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Jewish World Review June 5, 2000/ 2 Sivan, 5760

Charles Krauthammer

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Let Peacekeeping
Rest in Peace -- PEACEKEEPING: the idea, often taken seriously, that the presence of soldiers wearing blue hats and under orders not to shoot will bring peace to wars of unusual ferocity; a specialty of the United Nations; a favorite of the United States. b. 1957, Sinai Peninsula; d. 2000, Sierra Leone.

Peacekeeping was invented in the 1950s by Lester Pearson, then Canada's foreign minister. It was a nice, theoretically interesting idea at the time: that the United Nations, acting on behalf of the world community, could, by interposing itself between belligerents, create cordons of peace for the separation and, ultimately, the pacification of the various warring parties.

The idea's first test came in the Sinai Peninsula. It failed.

In 1957, Israel withdrew from the Sinai in return for promises that the Sinai would be demilitarized and its neighboring straits kept open to Israeli shipping. The United Nations put in the United Nations Emergency Force to guarantee those promises and keep the peace.

Ten years later, in May 1967, President Gamal Nasser of Egypt decided it was time to throw the Jews into the sea. On a gambit, he ordered the U.N. troops out of the Sinai. The U.N. secretary general complied immediately. (What was this lightly armed foreign presence to do? Resist?) Within hours, the buffer was gone. Within days, Egypt and Israel were at war.

Thirty-three years after this first demonstration of the flimsiness and almost fictional quality of "peacekeeping," the United Nations was still at it, this time in Sierra Leone. Mercifully, however, Sierra Leone may finally mark the end of the idea, an idea whose nobility is matched by its emptiness.

When hundreds of helpless U.N. peacekeepers were captured and taken hostage by Sierra Leone's ragtag rebels, people finally began to wonder: Under what idiot theory were these underarmed, undertrained troops sent there in the first place? Who imagined that these pretend soldiers from such places as Kenya (where the government keeps the best troops home to protect the kleptocrats from the masses) would actually be able to stop a civil war in which the rebels specialize in cutting off the limbs of civilians?

In the name of peacekeeping, the United States had brokered a formal cease-fire that freed the rebel commander and gave him control of the country's mines--the perfect fuel for a warlord in a place where diamonds are practically the only source of wealth. He was supposed to be restrained by his signature on a piece of paper and a Potemkin U.N. police force. He proceeded to go on a rampage and utterly humiliate the blue-helmeted peacekeepers. Surprise!

We will continue to be surprised until we face the fact that there are three kinds of armed intervention--peacekeeping, policing and occupation--and peacekeeping is the worst.

Policing is slightly better because the troops, generally not U.N. but real contingents of real national armies, are allowed to arrest and shoot bad guys. This is certainly an improvement--in Sierra Leone, the peacekeepers were under ridiculous orders to shoot only in self-defense. But even policing is not serious enough when the warlords are determined. We learned that to our chagrin in Somalia, when we went after the notorious Mohammed Farah Aideed, and lost 18 American soldiers in the attempt.

The only serious way to intervene is to occupy. Take over a country, reorder the society, establish new institutions and create the basis for leaving one day. We did that in Germany and Japan after World War II and it worked. But it required total commitment, a huge investment and much patience.

Where we are not prepared for such a commitment, we should not be venturing in with half-measures, like the kind of middle-of-the-road policing we are engaged in now in the Balkans.

In Kosovo, we are certainly not paper tigers. But we are not remaking Kosovo, simply because Kosovo is of too little importance to us to warrant the resources and risks that would necessitate. But that means that as soon as we leave, things blow up again. And that means that we are not leaving. We are stuck.

Congressional critics are nonetheless wrong to demand an exit day from Kosovo. That is an open invitation to bad guys to gird their loins and gather their weapons for the resumption of fighting on the day we leave--and for harassing us as the deadline approaches. (See, for example, Hezbollah's harassment of the Israelis as they were leaving Lebanon on a fixed timetable.)

Nevertheless, the open-ended policing of the Balkans and the farcical show of peacekeeping in Sierra Leone should be a lesson for the future: If you want to intervene, do it seriously. Occupy, or stay home.

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