Thursday, June 23, 2005

Who Wants to Rely on the UN for International Security?

There is that old joke, "How many Frenchman does it take to defend Paris?" Answer: "No one knows they have never tried." Just insert the UN and Isreal before the Six Day war in that joke and the meaning doesn't really change that much. At least you might think so after reading this fasciniting piece over at the
Belmont Club. They have a brief but thorough recap of the Six-Day War. Not only is the history of the build up to war interesting but the tale of UN failures should give anyone pause before trusting that organization with any serious security missions:

It is important to remember that the world in 1965 was practically another planet. The United Nations was a serious player in international relations. UN flagged forces, albeit mostly American, had turned back an invasion of South Korea in 1950. And the UNEF had actually helped keep the Arabs and Israelis from engaging in open war for10 years. The United States was not nearly so dominant in 1965 as it is in 2005. The Soviet Union was still regarded as a superpower, providing the weaponry and ideology that fueled Arab nationalism. America was tied down in Vietnam with little in reserve to spare for a major commitment to the Middle East and, in the eyes of many, already in irreversible decline.

One other striking difference of that era was the confidence, perhaps even overconfidence of Arab nations in the power of their national armies. Armed with the Soviet made weaponry, numerically superior to the Israelis, the Arab street of the day had little doubt that they would drive the Jews into the sea once hostilities began. One Egyptian commander told a UN officer "I will see you for lunch at the best restaurant in Tel Aviv in a few days."

In January 1964 the Arab League officially declared its desire to achieve "the final liquidation of Israel." The problem was UNEF. For the Arab armies to triumphantly fulfill their historical mission it was necessary to get the United Nations, then a body taken seriously, out of the line of fire. (Thirty years later, neither the Serbs nor the Muslim Kosovars would show the slightest respect for the United Nations. Peacekeepers would be trussed to lamposts. UN armories would be looted.) Gamal Abdel Nasser simply decided to tell the UN to clear out.