Now that disarmament is increasingly being accepted in the world as a matter of government policy, can peacekeeping be far behind? An international peace seminar in London hopes this will be so. It brought together delegates from as far afield as Nigeria, Peru, and Nepal.
One aim of making peacekeeping an aspect of government policy would be to ensure sufficient advance planning so nations would not suddenly find they had drifted into war.
According to delegates at the seminar, sponsored jointly by the English-Speaking Union and the International Peace Academy, ''the rapid revival'' of peacekeeping in recent years was a persuasive argument for contingency planning.
This was in contrast to the situation in 1967: After Egypt engineered removal of the UN peace-keeping force in the Sinai Peninsula and blockaded the Gulf of Aqaba, precipitating the six-day war, peacekeeping was generally thought to be dead.
More recent peacekeep-ing efforts, such as the formation in 1978 of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), it was conceded, got off to a bad start. Key participants in the Lebanon dispute - among them Syria and Israel - looked askance at UN involvement. Yet the situation has changed so markedly that UNIFIL is now the force most welcomed in that strife-torn country.
The shift in attitude was most marked in Israel, whose attempt to impose a quick, military solution on Lebanon was thwarted. With Israeli troops mired there and Israelis shouldering an intolerable economic burden as a result, UNIFIL became a convenient escape hatch.
''The coalition's decision to pull out of Lebanon reflects the majority view of the electorate,'' said Maj. Gen. Indar Jit Rhkhye, an authority on international peacekeep-ing.
The UN Security Council recently extended UNIFIL's mandate by another six months. There is speculation the force, which now exceeds 6,000 men, could well be increased by another 1,500 to 3,000 troops.
The seminar noted the difficulties facing the multinational peacekeeping force. Delegates saw the first MNF securing its objective in permitting the orderly evacuation of Palestinians from Beirut, but they viewed the second MNF on the whole as a disastrous experience.
The seminar concluded with a tribute to American generosity in peacekeep-ing endeavors, continued support for UN as well as regional peace-keeping efforts, and a call to governments to coordinate contingency planning.