Should soldiers be put to shame for surrendering

Comment scandal video UN blue helmets: Without courage and power

The excitement about Austrian blue helmets on the Golan Heights is excessive. The real problem is the powerlessness of the UN.

Should observe, but nothing else: UN blue helmets on the Golan Heights Photo: dpa

The question of what UN blue helmet soldiers should and should not do is a central question of global peace policy. Generations of UN-flagged soldiers have gone home ashamed and angry, traumatized for their lives because they witnessed unimaginable crimes against which they were powerless. There are no video recordings of the horror scenes in Srebrenica or Kigali. They reel off in the minds of the eyewitnesses, endlessly, over and over, until they die.

Measured against this, the excitement about a video allegedly recorded by Austrian UN soldiers in 2012, which shows the killing of members of the Syrian security forces by snipers from an ambush, is bizarre.

The victims are not civilians whose protection could be part of the task of a UN mission - although the UN mandate on the Golan Heights does not even include that, but is only intended to monitor that the buffer zone between Israel and Syria remains demilitarized. This in turn raises the question of whether the victims and also the perpetrators - both members of warring parties in a domestic armed conflict - were allowed to stay there at all.

As contemporary UN reports show, the UN soldiers were powerless against massive injuries to the demilitarized zone, especially by Syria's army. That is worthy of criticism, but it is not down to the individual soldiers. They couldn't warn one side of the other without making themselves vulnerable.

Of course, instead of making cynical comments while people die in front of their eyes, they could still have done something. Just as they could have opened their bases to the Syrians fleeing Assad's bombs or their supply routes in Syria for the evacuation of war victims.

Theoretically. In retrospect. If the UN had the courage, a mandate and combat troops. That's where those who criticize the Austrians should start.