P-Con Discusses the Perils of Peacekeeping

P-Con Discusses the Perils of Peacekeeping

James Bourne

Global peace is in decline and rapidly being replaced by neocolonial imperial policing. That was Robert A. Rubinstein’s message to Colgate students at a lecture on March 8.

Rubinstein, a professor of anthropology and international relations at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, was invited to speak at Colgate by the Peace and Conflict Studies department to discuss the changing nature of global peacekeeping.

The lecture, titled “Perverting Peacekeeping,” was based on Rubinstein’s book Peacekeeping Under Fire: Culture and Intervention. Rubinstein’s argument centered on the notion that peacekeeping operations have delegitimized over time, and are now resembling imperial policing by United Nations powers.

Rubinstein criticized the UN for its increasingly ineffective role as a peacekeeper, comparing early attempts with more recent ones. He said that modern peacekeeping is neocolonial imperial policing that is less interested in actual peace than in material resources.

“What’s happening now is the recreation of colonialism through the gradual shift to imperial policing in peacekeeping operations,” Rubinstein said, citing the alleged war profiteering of companies like Halliburton and the private military contractor Xe (originally named and still referred to as Blackwater USA).

“What came first, the chicken or the Halliburton?” Rubinstein asked, explaining a cycle in which companies profit from war and then lobby the government for more.

For Postdoctoral Fellow in Peace and Conflict Studies Daniel Levine, the argument that an impartial, third-party view is no longer a reality is frightening.

“There was the idea that if you went far enough away from a conflict you could achieve neutrality and hear the voice of universal justice,” Levine said. “If we don’t believe that anymore, maybe we don’t believe in a universal justice and that’s scary.”

The lecture was well-received by students, some of whom asked for autographs in copies of Rubinstein’s book. First-year Edward Jacob was impressed by Rubinstein’s background and first-hand knowledge as an expert in UN peacekeeping.

“Having someone who has actually been involved with United Nation’s activities is an invaluable asset to our understanding of Peace and Conflict Studies,” Jacob said. “I thought it was an enlightening experience that really allowed me to get a first hand account of how modern international politics have developed.”