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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - UNTAC's Third Choice

UNTAC's Third Choice

UNTAC's Lt. Col. Robert Adolph says that it is not UNTAC's fault that Pol Pot's Khmer

Rouge are flaunting the Paris Agreement, and he claims that the Khmer Rouge's noncooperation

gave UNTAC only two choices: "withdraw or try to accomplish its mission"-wrong.

UNTAC had at least one more choice-to take whatever actions were necessary to bring

all parties into full compliance with the agreement.

Where in the Paris Agreement is UNTAC prohibited from using military force to enforce

the Agreement? If Mr. Yasushi Akashi and Lt. Gen. John Sanderson were uncertain about

their authority to militarily enforce the Agreement, then, as a minimum, they should

have faced the facts and officially reported to the U.N. Security Council (and to

the world at large) that the Khmer Rouge's noncooperation reduced UNTAC's activities

to little more than the rearrangement of deck chairs on the H.M.S. Titanic; moreover,

they should have recommended that the Security Council clearly authorize UNTAC to

take any and all actions necessary to ensure the full implementation of the Paris


Lt. Col. Adolph says that Mr. Akashi and Lt. Gen. Sanderson must try to carry out

the intent of the Paris Agreement, and that not to do this "would be a betrayal

of the Cambodian people." Agreed; however, the fundamental intent of the Agreement

was to obtain its goals for all the Khmer people throughout all of Cambodia.

Leaving the Khmer Rouge intact as a viable military force clearly nullifies the aforemention-ed

fundamental intent and is surely the worst possible betrayal of the Khmer people.

Lt. Col. Adolph calls the decision by Mr. Akashi and Lt. Gen. Sanderson to not admit

failure, to not "withdraw"-in other words, to continue to go through the

motions of incompletely implementing the agreement-"a courageous one."

Rubbish. Not admitting failure is "courageous" when one has already fought

the good fight; that, however, is certainly not the case with a policy of the United

Nations Totally Avoiding Confrontation. The late Neville Chamberlain might have applauded

policies of avoiding confrontation and of appeasing Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge, but the

rest of us should be appalled at and ashamed of this crucial failure. Mr. Akashi

and Lt. Gen. Sanderson are almost certainly decent, honorable, concerned, and well-intentioned

individuals, but their current military policies are tragically mistaken.

Perhaps to excuse UNTAC's failure to undertake combat operations, Lt. Col. Adolph

says that "UNTAC is a political-diplomatic organization with a military component,

not the other way around." Describe UNTAC any way you will, the hard fact is

that more than 75 percent of UNTAC's foreign employees-more than 15,600 individuals

in all-are military personnel. Lt. Col. Adolph also talks about the U.N.'s lack of

experience in certain endeavors, but he ignores the UN's extensive experience in

combat operations, from Korea in 1950 to Kuwait in 1990. There are a few risks to

just peacekeeping, and, sadly, some UNTAC employees (both Khmer and foreign) have

died or been injured, and others will probably die or be injured.

However, avoiding armed confrontation of the Khmer Rouge clearly reduces UNTAC's

risks significantly; the steep price in blood which the Khmer Rouge continue to exact

as they again try to forcefully subjugate Cambodia has been and will be paid primarily

by the Khmer people, not by UNTAC's foreign employees.

The foregoing comments on UNTAC's military inaction are not, repeat not, a criticism

of UNTAC's military employees below the rank of lieutenant general who simply carry

out, rather than formulate, UNTAC's military policies. Indeed, I would be rather

surprised if a number of UNTAC's military personnel (perhaps including Lt. Col. Adolph

himself) would not welcome the opportunity to help rid the Khmer people of Pol Pot

and his deadly vermin, and would not give a good account of themselves in action

against the Khmer Rouge. (I must add, however, that UNTAC also includes some sorry

imitations of real soldiers, starting with the Vulgarians.)

Compared to many of their UNTAC counterparts, the State of Cambodia's soldiers are

poorly trained, poorly equipped, poorly paid (if paid at all), and sometimes even

poorly fed-and a number of them are just boys. However, up to now, it is only these

SOC soldiers who are performing the single all-important task that UNTAC's soldiers

should be performing-actively fighting to subdue the Khmer Rouge.

As one who has spent a significant amount of time as a soldier under Khmer Rouge

hostile fire, I fervently wish that it were unnecessary to talk about further fighting

in Cambodia. However, it boggles the mind to hear suggestions of reasoning with the

Khmer Rouge's long-time leaders-the same individuals whose lunatic and murderous

policies produced the hell on earth called Democratic Kampuchea. Pol Pot and his

fellow mass murderers clearly lack a basic humanity and cannot be reformed or rehabilitated;

those who believe otherwise are probably good candidates for membership in the Flat

Earth Society.

When UNTAC finally leaves Cambodia, it almost surely will declare itself a success.

Moreover, as a minimum, its military employees will leave with new medals and fat

wallets or purses, its foreign civilian employees (excepting the U.N. volunteers)

will leave with even fatter wallets or purses-and the Khmer Rouge will remain as

a dangerous and deadly force that must be reckoned with. Perhaps UNTAC's overall

failure (in spite of some positive accomplishments) will eventually be recognized,

and perhaps the world will then say: "No more UNTAC's." Even if that occurs,

however, it will be far too little and too late for the Khmer people left to face

Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge once again.



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