Canada pulls out of Golan Heights
By JOHN WARD
Canadian soldiers from the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force lower their national flag during a handover ceremony at their base in Camp Ziouani on the disengagement line between Israel and Syria in the Golan Heights Friday. (AP Photo/Kevin Frayer)
TIBERIUS, Israel (CP) - An era came to an end Friday as the Canadian military formally gave up its 32-year-old peacekeeping mission on the Golan Heights and pretty much ended its longstanding connection with UN peace forces.
Op Danaca, Canada's 190-member commitment to the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force on the Syria-Israel border, was Canada's last contribution of any size to traditional peacekeeping. The Canadian Forces said it needs the skilled soldiers from the operation for other jobs, including Afghanistan.
Two token soldiers will be left with the force by summer and Canada's total military contribution to UN peacekeeping - which 15 years ago involved up to 4,000 troops - will be reduced to about 60 soldiers in a half-dozen missions.
The largest Canadian contribution will be 32 people in Sudan. In contrast, Bangladesh has about 9,700 troops on UN missions and Hungary contributes about 8,600.
In all, there are about 68,000 soldiers on UN operations around the world. In Canada's case, there now will be more policemen than soldiers serving with the UN.
"With the end of this mission, you'll be able to fit all of Canada's UN peacekeepers on a school bus," said Steven Staples of the Polaris Institute.
The Golan Heights force was set up after the 1973 Arab-Israeli war to monitor the ceasefire. For a generation, Canadian soldiers have provided logistical and communications services to the operation.
Canada's big contribution abroad now is its 2,300 soldiers assigned to Afghanistan, but they are there as part of a NATO operation, not as UN blue berets.
Jim Fergusson of the Centre for Defence and Security Studies at the University of Manitoba said it's the wave of the future.
Too often, he said, UN operations - Somalia, Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia - have been seen as flops because of bureaucracy and politics.
Effective mandates were hard to develop; resources were always scarce and cautious UN rules often prevented troops from doing the job.
"I think we came to realize by default over time that the UN was just not the best way to deliver this," he said.
"I don't think we've given up on the UN per se, but I think what we have implicitly recognized is the failure we attribute to the United Nations in peacekeeping."
More and more, Fergusson said, international peacekeeping missions are being left to ad hoc coalitions or regional security groups, such as NATO or the African Union, with UN approval.
"In a way, what's happened was that there was a recognition that there are functionally more effective, more efficient and politically more realistic ways to deliver peace operations with the UN and the Security Council providing that umbrella of legitimacy over operations and pulling themselves out of the actual delivery."
Peacekeeping has changed, too, he said. The traditional UN role as a disinterested group policing an agreed-on ceasefire between warring sides doesn't apply any more.
It doesn't work with the suicide-bombing insurgents in places like Afghanistan.
"We have to start recognizing that we are at war," he said. "It's not war that our grandparents and parents would recognize from the Second World War, but it's what modern war looks like."
Canada's departure from the Golan was noted with regret by the Canada-Israel Committee
"The fact that UNDOF has been able to maintain relative quiet on the border between Israel and Syria is in part testament to the excellent work and professionalism that Canadian Forces have played in monitoring and supervising the disengagement agreement," the group said in a statement.
Canada was a charter member of the UN peacekeeping movement, sending troops on more than 50 missions over five decades. It kept a battalion in Cyprus for more than 25 years, and sent troops to Yugoslavia, the Sinai, Cambodia, Central America and Africa.
More than 100 were killed over the years, including nine who died when an airborne resupply mission to the Golan was shot down by the Syrians in 1974.
Less blue helemts...... fine by me.
Maybe Canada will become an actual ally again, instead of just being bellboys for the UN.
It looks like a refreshing change.
maybe. They have a conservative leadership right?