Considering the fact that the direct violence has been increasing recently in the current international scenario, it is far from being unreasonable to pursue a more relevant insertion within the international scene by increasing the participation in peace operations, especially those led by the United Nations (UN). This is precisely what Brazil does. The country anchors its international projection, quite understandably indeed, on the sphere of the construction of international peace, especially through the contribution to UN peace operations. However, a more critical analysis of the Brazilian engagement with peace operations illuminates a distinct feature of this enterprise. Having in mind the role that peace operations have in international politics, it stands out that the country’s engagement with peace operations is myopic and subaltern. This is the point of the paper The Brazilian Engagement with Peace Operations: a Critical Analysis, published in the special issue of Revista Brasileira de Política Internacional entitled International Security and Defense – Taking stock of Brazil’s changes (Volume 60 – N. 2, 2017).
The paper argues that the more Brazil seeks to increase its engagement in the manner in which it is currently pursing – by essentially contributing with troops to peace operations – contrary to what might appear at a first sight, more the country actively constructs its own subalternity and peripheral role in the sphere of international peace.
Brazil has a long commitment to the UN peace operations, contributing since their first deployment in 1948. Taking such engagement as a whole, it can be argued that, in general terms, the Brazilian engagement with peace operations can be summarized in four distinct phases: (1) from 1957 to 1967, when the country’s engagement was related to traditional peace operations and places such as the Republic of the Congo, Cyprus, and the border between India and Pakistan; (2) from 1968 to 1988, when Brazil was disengaged from peace operations; (3) from 1989 to 2004, when the country engaged with peace operations of the second generation and sent troops to countries such as Angola, Mozambique and El Salvador; and (4) from 2004 onwards, when, from MINUSTAH onwards, the country significantly increased its engagement with peace operations and definitely placed itself as a fundamental contributor to this international practice.
However, contrary to what might be the first sight, the more Brazil anchors its insertion into the affairs peace operations essentially through the contribution of troops – which is fundamentally what the country currently does – the country contributes, quite actively in fact, to the construction of its own subalternity and peripheral position in the matters of international peace. In order to properly comprehend such apparent paradox, one has to perceive two fundamental elements of this international practice. They are: (1) peace operations have a specific role in the current international politics; and (2) there is a clear international division of labor in regards to the construction of international peace.
In regards to the former, a critical analysis promptly perceives that peace operations function as an international normalizing dispositif that, due to its liberal social-reengineering character, is fundamental for the maintenance and fostering of a particular order in the international society – a (neo)liberal one. It seeks to reproduce what is constructed and understood as a ‘normal’ behavior for a state, and its population, internationally. In the current international society, this means to liberalize every sphere of them, such as the economic, political and the social ones.
Furthermore, a critical analysis also allows the perception of a second fundamental element in regards to peace operations – the fact that there is a structured international division of labor between those engaged in the practice of building peace internationally. In this international division of labor of building peace, on the one hand, the Global North is responsible for the fundamental part of this structure: the delineation of both the ontology of peace and the methodology of building it internationally. Therefore, the Global North has the power of not only defining what peace is, and what it means, but also how it should be pursed and its construction operationalized throughout the globe. On the other hand, the Global South is responsible for building the kind of peace that reflects the characterization defined by the former. The Global South is the wo/manpower of such international division of labor of building peace internationally.
Consequently, with all that in mind, it is not hard to see that peace operations end up being a dispositif with a twofold objective. Firstly, on the one hand, it is a dispositif that seeks to transpose the structuring logics of fundamental spheres – such as political, economic and social structures – from the core to the periphery of the international society. Secondly, one the other hand, it has the objective to pacify, which is quite different from building peace, areas and populations of the international society, most of all located in the Global South, understood as turbulent. All of this is being implemented by the states of the Global South themselves, Brazil quite proudly included.
This certainly does not mean that the country should abdicate of contributing with troops to peace operations. However, if the country wants to have a prominent role in regards to the construction of international peace, it is urgent that Brazil enlarges its own understanding of peace towards an understanding that is more related to development and that reaches different dimensions of the individuals’ lives in post-conflict scenarios. Consequently, rather than contributing to peace operations merely with the deployment of troops, it makes more sense having a more multidimensional understanding and approach towards peace. This should be operationalized in line with the local populations of post-conflict scenarios and their own understandings about the reconstruction effort, and covering areas such as security, but also politics, economy, education, health, infrastructure, human development, among others. Ultimately, unless Brazil starts enlarging its own understanding of peace and structurally modifies the way it engages with such international practice, the country will remain voluntarily and proudly building its own subalternity and peripheral position in regards the construction of international peace.
Read the article
Blanco, Ramon. (2017). The Brazilian Engagement with Peace Operations: a Critical Analysis. Revista Brasileira de Política Internacional, 60(2), e006. Epub November 13, 2017.https://dx.doi.org/10.1590/0034-7329201700206
About the author
Ramon Blanco é professor da Universidade Federal de Integração Latino-Americana, Instituto Latino-Americano de Economia, Sociedade e Política, Foz do Iguaçu – PR, Brazil (firstname.lastname@example.org).