So I was thinking on the whole issue of who gets left without a chair if and when Kofi guilts us out enough so that we twist Israeli arms to stops the music – who, in other words, gets to play “peacekeeper,” separating whatever’s left of “the heroic Lebanese resistance” from the IDF. The idea itself is one of those typically optimistic, mostly unrealistic UN diplomacy simplifications: We’ll just stop the shooting now, and then
a force of Blue Helmets another force of Blue Helmets will come at some point to be named later. And then that will happen. And then…
And then they’ll hunker down with the homies from Hezballah until the Lebanese Army is ready to take over security responsibilities! Because it’s obvious that all the UN really needs to do is to ask Hezballah to disarm. Just, you know: Ask them. Nicely. Like the UN did in 2004. And they’ll say, “Oh. You were serious about that? Here. But be careful with that, the safety’s off.”
But who will do the do?
The US? Don’t think so. We’re busy just now, and in any case people suspect that we’ll “play favorites” between any allied local democracies and their counterposing terrorist militias – I know, I know: But that’s the way some people think – and anyways the shine has lately gone off separating Islamist terrorists from their potential victims. Not that we won’t do it anymore, just that it’s not new for us.
The Brits? Over-subscribed what between keeping the lid on southern Iraq and putting postage paid to a “resurgent Taliban.” Who mostly seem to be resurging themselves right into the grave, but it isn’t like those terrorists are going to shoot themselves, now, is it?
Germany? France? I don’t see it happening from them either. Germany doesn’t have a national interest card to play, and in any case shaking off 60 years of post-war pacifism by potentially pointing muzzles at the survivors of the Holocaust and their descendents might be, what? Too much, too soon?
“Cheese-eating-surrender-monkey” slurs aside, France actually has a very capable and professional army, and they’re closely linked to parts of Lebanon culturally. Unfortunately, those links are to the wrong parts of Lebanon’s cultural milieu and have imperialist antecedents. The Lebanese Christians with whom the French enjoy toasting remembrances of glories past are politically antithetical to the southern Shi’a, and it is amongst the latter any peacekeeping force would have to live, kill and probably also die a fair bit.
Which does tend to put one off one’s petit dejeuner: Beirut’s ancien reputation as a “Paris of the Middle East” not withstanding, there are far better cafe’s in France these days. Plus, the French army has made a bit of noise in Africa of late and would probably welcome the chance to jump back on the sidelines. The better to snipe at whatever it is the US does or doesn’t do.
Which, you know: Win-win.
The rest of Europe that has the will probably doesn’t have the capacity unless you cross the streams between the UN and NATO, but that brings the US back into the play, which nobody really wants. Including NATO.
Russia is still rooting around in Chechnya, so they’re busy and anyway it’s doubtful that Israel, who spent the last 60 or so years of her existence doing battle with Soviet-sponsored client states in the region will intuitively trust the folks who came up with the word “pogrom.”
In the interests of brevity I believe we can safely skip past the African Union for now, and pretty much close our eyes across the rest of the Middle East and Asia. India has a potent military, but they’ve got their own problems with Islamist terror on their borders – who doesn’t? – while Central and South America probably can’t afford it: This will be a multi-year responsibility. Ditto for Canada, who’s supposed to be good at this sort of thing, but who is already busy here and there and has quite a military hole to dig out of, even if they could muster the political will. The Diggers are great fighters, and good on ya’ mates, but I believe the world has asked them for quite enough for a bit, not to mention the fact that the endemic paucity of Swan’s lager, VB, Emu or XXXX in the prospective DMZ makes Aussies a poor choice for long-time peacekeeping. The boys get grumpy after a bit. You wouldn’t like them when they’re grumpy.
So who has a large enough force, just sort of sitting around, not doing anything? Well…
The Peoples’ Republic of China does. They’ve been spending a lot of money modernizing recently, haven’t really had the chance to practice any of their military doctrine since getting thumped by the PAVN back in 1979 – I don’t count crushing unarmed protesters under tank treads. Furthermore, they’re looking to be taken seriously as players on the world stage, a station worthy of their huge population and growing economic status. Even better, as charter members of the non-aligned movement, they haven’t ever been on anyone’s side but their own and so no one could accuse them of playing favorites. Sure, they’ve taken some heat for repressing their Islamic Uighur minority, but I doubt that many in the Hezbollah rank and file can pronounce Uighur, far less find their “Autonomous Region” on a map, and in any case, a bit of alien culture even-handedness combined with a keep-all-sides-guessing reputation for gloves-off brutality might be just the ticket.
If it all works out for the best, China emerges with a burnished reputation as a serious and mature player on the world stage, and the rest of us will owe her one. Things go quickly south, and who knows, maybe those cross-straits saber-rattlers get a wake up call. Me, I’d like to get a look at their running, shooting and passing game. For reasons of my own.
Whoever it ends up being, if it was me, and I was them, I’d stall for time. Every day goes by means fewer potential shooters, sidling up alongside you, cheek-by-unshaven jowl.
Diplomacy takes time.