Hastings International and Comparative Law Review


James Sloan


U.N. peacekeeping operations have traditionally been expected to adhere to three key principles: they must operate with the consent of the host state, they must act impartially and they must limit their use of force to self-defense. This article focuses on the final characteristic, the self-defense principle, and chronicles the attitude of the U.N. towards its observance. As the article will show, there have been three main periods where the self-defense principle has been ignored: with ONUC operation in the Congo in the early 1960s, with several missions in the early 1990s and, finally, with the current period, beginning in 1999. The first two periods of forceful peacekeeping resulted in operations ill-suited to their tasks and prone to failure. In each case the result was a crisis in U.N. peacekeeping, and arguably the U.N. as a whole, and a return to an observance of the self-defense principle. This article will ask whether the U.N.'s current reliance on forceful peacekeeping represents the future of U.N. peacekeeping, or whether it is merely a precursor to an inevitable "bust" in what has historically been shown to be a boom-bust cycle.