Letter: What morality demands of the UN

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Sir: I agree with the conclusions in the last two paragraphs of your leading article about the United Nations ('The possible and the indefensible', 16 July), but I suggest there is a fourth area in which the UN could and should act and that is in the deployment of troops to protect humanitarian convoys, with a mandate to fire if necessary to force a passage for any convoy whether by land, sea or air. It is wrong that UN troops should be prevented by any local commander (or by crowds of protesting women) from carrying out effective escort duties to force humanitarian aid through to its destination.

This fourth task flows naturally and directly from the first task in your list (the pre-emption of conflict). It is likely that pre-emption will often fail because of the difficulty of judging and agreeing on the moment to intervene. But when conflict has broken out, the forcing through of humanitarian aid is likely to become essential; and if carried out in a determined manner may of itself have some effect on the deployment of heavy weapons and the level of fighting.

It will be objected that 'fighting convoys through' will inevitably lead to the UN troops being drawn into the civil war, against one side or both. It need not be so, provided adequate forces are deployed at the outset and provided the soft option of air action in isolation is not taken.

Yours faithfully,

ANTONY DUFF

London, SW1

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