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Relevance of Peace Accords in Post-War Reconstruction Essay

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Updated: Dec 14th, 2019

Introduction

There are various determinants or factors that affect the prevalence of peace in countries where the parties have entered into agreements and accords. Both parties are motivated to avoid the return to the place where the bloodshed occurs. The parties must be committed to the peace process. In the Camp David treaty, Israel and Egypt were committed to the peace process. They also wanted to be in good relations with the United States.

They did not want the role of the United States to go beyond the negotiation process (Telhami, 1990, pp. 121). Despite the fact that peace accords are signed after the war has been ended and the assistance that the states receive from the rest of the countries that supported them, the post-war reconstruction period takes considerable amount of time. Hence, though signing a peace accord is supposed to mean an end to the confrontation, in most cases, it never does.

According to what Steenkamp (2005) says, the given phenomenon has sufficient grounds to base on: “This violence (such as ‘criminal’, ‘vigilante’ and ‘mob’ violence) in the post-peace accord society is peculiar when considering that the political legitimacy which violence might have enjoyed before the accord, has largely been removed” (p. 253).

Nevertheless, the author assures that the instances of violent treatment of the defeated countries after signing the peace treaty occurs rather often: “One example is the continuing torture of civilians by Sri Lankan security forces after the 2002 ceasefire between the government and Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) insurgents ” (2005, p. 258).

It has been noted that more harm is done when parties are not committed to the provisions of the peace accord than if there was no agreement at all. There are scholars who have suggested that the peace agreements should have provisions on international intervention and power sharing clauses for the peace agreement to be successful or the parties will return to war.

In the recent years, negotiated agreements have gained popularity as the medium for ending civil wars. The countries return to war either after five years or three and a half years, though. Despite the high number of peace agreements research has shown that 50% of the peace agreements fail, which means that a peace accord does not necessarily solve the post-war complexities, but, on the contrary, may add new ones.

In the case of the Vietnam peace accord, had the United States remained an interested party in the peaceful process things would have turned out differently. In this case, South Vietnam would have not suffered such huge losses (Gilbert, 2002, p. 40) and the conditions listed in the peace accord would have been different. According to what Gilbert defined the treaty, it was

…a peace treaty with the North Vietnamese that everyone suspected Hanoi would never honor – and that depended for its credibility not only on massive American aid to Saigon but also, ultimately, on the fantasy that the United States would, if necessarily, go back into South Vietnam in force to uphold it. (p. 124)

Literature Review

A peace agreement signifies the ending of conflict and the foundation of rebuilding a nation. The post-conflict period in any country is a sensitive and important time as a country tries to undergo social and economic reconstruction. During the war, there has been destruction of buildings and infrastructure and many homes have been destroyed. A return to war means that the steps that the reconstruction have been reversed. As Borer, Darby & McEvoy-Levy claim,

Forgiveness and reconciliation have been shown not to be nebulous, namby-pamby things. No, they are stuff of realpolitik. The alternative way of revenge, of retribution, leads to a ghastly cul-de-sac – the spiral of respiral-provoking counter reprisal ad infinitum, ending with no security, no peace, but a toll in human lives and property that is inexorable and exorbitant. (Borer, Darby and McEvoy-levy, 2007, pp. 41)

The peace agreements should therefore have a past and present element where it ends the war and at the same time lays the foundation for sustainable peace. The contents of the peace agreement should be transparent to both parties. Secondly, the root causes of the conflict should be addressed.

It is essential that the Camp David agreements did not address the Palestinian question, since it raised the dissatisfaction of Muslim countries. The Palestinian issue is the proof to the idea expressed by Ramsbothan & Zartman (2011): “The very act of defining the boundary can create a conflict” (p. 11).

The Paris Peace Accords that drew the line to the Vietnam War did not address the root causes of the conflict, namely, nationality issues and communism. Considering the examples of civil wars, one must admit that the latter offer more satisfying results; however, as a rule, the cost of the reconstruction period results in another crisis which can also serve as the root for conflict.

If the root causes are not addressed there can be a resurgence of the conflict. With the disarming of the foreign military and leaving the area, one can be assured that the local region of the foreign party commitment to peace. Hence, it can provide support while at the same time acting as a threat or warning to any party that does not want to commit itself to the peace process.

The international laws also play an important process in the peace process. In the Oslo Accords, the parties are bound to the provisions and they are actually binding. The provisions have a legal basis for implementation (Watson, 2000, pp. 64)

The Camp David Case Study

However, it must be admitted that there are the situations where the peace accords and treaties have worked to reduce the war and tensions in a particular area. Taking into consideration the famous David Camp study, one can see distinctly that in some cases, peace treaties did work rather well, yet the occasions were quite few.

The Middle East has been a war and conflict prone area for years. The Muslims have been facing a lot of persecution from the 1880’s culminating with the Holocaust in World War 2. The United Nations stepped in, which allowed the Jews have a homeland of their own. The State of Israel was formed in 1948.

Another example of the fact that a peace treaty does have certain impact on the relationships between the countries is the British Palestinian protectorate. Divided into two, Jewish and Arab States, it witnessed the clashes between the Israeli and Arabs led to the 1956 war between Israel and Egypt. In 1967, Israel was victorious and was able to secure control of the Golan Heights from Syria, the West Bank from Jordan and the Sinai from Egypt.

After the war, there were significant steps towards the peace process when the Arab States agreed to UN Security Council resolution 242. The Jews were advised to let go of the captured territories to have security in their borders. The peace process was however delayed when Egypt and Syria joined forces and attacked Israel in 1973. Therefore, without the peace agreement, the country was vulnerable to the opponents, which calls for the necessity to sign peace treaties.

The U.S and the Soviet Union called the Middle Eastern countries for a meeting in Geneva. The 1975 initiative failed since there was no consensus agreed on the future of the captured territories. There was also no agreement on the degree of Palestinian representation that should be there.

There was a second attempt to convene a meeting in Geneva in 1977 that was also unsuccessful since the Egyptians and the Israelis opposed this strategy. The Israelis were convinced to start the peace process again and there was a lot of pressure on Begin to make a move. Israel’s strategy was to enter into bilateral agreements with the other countries in the region. Hence, it can be concluded that a peace accord does not work as the guarantee that the war will not be continued further on.

Another example concerns Israel, whose government decided to concede the control of the Sinai region to Egypt. It removed its troops from the region. The two countries decided to meet in Camp David where the Camp David treaty or accord was signed. The Camp David negotiations went on for a period of 13 days.

At first both the leaders laid down their uncompromising positions which caused the American president, President Carter to be dismayed. However, later on, the Egyptian president told the American president the concessions that his country would agree to.

In the given case, a rare case of peaceful manner of tackling the post-war conflicts can be observed; however, it is worth mentioning that the Egyptian government did suffer considerable losses in the course of the agreements, which means that the peace treaty did not actually lead to the expected results (Quandt, 1986, pp. 32).

At that time it had been believed that if Egypt chooses to be at peace with Israel other countries would also choose the same path. Sadat was gunned down in 1981 by Islamic extremists who were dissatisfied with his policy for various reasons. One of the main reasons for the assassination was the agreement that had been signed at Camp David.

The Israelis did not also maintain the peace at first as they choose to attack Lebanon in 1982. There were many people who died in Lebanon after the attack and its fragile economy was adversely affected. Therefore, there are sufficient reasons to argue that the Camp David accords did not address the Palestinian issue.

The United States played a pivotal role in these accords, as well as in the agreement between the treaties between Israel and Palestine. The relations between Egypt and Israel went back to normal. They each appointed ambassadorial representatives for their countries and Egypt started trading with Israel (Chazan, 1988, pp. 151). It started to supply “Israel with crude oil”. The air flights between the two countries resumed. Egypt on the other hand faced a lot of opposition from the Arab countries.

The accords were the foundational stones for the agreements that came later out of the Middle East such as the Oslo accords and the Israel-Jordan Treaty of Peace (Olabode, 1981, pp. 23). There had been a lot of conflict between the Israeli forces and the Palestine forces due to Israel’s occupation of the Gaza and West Bank areas. The Oslo peace accords called for the withdrawal of the Israel forces from the area and the Palestinian occupation of the territories.

The region was further divided into different regions which would be controlled by both countries. The agreements also had provisions that advocated for economic regional cooperation between the two countries. The Israeli-Jordan peace treaty was signed in 1994 where the Israel agreed to restore the portion of Jordan’s land that it had occupied.

In 1970, Jordan was invaded by Palestinian and Syrian forces. Israel came in and through air strikes it was able to chase the Syrians out of the country. It may have strengthened the relationship between them that lead to the signing of the treaty. The boundaries of the Jordan’s country were clearly and well defined.

There was a renewal of the relations between the two countries when it came to trade and diplomatic relationships. They also agreed to respect the territory and sovereignty of each other’s region and to refrain from border attack and terrorism. Through these treaties Israel has been able to have stability and reconstruct their homeland. In times of peace there can be social and economic development.

The Paris Peace Accords

The Paris peace accords were signed in 1973. It was unsuccessful as it did not end the war between the South and Northern Vietnam Regions. The United States agreed to remove its troops from the region. U.S was to respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Vietnam country.

On 27 January, 1973 at the Midnight hour, the troops for both the North and South Vietnam regions were to agree to a ceasefire where the troops had agreed to hold their respective positions. Once the ceasefire was in place, the American troops would leave the country in the next sixty days. The Vietnam War was part of the Cold War between the two superpowers at that time that is the United States and the Soviet Union (Pike, 1968).

The Vietnam War took place in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia between 1955 and 1975. The First Indochina War occurred between North and South Vietnam. The Viet Cong, an army that was controlled by Communist forces was fighting against communist forces in the South Vietnam (Pike, 1968, p. 36).

South Vietnam and the United States were engaging the North in Battle using the air strikes and bombing. The Northern government was also discharging its troops to fight in the South. In 1968, the United States stopped bombing operations in the North Vietnam region in order to encourage Hanoi to enter into negotiation talks with the South.

The North refused to start the negotiations till all the bombing had stopped while on the other hand the United States government was demanding that the North should reciprocate by ending their armed activities in the South: “Appalled by the security leak, Johnson cancelled the raids the next day, but with no intention of stopping them permanently” (Clodfelter, 1989, p. 98).

The negotiations were not easy to coordinate as both sides had a lot of disagreements. The North Vietnam government refused to acknowledge the legitimacy of the South Vietnam government. When the negotiations finally started and a breakthrough was reached, this was in the year 1975.

The United States was trying to contain communism and its potential disastrous effects so it supported the South Vietnam side while the Soviet Union supported North Vietnam. North Vietnam on the other hand viewed the war as an effort to end colonial rule in the region by the French forces which were being supported by the United States of America. Despite the exit of the American forces and the ceasefire, there continued to be fighting in the region. The agreements did not have the desired effect.

There was an oil shock price that occurred in 1973 that adversely affected the South Vietnam region. The North Vietnam government started attacking the South and regained the territories it had lost. At the same time, the South Vietnam side faced more difficulties since the United States officials were no longer interested in supporting the War. The Congress had decided to reduce the financial aid it gave to South Vietnam from $1 Billion to $700 Million.

In 1974, the elections in America brought in many democrats into congress who were determined to end the financial support (Kaiser, 2000, pp. 281). By 1976, the US had cut off all the financial support to the country. The North Vietnamese commander was motivated by the success they had achieved to launch another offensive attack on South Vietnam.

The defence minister was reluctant to launch the attack as he did not want the United States troops to get involved in the war again. There was a limited offensive attack on the Phouc Long province by the commander which was to serve several forces.

North Vietnam wanted to assess the strength of the South Vietnam forces and to see whether the United States would come back to the region. The province was taken over causing the South Vietnamese forces to be highly discouraged. By the end of 1976, the Northern forces had captured the whole of Southern region and the armed forces were forced to surrender.

There are different ideologies that have been proposed on the causes of the war. The communists are blamed in that even as the negotiations were going on with the French in Geneva in 1954, they had already decided to take over Vietnam. A considerable number of the party members and the guerrilla units had not been evacuated from the South to the North after the agreements in Geneva.

They had been instructed to await further instructions so as to start warfare again. America on the other hand started training and advising the South Vietnamese army in keeping to its containment policy. The North Vietnamese leader, Hanoi on the other hand had stated that the North and the South were one region or nation and there needed to be a unification of the region.

In the period 1955 and 1959, there was peace in the region as the governments concentrated on social and economic integration. The Diem regime in the South Vietnam started consolidating its power and eliminating the communists and their influences in the region.

There was a lot of oppression of the communists however Hanoi in the North was still seeking for peaceful relationships between the North and the South. Diem’s government policies of repression however were facing severe criticism from both the communist and non-communist people. He was labelled a dictator. Hanoi felt that the South needed to be liberated from the dictatorial forces of Diem and the imperialistic United States forces.

In late April 1975, the president of the South Vietnam republic announced the surrender of the Saigon and the dissolution of the republic. The United States, knowing that its presence would not be welcome, started airlifting the Americans and the South Vietnamese refugees out of the country.

The peace accords would have held if the United States had not withdrawn its support. In the given case, it is necessary to give certain credit to a peace accord idea, even though the countries failed to sign the one. Analyzing the past experience, one should say that the peace treaty could have had its effect and cause ceasefire.

Once the North armies knew that there was no threat of the air strikes by the United States it proceeded to attack the South. The South did not have the necessary resources to ward off the attacks and once the North found that each offensive attack was successful, they were motivated to take over the whole country. The Peace Accords were not successful because the North Vietnam leaders were not committed to the provisions of the Peace Accords.

Conclusion

Judging by what has been mentioned above, one can claim that peace accords do not necessarily lead to the most peaceful relationships between the countries in the post-war period (Steenkamp, 2005). On the contrary, a peace treaty is the kind of a provocative issue that spurs the desire of the defeated country to restore its status quo.

Hence, it can be concluded that the countries which did not sign the peace treaty are most likely to develop friendly relationships, no matter how weird that might sound. Therefore, to avoid further misunderstandings, it can be suggested that the conditions offered to the defeated state should not be humiliating. Once establishing the right relations with the opponent, one is likely to win the battle without even starting it.

References

Borer, T., Darby, J. and McEvoy-levy, S. (2007). Peacebuilding after peace accords: the challenges of violence, truth, and youth. Indiana: University of Notre Dame Press.

Clodfelter, M. (1989). The limits of air power: the American bombing of North Vietnam. USA: MacMillian.

Gilbert, M. (2002). Why the North won the Vietnam War. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Kaiser, D. (2000). American tragedy: Kennedy, Johnson, and the origins of the Vietnam War. United States: Belknap Press.

Olabode, A. (1981). From Jerusalem to Camp David: the Middle East peace process. Lagos: Nigerian Institute of International Affairs

Pike, D. (1968). Viet Cong: the organization and techniques of the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam. United States: M.I.T. Press.

Quandt, W. (1986). Camp David: peacemaking and politics. Washington: Brookings Institution Press.

Ramsbothan, A., & Zartman, W. I. (2011). Paix sans frontieres. Building peace across borders. Accord, 22, p. 4-105.

Steenkamp, C. (2005) The Legacy of War: Conceptualizing a ‘Culture of Violence’ to Explain Violence after Peace Accords. The Round Table, 94: pp. 379, 253-267.

Telhami, S. (1990). Power and leadership in international bargaining: the path to the Camp David accords. New York: Columbia University Press.

Watson, G. (2000). The Oslo Accords: International Law and the Israeli-Palestinian Peace Agreements. United Kingdom: OUP Oxford.

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