Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Fiji's UN Deployment to Golan Heights: Are We Asking the Right Questions?

by Sai Lealea
As 182 Fiji soldiers prepare to leave for UN deployment in the Golan Heights, questions will linger as to why now when other nations, Croatia, Austria and Japan, are pulling out. This has nothing to do with the bravery of the men and women who make up the contingent. Instead it has everything to do with the timing of the deployment, the peacekeeping environment they will operate in and the stigma they carry coming from a coup ravaged nation ruled under a military dictatorship for over 6 years.

It is indeed odd for Fiji to be stepping in for peacekeeping duties when other nations are pulling out. These nations have no doubt carried out a strategic assessment of the risk in continuing and have decided it far outweighs any real gain in staying. No doubt for these nations, the monetary value of deployment would not be a major factor in their decision. Sadly for Fiji, shoring up the dismal economic and financial position of the current regime, would be key considerations in readily volunteering 182 lives for peacekeeping duties, where there may well be no peace to keep.

The men and women of Fiji are being sent to a volatile region at the heart of a global tug of war with US on one side with the Syrian rebels, and China and Russia the other, with Syrian Dictator Assad. With his misguided "Look North Policv, Dictator Bainimarama has truly cast the lives of Fiji soldiers at the footsteps of 2 communist powerhouses and into the lap of another dictator. These are not the result of a carefully crafted and intelligent strategic assessment and alignment. It goes against the historical grain and philosophy of Fiji's traditional diplomatic relations forged during previous world crises.

Bainimarama's untutored approach to international diplomacy has ended up with Fiji most likely being caught in the middle of a cross fire with deadly consequences. Fijian lives may well be sacrificed as a result of bad international politics and a growing perception of cheap lives from a coup ravaged nation. Such a dismissive regard for Fijian lives will grate away at the long term credibility of Fiji's involvement in future peacekeeping operations. Far from being the "peacekeepers of first resort" owing to their well earned reputation, they will instead be the cannon fodder peacekeepers to be sacrificed when others have pulled out. 
That is far from being deployed to keep the peace. It is more like being forced to perform the dirty work of a dictatorship that is desperate for much needed foreign currency to salvage its ailing economy and bolster its battered standing locally.
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