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Additional Peacekeepers towards Hezbullah and Israeli Conflict a Grave Mistake July 26, 2006

Posted by earthlingconcerned in United Nations.

As someone who isn’t particularly well versed in the history that is behind the current conflict between Israel and Hezbullah, I wasn’t planning on commenting on the issue until a later date. I have been following what has transpired in recent weeks via the regular news outlets but feel my knowledge of the region lacks a certain big picture understanding that can only be found with oodles of research and attention to first hand testimonials. What did Hezbollah expect when they first attacked the Israeli forces and took their hostages? It has recently been made clear that they didn’t expect the reaction that Israel gave. Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah remarked, “The truth is — let me say this clearly — we didn’t even expect (this) response … that (Israel) would exploit this operation for this big war against us,” and that they expected “the usual, limited response.” But that isn’t what they got was it? Shortly after the initial attacks, Israel’s chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz was quoted, “If the soldiers are not returned, we will turn Lebanon’s clock back 20 years.” And that, from what I can see and hear, is exactly what has since taken place. Hezbollah and Israel have since been firing rockets at each other. Much of northern Israel is living in a constant fear and more of the Hezbollnese, correction, Lebanese countryside, has taken a tremendous toll (both in loss of lives and physical infrastructure). Most of the civilized world (yet not all, thanks to some long standing unbreakable alliances) have condemned Israel’s reaction against Lebanese land as excessive and unacceptable. So who is more at fault for what is happening? I worry, that as an outsider, that answer will never be clear to me. But I know for certain that with my knowledge of the situation, I am only able to reiterate what has been broadcast through the media.

With this, I wish to make clear that any opinion I have on the current situation, and its history, relies on emotions more than anything else. Once again, this is an opinion that hasn’t factored in the big picture because I do not know yet what it is in fact comprised of. What I am fairly clear on, however, is what won’t alleviate the situation in terms of loss of life. On July 21st, An Israeli bomb destroyed a United Nations post that had been marked as such for much longer than the current struggle between Israel and Hezbollah. UNIFIL (United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon) has been in the region since the late seventies. Along with this irresponsible, and inexcusable destruction came the deaths of four peacekeepers from several regions around the globe. Upon word of this news, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan condemned Israeli forces by saying, ”I am shocked and deeply distressed by the apparently, deliberate targeting by Israeli Defence Forces of a UN Observer post in southern Lebanon.” Israel claims the attack was unintentional and that the Secretary-General was too quick in saying the attack was intentional. It appears though, that regardless of how unsafe the region has proven to be, the international answer to everything that is taking place is to send more. Many of the EU nations, Australia, the United States, among others have been pushing for additional peacekeepers in the region. Politically, the idea makes sense. Something has to be done to help secure the region, this is something, and the general population of any country will take more kindly to sending in keepers of peace, then let us say, keepers of war, brutality and hatred. But we don’t live in a world where semantics translates into anything remotely resembling reality. Since the end of the Cold War, peacekeepers have had a terrible record and it has all to do with their ability, or lack thereof, to perform any significant duty other watch and wait. Romeo Dallaire, in Shake Hands with the Devil, his stellar account of what took place during the Rwanda genocide paints a clear picture of the problems of modern day peacekeeping. He writes, describing peacekeeping missions during the Cold War:

In these operations, lightly-armed, multinational, blue-helmeted, impartial and neutral peacekeepers were deployed and interposed between two former warring factions, with their consent, either to maintain the status quo, as in Sinai from 1956 to 1967, or to assist the parties in implementing a peace accord, as was at the time the case in Cambodia. The key principles of these operations are impartiality, neutrality and consent. Classic peacekeeping had worked well during the Cold War, where the two camps had used peacekeeping to diffuse conflicts that could draw in major superpowers and lead to nuclear Armageddon. – Shake Hands with the Devil by Lt. Gen. Romeo Dallaire

If the peacekeepers of the era were ever in too deep (as was the case several times), there was always the overhanging threat of the super powers intervention. Threatening, at the very least, of the total annihilation of the planet. As this threat is no longer an immediate concern, peacekeepers no longer have this otherworldly sense of protection and ultimately power. Without this security net in place, it’s not hard to imagine why peacekeepers became direct targets to attacks by those, who for the most part, don’t report back to the governing body within the region of conflict, and therefore, have no representation on the UN General Assembly. With no representation, and therefore no fear, why not act brutally against those in place to keep a peace that they may not be seeking in the first place. And as Dallaire writes regarding a peacekeeper that was killed on duty in Bosnia, one that was originally thought to have been killed by an accidental mortar explosion, “I found out much later that Gunther had actually been hit in the chest by an anti-tank rocket that had been fired from a shoulder-held grenade launcher. He had been deliberately targeted, and murdered.” If I am to believe Hezbollah represents an outright terrorist group, and Israel, with an impeccably unreliable record in following UN rules (It took them 22 years to remove their forces from Lebanon after UN Security Council Resolution 425 was established). Paul Kennedy writes the following about the results of the peacekeepers presence within the region during those earlier times in his recent book The Parliament of Man,

“The hapless international troops were insulted, disregarded, kidnapped, and shot at by all sides, taking many casualties, yet had neither the firepower nor the authority – as at the beginning in Congo – to respond in force and subdue the awful mayhem. There was nothing in the Charter or in earlier experiences to give guidance; and the Security Council was bemused and dumbfounded.” – The Parliament of Man by Paul Kennedy

And that was during the Cold War. The failures of the 1990s in Srebrenica, Bosnia, Somalia and Rwanda proved exponentially more costly. There has been success, but the magnitude of the failures outweighed these greatly. I repeat that in dealing with failing, and collapsed states, the UN Peacekeepers have little or no power to do what they were brought in to do. I would hesitate to say Lebanon is a collapsed state, but with Hezbollah representation in parliament, a large portion of the population supporting its cause, and the continued Israeli onslaught (and subsequent anti-Israeli sentiments by the Lebanese), it is on the verge of being a failing one. I hesitate to say this, but I feel that the only good more peacekeepers can accomplish in regards to stabilizing the region is by being attacked upon more and more frequently until the governments who sent them, are pushed by their people to come in with a more traditional military force. This is what I see, this is what I fear. A possible ceasefire in the region will put all of this on hold, but for how long? The longer the situation continues, the shorter the ceasefire will be.

After everything I have written, it may seem like I am against what the United Nations represents, and I would like to make it clear that that is exactly the opposite of what I feel. My intention, prior to writing this article, was to discuss the essential nature of having a world body. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither was the UN. But I am certainly weary, and I hope I made abundantly clear, of sending neutral forces into a region where neutrality isn’t an option.



1. Earthling Concerned » UNIFIL Success Depends on Hezbollah’s Commitment to Cease-Fire - August 15, 2006

[…] This is a further discussion on my previous article in regards to the problems associated with sending more UN Peacekeepers into Lebanon. As a major point in the Cease-fire agreement that was signed over the weekend, it was agreed that UNIFIL will be strengthened to a maximum of 15,000 troops (an additional 13,000 troops). As with when UNIFIL was created, the intention is most definitely a noble one. Their responsibilities include the following: […]

2. UNIFIL Success Depends on Hezbollah’s Commitment to Cease-Fire :: earthling.concerned - February 18, 2008

[…] is a further discussion on my previous article in regards to the problems associated with sending more UN Peacekeepers into Lebanon. As a major […]

3. UNIFIL Success Depends on Hezbollah’s Commitment to Cease-Fire - earthling.concerned - October 16, 2008

[…] is a further discussion on my previous article in regards to the problems associated with sending more UN Peacekeepers into Lebanon. As a major […]

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