This is my favourite subject upon which to rant, so I couldn't resist.
The public has the image of the happy "peacekeeper" precisely because that's the image that many in DND, the CF and the government wished to project. DND still uses the term to describe soldiers, although there appears to be a concerted effort to move away from the "peacekeeper" legend. An example:http://www.forces.gc.ca/site/focus/decpr/teachers_friends_e.asp
Using the term allows the government (and by extension DND) to:
1. Put a uniquely Canadian "spin" on the use of military force.
2. Distance our military from those of our major Allies (the US and UK , in this case).
3. Display, to a nation that doesn't know better, our "commitment" to the UN and multi-lateralism.
4. Justify an unwillingness to embark in major capital procurement programs.
5. Indicate that the military is a "progressive" institution and put a kinder, gentler face on our operations.
I am completely convinced that the term came into vogue as we civilianized the military in the 1970s. "Peacekeeping" put operations into terms civilians liked, and we raised an entire generation of soldiers to believe that being a "peacekeeper" was the norm for CF deployments. This has created huge disconnects between the CF and the public and, even, within the CF itself.
I used to take great pains when providing operations briefings to the press that Bosnia
was not a peacekeeping mission. Many reporters were shocked to discover that we had the authority and obligation to use force to ensure the Dayton Accord was followed and that our job there was not to come between two combatants, but to direct
that fighting cease. NDHQ, of course, had deliberately avoided saying so.
We (the military) have done this to ourselves. Embracing the term "peacekeeper" has mollified the Canadian public, but has hidden what we really do for about three decades. It has cost us institutional credibility - to the point were there are people who do not believe we can/should undertake any combat roles; it has cost us within the world of capital procurement - to the point where specific weapons system are questioned because they are"too aggressive" (dig up Sheila Copps' old comments on the Eryx ATGM for an example); it has cost us institutional pride as peacekeeping as degenerated into a failed and morally bankrupt policy; and finally, it has created a myth with which soldiers at all rank levels, including the CDS, have to struggle every day.
Frankly, I loathe the word. While I can understand the pride of those who truly were "peacekeepers", it has cost us far too much as an institution.