The British armed forces have had a long history of involvement in peacekeeping, peace support and peace enforcement operations. Some have been undertaken under United Nations (UN) auspices, such as the UN mission to Cyprus which has been ongoing in various forms since the 1960s or more recently the deployment of forces to Bosnia before the Dayton peace agreement of 1995.2 Others have been undertaken outside of the United Nations but under the umbrella of a regional body such as NATO’s deployments to Bosnia and Kosovo.3 The United Kingdom has also undertaken such operations alongside such international organisations as the United Nations and a recent example of this has been the British involvement in Sierra Leone since May 2000.4

What these examples demonstrate is a continuing willingness for successive British governments to commit themselves to such operations and sustain them over the long term. The reasons for this are varied, bringing elements of real politik and morality together in the use of military forces.5 This latter element directly relates to the idea of ‘forces for good,’ enunciated by the current government in a speech made by the Prime Minister entitled ‘The Doctrine of the International Community’,6 but which has formed an element of British foreign policy for the past two centuries at least. This internationalist perspective is shared across the political spectrum within the United Kingdom and partly explains the support of the Conservative government in 1991 for the creation of safe havens for the Kurds in Northern Iraq in the immediate aftermath of the 1991 Gulf War.7 ‘The Doctrine of the International Community’ encompasses many of the ideas incorporated within the concept of cosmopolitanism8 and Tony Blair has argued for change both nationally and within the European Union. In the same year a Franco-British initiative led the European Union to agree to develop its own military capability capable of supporting the Petersberg Tasks.9