in this context that the document contains the extremely controversial thesis stating that nuclear weapons may be used in response to a conventional attack on critical infrastructure, even a cyberattack against NC3 systems. The connection between nuclear arms and cyberthreats is becoming a particularly hot topic. It appears that within the debates involving the NPR, the sides would do well to at least reach a mutual understanding of the problem, if not work out common rules of the game.

The NPR contains detailed and tightly deadlined targets for the National Nuclear Security Administration (which formally reports to the Department of Energy but operates independently) to prolong the service life of existing warhead types until 2030 (this may require upgrades, as illustrated by the example of the W-76 warhead for the Trident II submarine-launched ballistic missile). Also by 2030, the USA must produce up to 80 plutonium pits, which are critical to the manufacture of nuclear charges. In fact, these targets were generally described back in 2007–2008, and their importance was reiterated following the signature of New START in 2010–2011. The USA is not planning to conduct any nuclear tests (with the exception of those required to ensure the safety and efficiency of the nuclear arsenal). On the other hand, Washington does not intend to ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty either.

The new NPR pays somewhat less attention to non-proliferation, nuclear terrorism and arms control than the previous versions, and mainly focuses on the rivalry between the superpowers.

According to official estimates made public in late 2017, full implementation of the US nuclear modernization programme will require up to $1.2 trillion through the year 2046. Coupled with massive spending on missile defence (incidentally, the Department of Defense will shortly release a Missile Defense Review, whose title conspicuously omits the word “ballistic”), and the growing needs of all conventional military branches, the planned expenses might be streamlined by postponing the implementation of some projects and completely abandoning others, which is not unknown in the history of the US defence industry.

The Doctrine as the Catalyst of Discussion

The modernization of nuclear weapons is inevitable and even advisable for all nuclear powers. Russia, for one, continues to deploy and develop advanced nuclear systems. Universal nuclear disarmament remains a thing of the distant future; shiny new missiles appear to be safer to handle than rusty old ones, and they are better at deterring potential adversaries.

A number of provisions contained in the NPR make one reconsider the existing attitude towards the role of nuclear arms in the contemporary system of international politico-military relations and start devising new conceptual approaches. It would be an utter mistake to return to “escalation dominance”, the “missile gap,” and other antiquated Cold War theses, which are hardly applicable to the contemporary polycentric nuclear world.

Nuclear weapons as an aspect of great power competition were too quick to disappear from the international agenda (together with the very notions of competition and great power), with the focus shifting towards various global problems associated with sustainable development. The new US NPR clearly indicates the fallibility of this approach. At the same time the discussion spurred by the publication of this document gives one hope for the emergence of a new approach to building a stable multipolar world.

First published in our partner RIAC

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Assessing United Nation’s commitment to “resolve conflict”: The need to re-strategize Peacekeeping missions

Anant Mishra

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Numerous peacekeeping missions conducted by the UN “drastically” failed to “maintain peace and security” in the “conflict-rigged” regions. The article focuses on the peacekeeping missions conducted by the UN during the late 1990s, while carefully “assessing the operational mechanism” of the UNTAG in Namibia and its interaction with UNPOL and CIVPOL while keeping in mind the “geo-political” impact of a “failed intervention” and later providing “viable pragmatic solutions” to ensure a “successful implementation of peace-building and peace-keeping initiatives”. Peace-keeping mission’s success depends heavily on “regional political actors”, whereas to ensure a smooth “democratic transition”, support from international aid organizations, non-government institutions remains vital.

Although, “carefully preparing rehabilitation and restructuring programs” while “timely monitoring and evaluating its implementation”, coupled with a “viable pragmatic framework of the peacekeeping mission”, are some of the primary factors responsible for ensuring “regional political cooperation” in an effort to maintain peace.

Introduction

In the last decade, the world witnessed formulation of various Peacekeeping missions especially strategized to re-vitalise “peace and stability in the region”. However, in the light of frequently increasing international and regional stakeholders such as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), power countries such as the US, Britain, Japan, Germany, international institutions such as the European Union (EU), League of Arab States (LAS), Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), and African Union (AU), United Nations remains the principle agency whose participation in peacekeeping missions, is “vital”. Today, over 15 peacekeeping missions are deployed under the leadership of UN Department for Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO), the principle agency of the UN, which inspite of “formidable expertise and experience” continues to face immense criticism for “fulfilling partial or fraction of expected results”. The criticism highlights two “significant facts”: UN has a habit of “repeating the same mistake in every new mission”, highlighting the “failure to achieve numerous objectives” stated in the “over-ambitious mandate” of UN missions particularly in Cote d’Ivoire, Somalia and Haiti. On the contrary, a large segment of “socio-economic development initiatives” remains “unachieved” as witnessed from its bitter experience in Rwanda and Sudan.

The article emphasis on the need for UN take a “responsible leadership role” in “resolving international conflicts”, disregarding the “pressure from international political arena” or “acute criticism received from military and security experts” on recent “unfavourable outcomes” from peacekeeping missions. The answer to these “unfavourable outcomes” lies within the successes achieved by the UN peacekeeping missions coupled with numerous successful “resolutions” passed the UN Security Council. The particular case of Namibia and the measures successfully implemented by the then UN Transition Assistance Group while ensuring“ peaceful transition of power” through “elections” and paving a way for a “democratically elected government”, are vital to assess and formulate future peacekeeping missions. The article’s focus is to “carefully understand and assess operational mechanism of the UNTAG” which made it a successful peacekeeping mission while understanding the factors responsible for making the mission a success and “simulating those factors in the peacekeeping missions of today”.

History of Namibia and UNTAG formation

To analyse the factors responsible behind UNTAG mission’s successful, it is important to understand the history of Namibia and the scenario which resulted in the formation of UNTAG. The question of “political stability in Namibia” is as old as the UN itself, perhaps older. Series of dialogues, discussion sand multiple responsible actors advocating for a “peaceful solution” in Namibia, were largely “responsible factors” of its success.

The political quest to control Namibia began with the invasion of British led South African Union forces defeated the then German troops during World War I. Although, the “disputed” Namibia came under the supervision of League of Nations “mandate”, the then British dominated troops of South African Union enjoyed “political and administrative” control over the region. However, during post-World War II, the International Court of Justice “over-ruled” the de-facto political and administrative control of South African Union forces on Namibia terming it “illegal and violation of all international laws”, brushing the judgment aside, South Africa continues to treat Namibia as its own “province”. In an effort to achieve independence from the then South African “occupation” of Namibia, a violent faction in the name of South Africa People’s Organization was formed.

Clearly mentioning the “international status” of Namibia, the then United Nations Security Council passed numerous resolutions between the year 1966 and 1968. Namibia was now under direct UN administration, whose responsibility was given to the then formed UN Council on South West Africa. After completing numerous “fact-finding missions”, the UN Council on West Africa agreed that “the South African occupation of Namibia was illegal” and in 1975 declared to “democratically conduct elections under the UN supervision”. While three members of the P5 countries plus Canada and Germany “debated for a peaceful independence”, the then “apartheid gripped” South Africa wanted to retain its “occupation” on Namibia. United Nations, then officially recognized SWAPO as a “responsible stakeholder and partner in peaceful discussions”, in 1976.

The official formulation of the UNTAG peacekeeping mission was complete in early 1978, whereas its mandate was completely “strategized” by the end of the same year, with a principle focus of “carrying out peaceful democratic transition of power while declaring Namibia’s independence”. However, the official deployment of UNTAG was delayed for eleven years only to be implemented after a temporary ceasefire between SWAPO and South African troops in April 1989. The time taken by UN to successfully deploy its peacekeeping mission was largely contributed to the Cold-War which will be significantly addressed in the later section of the article. The UNTAG peacekeeping mission lasted for one complete year and its formal closing came only when the state assembly received a formal declaration from then UNTAG Special Representative on 21st March 1990.

Essential elements of success

“Mission-specific” Mandate

To draw an initial assessment of the UNTAG mission in an effort to compare it with other UN peacekeeping missions, it is imperative to first understand the nomenclature of its mandate. The Mandate not only states the “operational mechanism of UN troops on the ground, but also acts a framework strictly defining the actions of UN personnel”, including their “rule of engagement” while highlighting “objectives of the mission” with an interim timeline.

The principle discussion during the “formulation of any UN Mandate” largely rests on Chapter VI or Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter. Chapter VI explicitly states the use of military force only in cases when “fired upon” while explicitly mentioning a formal “ratification of all stakeholders”, meanwhile Chapter VII states the use of necessary military force without “formal ratification of any stakeholder”. Today, experts continue to argue on the successes achieved by peacekeeping missions implementing Chapter VII of the UN Charter, as the mission remains “independent” and free to initiate any formal military engagement while inducing “political pressure” if necessary, in an effort to “maintain peace and stability in the region”. The Rwandan genocide is a perfect example, as the mission received only the mandate of Chapter VI making it “impossible to initiate a direct confrontation” with violent factions. In this scenario, the mission failed largely because of an unmatched mandate.

Although, it extensively depends upon the “intensity of conflict and presence of responsible stakeholders”, the mandate including Chapter VI proved to be vital, in case of UNTAG in Namibia, and a perfect example to “implement successful peace and stability in a region” without the direct use of military action.

Furthermore, the responsibility to “build and secure negotiations” further increase the stakes of responsible parties, which can be highlighted from “extensive diplomatic engagements between SWAPO and South Africa.

However, no individual can predict the “the success of peacekeeping mission solely from either Chapter VI or Chapter VII mandates”. Although, the difference will be created when the “mandate is able to fulfill the operational requirements of a peacekeeping mission”. This “burden of responsibility” only lies with the Permanent Members of the United Nations Security Council.

Role of international communities

Experts have “traditionally” credited the success of UNTAG peacekeeping mission to “effective communication and coordination” between the then members of United Nations Security Council. This statement is essentially correct, as the global dynamics were “fluid” then, in the light of the Cold War. With “principle of uncertainty” hanging over the mission, the then member nations of the Security Council adopted the 1978 UN Security Council Resolution 435, while ensuring “legal necessities” of the mission and formally deploying the UNTAG forces by the end of Cold War.

In the light of Cuban troops withdrawal from Angola, the then policy makers at the UN were not willing to take any chance of “outgoing clashes” between SWAPO in Namibia and angered Cuban forces, thus delaying the deployment of UNTAG peacekeeping force for over eleven years, even after successful ratification of the then Resolution 435. In the meantime, South Africa was taking desperate “maneuvers” in an effort to retain its “colony” under the apartheid system, rallying behind the then Reagan administration through a strategic partnership agreement: South Africa, however “hesitantly” accepted the UN led leadership of Namibia while forming an alliance with the US to prevent communism from spreading from Mozambique to Angola and South Africa. South Africa made a “political maneuver”, establishing relationship with Washington in the light of the latter’s “involvement in South Africa’s domestic politics”.

Washington on the contrary, needed South Africa’s support, in an effort to address the issue of Namibia’s independence, needing a formal consent from South Africa under the Chapter VI of the UN Charter. Washington refrained to infiltrate militarily in Angola and Namibia, as these “geographies” did not hold much “political value”. Furthermore, Washington could not afford another proxy war especially when the “political and economic” stakes were high, after its recent “costly gamble” in Vietnam.

Taking the communist perspective, which were then Cuba and Angola, with Soviet Union supporting them, Soviet Union could not maintain a grip in Cuba. The winds of “communist politics” were drastically changing course. Moreover, South African military units along with forces of Frente Nacional da Liberaçao de Angola (FNLA) and the National Union for Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) soldiers, financially aided by Washington, began “aggressive” military attacks on Soviet backed Cuban and Angolan troops within Angola. This resulted in “politico-military campaign” supported by both blocs. In 1984, the then President of Angola, declared the withdrawal of its troops, only under three conditions:

a)South Africa must remove all its troops from Angolan territory.

b)Implement Resolution 435, but only under the leadership of UN.

c)Immediately cease all US and South African intervention in Angolan domestic politics.

It remains a fact that, “Post-Cold War period brought a tremendous shift in international politics” which also ended the “stalemate in UN Security Council” making it “effective” to take decisions again. Furthermore, in case of Namibia’s independence, the role of UNTAG peacekeeping mission was vital and received a significant support from international communities (all actors) ensuring a “positive result”. The need for members of the UN Security Council and other international communities to support any UN peacekeeping mission, is absolutely vital, without which, the peacekeeping mission will not be able to deliver necessary progressive results.

Role of regional communities

The success of the UNTAG peacekeeping mission was not only possible because of an extensive support from international communities, the necessary support from regional and domestic cooperation remained vital during “electoral proceedings”. The theory to conduct elections in a conflict state has been “discussed and debated rigorously, many questioning the UN’s state building initiatives, however, in Namibia, without “opening the doors to free and fair elections, UNTAG peacebuilding successes couldn’t have achieved. From a point of “traditional analysis”, there are three key points policy makers must remember. Some may be unique for Namibia, while other case analysis can be “effectively used to reinforce on-going peacekeeping missions while formulate effective operations in the near future”.

a) To begin with, the “root cause of the issue” along with cooperation and coordination between multiple regional stakeholders at various levels provided strength to the “peacekeeping initiatives” right from the beginning. The “stance” taken by multiple stakeholders were “clear” highlighting the difference between “contested parties” and parties “voicing to achieve a same goal”, which separated the “two conflicted parties from other groups”. This eased the efforts taken by the UN military Observer units to monitor ceasefire. Moreover, bilateral communications between the “contesting stakeholders” through mediation from an international inspector, United Nations in this case, easily communicated between the two.

b) It would not be incorrect to state that, the issue in Namibia was “largely one-sided” especially in the context of “regional political turmoil”. Border skirmishes, violent ethnic clashes and resources distribution, did not affect the peace process. The incumbent peace-keeping missions in Sudan and missions in Rwanda, the threats to peacebuilding were extensive.

c) Moreover, the Namibian government institutions, before the deployment of UNTAG peacekeeping forces, were “structurally functioning”, as the institutions did not receive extensive damages in the civil war. With a large section of government institutions still functioning, across the country, UNTAG were able to “operate and carry out constitution election successfully” using such “institutional support”. It is important to note that, the supervision of UN mission in Congo largely failed because of absence of vital “institutional infrastructure”, which were decimated in subsequent civil wars.

While carefully assessing the role of “civil society in the success of UNTAG peacekeeping mission”, it is imperative for domestic entities to play a responsible role, to ensure the success of peacekeeping missions. These domestic entities included regional, local and national political organizations, the press, civil society institutions, non-government agencies, government entities and various minority groups. The responsibility taken by local masses during elections, changed the course of Namibian history. As a matter of fact, the voters appearing to cast votes outnumbered even the UN voting estimation exceedingly by 50:1. The total recorded turn out was at 97 percent.

Effective structure

Besides “cooperation and coordination” from international and domestic stakeholders, the objectives of the UNTAG peacekeeping mission followed by relentless efforts undertaken by its personnel, resulted in successful constitution elections. The mandate of the mission “coupled” the effectiveness and the efficiency of UNTAG personnel in Namibia, which gave desired results. It is imperative for the mission to fulfill “operational goals”, even overlooking the people’s “suspicions”. It is also important to note that, beside UNTAG, there were no “successful” peacekeeping missions that democratically conducted constitutional elections; “UNTAG was swimming in unchartered territories”. If the elections turned out to be a failure or “rigged”, would not only have dissolved the legitimacy of political institutions but could have raised questions on the ability of UN peacekeeping while “extensively” compromising UN position of “neutrality”. Besides South Africa, almost every stakeholder had “certain hidden agendas” forcing them to support UNTAG.

Apart from this “complex political understanding”, there was an “effective and efficient” cooperation and coordination between different military officers, advisors, civilian staffers and UNPOL officers. The mission was not only to observe a ceasefire, but it largely extended to “conducting free and fair elections” which needed the support of UNPOL and civilian staffers. The triggered an “intensely complex, integrated multidimensional response” coupled by “extensive and rigorous communication” within all sectors and command units within UNTAG headquarters. This indeed was a “complex scenario”, especially when the deployed troops hailed from different countries with different command structure and expertise.

Besides communication and integrated command structures, the mission responsibility largely depended on “skilful resourceful officers”, who maintained a direct communique with their headquarters in New York, will facing “numerous threats to peace”.

However, there were series of “frequent rigorous” clashes between SWAPO and South African military units, and fighting began intensive with every clash. This occurred during the initial deployment of UNTAG observers, in a time when the personnel strength was half. The peacekeeping initiatives were further reinforced with diplomatic communique, which resulted in a meeting between UN diplomat and the two “contentious” parties. SWAPO then began to actively participate in DDR (Disarmament, De-mobilization and Reintegration), only when UNTAG was in full strength. With complete in strength, UNTAG headquarters responded actively while establishing an effective communication with all UNTAG mobile and command units, in an effort to quickly resolve the conflict. The failure of timely communication resulted in loss of numerous lives during UN peacekeeping mission in Rwanda. Policy makers must note that, communication plays a vital role in de-escalating conflict.

The UNPOL acted as a bridge, connecting commanders in UN HQ directly with the masses. The observers deployed under civilian police units, were strictly instructed to not to take an action directly, rather focusing on the development of local police units, South African police, until the independence of Namibia.

The civilian police units were strictly tasked to maintain “peace, security and the rule of law ”while remain “unbiased” throughout the time. This was quite a difficult task. The local masses were not aware about the civilian police structure, new to their environment, building trust remained vital. Civilian police units conducted numerous peace building public centric initiatives, in an effort to gain trust. South Africa tried to portray a “negative image” about civilian policing, while strengthening their tactics of “guerrilla warfare” in an effort to counter police with an objective to create chaos. With an effective communication with UNTAG HQ and other command and mobile units, the UN successfully countered the insurgency through diplomatic means.

Furthermore, the success of the mission extensively depended on “winning hearts and mind”, the cooperation of the masses and their coordination with the UNTAG observers remained vital. As stated in aforementioned arguments, the mandate of UNTAG was strictly political; “free fair and democratically” conduct constitutional elections. In the past UN peacekeeping operations, “conducting free and fair elections” was no less than a nightmare for officers and commanders of UN. Indeed democratically conducted elections boosts the moral, but if the election fails, the domino effect created by the failure to conduct free and fair elections will instigate cataclysmic events. After the formal declaration of elections, the masses are “vulnerable to violence”. During this time, UN HQ discusses multiple challenges, especially those faced during formulation of a timeline, voter registration and counting procedures, selection of the electoral system, plus the availability of a suggestion/complain box. The responsibility is not limited to only “conducting elections” but ensuring that the electoral candidates do not violate any laws established or install dictatorial control over the government, remains vital for peacekeeping officers to address. UNTAG successfully addressed all the aforementioned “challenges”. Since, Namibian masses had no “electoral” experience, hence, the masses were given “extensive” electoral education. UNTAG HQ successfully distributed numerous multi-lingual pamphlets and distributed them throughout the country. The officers closely worked with religious establishments and local policy leaders in an effort to create awareness among the masses, while spreading the agenda and purpose of the UN mission. Despite facing serious financial challenges, UNTAG successfully achieved its mandate. Considering all stages (from monitoring to implementation), not one issue pertained. The UNTAG officers demonstrated highest “responsible behaviour and completed their task with outmost professionalism while maintaining timely and effective cooperation and coordination with command and mobile units”.

Time management

To successfully achieve the mission-mandate, timing was imperative. Timing played a phenomenal role in the success of UNTAG mandate:

a)UNTAG HQ maintained it separate timeline syncing it with the timeline established to conduct elections, which began on the day of its deployment. Furthermore, the role of the stakeholders and their presence were all accounted for, making UNTAG the only agency to conduct elections.

b)Most importantly, the time between the ratification and acceptance of the 1978 Resolution of 435 and UNTAG peacekeeping missions formal deployment in 1989, eleven years were significant for UNTAG to simulate and prepare.

Policy makers must note that, the actual deployment structure remained the same even after its deployment in 1989.This structure was further reinforced with “ready to support” stakeholders. This made UN’s image as a principle agency to carry out peacekeeping missions “concrete” as it relentlessly pursued the then members of the UN Security Council to ratify and adopt the Resolution 435, while “extensively engaging” with all stakeholders.

Moreover, a large section of UN peacekeeping officers, extensively worked on identifying viable pragmatic policies to conduct free and fair Namibian elections in these eleven years. This ensured a “constant flow of information, management of information while maintaining constant and effective communication between the stakeholders. In this case, the preparations were “exceedingly lengthy” and “available time was cautiously and judiciously” utilized in relation to the “mandate and operational mechanism along with personnel management and communique”, which ultimately resulted in the success of UNTAG mission.

Conclusion

Today, peacekeeping missions conducted by UN, continues to face “questions on its legitimacy”. Many experts, think tank policy specialists and political leaders world-wide not only “consider it as an intervention” but also raises questions on “moral and ethnic grounds”. Superimposed by past unsuccessful peacekeeping missions the perception of general masses have drastically changed. Some raises questions on the missions “sustainability”, while many questions the “dilemma of democracy or the rise of dictatorial regimes”.

Policy makers and expert military strategists continue to face numerous challenges in “devising an appropriate peacekeeping strategy”. Every mission is new and seek different approaches, especially in its complexities, stakeholder’s approach and superimposing mandates. Although, one factor that could determine the success of peacekeeping mission, “operational mechanism”, which certainly exists in every mission, if “harness effectively and efficiently” with a right mandate, has the potential to drive mission successfully. However, it will not be incorrect to say that, UNTAG did not face any “complex hostile environment” as compared to UN missions in Rwanda, Sudan and Somalia. However, the successes achieved during UNTAG mission in Namibia, highlights certain “facts” applicable in all future UN peacekeeping initiatives.

a)It is absolutely vital for members of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to formulate a “mission centric mandate”.

b)The success of any peacekeeping mission largely depends upon cooperation and coordination at international, national, local and regional levels. This step should be further reinforced by “creating community centric development programs/initiatives”.

Then comes the “eccentricity of timing and pre-planning.

If the mandate is achieved before the estimated established time, the confidence of the people will increase and so does the missions/organizations authenticity and legitimacy. Policy makers must prepare thoroughly, assess and simulate all probable/possible scenarios, in an effort to increase their “effectiveness” to respond to “unprojectable situations”, which are always “possible” during UN peacekeeping operations.

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Defense

Long way to common European Security and Defense

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On 14-15 February, 2018 NATO Defense Ministers will meet in Brussels again to discuss the main threats the world faces nowadays. NATO consists of 29 member states but 22 of them are simultaneously the EU member states. Speaking in general, the decisions, taken by NATO, are binding on the EU. On the one hand, NATO and the US, as its main financial donor, and Europe very often have different goals. Their interests and even views on the ways to achieve security are not always the same. The more so the differences exist inside the EU either.

A European military level of ambitions has grown significantly in recent times. Decision to establish a European Union defense pact, known as a Permanent Structured Cooperation on security and defense (PESCO) at the end of the previous year became a clear indicator of this trend. It is the first real attempt to form the EU independent defense without reliance on NATO.

Though the EU member states actively support the idea of closer European cooperation in security and defense, they do not always agree on the European Union’s work in this area. In reality not all the states are ready to spend more on defense even in the framework of NATO, which requires spending at least 2 percent of their GDP. Thus, according to NATO’s own figures, only the US (not an EU member state), Great Britain (leaving the EU), Greece, Estonia, Poland and Romania in 2017 met the requirement. So other countries probably would like to strengthen their defense but are not capable or even do not want to pay additional money for a new EU military project. It should be noted that only those countries that have a great dependence on NATO support and have no chance to protect themselves, spend 2 percent of their GDP on defense or show readiness to increase spending (Latvia, Lithuania).

Such EU member states as France and Germany are ready to “lead the process” without increasing in contributions. They have higher level of strategic independence than the Baltic States or other countries of Eastern Europe.

For example, French military-industrial complex is capable of producing all kinds of modern weapons – from infantry weapons to ballistic missiles, nuclear submarines, aircraft carriers and supersonic aircraft.

The more so, Paris maintains stable diplomatic relations with the Middle East and African States. France also has the reputation of a long-standing partner of Russia and is able to find a common language with Moscow in crisis situations. It pays much attention to national interests beyond its boundaries.

It is also important that recently Paris presented the most elaborated plan of creating by 2020 the integrated pan-European rapid reaction forces primarily for the use in expeditionary operations to enforce peace in Africa. The military initiative of French President Macron contains 17 points aimed at improving the training of troops of the European countries, as well as increasing the degree of combat readiness of the national armed forces. At the same time, the French project will not become a part of existing institutions, but will be implemented in parallel with NATO projects. France intends persistently “promote” the project among the other EU allies.

Other EU member states’ interests are not so global. They form their politics on security and defence in order to strengthen the EU capabilities to protect themselves and attract attention to their own shortcomings. They can offer nothing but few troops. Their interests do not extend beyond their own borders and they are not interested in dispersing efforts for example through Africa.

The EU leadership and member states have not yet reached an agreement on the concept of military integration, the start of which was given since the adoption the decision to establish a Permanent Structured Cooperation on security and defence.

In particular, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs, Federica Mogherini, proposes a long-term approach to stimulating a closer integration of the European military planning, procurement and deployment, as well as the integration of diplomatic and defence functions. Such a slow progress is more comfortable for NATO officials, who are alarmed by the revolutionary French project.

That is why Secretary General Stoltenberg warned his French counterparts against rash steps toward European military integration, which could lead to his mind to unnecessary duplication of the alliance’s capabilities and, most dangerous, generate competition between the leading weapon manufacturers (France, Germany, Italy and some other European countries) while reequipping the European army with modern models to bring them to the same standard.

Thus, while supporting the idea of closer cooperation in military sphere the EU member states have no common strategy. It will take long time to come to the compromise and to the balance in creating strong EU defence system, which will complement the existing NATO structure and will not collide with it. A long way to common views means for Europe a long way to own European defence.

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