Author Q&A Session: Hylke Dijkstra

Routledge Politics is pleased to share with you our author Q&A session with Hylke Dijkstra! Author of International Organizations and Military Affairs, Dijkstra talks about his title and what makes it so unique. It is available for purchase here!

From the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations to the NATO International Staff and the European External Action Service, international bureaucrats make decisions that affect life and death. In carrying out their functions, these officials not only facilitate the work of the member states, but also pursue their own distinct agendas. This book analyzes how states seek to control secretariats when it comes to military operations by international organizations. It introduces an innovative theoretical framework that identifies different types of control mechanisms.

Q&A with the Author...

1. Congratulations on the publication of your book International Organizations and Military Affairs! What lead you to writing it?

I have a background in European Studies and I worked previously on the emerging EU security apparatus. After the publication of my first book, I wanted to compare my findings about the EU with those of other international organizations, particularly the UN and NATO. The result is this new book. It is about how international organizations have developed in the area of military affairs since the end of the Cold War. And how they put together military operations. From Libya to South Sudan and Somalia.

2. What do you think makes your title unique and stand out?

This is the first book that compares the role of the UN, NATO and EU in military affairs. The comparative dimension makes the book unique. It allows me to distinguish general trends from the idiosyncrasies of the individual organizations. Gathering data about three different organizations and getting to know these organizations inside-out has been a real challenge. These are security institutions, so most of their internal work is classified.

3. What made you choose to focus on the UN, NATO and EU in particular?

The UN, NATO and EU are, by far, the largest international security organizations in the world. These three organizations have institutionalised and centralised their planning procedures. They have also serious command and control facilities. This makes them particularly interesting objects of study. What are the politics behind decisions? Which actors are in charge? How are military mandates formulated?

4. Was there anything particularly surprising about this subject that you came across while sourcing material and researching content for this title?

We are always told that in military affairs, states attach great value to their sovereignty. When they send soldiers to dangerous places, they want to be in control. My book shows that states, in most cases, actually prefer to act through international organisations when deploying troops. Yet in those organisations, international bureaucrats often call the shots. Naturally, there are appropriate oversight and accountability mechanisms. But this is significant nonetheless.

5. What is your favourite example in the book?

It is related to precisely this point. States are often slightly uncomfortable with international bureaucrats taking decisions. This leads to interesting behaviour. When the UN, for example, envisioned a peacekeeping operation in South Sudan, UN experts naturally went on a visit to the country to plan the mission. After six weeks of work, they sent their report to the Security Council. The members of the Security Council, particularly the United States, however, all but ignored this report. Instead, they sent there own national officials to South Sudan to check the situation for themselves. This is all part of the politics behind the planning of military operations.

6. Do you have any events lined up? Are you attending any conferences?

I will be attending several conferences and workshops throughout Europe this year. These will be good opportunities to talk about the book and my main findings. Hopefully, such conversations will also lead to new ideas for future research.

7. Who would you recommend your title to?

My book makes an academic contribution. It will be of interest to students of international organizations and security studies. However, I also think that the book includes relevant observations for policy-makers. I really hope that they will pick up the book and use it to reflect on their own work. Particularly, best practices from other international organizations may help them to improve and better understand their own policies.

8. Can you describe your book in one sentence?

I argue that sovereign states cannot benefit from the services of international organizations and keep, at the same time, full control over outcomes. It is about trade-offs. Something's got to give.

9. Do you have plans for future books? What’s next in the pipeline for you?

I am currently involved in a large EU research project on the capabilities of international organisations for conflict prevention and peacebuilding. We try to examine whether international organisations have sufficient manpower as well as material capabilities to fulfill their ambitious mandates. We are looking principally at the EU, UN and OSCE. This project should identify gaps in terms of capabilities and provide recommendations. We only started last December, so I am not yet sure whether it leads to another book. But who knows? 

Hylke Dijkstra is an Assistant Professor with tenure at the Department of Political Science of Maastricht University, The Netherlands. He was previously a Marie Curie fellow at the Department of Politics and International Relations of the University of Oxford, UK, where he was also affiliated to Nuffield College. He has widely published on the EU, NATO, and UN.

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