Peacekeeping: The UN Sets Them Up, and Shoots Them Down


January7, 2007: Despite a record number of UN peacekeepers in action (90,000 right now, and possibly 140,000 by the end of the year), the impact of these troops if often much less than expected. That's because the UN is reluctant to authorize peacekeepers to use force to maintain peace. That, in turn, is the position nations providing peacekeepers prefer. Accomplishing the mission is much less important than getting the peacekeepers back alive. Peacekeeping duty is not seen as something worth dying for.

Force can work, even with the UN in charge, if the bad guys have no friends. Such is the case in Congo, where the troublesome people are very unsavory warlords. No one mourns the demise of these guys. But in places like Kosovo and Lebanon, the local louts have powerful patrons. The Albanians of Kosovo are still the anointed victims, and cannot be hit too hard, no matter what the provocation. In Lebanon, Hizbollah has the support of most of the Moslem world, so peacekeepers cannot touch.

Alas, this diplomatic approach to peacekeeping can go horribly wrong. That's what's developing in Lebanon. The UN peacekeepers were supposed to stop Hizbollah from replenishing their supplies of rockets, and other weapons. The peacekeepers did not do that, as Hizbollah could not be touched. But if Hizbollah goes after Israel again, all those peacekeepers are going to be caught in the middle. Hizbollah will try to use the peacekeepers for human shields, as they did last Summer. But now there are a lot more peacekeepers in the area, and some of them are French, so things could get very interesting. The same can be said for all UN peacekeeping this year.


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