The Command and Control of United Nations Forces in the Era of 'Peace Enforcement'

70 Pages Posted: 29 Oct 2015

See all articles by James Houck

James Houck

The Pennsylvania State University (University Park) – Penn State Law

Date Written: 1993


This Article explores how concerns regarding the United Nations' authority to make political, strategic, and operational decisions that comprise the right to command and control UN forces might be reconciled within the framework of the United Nations Charter to create a contemporary and more enduring regime for the command and control of United Nations forces. As Part II demonstrates, command and control issues are not new to the United Nations; indeed, in 1945 the signatories to the United Nations Charter created a model for the command and control of United Nations forces.

While the cold war ensured that this model was never used, it remains the necessary point of departure for any current discussion of United Nations command and control. As discussed in Part III, this Charter model was originally replaced by systems of command and control which evolved to meet the needs of two quite distinct United Nations missions: large-scale enforcement and peacekeeping.

The end of the cold war, however, has blurred the once clear distinction between the enforcement and peacekeeping missions. As described in Part IV, a new mission has emerged with characteristics of both enforcement and peacekeeping. This new "peace enforcement" mission requires that United Nations forces attempt to maintain neutrality between disputants much as they would in a peacekeeping operation, but that they also be prepared to use force against any disputant who breaches the peace, much as they would in an enforcement action.

Part V begins by examining recent efforts within the United Nations Secretariat to improve the United Nations's ability to oversee operations conducted in its name, as well as the Clinton Administration's attempt to fashion a new policy toward the United Nations. While many of the changes currently in progress are positive as far as they go, they do not address the complex issues underlying the current debate over command and control. Moreover, the current proposals have been initiated with little reference to the original Charter model for command and control. Part V evaluates this development, and suggests that both the United Nations and its member states might benefit from a return to a more structured, Charter-based model for command and control: a contemporary model that incorporates the strengths of the system envisioned in 1945 without ignoring the experiences of intervening years. Part V offers suggestions for creating such a "neo-Charter" model, and proposes that it might serve as the necessary confidence-building mechanism through which the United Nations, the United States, and other key member states might work to forge a security partnership adequate for the changed political and military demands of the post-cold war world.

Suggested Citation

Houck, James, The Command and Control of United Nations Forces in the Era of 'Peace Enforcement' (1993). Duke Journal of Comparative & International Law, Vol. 4, No. 1, 1993, Penn State Law Research Paper, Available at SSRN:

James Houck (Contact Author)

The Pennsylvania State University (University Park) – Penn State Law ( email )

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University Park, PA 16802
United States

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