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Update December 2003: "The U.S. Army Peacekeeping Institute (PKI) is being transformed into the U.S. Army Peacekeeping and Stability Operations Institute (PKSOI). We continue to be an integral part of the Center for Strategic Leadership (CSL) within the U.S. Army War College (USAWC) located in Carlisle, Pa."
By Douglas Holt
Tribune staff reporter
Published April 15, 2003
WASHINGTON -- Even as the U.S. military grapples with the largest peacekeeping effort in a generation, the Army is shutting down its only institute devoted to such operations, prompting protests from inside and outside the Pentagon.
Since its creation in 1993 at the Army War College, the Peacekeeping Institute has struggled against a military culture that sees itself as a war-fighting machine that should leave peacekeeping to others.
But in a sign that peacekeeping skills are useful in modern conflicts, the institute's former director, Col. George Oliver, has been deployed overseas to work with the Pentagon-led reconstruction effort of Iraq.
In a March 14 memo obtained by the Tribune, Oliver pleaded with Army Secretary Thomas White to keep the center open, telling him he "made a mistake" by ordering its closing along with other staff cutbacks.
The Peacekeeping Institute, in Carlisle Barracks, Pa., will close Oct. 1. A Jan. 30 Army news release said its functions and mission will be absorbed at the Army's Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) at Ft. Monroe, Va.
A spokesman for the training command, however, said Monday that it has no plans to accept the institute's charge.
"I can tell you that no functions from the Peacekeeping Institute are being transferred to the Center for Army Lessons Learned, nor are they being transferred to TRADOC," said spokesman Harvey Perritt.
Rumsfeld supports closing
Lt. Col. Gary Keck, a Pentagon spokesman, said that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld supports closing the institute. He added, however, that the decision to close the institute was the Army's.
Oliver, in his letter written five days before the war in Iraq began, said: "When the announcement came that the Institute would close, no one thought it was a good idea.
"Most felt that such an institute was needed more now than when it was formed in 1993. With the war on terrorism going on in Afghanistan and the threat of war looming in Iraq, the goal of winning the war could be overshadowed by losing the peace. PKI personnel are currently involved in efforts to `win the peace' in both Afghanistan and Iraq," Oliver wrote.
An Army spokesman denied that the shutdown signals any reduction in the importance placed on peacekeeping but said it is emblematic of the "hard choices we have to make" in operating in as efficient a manner as possible.
Out of a $81 billion annual Army budget, the Peacekeeping Institute ran on $200,000 a year.
Experts said that it sends the wrong signal at a critical time in Iraq but that the move fits with the Bush administration's dislike of peacekeeping missions.
`It does not make sense'
"It does not make sense," said David Segal, director of the Center for Research on Military Organization at the University of Maryland.
As a candidate, Bush voiced disagreement with then-Vice President Al Gore on the use of troops for peacekeeping. "He believes in nation building," Bush said. "I would be very careful about using our troops as nation builders. I believe the role of the military is to fight and win war and, therefore, prevent war from happening in the first place."
After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, administration officials built a case for a pre-emptive war in Iraq to remove a threatening regime and pave the way for democracy. The administration also said the war could be managed with such precision that the Iraqi people would inherit a relatively intact country.
So far, the military has fared better at fighting than civil order. While troops immediately secured oil fields to protect them from sabotage, they were unable to protect civilian assets such as hospitals, banks and the national museum from looting.
Some experts speculate the current difficulties might reinforce the military's reluctance to take on the task of dealing with the aftermath of war.
"This may be a convenient way to carry out an agenda that I think was clear from the campaign rhetoric of this administration, which was: `We don't do peacekeeping. We don't do nation building. We don't escort kids to school,'" said William Durch, a senior associate at the Henry L. Stimson Center, a research institute in Washington.
In the letter to Army officials, Oliver said Iraq likely will need military peacekeepers.
"The nature of security in the world today [and tomorrow] demands a large pool of well-trained professional peacekeepers," he wrote. "Today over 80 nations have peacekeeping centers, institutes and organizations dedicated to this emerging field. With PKI's closure, the United States military will be devoid of any such organizations."
Copyright © 2003, Chicago Tribune
- "Army Peacekeeping Institute Sent Packing", Jim Lobe, TomPaine.com, 17 June 2002