Thursday, July 27, 2006

A foolish consistency being the hobgoblin of feeble minds, I suppose

Babble on.

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.

Babble off.

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.


At 5:45 p.m., Blogger Wonder Woman said...

Not all the Blogging Tories will be mad at you -- you're right. So much time spent on evacuating civilians, it seems very little consideration of our UN members.
Stephen Harper is doing a great job, but this is a question he should answer.

At 6:04 p.m., Blogger Chris Taylor said...

At the very least the 1948-vintage UNTSO shark was jumped back in 1967 after the Six Day War. Then again in 1973.

How many times does a truce have to be violated before we conclude that there is no long-term truce to be supervised and observed?

At 7:06 p.m., Blogger The Brigadier, Red Ensign Brigade said...

1967? No, 1956 instead. It was supposed to reduce the chances of another war and was proven to be ineffective in the second Arab-Israeli war.

At 8:05 p.m., Blogger Kateland, aka TZH said...

I didn't realize that Harper could pull out Cdn UNIFIL troops without notice but I do agree with you. Why hasn't he, and if Canada can, when are we going to? Why should/would we count on Kofi doing the right thing?

At 8:19 p.m., Blogger GenX at 40 said...

If is interesting to note that Australia made the political call to remove the observers today:

If it is so mystifying that the UN did not deal with this before the deaths, it can only be equally mystifying that Canada did not.

At 11:59 p.m., Blogger BBS said...

The observers should have been pulled long ago, especially if the terrorists were operating in the area and using them as a shield. At this point there is nothing left to observe, the cease fire has ended and the UN should be removing un-armed observers from harms way.

At 9:33 a.m., Blogger Chris Taylor said...

I would be willing to bet large sums of money that UN-gathered military intelligence makes it way back to certain member states and non-state actors who are funding or supporting combatant forces on the ground.

At 9:40 a.m., Blogger GenX at 40 said...

So you are saying that Harper should continue his no call on removing Canadian UN observers because secretly he supports Iran?

At 10:19 a.m., Blogger Chris Taylor said...

Try and find the spot where I said that. Jesus.

At 11:03 a.m., Blogger GenX at 40 said... didn't. But as you didn't provide any basis for what you did allege I got all woozy there.


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