Canadians cling to the mythology, born of the 1956 Suez Crisis, that we are a nation of peacekeepers, interposing between belligerent forces bent on war. Similarly, for decades Canada participated in the Cyprus UN force interposed between Greeks and Turks, not just to keep the peace, but as Sean Maloney writes, “to prevent the situation from escalating into a war that would destroy NATO.” Peacekeeping was actually part of the Cold War strategy of containing the global ambitions of Soviet communism. But the decline and fall of the Soviet empire from 1989 to 1991 “left local power brokers to their devices.” Subsequently, “UN forces brought in to monitor separation agreements found themselves caught between heavily armed warring factions.” Bosnia and Somalia were post-Cold War conflicts; Rwanda was sheer genocide. Afghanistan is a post-conflict exercise in nationbuilding. Peacekeeping, as Canadians understand it, no longer exists. Today’s stabilization forces undertake much more dangerous roles.

Originally published in Policy Options