Dan Lindley

UNDOF: Operational Analysis and Lessons Learned

March 11, 2004



This article assesses the effectiveness of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF). UNDOF monitors a buffer zone separating Israeli and Syrian forces on the Golan Heights, and it verifies an elaborate arms control regime on each side of the buffer zone. While UNDOF looks good on paper and is often hailed as a model peacekeeping operation, problems from force size to rigid standard operating procedures (SOPs) hinder its effectiveness. Analysis of these problems leads to a number of recommendations for improving peacekeeping and other military operations. However, it may be difficult to institute recommendations such as making standard operating procedures more flexible given the political constraints and less well-trained troops that frequently characterize U.N. peacekeeping operations.


            The United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) maintains a buffer zone separating Israeli and Syrian forces on the Golan Heights. The numbers of Israeli and Syrian troops, tanks, artillery, and anti-aircraft missiles are sharply and explicitly limited in various layers along the buffer zone called the Areas Limitation (AOL). To ensure compliance with this formal arms control regime, UNDOF implements an elaborate verification system in and along the buffer zone. In addition to regular patrols and monitoring from a chain of observation posts, U.N. troops on the Golan inspect 500 Israeli and Syrian military locations on a bi-weekly basis.             Given its elaborate system of rules, inspections, and apparent monitoring capability, UNDOF on paper seems well structured to meet its arms control goals. In reality, UNDOF's operation is less than meets the eye. Operational limitations ranging from force size to UNDOF's standard operating procedures mean that UNDOF's inspections and monitoring are not as rigorous as they at first glance appear.

            Analysis of UNDOF's problems leads to two main recommendations for those responsible for planning and executing peacekeeping operations. First, operational effectiveness goes beyond designing an operation that looks good on paper. Forces and procedures must be designed to accomplish the assigned tasks. Thoroughness on paper fosters false confidence for UNDOF, and contributes to overblown claims that UNDOF is a model peacekeeping operation. Endnote Second, planners must avoid standard operating procedures that undermine a mission's effectiveness. Instead of innovating and altering routines, UNDOF's standard operating procedures create predictability that allows those it monitors to exploit its routines. These two lessons apply to other military functions and operations, anywhere the temptation may exist to let paper plans and SOPs substitute for adequate forces and creative execution. Other recommendations range from making clear boundary lines at the start of a mission to making buffer zones wide enough to prevent incidents between the opposing forces.

            To assess UNDOF's performance and derive operational lessons, this article answers the following questions about UNDOF's daily operations: What does UNDOF monitor and verify and how well does it do so? What incidents does UNDOF confront and how does it deal with them? Do these activities help keep the peace between Israel and Syria?

            To the extent that UNDOF serves as a template buffer zone operation, recommendations resulting from analysis of its strengths and weaknesses will help guide the establishment of future buffer zones. Moreover, these lessons may be helpful for those engaged in monitoring the newly established buffer zones in Kosovo-Serbia, Eritrea-Ethiopia, and inter-Congo (if it comes into being), as well as in Cyprus and between the Koreas.


UNDOF's Mandate and Operations


            UNDOF's mandate was part of the May 31, 1974 separation of forces agreement and protocol between Israel and Syria. Its name, the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force, and strength limit of 1250 troops reflect compromises between Israeli and Syrian negotiating demands. UNDOF is supplemented by 80-90 observers from the U.N. Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO). UNTSO observers are unarmed officers from their respective countries, while UNDOF peacekeepers are lightly armed soldiers of all ranks. UNDOF was tasked to maintain and observe the cease-fire and to supervise and inspect the Area of Separation (AOS) and Areas of Limitation (AOL).

            The exact details of the disengagement and specific limitations in the AOL were worked out by the U.N. Military Working Group and signed on June 5 in Geneva, and the limitations are as follows: No Syrian or Israeli armed forces were allowed in the 80 kilometer long and 15 km to 300m wide AOS (buffer zone). However, Syrian civilians were permitted to return to towns and land in the AOS and AOL, and Syrian police were allowed to help provide law and order in this Syrian administered area. Three layers of AOL were established on each side. In the AOL closest to the AOS, two brigades' worth of armed forces were allowed on each side, with specific limits set on tank (75), short range 122mm or less artillery (36), and 6000 total troops. In the middle AOL, 162 artillery pieces were allowed with a maximum range of 20 kilometers, 450 tanks were allowed, and there were no limits on personnel. Finally, from the AOS to the outer AOL, no surface to air missiles were allowed. Endnote Table 1 below summarizes this agreement.

Table 1: Summary of the Areas of Separation and Limitation Endnote

                                                <----- Israeli side/Syrian side ----->

Outer Area of Limitation

(zone 20 to 25 kilometers from AOS)


Middle Area of Limitation

(zone 10 to 20 kilometers from AOS)


Inner Area of Limitation

(first 10 kilometers from AOS)


Area of Separation

(a.k.a. buffer zone; width varies

<– | AOS | –>

Inner Area of Limitation (first 10 kilometers from AOS)


Middle Area of Limitation (zone 10 to 20 kilometers from AOS)


Outer Area of Limitation

(zone 20 to 25 kilometers from AOS)



no surface to air missiles.

No limits on soldiers, tanks, or artillery.


450 tanks; 162 short range artillery pieces; no surface to air missiles. No limits on soldiers.

Limits: 6000 soldiers; 75 tanks; 36 short range artillery pieces; no surface to air missiles.


Limits: 6000 soldiers; 75 tanks; 36 short range artillery pieces; no surface to air missiles.


450 tanks; 162 short range artillery pieces; no surface to air missiles. No limits on soldiers.


no surface to air missiles.

No limits on soldiers, tanks, or artillery.


            From June 14 to June 27, 1974, UNDOF monitored and verified the phased withdrawal that took the forces on each side down to the specified levels in the AOS and AOL. The disengagement was successful and peaceful. Siilasvuo notes no problems, save for a mine accident that killed four Austrian peacekeepers. Endnote

            After overseeing the initial disengagement, UNDOF turned to delineating the AOS and AOL. UNDOF had some difficulties measuring and marking the lines for the AOS, in part because there were no map experts among the U.N.'s military observers. Fortunately, the ambiguities only led to minor disputes -- even though some of these disputes persist. This contrasts with Cyprus, where the exact same difficulties, also in 1974, led to various more severe incidents and continued disputes in and along the buffer zone. Endnote

            As I write, a U.N.-assisted boundary commission is having trouble demarcating the borders of the temporary security zone (buffer zone) between Ethiopia and Eritrea. There have been disputes over the ownership of the area around Badme, and two other zones. The Badme problem was exacerbated in April 2002 when the commission produced its delimitation report but did not include "maps showing which country had won the town of Badme - the town at the heart of the dispute." Both sides claimed victory after this report, which probably heightened Ethiopia's disappointment a year later when Badme was awarded to Eritrea. Endnote

            Had the commission reviewed the lessons of the Golan Heights and Cyprus, they would have learned that ambiguity, however tempting in the short term, can make problems worse. On the positive side, if political conditions permit the physical demarcation of the boundary in the summer of 2003, the U.N. Mission in Eritrea and Ethiopia (UNMEE) and its associated boundary commission will be able to avail themselves of global positioning satellite (GPS) locators and satellite imagery.


Monitoring and Verification


            To monitor the AOS and verify the absence of troops within it, UNDOF used to staff some 30 permanent positions and 17 other observation posts, but is currently shrinking the number of permanent positions to 17 and will use the freed-up forces to boost foot and vehicular patrols in the AOS. Endnote These armed observer forces are supplemented by unarmed UNTSO observers who permanently staff 11 OPs along the AOS lines. Endnote

            To verify the AOL, UNDOF, using UNTSO observers, conducts biweekly inspections of at least 500 Syrian and Israeli positions. The U.N. observers are accompanied by liaison officers from whichever side they are inspecting. According to UNDOF's SOPs, inspectors are not supposed to physically count the troops at each base in the first 10 kilometer AOL. Instead, they ask for head-counts from the local commander. In the first and second 10 kilometer zones, tanks are supposed to be counted by the inspectors, and they are supposed to distinguish between combat tanks, fixed tanks, and support tanks. APCs are ignored. Artillery pieces are counted, and these are to be distinguished by range or caliber. MLRS systems count as one artillery piece. In all zones, surface to air missiles are automatic violations to be reported. Inspectors are not allowed to be intrusive during inspections, meaning that they can not go into buildings. They can only count what they can see out in the open. Endnote

            After inspections, UNDOF reports the results to both sides. To the violators, it gives fairly specific information: the exact type and number of the offending weapon(s)/personnel and their location down to 1000 yards. The other side receives more general information about the category of the violation (although UNDOF can apparently threaten to release more specific information if the violator does not comply with the agreed limits). As one can tell from the dry Reports of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force, even if reports of violations are made public, the identity of the side that was the violator is never released.

            With their clear zones and limitations on capabilities, the AOS and AOL should provide effective monitoring and arms control. However, there are five operational problems with the inspection system, the first three of which are built into the non-intrusive and rigid SOPs for the inspections. These problems offer lessons for improvement of UNDOF, and other operations.

            First, the inspectors have to trust the troop figures that the local Israeli and Syrian commanders give them. Second, inspectors can only count weapons that are visible. Combined, these points indicate that the inspections are less thorough and precise than carefully calibrated AOS and AOL limits imply. On paper, the limitations are clear and specific. In practice, the inspections can not ensure compliance.

            Third, there are no surprise inspections, and the routinization of the biweekly inspections allows for exploitation of the SOPs by the Israelis in particular. Several sources mentioned that the Israelis sometimes take advantage of the rigid biweekly inspection schedule to move weapons up for exercises and then move them back to avoid the inspections. Despite the fact that several high level UNDOF and UNTSO officials were aware of this problem, the "fortnightly inspections of equipment and force levels in the areas of limitation" continue with the same routine. Endnote

            When the Israelis move equipment forward to conduct exercises in between inspections, this indicates disrespect for the AOL limits, and shows that the Israelis ultimately choose military readiness over compliance as their fundamental priority. It seems probable that if UNDOF tried to be more intrusive, or if they randomized their inspections to better catch the Israelis, then the Israelis would restrict UNDOF's freedom of movement and would exercise anyway. This point is reinforced by the Israeli response to violence in the Shab'a farms area near Mount Hermon, just above the northern perimeter of UNDOF's area of operations. In late 2000 and into 2001, conflict erupted between Israel and Hizbollah. Israel shut down UNDOF's freedom of movement in its northern area (Area 6), even though the Shab'a farms is technically in the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon's (UNIFIL) area of operations. When the violence lessened after a number of months, UNDOF's freedom of movement was restored. Endnote When push comes to shove, UNDOF gets shoved out of the way.

            Fourth, both sides routinely deny the inspectors some freedom of movement in the AOL and access to areas that should be inspected (the intelligence gathering stations, in particular). This difficulty is just as routinely reported in the Reports of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force. In denying access, the two sides are protecting their own intelligence gathering facilities. Fifth, both sides commit 'permanent violations,' which refer to the forward locations of some of the early warning and surveillance posts.

            There are several problems with the monitoring/OP system as well. Although UNDOF's buffer zone is fairly short at 80 kilometers, there are still not enough troops or technology to provide round-the-clock, all weather, very high confidence monitoring. Several factors bear this out. According to UNDOF's Force Commander, Major-General Johannes C. Kosters (Netherlands), the night vision equipment is inadequate. In his 1989 book, Mackinlay wrote that there was no night vision equipment at all, and it is uncertain whether better night vision gear is included in the 2002-2005 three year modernization plan. Endnote Even if they were better equipped, the OPs are not sufficiently staffed to provide complete surveillance. This is in particular true of the two officers in the UNTSO OPs who can scarcely be expected (and they are not) to maintain a constant watch during their lengthy shifts. Several peacekeepers told me that at night and/or in the fog, smugglers often come quite close to UNDOF/UNTSO OPs (as they must because of the OPs' locations and/or the locations of mine fields). Mackinlay also wrote of 'reports' that neither side wants to see the surveillance equipment of UNDOF updated.

            Given UNDOF's political constraints, it might be hard for it to be more intrusive or to upgrade its information-gathering capabilities. UNDOF (and the U.N. more generally) is too politically weak relative to Syria and Israel to bargain its way to a new deal or status of forces agreement (SOFA). U.N. operations deploying to the developing world may be able to wield greater leverage and be able to arrange better inspection regimes.

            Some of these problems are not as severe as appearances suggest. First, both sides generally keep so far below the agreed limits that there is virtually no question about compliance. Typical personnel counts are about 2000, where 6000 are permitted. Equipment is generally at 40-60% of allowed levels. Endnote Even if the counts are off by fifty percent, the troops would still be one-third below the limit, equipment one-quarter below. Second, one would predict that if either side thought the other was committing a violation (or cared about it), then they would report it to UNDOF and request a special inspection. However, this almost never happens. According Major-General Kosters, in the one and a half years he had led UNDOF, there had not been a single request for a special inspection and this was because both sides trusted that UNDOF was doing its work. "They never argue our verification." Endnote And despite Israeli maneuvers in between inspections, the Syrians do not protest. They seem not to care, and Syrian intelligence is likely to catch Israeli violations before UNDOF anyway.

            It was difficult evoking any stories at any level of UNDOF or UNTSO about problems on the Golan serious enough for either side to call on UNDOF to go fix or investigate things. Still, at lower levels of authority, some stories emerged about one side or the other calling on UNDOF to help solve a problem. One UNDOF company commander thought that perhaps one or two times a month one side would complain about some suspected military problem on the other side. For example, on the night before this interview, the Golan Israel Defense Force Liaison Officer (GILO) reported about 20 mysterious searchlights to UNDOF. UNDOF sent out a ready reaction patrol. The problem turned out to be the headlights on a farmer's tractor. And so it goes on the Golan. These examples are on the local or field level. They are not examples of either side calling the AOL inspections into question.

            There was only one protest publically revealed since the mid-1990s in the bi-annual Reports of the Secretary-General on UNDOF. In late 1997-early 1998, Israel protested that the way the Syrians were re-arranging rocks in an agricultural project might have military benefits. In response to the protest, Syria removed some of the new stone walls. No other such incidents were reported in the fourteen Secretary-General reports from May 1996 to June 2003. Endnote Even during a period of tension which raised the possibility of armed conflict in Fall of 1996, the U.N. reported that forces and armaments remained "well below" their respective ceilings in the AOL. Endnote

Overall, since my field research in 1996, "pretty much nothing" has changed for UNDOF. Endnote

            On the positive side, the facts that personnel and equipment levels are always below allowed limits and that the opposing forces never refute or question the inspection reports and verification indicate that levels of tension are fairly low on the Golan Heights. While it is good for the Golan that fears and miscalculations do not seem to be much in play, this makes it is hard to judge the effects of UNDOF's activities by examining variance in the levels of tensions.

            In sum, after a number of reasons why doubt is cast UNDOF's monitoring abilities, these problems do not seem to matter much. This in turn may mean that UNDOF is not that important to Syria or Israel.




            There are a number of categories of possible violations that UNDOF might confront, including military entry into the AOS, overflights, firing into or across the AOS, military construction in the AOS, and civilian crossings of the wrong A and B lines (the A or Alpha line is the Israeli side of the AOS; the B or Bravo line is the Syrian side). Military entry into the AOS does occur from time to time, but these incidents are of little consequence. The same is true of overflights. For example, sometimes Syrian vehicles take shortcuts through the AOS. Israel commits less of these violations because a mildly electrified touch-sensitive, alert-sending 'technical fence' runs the length of their side of the buffer zone (actually, the fence is a short distance in from the A line, often as close as 200-300 meters, but also sometimes kilometers away). Israeli patrols generally arrive within five minutes after the fence is touched.

            According to UNTSO Lt. Colonel Ray Martin, the head of Observer Group Golan - Tiberias, there had not been a major violation in 22 years. He attributed this to a clear mandate, to a system that was "very transparent" in that everyone knows where everything is, to the cooperation of both sides, and to UNDOF's deterrent effect. He said that UNDOF was like a police car on a highway. If people see the police car, they will slow down. When asked if the U.N. had made peace work on the Golan, he said it was a chicken and egg problem: "Who can tell?" Endnote

            By far the largest problem UNDOF faces, at least in numerical terms, is sheep and shepherd violations. Shepherds become violators if they go beyond the grazing line, which runs between the Israeli A line and the Israeli technical fence. This forbidden zone often contains good grazing land. Sheep and shepherds constitute ninety-nine percent of all violations and there are about 100-130 such violations a week.(most of the remaining one percent is unidentified civilians, sometimes defectors, according to one of these sources). UNDOF's response to these violators is to send out a patrol and persuade the shepherds to return to their side of the line. UNDOF's patrols use various placards with appropriate messages in appropriate languages to help them with this and other such tasks.

            These incidents can be serious, especially for the sheep and shepherds involved. Often, they move into heavily mined area, and the sheep or shepherds become purple clouds (in the words of UNDOF soldiers). Sometimes the shepherds move the mines onto UNDOF patrol paths. In other cases, Israeli soldiers will shoot warning shots to shoo away the approaching sheep and shepherds. Sheep are shot outright on a fairly regular basis as well. Israelis are wary of terrorists and bombs which can appear in any guise. Endnote

            The reason that there are so few problems on the Golan is that neither side wants problems. For example, when Israel fought Syria in Lebanon in 1982, and while Israel built up its forces on the Golan, Syria actually drew down its Golan forces. It is implausible to believe that Syria did this because UNDOF's 1200 troops provided a shield or contributed to Syria's threat assessments. Instead, war itself on the Golan appeared implausible to Syria, despite the fact that Syria and Israel were fighting heavily only a short distance away. Endnote

            Likewise, both sides seemed to gloss over a shooting incident on January 8, 2003. Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) shot two Syrian soldiers in civilian clothing who had passed beyond the AOS and were approaching the Israeli technical fence. One died and one was wounded. UNDOF recovered the body from the IDF the next day; and Israel returned the wounded Syrian to Syria via UNDOF. There were perfunctory protests, but both sides cooperated readily with the U.N., and a U.N. official noted that neither side allowed the incident to escalate. The Syrians were apparently in a wadi where they had been washing clothes for years, so something went wrong somewhere. Endnote This may indicate a need for more UNDOF forces to help it provide complete surveillance of its area of responsibility. It may also be no coincidence that the trouble occurred at the AOS's thinnest, southernmost section, suggesting that wide buffer zones are better.

            Finally, it may be that the simple fact of physical distance provided by the AOS and AOL promotes peace. An argument can be made that physical distance, especially if well monitored by all sides and the U.N., can offer some assurance to each side that the other side was not building up for an attack. Distance is enhanced by the AOL's limits in that breaking the limits could signal an attack. Avoiding that signal complicates attack planning. Seen this way, physical distance offers stability in part because of transparency and in part because it helps shift the offense/defense balance towards the defense.

            The case of Cyprus demonstrates that physical proximity allows the opposing forces a number of ways to harass each other that would not be available if the buffer zone was wider (slingshotting, stone throwing, verbal insults, etc). Incidents are most frequent where the buffer zone is narrow (as in Nicosia) and diminish where it is thicker. The 2 ½ mile wide buffer zone in Korea certainly does not prevent all antagonisms and more severe incidents, but things would likely be worse if it were narrower. These examples help demonstrate the wisdom of the AOS and AOL: distance between opposing forces reduces tension; the greater the distance, the fewer the incidents. This point would have greater traction on the Golan Heights if there was any evidence that either side would cause incidents if they were closer.




Scholar and Practitioner Assessments of UNDOF


            If UNDOF is supposed to provide meaningful monitoring and verification, it must be able to add value to each side's own threat assessments. Thus, a central question for this analysis is how much UNDOF can add to what each side already knows or can learn. Mackinlay argues that when UNDOF was deployed in 1974, UNDOF's monitoring ability may have been "as effective as that of the Syrian and Israeli armies." This situation has changed as both sides rebuilt and improved their intelligence-gathering capabilities, while those of UNDOF remained largely stagnant. Mackinlay says that this means that neither side relies much on UNDOF' monitoring, except to the extent that it serves as a backup. Endnote However, he adds that the two sides can communicate through UNDOF if there are problems in the AOS and AOL (however, as shown above, this does not happen much). Mackinlay and UNDOF's Force Commander (and several other UNDOF and UNTSO officers in interviews) agree that, even though both sides have adequate intelligence, the Israelis have a much better picture of what goes on on the Golan than the Syrians. Endnote This discussion suggests that, in terms of strategic threat assessment, there is little that UNDOF can add to each sides' unilateral capabilities.

            One high ranking UNDOF officer said that "UNDOF clarifies all real or supposed violations, but we don't have many serious violations here." He added that both sides are aware that serious violations would threaten the peace process. Colonel Torping, whose experience with UNDOF spanned eleven years, said that Syria and Israel "want a guarantee that the other side won't take unexpected steps and they know that neither side has tried anything for 20 years." He also said that the U.N. has been doing its job in a good way, but that it was more important that both sides want peace and trust the U.N. Major-General Kosters cautioned not to make too much of the confidence-building effects of UNDOF; the chance of conflict is very low and UNDOF's force is only "barbed wire and nothing more." Zenon Carnapas, UNTSO's Senior Advisor, said that with UNDOF/UNTSO the two sides get an objective opinion about each side respecting the Geneva agreement. He thought that if UNTSO were withdrawn it might serve as a political trigger. Endnote With the exception of Force Commander Kosters, the general sense of high level U.N. staff suggests that they believe they are doing a good job monitoring, increasing transparency, and lowering already low levels of fear about supposed violations and unexpected steps.

            Alan James says that the inspections "are a means of helping to keep anxiety at a somewhat lower level than it would otherwise reach and as such are of value." Finally, Mackinlay also argues that UNDOF's liaison system provides a "limited but important diplomatic link between the Syrians and the Israelis." He notes that UNDOF "will certainly cry the alarm to the whole world if either opponent force attempts to maneuver to regain the Golan." Endnote Something like this happened in the case of the U.N. Emergency Force I. When Egypt asked UNEF I to leave the Sinai/Gaza armistice line with Israel in 1967, it helped signal impending conflict and helped identify the aggressor.


Conclusion and Recommendations


            The answers to the questions "What does UNDOF monitor and verify and how well does it do so? What incidents does UNDOF confront and how does it deal with them?" are that UNDOF has very specific verification and transparency-related duties, and that its ability to provide verify, monitor, and provide transparency are limited by the various problems mentioned above. However, these problems do not affect UNDOF's operation because UNDOF confronts very few security-related incidents and neither side wants to create trouble on the Golan Heights.

            While UNDOF's operation is less than meets the eye, anything that can help keep is peace in a very volatile area is worthy. At a relatively inexpensive $41 million per year, UNDOF might be said to be providing good 'less bang for the buck.'

            The strengths of UNDOF are that it enjoys acceptance by both Syria and Israel, that its tasks are clear, and that the borders of its AOS and AOL are now clear. However, UNDOF's problems suggest a number of recommendations for UNDOF, and these lessons learned are applicable to other peacekeeping operations and military settings.

            First, elaborate planning does not suffice for thorough execution. For all the apparent specificity of the arms control agreement in the AOS and AOL and in UNDOF's procedures and inspections, UNDOF really does not have the capacity or leeway to conduct thorough monitoring. Luckily, Israel and Syria keep tensions down on the Golan Heights and do not depend on UNDOF's inspections for their intelligence. If tensions were higher and the adversaries did depend on the peacekeeping operation, gaps between planning and execution would damage the credibility of the mission and lead to increased suspicions between the adversaries.

            U.N. missions are frequently hampered by tight budgets, so it may be hard to full staff a mission as optimal planning may indicate. However, there is more to planning than matching forces to missions, and improvements can be made in some areas regardless of budgetary constraints. For example, planners have to not only think about capabilities and procedures, but also negotiate with the adversaries adequate plans for implementation and incorporate these plans into the status of forces agreements for each mission.

            Second, standard operating procedures are necessary but they may engender serious operational tradeoffs and dangers. UNDOF's predictable standard operating procedures for its biweekly inspections allow for cheating by parties who can move forces up and back to avoid being in violation when the UNDOF and UNTSO inspectors visit. Thus, the resulting operational recommendation is that standard operating procedures must include flexibility and surprise if inspections are to be meaningful. Predictable procedures are evadable procedures.

            However, this recommendation is deceptively simple, and may prove hard to implement. Militaries are guided by standard operating procedures, SOPs are particularly useful for less well-trained troops and officers, and standard operating procedures help eliminate politics and bias in operations. Random inspections depending on officer initiative could be prone to a number of problems, ranging from corruption to prejudice. Even the appearance of corruption or prejudice would be particularly harmful to U.N. missions which must maintain their impartiality and consent from adversaries to be effective.

            Another reason that making SOPs more flexible may be hard for the U.N. is because they are frequently composed of forces from a variety of states, and training of these forces is often far below the standards of advanced militaries. Because SOPs help compensate for inadequate training, U.N. missions often benefit from rigid, predictable standard operating procedures. Better trained and disciplined forces may be able to exploit room for initiative and innovation, and may therefore benefits less from rigid standard operating procedures. Planners have to think about the tradeoffs of standard operating procedure when faced with missions involving forces from various countries and backgrounds. It would be politically and operationally very difficult to adjust SOPs for each new rotation of peacekeepers from each new contributing state.

            Third, as operations are drawn up and initially deploy, all border and buffer zone lines should be clearly delineated to prevent disputes between the adversaries and between the adversaries and the mission. All sides should agree to and work from common maps. This can be politically difficult, but this problem may be eased by satellite, GPS, aerial and other mapping technologies.

            Finally, buffer zones should be wide. UNMEE is supposed to keep the opposing forces twenty-five kilometers apart, and this should help reduce incidents in an area where tensions remain high. In contrast, on Cyprus the buffer zone is often as thin as several tens of meters and soldiers on each side throw rocks at each other.

            This article should remind planners and practitioners that it pays to sweat the operational details. UNDOF is often held up as a model operation, and in many ways it is. No other U.N. operation is in charge of such a sophisticated buffer zone, one which is, in reality, a complex arms control agreement. Yet, when the details are closely examined, it appears that UNDOF does not thoroughly monitor the AOS or AOL, or conduct thorough, intrusive, or reliable inspections. In theory, these problems are readily fixable with political will and operational adjustments. In practice, it will be hard to devise inspection procedures free of political and operational constraints, and hard to come up with the forces and technology for full-time monitoring of the buffer zone.