Fool Me Once: Should We Trust UNIFIL to Help in Lebanon?

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Have you ever hired a plumber or electrician who fouled things up even more? If you have, you probably didn’t include him in the bidding for your next job, did you?

Well, right now the United Nations seems to be “bidding” to solve the war between Israel and Hezbollah. But why should we even consider sending the U.N. into the Middle East to “solve” the conflict between Israel, Hezbollah, and the Iranian/Syrian sponsors of this terror group when they’ve already fouled things up?

We’ve been paying a U.N. organization called the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) about $100 million a year to rebuild Lebanon and help it democratize. One of the mandates for Lebanon’s democratic restructuring was U.N. Resolution 1559, which calls for the full disarmament of Hezbollah. Current events show how miserably UNIFIL failed in helping secure that mandate. In fact, while UNIFIL was getting $100 million a year for its operations in Lebanon, Hezbollah was apparently getting $100 million a year from Iran for its operations in Lebanon. Now there’s parity for you!

But does UNIFIL’s failure go beyond ineptitude? Have UNIFIL representatives displayed any favoritism toward Hezbollah? UNIFIL has been in Lebanon for more than two decades, and it’s difficult (though not impossible) to live in that region that long without taking sides. Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ind, said on FOX News last weekend that U.N. representatives have a history of turning a blind eye toward terrorist influence in the Middle East, such as in U.N. administered Palestinian refugee camps. Were they doing the same with Hezbollah in Lebanon?

At the very least it does appear that Hezbollah realized they could use UNIFIL outposts as shields for their activity, at least until one such outpost was hit by Israeli shells, killing four U.N. peace keepers on July 25th. One of those killed had e-mailed Canadian Maj. Gen. Lewis Mackenzie shortly before the Israeli strike, saying that Hezbollah was using the U.N. post for cover. This by no means excuses the deadly bombing of the facility by the Israelis. But it does show how terrorists often use the U.N. to their advantage.

“[T]hat's a favorite trick by people who don't have representation in the U.N.,” Gen. Mackenzie said. “They use the U.N. as shields knowing that they can't be punished for it." (The Herald Sun, 28 July 2006).

Regardless of intent, the facts are that UNIFIL has failed in its mission and U.N. resolutions are useless if they aren’t enforced. Nevertheless, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan and his U.N. minions still think they can solve the conflict.

“The basic point,” says Mr. Annan’s point man Mark Malloch Brown, is that “saving or losing a life is a very simple business.”

Well, the Middle East is a real tough diplomatic nut to crack, even under the best of circumstances. Nothing there is “simple,” least of all how best to save lives.

One thing that is simple, though, is that when you pay someone a lot of money to do a job and they don’t do it, you don’t re-hire that person. We hired UNIFIL to bring peace and democracy to a region that’s known little of either for centuries. It’s a very tough job, admittedly. But there was a rough road map toward that goal, the corner stone of which was the U.N. mandate to disarm Hezbollah.

UNIFIL failed miserably in helping to secure that mandate. So why should we hire them again?

$100 million a year ain’t chump change. Unless you’re the chump paying out that change for a job that wasn’t well done in the first place.

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David Asman is the host of "Forbes on FOX" which airs on the FOX News Channel, Saturdays at 11 a.m. ET.