Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Send in the peacekeepers

Occasionally I agree with the President, though I usually do so in a dark room where it won't be noticed. But here I am going to do it in the light of day (or of the pixels). The UN has announced that it is considering sending an international force to the border between Lebanon and Israel. Of course, there are currently a few more than 200 hundred troops there in an observer status. What I don't understand--and I'll get to what I agree with Bush about--is exactly what good observers do in international hotspots. I would have thought that we learned from Dutch peacekeepers in the former Yugoslavia that observers are only slightly better than useless. They witnessed but did not intervene in, as it was not within their mandate, massacres in the Balkans. They did give us eyewitness accounts later, since they survived the atrocities they witnessed, but that hardly justifies sending them. Now, I know that the UN was trying to maintain its neutrality, but neutrality in the face of evil is no virtue.
And, there it is, I think Bush may just be right that the UN in its present form is nothing better than a debating society with diplomatic plates. The problem with the UN is similar to the problem with just war theory; both were designed for a world that is not what we currently have. History and the technology of warfare have surpassed the ethical and political thinking that underlay the UN, as they have surpassed almost all ethical thinking about war, its justifications and its moral prosecution. This is not to say that we are not in need of internation alcompacts, cooperation and most of all conventions covering human rights--though we should hold ourselves to a higher, not lower standard; I disagree with Bush in thinking that we do have a moral and legal obligation to protect the human rights of our enemies--but to be effective these have to be strengthened and refit to a world that is changing around them. We need fresh and new institutions and we need new, innovative thinking about the rights and wrongs of war, from both the right and the left.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I agree with you about the UN, which is only as neutral and as benevolent as the member states that make up its members, which means it is neither. History of peace keeping forces in the region also shows that they are worthless and sometimes even passively aid one side, as in the case of the kidnapping of 3 Israeli soldiers a few years back, where it turned out that UNIFIL not only witnessed the event but also videotaped it. The refusal of Kofi Anan to show Israel the tape (so that they could make a clear determination that the soldiers were dead rather than missing) is a shameful mark forever on that man.
Any multi-national force would be problematic in that I do not see the motivation of German, Swedish, American, Polish soldiers to risk their lives to try and go after terrorists with rocket launchers hiding in the hills. Ultimately, if you want to make sure you are safe, you will have to protect yourself.