Friday, August 04, 2006

Want Peace in Lebanon? Don't Ask the UN!

The US and France are struggling to reach an agreement on a UN resolution intended to bring an end to the on-going Israeli operations in Lebanon. The main sticking point: The composition of the forces to monitor the Lebanese-Israeli border and keep an eye on Hezbollah. The US wants Israel to stay in southern Lebanon until an international force, perhaps through NATO, can replace the Israeli army. France's proposal calls for the UN to do the job, supported by the Lebanese Army.

France's plain is, plain and simple, a recipe for more war. Neither the UN nor Lebanon is capable of dealing with Hezbollah and maintaining a quiet border. The Lebanese government and army has already failed in this task; the inability to carry out UN resolution 1559 is what led to the current crisis. Lebanon has neither the political will nor the military firepower to challenge and corral Hezbollah.

But the UN would be even worse. While the UN does do a decent enough job of peacekeeping, southern Lebanon would not be a peacekeeping mission. Peacekeeping occurs when two waring sides seek peace but do not have sufficient mutual trust to adhere to the terms of a settlement. In this case, a third party is needed to stand between the two sides and monitor, lending confidence that the agreement will be observed. In Lebanon, however, Hezbollah does not desire a long-term peace; rather, it wants to end the current operation in order to regroup and rearm for the next one. When one, or both, side does not really want to end the fighting, the situation becomes one of peace enforcement, for which the UN is really REALLY unsuited.

In its desire to appear evenhanded, unbiased, and fair, the UN repeatedly fails to give its soldiers sufficient firepower or appropriate rules of engagement to deal with the tasks at hand. Witness the inability to stand up to the Bosnian Serbs at Srebrenica. But we need not go back that far for evidence of the UN inability to enforce a peace. On July 26th, several UN peacekeepers were killed in Lebanon by Israeli shelling. Why would Israel have attacked a UN base? Because Hezbollah sets up missiles, weapon systems, and bases in close proximity to the UN bases, knowing (or hoping) that Israel would be hesitant to attack them for fear of hitting the UN troops. Here is an email sent on July 18th by Major Paeta Derek Hess-von Kruedener, who was killed in that Israeli attack:

The closest artillery has landed within 2 metres of our position and the closes 1,000-pound aerial bomb has landed 100 metres from our patrol base. This has not been deliberate targeting, but has rather been due to tactical necessity (emphasis added).
According to retired Major-General Lewis MacKenzie, the first commander of UN peacekeeping forces in Sarajevo, this paragraph, translated from military-speak, means: "We have Hezbollah fighters all over our position engaging the Israel Defense Forces and using us as shields. They will probably stay, hoping that the IDF won't target them for fear of hitting us." (The email from Hess-von Kruedener and quote from MacKenzie comes from an op-ed piece MacKenzie wrote in The Globe and Mail [Canada's national newspaper] on Thursday, July 27th. I couldn't find a link to it...sorry)

Why did the UN soldiers allow Hezbollah to base and operate in such close proximity to the UN base? Because the UN soldiers were unarmed. Yes, unarmed. Despite being in a war zone, surrounded by militant terrorists, the UN did not see fit to arm the troops it placed in harm's way. Furthermore, the UN soldiers did not have permission from their superiors to challenge or engage Hezbollah. This is fairly typical. The UN is good at peacekeeping, when it doesn't have to choose sides. But it is terrible when securing peace means taking on one side, be it Bosnian Serbs or Hezbollah.

So, for the sake of all those in Israel and Lebanon, let's hope that France fails and the UN stays out of Lebanon.

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