What it is: The military intervention of independent armed forces in order to end a conflict. Their function is to separate and disarm the combatants, and to restore order. Unlike peacekeeping, peace enforcement doesn't restrict enforcers to using weapons only in self-defence, and they may go into action whether the combatants consent or not.

What it means: The term was first used in the early 1990s by the then UN Secretary-General. This was his reason: 'Ceasefires have often been agreed to but not complied with. To restore and maintain the ceasefire can exceed the mission of peacekeeping forces.' He suggested using 'peace-enforcement units', drawn from the world's professional armies and air forces, as well. One of the problems United Nations peacekeeping was facing was the change in the kind of wars being fought. There were fewer state-against-state conflicts involving the official armies of both sides, but civil wars and regional violence were increasing. Warlord factions, armed militias and civilian volunteers were fighting out disputes and grievances, in states and regions where government had collapsed. Peace enforcement troops had to rethink the conventional warfare strategies they were trained for - except in the use of air power. The military have continued to believe that air attacks are the most precise and the best targeted, and also keep loss of peace enforcers' lives to a minimum. (Civilians on the ground may not be so lucky.) Peace enforcers have kept in mind the humanitarian mission they are supposed to perform. As a US soldier said: 'If the mission is to promote peace and help restore a functioning government and economy, it's best not to use too much military force. Overkill would merely increase devastation and add to the problem, together with the ill will directed against foreign troops and organisations that military intervention is likely to provoke.' He added, 'This highly complex mission isn't popular with the military.' For a start, there is no clearly-definable 'enemy'. In addition, peace enforcement means supporting aid agencies and other NGOs, and setting up effective police forces on the ground - which can make military planning, especially choosing targets, difficult. Though air power has been heavily relied on by UN forces and NATO, it fails when resistance from combatants is strong and they are prepared to risk being killed. In the 1990s, examples of operations generally agreed to be 'enforcing peace' took place in Somalia, Bosnia, Haiti and Kosovo. In 2003, Somalia was still terrorised by warlords, impoverished Haiti was on the edge of anarchy, and Bosnia and Kosovo were still dangerous (and now crime-ridden) areas. Military interventions don't seem to work. They do more harm than they prevent, and often become the cause of future conflicts. They may have been carried out in the name of 'democracy' and 'human rights', but they ignore the principles that democracy and human rights are built on. And, of course, some interveners may have their own agendas for war, to do with power and politics rather than peace.

Think about it: Military intervention in brutal civil wars or civil strife in places like Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia and Kosovo has been justified by the USA and other governments as 'deterrence by example'. Such interventions, they believed, would cause people elsewhere to respect 'power and authority' and think twice about embarking on conflict themselves. For America in particular, these armed interventions are also meant to show the world that the US won't be 'bullied or blackmailed'. But what example do they really set? Here is a (rather tortured) military definition of deterrence: 'Deterrence involves the prevention from action by fear of consequence. Largely targeting an opponent's psychological state of mind, deterrence involves a threat backed by credible means and the willpower to carry out the threat's sanctions.' Does that differ very much from the tactics of terrorists?

see also peacekeeping