Friday, August 18, 2006

In Lebanon, This Time It's Serious

Charles Krauthammer, The Washington Post:
The charm of any U.N. Security Council resolution lies in the preamble, which invariably begins by "recalling" all previous resolutions on the same subject that have been ignored. Hence newly minted Resolution 1701: Before mandating the return of south Lebanon to Beirut's control, it lists the seven Security Council resolutions going back 28 years that have demanded the same thing.

We are to believe, however, that this time the U.N. means it. Yet, the fact that responsibility for implementation is given to Kofi Annan's office -- not known for integrity, competence or neutrality -- betrays a certain unseriousness about the enterprise. READ MORE

The first Israel-Hezbollah war ended in a tie, and in this kind of warfare, tie goes to the terrorist. Yet there is no doubt that had Israel proceeded with the expanded offensive it began two days before the cease-fire, Israel would eventually have destroyed Hezbollah in the south, albeit at great cost to itself, Lebanon and Israel's patron, the U.S.

Which is why the war was called off.

Having obviated that possibility with the cease-fire, the U.S. is left with certain responsibilities. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice gave assurances that this resolution would not be a dead letter. Yet within days, these assurances are already fraying. Hezbollah has declared that it will not disarm. The Siniora government in Beirut has acquiesced to a don't ask-don't tell deal in which Hezbollah retains its entire south-of-the-Litani infrastructure -- bunkers, weapons, fighters -- with the cosmetic proviso that none will be displayed very openly.

We are headed for a complete repudiation of the bottom-line American position. The stakes are high. Not so much for Israel, which in the end will take care of itself. By the now-inevitable Round Two, Israel will have rejected the failed Olmert-led exercise in hesitancy and will have new leadership, new tactics and new equipment.

What is most at stake, from the American perspective, is Lebanon. Lebanon was the most encouraging achievement of the democratization project launched with great risk with the invasion of Iraq. The Beirut Spring, the liberation from Syrian rule and the election of a pro-Western government marked the high point (together with the first Iraqi election that inspired the events in Lebanon) of the Bush doctrine.

Syria, Iran and Hezbollah have been working assiduously to reverse that great advance. Hezbollah insinuated itself into the government. The investigation of Syria for the murder of Rafik Hariri has stalled. And now with the psychological success of the war with Israel, Hezbollah may soon become the dominant force in all of Lebanon. In the south, the Lebanese army will be taking orders from Hezbollah. Hezbollah is not just returning to being a "state within a state." It is becoming the state.

That is why ensuring that Hezbollah is cut down to size by a robust international force with very strict enforcement of its disarmament is so critical. For all its boasts, Hezbollah has suffered grievously militarily. Now is its moment of maximum weakness. That moment will not last long.