Broadening the Study of Peace Operations
Abstract: The academic study of peace operations, long a dusty and isolated corner of political science, experienced a renaissance in the early 1990s, when the United Nations launched a flurry of new missions. Although enthusiasm for deploying new peace operations cooled after setbacks in Somalia and Bosnia, the task of evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of existing operations continues to attract intense scholarly attention. This research has helped policymakers improve existing techniques for responding to what is arguably the most pressing security problem of the post-Cold War era: pervasive civil and ethnic conflicts. Nevertheless, the literature on peace operations has neglected broader questions about the relationship between these activities and our theoretical understanding of international politics. Building the study of peace missions into a mature academic subfield will require a concerted effort to move beyond the current preoccupation with practical operational issues. Such a research strategy would open up a number of interesting and theoretically important questions. It might also enhance communication between students of peace operations and other branches of international relations. Three research agendas that consider norms, global culture, and international governance offer the possibility of building the requisite bridges between theory and practice.