A foolish consistency being the hobgoblin of feeble minds, I suppose
I for one, applaud PM Harper for asking why the hell UNIFIL and UNTSO weren't shut down when open hostilities began in southern Lebanon recently. It's not like they had any chance of fulfilling their mandates.
Of course - and the rest of the Blogging Tories won't be happy with me for saying it - Harper needs to answer the same damned question. If the UN was wrong to keep UNTSO observer troops in Lebanon, wasn't his government wrong to keep Canadian participation in that mission as well?
It's a lot easier to pull seven Canadians out of a UN mission than it is to shut down the whole mission from a byzantine UN headquarters. I don't have a problem with him second-guessing the UN's decision, as long as he's willing to have his own decision on the matter second-guessed.
Sauce for the goose, and all that.
Update: Bruce R from Flit e-mailed to tell me I was barking up the wrong tree about the UNTSO - here's the relevant part of what he said:
The four officers killed were trained military observers, the UN's independent eyes and ears on the ground: there were no UNIFIL forces anywhere near the OP when it was shelled, they just went in to recover the bodies. UNTSO's job is to get as close to the fight as they safely can and report back... they've been doing this since 1948, through four hot wars, and lots of border incidents. They're not going to leave now when their reports to New York are the most useful. Harper was wrong... I see he hasn't reiterated.
Whether UNIFIL is doing anything useful by this point is an open question, but the alternative to an UNTSO is a UN military organization entirely dependent on Israeli/Lebanese party lines, or god forbid, the press, for their military intelligence. Even if UNIFIL had been pulled out, the UNTSOs would have stayed on, almost certainly, doing exactly what they were doing.
As UNTSO, they would have had no authority to tell Hezbollah to get away from their hill... they're basically four guys in a bunker. If Hezbollah or the IDF was to drive up, their job was to smile and wave... then report back to N.Y. exactly what they were armed with. It's not peacekeeping... indeed, UNMOs existed before peacekeeping.
Here's some of my response:
I guess it comes down to a question of utility: is UN military intelligence valuable enough to justify the way the UNMO's and their position were being abused - Hezbollah setting up all around them in order to deter IDF fire, and eventually four dying, apparently from a PGM? Besides, if the UN is that concerned about military intelligence in conflict areas, why is UNTSO's mandate only on Israel's borders? Surely there are truces other places to supervise. I have great reservations about the UN's work in this area of the world, so I'll have to think on your point about whether they should have been left in place or taken out instead a bit more.
The main thrust of my post was that if Harper's going to point fingers at the UN, he also needs to be prepared to have them pointed his way as well, since he has as much control over where Cdn soldiers go as the UN does.
It's always good to have different points of view provided to open up one's eyes to a different possibility. And with his e-mail, Bruce did just that for me. I'm not sure yet if I agree with his perspective, but he's got me considering it.
Bruce's useful primer on the subject of UN military missions in the area can be found here.