We have been sold a lie about the United Nations and their use of peacekeepers to prevent flare-ups of violence between peoples living in some of the world’s hottest of hotspots. The reports claim that United Nations peacekeepers brave dangerous conditions placing themselves between potential adversaries and assure that violence will not be sustained should any menacing and foreboding events start a prelude to violence. But is this the reality or simply a nice fairy tale we accept as to believe otherwise would render the presence of peacekeepers and thus the United Nations relatively useless in blunting potential violence between any of the numerous regions where United Nations peacekeepers are currently deployed. The truth about the reality of peacekeepers effectiveness is important as they are an expensive luxury that are a waste of resources if they prove ineffective in actually preventing wars, violence, or persecution of minorities or other endangered peoples. Some of the recent events surrounding the deployment of peacekeepers resulting in their fleeing or being pulled at the first signs of violence or at the request of an aggressor who is already threatening to initiate aggressions.
When we look at the implementations where peacekeepers have been deployed we see mixed results. Even if we ignore the reports of misbehavior by peacekeeping troops such as trading food for favors and other similarly revolting practices, there still remains a question of the actual effectiveness of inserting peacekeepers to actually keep the peace. The current event which triggered our curiosity are the reports that the United Nations is reviewing whether to continue to station the peacekeepers in Syria near the Golan Heights and the Israeli border where they are tasked to enforce a DMZ (demilitarized zone) separating Israeli forces from those of Syria. For much of the time since their deployment in 1974 at the conclusion of the 1973 Yom Kippur War between Egypt and Syria against Israel these peacekeepers have watched a calm border with only a few relatively minor exceptions; the best known was a recent march on the Israeli border during Naqba demonstrations at which time no peacekeepers were near enough to challenge the Syrian demonstrators. At the close of the war the United Nations was eventually tasked to provide peacekeepers on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights and in the Sinai Peninsula (originally along the Suez Canal then moved to the Sinai after the Egyptian Israeli peace accords) between Israel and Egypt. This past week we witnessed the capture and holding hostage of twenty-one Philippine troops serving as peacekeepers. Originally the Syrian Rebels demanded for pro-Assad forces be pulled from towns near the Syrian Israeli border or they threatened to murder their captives. Fortunately, the release of the Philippine troops was negotiated and they were released. Since then there has been another incident where United Nations peacekeepers were on the receiving end of rifle shots, similarly to the number of incidents which have also been experienced by the Israeli troops stationed in the Golan Heights which has included rifle fire, mortars and even a number of artillery shells. The United Nations has one-thousand peacekeepers deployed from the Philippines, India and Austria making up the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF). The UNDOF has already suspended their nighttime patrols as a precaution against further hostage situations and are considering pulling the entire UNDOF troops. What good are peacekeepers if they are pulled at the first instance of violence?
Looking at past experiences between United Nations and international forces as peacekeepers who have presumably been placed to prevent aggressions between Israel and the surrounding nations which have attacked Israel numerous times as well as sponsored across border terror attacks none have produced any preventive actions by any of the forces deployed as peacekeepers. After the Suez War of 1956 there was United Nations peacekeepers assigned to prevent Egyptian forces from crossing into the Sinai Peninsula as a preparation for war. When Gamal Abdel Nasser decided to move massive numbers of troops to the Israeli border in the Sinai Peninsula and cut off Israeli shipping access through the Straights of Tiran he simply demanded that the United Nations peacekeepers be removed to allow his aggressions. There were no attempts to prevent the coming war and the peacekeepers were removed in complete compliance to Nasser’s demands. There is also the complete ineffectiveness of the Lebanon peacekeepers, UNIFIL (United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon) in preventing the building of enforcements, tunnels and weapons caches south of the Litani River by the terror group Hezballah. These troops were completely ineffective in preventing the Second Lebanon War which was initiated after Hezballah forces crossed into Israel killing a number of IDF troops and kidnapping three others, they too were killed by their captors. When the restoration of a ceasefire was initiated through the United Nations, it was agreed that UNIFIL would be strengthened and their mission expanded. The result has been that the failure of UNIFIL has been expanded to fail to meet its new responsibilities and Hezballah has imported and placed multiple times the numbers of rockets and other munitions than were present at the start of the Second Lebanon War posing an even greater threat. Then there were the NATO observers who were placed with the agreement of the United Nations of monitors of the Rafah Crossing from the Sinai Peninsula in and out of Gaza. These observers did not last but a couple of weeks before they retreated to their hotel in Israel never to return to their monitoring posts. Hamas removed the monitoring cameras and the Rafah crossing has been enforced by Egyptian troops when any monitoring has been present. Basically, the record of United Nations peacekeepers has mostly been they have kept the peace until any palpable threat of violence was raised in their locations and they then found the quickest route of retreat and utilized it as soon as fighting was imminent. One would have to question what is the actual effectiveness of peacekeepers who only keep peace when there is no violence and leave when the peace becomes threatened.
Beyond the Cusp