It’s hard to imagine what went on in the minds of the Fijian UN Peacekeepers when they waved white flags at Al-Qaeda linked Syrian Rebels. Did they actually think that these monsters would treat them as prisoners of war in accordance with the Geneva Convention? Did they do their homework on these warriors of Jihad? Do they have any idea who they’re dealing with? Could they be so naive? Why did they go out without a fight?
To understand the answer to these questions, one must look no further than the UN themselves. According to their mission, the “The Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) is dedicated to assisting the Member States and the Secretary-General in their efforts to maintain international peace and security.” Think about that statement for a minute. How exactly can one (or a battalion) “maintain peace” in an apocalyptic war zone like Syria? The answer is that you can’t unless you join the good guys and start fighting. This will never happen because a neutral peacekeeper by definition can’t choose a side making the peacekeeping mission a non sequitur. To make matters worse, Al-Qaeda linked rebels don’t take hall monitors with bright blue helmets too seriously. Which leads me to my original question, why submit to Al-Qaeda without a fight?
The answer is two-fold. One has to do with the military culture of Fijian soldiers. To give a bit of background, on the island of Fiji, joining the military is considered to be an honorable profession in a small tropical island nation where unemployment is over 9%.
Sending soldiers off to UN peacekeeping missions provides Fiji’s hampered economy with much needed cold hard currency. In fact, the demand for peacekeeping troops has essentially pushed the country to develop a disproportionately larger military than it actually needs. Ever since gaining independence from Britain in 1970, Fiji has deployed more soldiers per capita to UN peacekeeping missions than any other member state. This is the main reason why a small tropical island in the south pacific with a population of a mere 858,038 with no foreign enemies has a military larger than Pakistan and Australia.
“The whole purpose of the Fiji military, at the moment, is towards sending troops on peacekeeping, especially U.N. peacekeeping,” former Fijian Army Chief of Staff Jone Baledrokadroka told Reuters. In Fiji,the military is a factory and its product is the next UN peacekeeping soldier. The soldiers see their service as a job and not much more. There is no ideology or feeling of sacrifice for one’s nation knowing that you’re being sent off to hang out in the middle east until your stint is up. And that’s exactly what they do, they hang out and do nothing. They are complacent soldiers of fortune for an apathetic entity; the UN.
And that is the second reason why it made sense for the peacekeepers to surrender. Just to give you an idea of how naive United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) is, on Oct, 3 2006 UNDOF published guidelines for engagement for its observer force in Lebanon saying “ Nations peacekeepers in Lebanon have the authority to use force against hostile activity of any kind, whether in self-defence, to ensure their area of operations is not used for hostile activities or to resist attempts by force to prevent them from discharging their duties, according to guidelines published today”. The fact that the guidelines were only published in 2006 means that the UN has been sending armed troops to places like Lebanon and Syria without providing them with rules of engagement up until 2006!
For a veteran in the Israeli military, that is completely bizarre. The IDF has a strict doctrine called the ‘Hannibal Directive’. It allows commanders to take whatever action is necessary, including endangering the life of an abducted soldier, to foil enemy capture. These poor peacekeeping troops needed it more than the Israelis, but when you were never trained in the rules of engagement, you will certainly have no directives to avoid capture. The Peacekeepers didn’t see any of it coming.
As an IDF soldier, being surrounded by Al-Qaeda rebels is a no brainer; fight. If you’re outgunned, fight to the death. The objective is to try to at least take some of them out before they take you out. This is because we realize that another dead terrorist is one less enemy that will go after your family on the homefront. But for Fijian mercenaries on sabbatical in Syria, the homefront is a distant memory. They are trained soldiers who learned to pull the trigger. But it doesn’t matter. They have no fight in them. They are complacent pawns on a vague mission. They don’t see the rebels as the enemy because they don’t believe in the concept of enemies and whoever captures them will surely understand that they were simply there to ‘keep the peace.’
The U.N. Security Council called Wednesday on “countries with influence” to press Al Qaeda-linked insurgents to release the forty-five UN peacekeepers abducted last week in the Golan Heights. Let’s just think about which countries have ‘influence’ on Al-Qaeda. Can we really trust any of them to make any concerted effort to free a bunch of Fijians?
Lionel Danford, the uncle of Private James Danford, one of the Fijian peacekeepers captured in the Golan Heights, spoke of his nephew’s military service saying “It’s a job. It’s better than being without a job and get caught on the wrong side of the law and with the wrong crowd and, most importantly, penniless.” While this may be true, it’s also better to avoid decapitation on Youtube.