SENDING IN THE PEACEKEEPERS IS A FOOL'S GAME
By Dr. Michael Rubin
But, with its long and troubled history in the region, the idea of sending a peacekeeping force should be dead on arrival.
In 1956, the United Nations deployed peacekeepers to separate the Israeli and Egyptian armies. At first, the mission was successful. But in May, 1967, Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser sent 80,000 troops and 550 tanks to the Israeli border and demanded peacekeepers withdraw. They did. Less than three weeks later, the Six-Day War erupted. Peacekeepers unwilling to fight an aggressor and win cannot keep peace.
The UN tried again after the Yom Kippur War. In 1974, it sent a Disengagement Observer Force to separate the Israeli and Syrian armies. But, while the Golan Heights remained quiet, their mission was no success. Both Damascus and Jerusalem simply shifted the battleground to Lebanon.
After the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon, the United States, France, and Italy sent peacekeepers to Beirut to separate both Israeli and Syrian forces and Lebanon's many militias. All went well initially. But, on April 18, 1983, terrorists attacked the U.S. Embassy in Beirut and, on October 23, 1983, a Hezbollah suicide truck bomber blew up the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut, killing 241 servicemen. President Ronald Reagan promised to stand firm. "To remove them now," he said of the peacekeepers, "would undermine American credibility throughout the world." True, but he withdrew them anyway.
The Marines' departure from Beirut was a major defeat for peacekeeping. Not only would the Lebanese civil war continue for another six years, but terrorists also came to believe that the Western commitment to peacekeeping was ephemeral. In a 1998 interview, Osama Bin Laden called American soldiers "paper tigers," citing their withdrawal from Beirut as proof. That Annan yanked his staff from Iraq after the August, 2003, bombing of the UN headquarters in Baghdad underscored the belief that Turtle Bay shared the same lack of resolve.
It is not only timidity that undercuts the UN's ability to keep peace, but also its susceptibility to corruption. The July 12, 2006, kidnapping that sparked the latest violence was not Hezbollah's first. On Oct. 7, 2000, more than four months after Israel withdrew from Lebanon, Hezbollah guerrillas using UN vehicles snatched three Israeli soldiers. After eight months of denying they witnessed the operation, UN peacekeepers in Lebanon acknowledged having a videotape, but balked at sharing it with Israel. To do so, they argued, might "undermine UN neutrality." Hezbollah executed the prisoners. And Israel learned an important lesson about trusting peacekeepers.
There is one exception, though, to the peacekeeping curse. The Multinational Force and Observers have, for 25 years, kept peace in the Sinai. Their secret? They came not to end a war, but only after a peace treaty was agreed to. But, as long as Hezbollah, Syria, and Iran seek to wipe Israel off the map, peacekeeping will fail.
The United Nations & Its Agencies
The Israeli-Arab Conflict
Middle East -- Arabs, Arab States,
& Their Middle Eastern Neighbors
The Middle East -- Lebanon as a Geopolitical Problem
The Middle East & the Problem of Syria
The Middle East & the Problem of Iran
Islamism & Jihadism -- Radical Islam & Islamic Terrorism
Page Three Page Two Page One
War & Peace in the Real World
Page Two Page One
Islamist Terrorist Attacks on the U.S.A.
Osama bin Laden & the Islamist Declaration of War
Against the U.S.A. & Western Civilization
Islamist International Terrorism &
U.S. Intelligence Agencies
U.S. National Security Strategy
Dr. Michael Rubin, a Ph.D. in History (Yale University) and a specialist in Middle Eastern politics, Islamic culture and Islamist
ideology, is Editor of the Middle East Quarterly and a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute for Public
Policy Research. Dr Rubin is author of Into the Shadows: Radical Vigilantes in Khatami's Iran (Washington Institute
for Near East Policy, 2001) and is co-author, with Dr. Patrick Clawson, of Eternal Iran: Continuity and Chaos (Palgrave
Macmillan, 2005). Dr. Rubin served as political advisor to the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad (2003-2004); staff
advisor on Iran and Iraq in the Office of the U.S. Secretary of Defense (2002-2004); visiting lecturer in the Departments of
History and International Relations at Hebrew University of Jerusalem (2001-2002); visiting lecturer at the Universities of
Sulaymani, Salahuddin, and Duhok in Iraqi Kurdistan (2000-2001); Soref Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East
Policy (1999-2000); and visiting lecturer in the Department of History at Yale University (1999-2000). He has been a fellow at
the Council of Foreign Relations, the Leonard Davis Institute at Hebrew University, and the Carnegie Council on Ethics and
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