Before we adjourned on this matter, I urged the Minister for Foreign Affairs to arrange for a fuller debate on the role of the United Nations, particularly on the restructuring of that organisation, the role of the Security Council within it and the use of the veto. I got the impression that the Minister would assent to my request. It would be appropriate to have such a debate ranging from a consideration of the late Erskine Childers' and Brian Urquhart's discussion on the matter to other considerations made by other institutes.
I relate to that a further point which is extremely important and about which people are extremely and unhelpfully reticent. The character of our foreign policy has crucially changed with the emergence of a single world power. This means that frequently when we are discussing matters of international affairs and foreign policy we are very quickly moved to the crude question of whether or not we are in favour of military intervention. The balance between military intervention and extended diplomacy is moving very strongly in favour of what might be called the simplistic crudities of whether or not we are afraid to act.
Recent articles, including one by a former US diplomat posted here attacking John Pilger and the Minster for Foreign Affairs, quite disgracefully reduce Irish foreign policy to the test of whether we are for or against when we threaten to use military action. It is implied that if we fail this test we should not expect US support in our attempt to gain a seat on the UN Security Council. It is important to emphasise that the individual in question has retired and was not expressing US foreign policy but at the same time his views reflect an attitude which oversimplifies complex issues.
The kernel of this question concerns the shrinking of the realm of diplomatic capacity. I say this by way of preface to what I have to say because the public belief in the capacity of the international community to give adequate protection to ethnic Albanians in Kosovo is extremely limited. In fact, people have been taking the experience of Bosnia-Herzegovina and saying that as that model of a weak and late international initiative is there for all to see, is this all that is on offer now? They list further and real questions such as, what is the status of the crimes against humanity accusation which has been made against President Molosevic? Is this still extant or has it been set aside on foot of an agreement which is far from satisfactory? They ask, what is the role of force which will be deployed? The Minster's statement is interesting in this regard. He says, for example, that the role is not one of monitoring but also of verification. Verification is left rather bald in the statement.
The question arises as to whether such a force will have the right to deliver such circumstances as are necessary to enable refugees to return in security. The refugees have through their spokespersons made it very clear that to be put back in a situation where those who were perpetrators of crimes against them — where 500 villages have been destroyed and 500,000 people have been displaced — will invigilate over their return would not be acceptable. The spokespersons for the people who have been driven from their homes, and against whom such appalling violence has been visited in Kosovo, have raised questions as to how active the force that will be deployed can be. How does the Minister's term "verification" address the reasonable criticism that what has been forced out of President Milosovic at this stage is what was asked of him six months ago? Even if the potential of a military strike is kept in readiness to act as a type of guarantor for the six months deal delivered late, what confidence can the refugees have in it?
A further issue, and one on which this House would have welcomed more assurance, is the ability of humanitarian aid to get to the people who need it, unmediated by the actions and approval of the person who created all the human circumstances which have given rise to the need for the aid in the first place. Another aspect of the issue of human aid is how quickly it can be delivered before the winter. I agree with the Deputy who said that weeks and even a month is a very long time in terms of the danger that exists, but even more important is the question of the aid being given without any sanction against the person who has been responsible for the great human distress towards which the aid is directed.
Those who speak for the ethnic Albanians in Kosovo suggest there is nothing capable of being spoken about other than independence, and that it is a waste of time to speak about forms of political autonomy because autonomy is a fragile existence under the shadow of a dictatorship. That casts a question over the third principle of the present initiative which is that of constructing a political dialogue.
I want to deal with an important matter which has concerned me for a long time. When the situation arose in Bosnia-Herzegovina people in this country said they were appalled by what was happening and they frequently asked politicians what they were doing about it. They asked if we were in favour of arming those who were not armed, disarming those who were armed or different forms of military action. If we have reached a point where only military sanction gets results, it is important that we, as parliamentarians, recognise that is close to the death of diplomacy and it is a very low point in terms of foreign policy.
I do not have an absolutist position on how such distinctions have to be revisited in relation to peacekeeping and peacemaking. It is necessary to be able to intervene because people who have been accused of crimes against humanity stand immune from public opinion. It would be foolhardy, therefore, to look from a distance at hundreds of thousands of people regularly suffering what have been classified as crimes against humanity while we have faith in words and say that only a military action is required. Many people, including myself, would have reservations about arriving at what I call the nadir of international relations, where it is only the threat of force that will work. I acknowledge we are at that point.
If we accept this agreement, fragile as it is, the international community that identifies with it and the European Union, which will play a role, will have to answer on the statements and evidence that have been provided about the Russian component of previous international observer forces in relation to Bosnia. It is important to state that there is a sense of frustration among politicians on all sides as to the appropriate action that can be taken. When we think of the options beyond this temporary agreement that are on offer, what stands in the wings is an armed strike. What will happen if Ireland is called upon to support an armed strike? Before people go down that road they should bear in mind the impact. Despite all the rhetoric of militarists in the greatest powers in the world, there is no such thing as an intelligent military strike which leaves civilians intact. It would be a gross lie for anyone in the world to say the strike against Iraq involved the use of smart missiles that chose only military targets.
Equally, it is important to bear in mind another moral dimension. I am horrified that an Irish person serving as the co-ordinator for humanitarian relief in Iraq has resigned because his work in delivering medical humanitarian relief and food aid to children has been impeded by the way the sanctions have operated and the consequences for the Iraqi public. The international community sometimes draws the conclusion that it is the responsibility of the Iraqi people that they have Saddam Hussein in charge and, therefore, they must all suffer indiscriminately. In terms of existing conflicts, including Kosovo, people have said that we have to be able to deal with the fact that Milosovic is operating like a dictator. He has been accused of crimes against humanity.
I mentioned the history of the fragile situation that existed in the past between all the different ethnicities and diversities in these areas. We must find a way in which people can have a peaceful future but it is unhelpful to condemn out of hand all peoples because of leadership. It is equally true that the tool used by Milosovic in conducting his campaign in Kosovo has been an abuse of nationalism, in the worst sense, and an abuse of ethnicity and the different dimensions used to inculcate fear and milk the consequences — the down side of everything that has often been alleged against a narrow view.
When the Minister for Foreign Affairs, for whom I have sympathy, meets his fellow Ministers, they have to deal not only with the list of academic differences between people, but with the real fears of people who have had their homes and communities destroyed, members of their families raped and murdered and who now stand on the edge of winter as displaced people. For several years the people of Kosovo had been relatively ignored by the international community. It cannot be denied that they were neglected in the Dayton discussions. Under what circumstances can they have any trust? I see no other construction from the latest temporary suggestion which has been negotiated other than asking them to go back to the position in which they were before, and to do so under the very shadow of the people who have visited the worst of consequences on them. I do not have, therefore, the same cautious optimism about the agreement as the Minister for Foreign Affairs. We must place this debate into a wider context so we can begin to see a way beyond this.
I asked for the reform of the United Nations in relation to the Tribunal on Crimes Against Humanity. Unless we are able to act, calling people guilty of crimes against humanity and then looking on while no attempt is made to deal with such people is singularly nugatory in a moral sense. To say that if we do anything, it will be in such a way as to impact on the civilians who have to suffer such people is the same. It must be dealt with in terms of new initiatives by the international community. It is dislodging the international community's capacity to restore confidence in the UN and in the international rule of law and diplomacy if we retreat to the idea that there is a single power in the world which can function as international policeman in substitution for what might have been — international consensus and norms derived through law and diplomacy. It is not easy to say this. In a way it is a long confession of certain ways in which the European Union is impotent.
I wish the Minister well and I welcome the agreement because it is important. Let us remember that some of the opponents of this agreement have suggested that hostages are being put in place on the ground. They are asking what happens if it all goes wrong and we have to remove them and what mechanism exists for getting the hostages out of the way to take the action which was previously deferred. That is the logic with which we are dealing. However, if it is fragile, temporary and asking an extraordinary act of trust from those most affected, it is at the same time all we have. I am glad the Minister for Foreign Affairs has undertaken to report back and make further statements from his discussions in the European Union as to how the situation progresses.
The most urgent immediate need is aid. The amount of aid we have pledged is very small by comparison to the need for it. We must move this aid quickly and in an unconditional fashion to those who most need it.