Seduce and Betray
Nidra Poller, The Wall Street Journal:
Jacques Chirac, like Hassan Nasrallah, is always victorious. France is always first and foremost: first to promise to send troops, first to back down on the promise. Triumphant newscasters announce: Fifty French combat engineers have been dispatched on an urgent mission to Lebanon! One hundred fifty more are on the way! While the rest of the world dithers, France springs into action!
The French, who were supposed to be the backbone of the beefed-up United Nations contingent, announced from the get-go that their troops wouldn't step in until Hezbollah was disarmed. At the same time, France mustered all its diplomatic power to stop the only army, the Israeli Defense Forces, that could actually achieve this. Paris knew that the Lebanese government couldn't disarm Hezbollah, and that Hezbollah wouldn't do so voluntarily. In a smashing non sequitur, France reduced its promise from 3,000 battle-ready soldiers to 200 engineers. Some backbone! Now, probably embarrassed by the waves of ridicule this deflation provoked, they are denying they ever promised thousands, while pledging to do better than 200, surely emboldened by the U.N. promise that these troops will not, heaven forbid, be asked to disarm Hezbullah. READ MORE
Clear-minded people recognized the global threat forecast by Hezbollah's aggression against Israel. U.S. President George W. Bush supported Israel's right to self-defense; Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice resisted pressure to impose a hasty cease-fire; it looked like the West was standing firm.
And then that 21st-century fetish, the "international community," led by France, drowned that resolve in the cheap perfume of multilateral diplomacy. U.N. Resolution 1701 is a lace handkerchief fluttered in the face of reality. As soon as the resolution took effect, the instigators and perpetrators of the attack celebrated. The resolution tightens Hezbollah's stranglehold by handing it a victory it could not earn on the battlefield; Iran warmed up its exterminating engines; Syria decided that Hezbollah-type action was more promising than diplomatic acrobatics; Hamas swore it would not be outdone by the brave fighting brothers. In other words, jihad.
Yes, the U.S. was fooled by a slick French seduce-and-betray operation. Paris isn't having second thoughts about its troop commitments -- it probably never intended to send a robust force that would have taken on Hezbollah in the first place. On July 24, in separate interviews, French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy, Lebanon's pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud and Hezbollah leader Nasrallah himself set forth virtually the same conditions for a political solution to the conflict: an immediate cease fire without any real pressure on Hezbollah to disarm until an endless list of alleged gripes against Israel have been solved.
Mr. Douste-Blazy's obsequious pledge of allegiance to the great civilized state of Iran, "factor of stabilization in the region," was not a fluke; it was the tip-off. Far too much has been made of President Chirac's personal gripe with Syrian President Bashar Assad, and far too little attention is paid to France's troubling complicity with Iran and its merciless Hezbollah arm. The charming French minister of defense, Michèle Alliot-Marie, says she is not sending troops unless and until the U.N. can guarantee their safety. An anonymous source cited by Le Monde journalist Mouna Naïm claims that a French diplomat went directly to the Iranians to obtain a promise of mutual nonbelligerency. Barah Mikhail, a fellow of the French government-friendly IRIS think tank, spelled it out in an Aug. 19 radio interview: France doesn't want to be put in a situation where its soldiers would have to side with Israel against Hezbollah. To choose between a Western democratic ally and a terrorist organization seems too morally troubling for Paris.
Did I say terrorist organization? Quel faux pas. In an interview with Le Monde on July 26, Mr. Chirac reiterated that it would be counterproductive to brand Hezbollah a terrorist organization just "now, when we want, if possible, to try to bring Hezbollah back into the fold of the Lebanese community and help it become a political party." And so Paris remains the main opponent of putting Hezbollah on the European Union terror list.
France had been aching to grab a piece of the honest-broker action in an increasingly turbulent Middle East and impose its politique arabe on the hyperpuissant American rival. Co-sponsorship of U.N. Resolution 1559 was interpreted as evidence of a new Franco-American entente. Having more or less chased Syria out of Lebanon, the newfound chums joined forces to micromanage the current conflict -- which in fact ignited on the smoldering ashes of 1559.
France signed on to a joint resolution consistent with the American-Israeli position and then flip-flopped on every issue. The conditions that France somehow managed to impose on U.S. negotiators did not develop in the course of negotiations. They were enunciated, domestically, from the very beginning and sustained to the last minute. The French public was indoctrinated to swallow every point of the Chirac doctrine, illustrated line by line in the media. For the French, this was not a war against a terror organization acting on behalf of a genocidal and soon nuclear Iran. From the very start, the conflict was portrayed simply as a Lebanese humanitarian crisis, and the only "moral" solution was to declare solve it required an immediate cease-fire to get the evil Israeli army off their backs.
But if diplomacy is more moral than war and better protects us against jihad, how did it lead to a U.N. resolution that is the exact opposite of the original intentions to deprive Hezbollah of ill-earned gains, assert the sovereignty of the Lebanese government, offer Israel through diplomacy the security it was fighting to achieve through military action, and put Iran and Syria on notice that the international community will not be cowered by their heinous projects? Not to mention the kidnapped soldiers, Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, who remain in Hezbollah's hands. U.S. officials had backed Israel's demand for their unconditional liberation: no dirty bargains, no disproportionate prisoner exchanges. Their names didn't even make it into the body of the resolution.
As the loose-knit promises of 1701 unravel, France insists that Israel release the blockade to allow the free flow of goods -- returning refugees and, inevitably, combatants and arms. Paris is also pushing for the payoff resolution, which will demand mass release of Lebanese criminals held in Israeli jails, and evacuation of the tiny Syrian territory known as the Shebaa Farms, thereby justifying Hezbollah's lie to be a resistance movement against Israeli occupation. This misconceived exercise in multilateral diplomacy under the aegis of the U.N. unfolds as the West totters on the brink of a showdown with Iran. It reads like a fatal error.
Ms. Poller, an American novelist, has lived in Paris since 1972.