Beyond the Cusp

June 7, 2013

When the Going Gets Rough the UN Goes Running

The United Nations is once again displaying remarkable consistency. The Syrian border with Israel heated up even further today and the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) peacekeepers began running. Actually the governments who sent their troops to be peacekeepers ordered them to start running; running straight home. The UNDOF troops had been monitoring a basically silent border since 1974 until the recent events actually might have required them to perform peacekeeping. This should not come as a surprise as this is basically what United Nations peacekeepers are renowned for doing in the face of violence. In their defense the initial decision by the Austrian government to withdraw their 380 peacekeepers came after clashes in which two UN peacekeepers were slightly injured. The Austrian government official statement stated, “The Austrian army’s participation in the UNDOF mission can no longer be maintained for military reasons.” Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann and his deputy Michael Spindelegger said in a joint statement. “Freedom of movement in the area de facto no longer exists. The uncontrolled and immediate danger to Austrian soldiers has risen to an unacceptable level” This was the final death knell for the UNDOF mission as it followed the reduction of the troop numbers to 900 after the March withdrawal by Croatia which followed following similar moves by Canada and Japan.

 

This situation is not honestly much of a surprise as United Nations peacekeepers that have been stationed on Israeli borders have a history of either ineffectiveness or departing at the earliest signs of violence or immediately after the leader of the Arab nation bordering Israel requests they get out of the way of their attacking militaries. This was the case in 1967 when Egyptian and Syrian troops massed on Israel’s borders. Avoiding trouble and turning a blind eye to Hezballah activities has been the apparent mission directive of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL). In all honesty United Nations efforts as peacekeepers have left much to be desired throughout their history but only when deployed. The other side of this unseemly coin is that in many instances where United Nations peacekeepers would have actually been useful and have saved innocent lives they have been reticent in sending them in in a timely manner. The genocides in Rwanda and Darfur are prime examples of too little too late if at all. The only thing less effective of this world depending on the United Nations to be a place where peace is kept by the cooperation of the member nations through reason and negotiations as the means for solving problems would be a world where even the ineffectual United Nations did not exist thus removing any recourse other than the historic means, open warfare at even the slightest of provocations. Unfortunately, the one accomplishment of the United Nations that has prevented far more world carnage is about to become violate, the prevention of the general proliferation of nuclear weaponry. Once that principal accomplishment is dashed and nuclear weapons become generally available to any country or other entity with sufficient funds and desire, then when the world enters another period of heightened tensions, any resultant conflict would contain a level of threat for an unacceptable conflagration of unimaginable destruction. I pray that such a future is avoidable but judging from human history where no weapon no matter how horrible has not only been used to end one war but more often than not became the principle weapon used in the next war. Some claim this is due to progress while others contend such progress will eventually result in the end of the human race and potentially an almost immeasurable percentage of life on the planet. May such a consequence be avoided though the current state of the world is not exactly promising when the organization responsible for mitigating such threats, the United Nations, refuses to have its peacekeeping forces remain in place running from even the slightest raised level of violence.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

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March 13, 2013

United Nations Debate the Worth of Peacekeepers in Syria Ominous

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

 

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