Thanks, But No Thanks
This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.
The suggestion that the way to curb the fighting in Lebanon would be to bring in an international force strikes a discordant note. The idea, being advanced by Secretary General Annan and endorsed by Prime Minister Blair, would be to bring in United Nations peacekeepers. Mr. Annan has sent a group to the region to scout things out. But the record so far in respect of U.N. peacekeeping troops in the Middle East suggests they would serve simply to protect Hezbollah and would prevent Israel from acting — and that’s an optimistic assessment.
Even worse is portended by the U.N.’s — and Mr.Annan’s — own peacekeeping record. Rwanda and Srebrenica are the two most notorious recent failures. Mr. Annan headed the United Nations peacekeeping department during both massacres. In Rwanda blue helmets exited as 800,000 Tutsis were massacred. Despite having advance warning of the genocide, U.N. peacekeepers were told by Mr. Annan’s department to remain “impartial.” At Srebrenica the U.N. peacekeepers did nothing as Bosnian Serbs murdered 8,000 Muslims — in the U.N.’s “safe haven.”
From Sierra Leone, where U.N. peacekeepers were taken hostage, to the Congo, where the peacekeepers traded food for sex with girls as young as 13, the term “U.N. peacekeepers” sends shudders down the spines of the persons they were sent to “protect.” For Americans, “U.N. peacekeeping” is synonymous with Somalia. Who can forget the image of the bodies of American soldiers being dragged through the streets?
Israel has its own experience with U.N.”peacekeepers.” Blue helmets were charged with keeping peace on the border between Israel and Egypt after Israel withdrew from the Sinai in 1957. In 1967 General Nasser asked the U.N. troops to leave so he could invade Israel.They did so immediately, freeing the area for Nasser to attack. In 2002, Hezbollah used U.N. uniforms and vehicles to kidnap Israeli soldiers, while U.N. peacekeepers watched and did nothing. The U.N. peacekeeping team then hid its video recording of the attack and refused to cooperate with an Israeli inquiry.
Even if one assumes the U.N. has turned a new leaf, what could they do in the current crisis? How would they stop Hezbollah’s rockets from raining down on Israel? Would they attack Hezbollah positions? How would they return to Israel her kidnapped soldiers? Would they enter Hezbollah camps? And how would they disarm Hezbollah to prevent future attacks?
The most peacekeepers can do is maintain the status quo, which in this case would suit only Hezbollah as the status quo is heavily tilted against Israel. A peacekeeping force would end up protecting Hezbollah. It would stop Israeli troops from rescuing her soldiers and from taking out Hezbollah positions to prevent future missile attacks.
The sad fact is that peacekeeping is for only where there is a peace to keep.The tragedy of Lebanon is that there has been no peace. Israel is at war with a terrorist organization seeking its destruction. Peace will come only when Hezbollah is defeated. Prime Minister Olmert yesterday laid out the terms for peace: Hezbollah must return to Israel her kidnapped soldiers; end its rocket attacks on Israel; and withdraw from the border and allow Lebanese troops to take its place. If Mr.Annan wants a role he could start by enforcing U.N. Security Council Resolution 1559. It required Hezbollah to disarm. Had that happened, there would be no fighting today.