Letters to the Editor: Sept. 2013

Re: [House Editorial “Out of Golan in 30 Days”, TVR July/August 2013]

 

What political irresponsibility or unexplainable fears can possibly have forced the Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann (Chairman of the SPÖ) and Vice Chancellor Michael Spindelegger (head of the liberal-conservative ÖVP, who additionally acts as Minister of Foreign Affairs) to abandon within 48 hours the Austria’s military participation of the UNDOF force?  This is the force that controls, in accordance with the UN Security Council Resolution 350 from May 31st, 1974, the northern section of the Golan Heights buffer zone.

Many in Austria, but also in Europe, the Middle East and in Washington, immediately criticized this decision.

No wonder Spindelegger was already reconsidering his announcement three days later: The Austrian military “might stay longer”. But how much longer? Government spokesmen indicated that Austria could return to the Golan at a later date.

But then why leave in the first place? The political damage was done, and Israel questioned  Austria`s international reliability. Israel’s ambassador to Austria warned about a withdrawal and a week later, Netanyahu attacked the UN, but had meant Austria.

No other country in Europe has embraced the UN more intensely than Austria, and now Austria was undermining an important UN-mission. On June 10, “strong man” Faymann, overruled Spindelegger’s last-minute proposal to delay and insisted on abandoning the observer positions. Austria has just finished another draft its Security Strategy, and already violated again her own principles. No matter what she does now, the reputation is damaged.

Was any assessment on hand recommending a quick pull-out from the Golan? Definitely none. And now there is Syria: Where is Austria in condemning the civil war there? And where are Europe`s values and responsibilities? Or are there none as just mentioned in Alpbach, a continent without unity and any principles.

While Austria has elevated the UN as a key instrument for her security, it has failed to end the war in Syria and ignored the 100.000 people killed there. This too may need review.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has a large number of excellent experts, but they were bypassed. The old experts are gone, and current foreign policy is rather “problem-avoidance”. Russian missile cruisers and nuclear submarines are far away, and would not bother the typical voter anyway.

So this makes political decision-making easy: The best ally is an illiterate populace, educated by the not too high standards of one or two mostly read newspapers.

 

Friedrich W. Korkisch, PhD

Vienna Institute for Foreign & Security Policy

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