Who's Responsible for Keeping the Peace?

Anna in Timor-Leste

This is Anna, one of many friends I made in East Timor earlier this year. She attended school. She spoke three languages. She and her friends walked around their neighborhood in Dili without worrying about violence or lawlessness.

Today, Anna is probably going hungry in a refugee camp, wanting nothing more than to be safe at home with her family. Finding food amid the chaos has become so difficult that some refugees have resorted to eating grass.

Who is responsible for restoring order? Who should step in to ensure Anna and her friends get to return home, return to school, return to being the carefree kids they should be?

Remember, Timor-Leste (the tiny country's official name) is not only the newest independent nation in the world, it's also one of the poorest. To expect it to fend for itself would be entirely unrealistic.

In yesterday's Outlook section, a piece offers a good background on the trouble in Timor, but the only real criticism it seems to make is of the Australian troops, whom the author argues left too soon after independence. Of course, the same criticism can be made of the United Nations.

In some cases, UN peacekeepers have such a limited mandate one wonders why they're there at all -- they are permitted to witness and report the violence but powerless to intervene. It's entirely possible that a stronger mandate could have stopped -- or at least lessened -- the genocide in Rwanda.

Must peacekeepers have the power to use violent means to stop violence, even if the peacekeepers themselves are not being attacked? In situations like the current one in Timor, should the United Nations come to the rescue? [Update 6/10/6: Timor's lessons for U.N. peacekeeping.]

Or is it up to the neighbors? What about in conflicts where the neighbors are ill-equipped -- materially and politically -- to do any real good? (I'm looking at you, Darfur.)

Australia, in particular, faces an expectation that it will take care of unrest in its part of the world. But that's a mighty restless region. In addition to its operation in Timor, Australia has a military contingent in Solomon Islands, and the government is keeping a close eye on turmoil in Papua New Guinea and Fiji.

Australia is stretched so thin also because of its deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq. If we expect the Aussies to police the whole South Pacific, we can't expect them to take part in missions anywhere else -- their neighbors alone will keep them busy enough.

Indeed, Timor might actually be lucky it blew its top when it did -- a piece in the Sydney Morning Herald points out that Australia's limited resources mean that if Papua explodes, withdrawing from the Middle East would be a distinct possibility. If they don't, and no one else steps in, Papua could be out of luck.

Relying on regional bodies brings up many of the same problems as relying on neighbors individually. Are they equipped to handle the problem? If they are, then yes, that might be good solution. Unfortunately, that assumes the neighbors don't have some sort of vested interest in encouraging instability or supporting one side over the other.

The trouble with regional coalitions is that often they have substantial political or financial interests in the afflicted country's fate. If it's in the neighbors' interest to encourage stability and freedom and peace, great. But what about when it's not?

(A related question is: how should the world choose which independence causes to support and which to ignore?)

By Emily Messner |  June 5, 2006; 12:55 PM ET  | Category:  International
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I think a follow-on question should be is ANYONE capable of keeping the peace in such a situation?

Could we keep the peace in Somolia?

If we let it go until it stabilizes under the regime of an Islamic Radical, then what?

I think by CLAIMING that Iraq is about freedom and security we have set an unrealistic expectation that we actually care about the human condition in countries that have no resources to offer. We ignored Afghanistan to our peril, but then WHO would have coughed up money and soldier's lives to initiate change?

The NEO-TARD idea of regime change is noble, but foolish in context of the real world. Why? Because regime change REQUIRES nation-building afterwards, and that is a reocurring nightmare for the NEO-TARDS. If ONLY we could just whack and leave.

I think that the new North/South, Rich/Poor, Islam/Other divide is going to cause a great deal of human suffering for which we will only be able to sit back and watch and hopefully come in and clean up and help what is left when they are finished killing each other.

We as a nation and as a world are simply not ready to act globally in a way that could SOLVE the problem, not just postpone the inevitable.

Perhaps if EVERY developed country created a "Foreign Legion" in which every member KNEW that they were going to get these types of assignments...read counter-insurgencies...then MAYBE we could do something about it.

The UN is not this force. The countries that participate, for the most part, are incapable of securing anything but their own bases...and the UN paycheck. That's not the UN's fault, it's the fact that they will take whatever troops they can get.

What we need is well-trained and well-funded forces willing to risk their lives for the general peace, not some resource or fear of attack on our soil. Even then, how do we engage in direct action without killing innocents in the process? Eventually, we will outstay our welcome.

Taking no actions is an action and sometimes is the only action one can take. We may WANT to be the keeper of the peace and purveyor of freedom, but we are constrained by reality and it would be better for us to admit that, then plunge foolishly into something we cannot get out of.

Do we go in? Well, I think that takes a whole lot of analysis and then planning and that requires intellect, not emotion.

Posted by: AfghanVet | June 5, 2006 04:16 PM

Washington Post
June 5, 2006
And Now For Some Good News
By Peter Wehner

[Emily interjects:
Dear Truth Bringer,
I hereby apply the same rules to you as to infamous Debater Che -- no cutting and pasting whole articles. (It's hard to police, but I try.) So I've chopped the pasted text and inserted a link below.


Posted by: Truth Bringer | June 5, 2006 05:12 PM

Much appreciated Emily.

Posted by: Will | June 5, 2006 05:44 PM

As I understand this, it is a power struggle between the two main militias that were set up in East Timor to fight with the Aussies in stopping the Islamist Genocide of Christians.

The Jihad was stopped, but apparantly the questions about who would be in government were not well thought out.

Well, better that than Muslims chasing women and children through the jungle with their throat-slitting knives. I read in one interview that several East Timorans want Australia to call the shots for a while, saying that independence may have come too soon, and before rebuilding had stabilized society.
Fortunately for East Timor, it is in Australia's and the regional interest to stop Jihad. Because Australia is involved, America will have the back of one of our best allies.
Which leads to Emily's questions about future interventions. I would say they are even less likely after Rwanda, because of Iraq and the full press against any interventions and the salivating eagerness of the media, NGOs, and lynchers like Afghan Vet waiting to pounce on any transgressions or "rights infringements" on our side as criminal affairs while giving a pass to the head-choppers.

The UN holds that sovereign nations may not be set on for any reason except if they "attack another nation", or by full Security Council Vote - which of course almost never happens. The Left loves this and has made "illegal war" even more compelling to nations as an excuse as to why they should never intervene in a place like Darfur and spend any money or lives in a place like that.

Americans and others inclined to help have grown weary of taking the burden on while others get a free ride at no cost, and worse, carp at everything the intervenors do.

Enemy insurgents have done a masterful job at working with NGOs and legal groups to try and criminalize several hundred American service personnel in Afghanistan and Iraq for any error. Their lawyers and supporters like Afghan Vet wish to make it too politically costly for any nation to want to intervene anywhere. The same tactic has been used by NGOs, enemy personnel, and lawyers against Canadians, Brits, Dutch and others engaged in humanitarian missions like Somalia.

The military now recognizes how the media is used against them in an insurgency and how politicians will pull the rug out - so they are incredibly wary of any more potential insurgencies outside defending America's vital interests. And conscious of the damage to the programs the military needs to modernize as long as funds are devoted to being stuck in a massively expensive insurgency. And finally, they wish to protect their troops from the Hate-America crowd that thinks insurgencies offer an ideal way to attack and criminalize the military through the legal system so as to inflict great harm on the US military by making recruiting harder.
So, to them, better millions of foreigners die than the American military be crippled trying to stop it.

All those actions by the Left against America, most recently in Iraq...I'm afraid...

will doom Darfur to more mass death.

And Chad. And Columbia. And Iraq.....Loss of human life that would have been preventable but for the Left's politics and use of the media and legal system to attack us on behalf of the enemy.

A three-year constant assault on politicians and our military over Iraq get out and to never get into another intervention has worked. The public agrees. No way will the US get into a situation where it stands between warring Muslim factions - and lawyers and people like Afghan Vet stand ready to burn the troops for any error.

Tough luck, Darfur!

Of course if we don't want to play global 9/11 anymore, there are 180 other nations. Some of which could form a group that would intervene. But that would be illegal unless the absolute moral authority of the UN says they could. Which won't happen. How convenient for the Euroweenies! And the 3rd worlders and China, Brazil, India, and Russia - which never chip in.

Posted by: Chris Ford | June 5, 2006 08:01 PM

What is "Keeping the Peace?"

One persons "Peace" can be seen by another person as "Opression"

Yes, we seem to have stopped Wars on the World Wide Scale as well as intervene when conflicts threaten multiple countries.

However, I doubt we will ever be able to stop regional conflicts. When fighting occurs it is because talking has failed to resolve deeply held beliefs. When and until all of mankind says violence cannot be tolerated will we see the end to regional conficts. Personally I am not holding my breath.

Emily, how are you going to stop the fighting in Timor. Bringing in a bigger fist rarely works unless you are truely allowing for repression and the elimination of the waring parties.

The best one can do is try and provide sancutaries and support while the fighting parties eventually ware themselves out.

For solutions to work, they must be reality based. The "law of unintended consequences" will always impact any action takes.

Posted by: Hal | June 6, 2006 09:34 AM

Chris, why must you make everything so simplistic? Is this some sort of commentary on your own intellect? I hope not.

Again, it's only YOU who looks at things so simply, so black and white. Only YOU could conflate an outrage about the killing of innocent civilians into "...ready to burn troops for any error."

I suppose we could take the flip-side of that and give them all a pass no matter what their behavior. What's a little raping and pillaging during war anyway?

Simple is as simple does.

Posted by: AfghanVet | June 6, 2006 09:39 AM

There were not jihadists in East Timor. Indonesia invaded and occupied the country in 1975, with U.S. backing, and brutalized it killing more than 100,000 people. Yes Indonesia is majority Muslim, but a number of the generals who organized and carried out the occupation were christian, like most East Timorese, and the Indonesian miltiary had no trouble beeing equally brutal with Muslim Aceh or dissenting students of all religious persuasions.

That invasion and its brutality are factors in the current crisis, as are a deep poverty; poor political leadership; the UN leaving too soon; a poor functioning court system and the lack of accountability for for the many crimes which occurred under Indonesian rule.

The East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN)has been following this for years. See www.etan.org for their takes on the current crisis.

Posted by: john | June 6, 2006 11:57 AM

John the Muslim Apologist sez:

"There were not jihadists in East Timor."

BS, John, the same jihad m,ilitias were used that slaughered the Chinese infidels in 1965.

"Indonesia invaded and occupied the country in 1975, with U.S. backing"

No US backing existed for colonization and genocide, though you may wish to keep up your feeble attempts to blame every event along Islam's long bloody borders on the USA.

"Yes Indonesia is majority Muslim, but a number of the generals who organized and carried out the occupation were christian"

BS, John. It was a Muslim show.
Afghan Vet - There is nothing simplistic about it. Just harsh facts. After years of chanting any intervention without the full blessing of the UN is "an illegal war", and considerable effort by people like you to criminalize any misstep our soldiers make...

Darfur is a goner.

There is no will left in the US to "rescue" packs of Muslims at each other's throats in some remote land. Not when all we are likely to get from it is American deaths and maimings from ungrateful Muslim factions, hundreds of billions of dollars pissed away that could have been spend on urgent American needs or repaying past IOUs to China our children will pay off for decades. The "No War Ever" part of the international community, the media, and the domestic Left through it's success bashing America and seeking to jail Marine volunteers has made military rescue interventions like Darfur impossible for decades.

That is the true fruit of Iraq.

Posted by: Chris Ford | June 6, 2006 02:01 PM

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