Stimson Senior Associate William Durch contributed an article, “Supporting Peace: The End,” to National Defense University’s journal Prism. This article focuses on exit strategies for peace support operations (PSOs) but addresses other elements of the engagement chain and other operations to illustrate how exit strategies are influenced and altered by those other elements. It is as much about how PSOs do end as about how they should end.
Today, most wars are fought on relatively small scales, within nominal state borders, by combinations of quasi-state forces, nonstate forces, and externally orchestrated, state-based interventions. Yet the implications of these smaller wars are global, as the pools of entropy they create are havens or way stations for disorder in the form of two-bit pirates, four-bit drug lords, or this century’s dominant extremist ideologies, which claim divine warrant to mete out infinite justice as they see fit. With such forces operating in the background and with the broad array of personal, cultural, and institutional interests at play, it is obvious that efforts to build peace will be difficult, lengthy, and contested. It should be equally obvious that failure to try to build peace, and the civil order that it implies, only guarantees that entropic pools will grow and connect-if not geographically, then commercially. The questions for international engagement, then, involve capacity (the ability to undertake a task), resources (the money, people, and time available to underwrite capacity), understanding (of what a specific environment needs to transition to peace and how applied capacity and resources are likely to affect that transition), goals (what applied capacity and resources are supposed to achieve, based on understanding), and exit strategies (plans for executing reduction or disengagement that may be triggered by reaching transition thresholds for key mission goals or by failing to reach those thresholds within a specified time, specified expenditure ceiling, or the parameters of political tolerance of the host state or the engaging country, countries, or organizations).
This article is based on the author’s forthcoming chapter, “Exit Strategies and Peace Consolidation” in Exit Strategies and Statebuilding, ed. Richard Caplan (Oxford University Press, 2011).