As Americans, we’re not really thrilled with the United Nations. From what I understand, it goes both ways, but America is a great place for diplomats, so they remain headquartered here. Where else can you violate all the laws of your country, and then leave your car parked in the middle of a bridge, and just wave your credentials when the police show up? In England, if you’re a foreigner, you can’t vote in national elections, but local elections, that affect you, you can vote in. With diplomatic immunity in America, nothing affects you.
As an idea, the United Nations is wonderful. Peace is almost always preferable to war. Unfortunately, for a situation to be bad enough to require UN “peacekeepers”, diplomatic efforts have failed, and it’s time for war. There’s a reason we don’t issue soldiers badges and nightsticks, soldiers are not intended to “keep the peace”, they are tasked to end the war.
Despite our diplomatic failures, our military has routinely won the conflicts they have been involved in. We won in Vietnam militarily, then the politicians threw it away. We nailed the Soviets in Afghanistan, then we lost the peace because the politicians walked away. Today, our biggest enemies use different tactics, and the politicians declare war on the populace. My view is biased, I believe that the military is the big stick you pull out when other efforts have failed, and in using the big stick, you leave it alone to do its job. Then you send in the diplomats, with the lawyers and documents.
We are often called “The world’s policeman” in a derogatory way. We are not. That is the job of the UN. We are the world’s enforcers.
The UN has a history of failures, all or at least many of which could have been avoided. You don’t send “Peacekeepers” into a war zone anymore than you bring skittles to a gunfight. Unfortunately, when the UN applies the wrong tools, people die. Lots of people die. And being diplomats, deaths are less important than responsibility, so the paper pushers figure to ways to blame the people whose hands they had tied.
Take for instance the Bosnian conflict. A UN “peacekeeping” force was deployed to key villages, including Srebrenica, which in 1993 the UN Security Council had formally designated a “safe area”, the French UN commander telling the people of the village that he would never abandon them. Then he did. The enclave of three hundred fifty square miles was assigned to a force of four hundred Dutch troops, surrounded by two thousand Serbian troops, arranged as thee brigades with tanks, artillery and mortars. The fifty thousand Bosnians inside were under siege, with roughly one peacekeeper per square mile to protect them.
If you’ve ever known of a case of domestic violence, you know the value of a “protection order”. This situation is analogous, two groups that wanted to kill each other for centuries divided by a sign reading “UN Safe Area”. Thousands of civilians were killed, tens of thousands evacuated (exiled), and the UN blamed the Dutch. After the dust settled, it seems everyone was blamed except the Serbians.
Let’s talk about Rwanda. In January of 1994, the Canadian commander of UN forces in Rwanda became aware of multiple weapons caches and troops, and made UN headquarters aware that he was going to seize the arms. He was told that seizing arms was beyond the scope of his mission, and to notify President Habyarimana of possible Arusha Accords violations. The Rwandan Patriotic Force (RPF- Tutsis) began to systematically take control of the country.
On 6 April, the presidents plane was shot down, and on 7 April, fifteen peacekeepers arrived at the Prime Minister’s residence to find it already under attack. The Prime Minister attempted to escape, but was captured and killed. After being told there was no back up, the peacekeepers surrendered. The five Ghanaian troops were released, and the ten Belgian troops were tortured, castrated and dismembered with machetes.
Over the next one hundred days as many as one hundred thousand people died. European forces evacuated their civilians, but refused to assist the UN forces.
The UN does not fight wars, nor should it. They are guided by a “Prime directive” that prevents getting involved in local politics. So you might ask, “What is the point of peacekeepers?”. I have dark, ugly suspicions, having to do with using human lives as pawns in diplomatic games, that a certain number of people have to die before retaliation is appropriate. But I’ve spent a number of years holding my nose around diplomats, I’ve lost friends to wars that didn’t need to happen, so I’m biased.
The seed for this article came from a “Dutch Uncle”, literally not figuratively. Lieve’s uncle lives in Holland and is a human rights activist. He spoke with me a week after I toured Ypres, and after investigating Srebrenica, and a number of other UN failures, I am able to understand again the necessity of war, the need to attempt to wipe evil from the face of the Earth.
Evil cannot be eliminated, or negotiated with. It can be controlled, and that control is force. As humans, our tight rope is to control evil without becoming evil ourselves.