The United States Institute for Peace just released the book "Twenty-First-Century Peace Operations", the culmination of a four-year project to examine the origins and outcomes of some of the key operations of our times.  Some of the most prominent experts on the subject were at the book release event, to discuss success and frustrations of the peacekeeping forces around the world. 

Peacekeeping operations around the world offer a political solution to conflicts and civil wars.  Today they are at their highest number ever, with 160,000 peacekeeping team members deployed by the United Nations, NATO, the European Union and the African Union.  Analysts have been studying those peace operations, to learn how to achieve success and avoid becoming bogged down in a political dilemma. 

Paul Stares is with the U.S. Institute for Peace. He says, "At the time of the project's conception we were struck by a central paradox of U.N.-sponsored peacekeeping operations: despite widespread skepticism and even open disdain of the efficacy of such operations, the demand for U.N. peacekeeping continues to grow."

Regardless of growing security obstacles, Stares estimates a future increase of up to 50 percent in the number of peacekeepers sent to world trouble spots. 

The U.S. Institute of Peace is a nonpartisan study group financed by the U.S. Congress.  William Durch is the editor of its newly released study, "Twenty-First-Century Peace Operations," looking at six key regions: Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, Timor, Congo, Sierra Leone and Afghanistan. "So the lessons: first, what matters to peace most is power on the ground.  Who holds it, how it is wielded and for whose benefit.  Second, PSOs [peace security operations] must be strong enough to resist challenge from those who would tear the peace apart.  But third, no PSO, however strong, can just shoot its way to sustainable peace."

Durch says peace cannot be institutionalized if the conditions for it are not right.  Action to reinforce a government at risk of failure is preferable by far, he says, to rebuilding a government that has fallen apart.

Experts on peacekeeping operations gathered in Washington for release of the latest scholarly publication by the United States Institute for Peace. 

Lakhdar Brahimi, a senior United Nations official who led a key peacekeeping mission to Afghanistan, among other assignments, talked about lessons he has learned during his diplomatic career. "My advice for future practitioners is, please don't rush into pushing a country to write a constitution before they are ready to do it.  The same thing is true about the elections."

Carlos Pascual, vice president and director of foreign policy studies at the Brookings Institution, said the use of force in peacekeeping operations will never be successful unless a political pre-agreement or some form of truce is in place -- "the right conditions," as he put it: "You can't get peace support operations to shoot their way into a sustainable peace.  You have to have some form of a political solution."

The United Nations has a budget of nearly five and one-half billion dollars for worldwide peacekeeping operations.  But experts at the peace institute agree, even that sum will hardly be enough to keep up with the growing demand for international assistance to defuse regional conflict and unrest.