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August 19, 2006

Merci, Mais Non

The dumb and dumber remarks from world leaders about the “truce” in Southern Lebanon don’t bode well for the success of the UN mission or real peace there.

French Defense Minister Michele Alliot-Marie defends France’s decision to contribute only a handful of troops to the peacekeeping force by saying that France is willing to continue leading the force nevertheless (from CNN).

Now this is a really big help.  Look how successful UNIFIL has been in Lebanon so far.  By all means let’s keep the same leadership.  Perhaps they’ll build a Maginot Line.

“What we must absolutely avoid is giving the image of a Western world imposing peace on the Muslim world,” she goes on to say.  I’m sure the Christians in Lebanon and Christians and Jews in Israel feel very reassured by that.

She does make one good point, however: “You have to tell the troops why they are there. To support the Lebanese army, certainly, but to what extent? In what fields? Secondly, we also need to know what are the material and judicial means at our disposal. You can't send in men and tell them: 'Look at what is going on, (but) you don't have the right to defend yourself or to shoot.”

She’s right. The mission does need to be clear.  As if answering her, we have a clear-as-mud statement from Kofi Annan in the New York Times:

“Secretary-General Kofi Annan appealed to U.N. member states to provide desperately needed U.N. peacekeeping troops for Lebanon and assured them the U.N. force would not ‘wage war’ on Israel, Lebanon, or Hezbollah militants.”

Then why are they there?  Why not just send some diplomats?  If the UN “forces” aren’t going to use force, then the former combatants will.  There has been a toothless UN Force in Lebanon for a long long time (see above).  If the UN soldiers are going to enforce the terms of the UN resolution, then it is unfair to them to say they won’t have to fight.  If they’re not going to enforce the resolution, then it is a farce to send them; and they are likely to become collateral damage when hostilities resume.

President Bush came dangerously close to repeating his mistake of claiming victory before it is secured.  The Times quotes him as refuting Hezbollah’s claim  of victory by asking “But how can you claim victory when at one time you were a state within a state, safe within southern Lebanon, and now you’re going to be replaced with a Lebanese Army and an international force?”

It’s way too soon to declare victory.  Hezbollah is NOT disarmed (nor apparently disarming).  There are still Israeli troops in Lebanon.  Rocket attacks on Israel could resume at any time. Arms continue to flow from Syria and Israel strikes Lebanon to stop them.

Victory will come, if it comes, when Lebanon is sovereign; Hezbollah is disarmed; the Israeli army has gone home; Israel is safe from terrorist attacks from Lebanese territory; and the people of Lebanon don’t have to choose between the danger of not supporting the terrorists on their doorsteps and certain Israel retaliation if they do.  That’s victory and it hasn’t happened yet.

The danger in declaring victory too soon is that people start to wonder why you’re still fighting.

There is some hope.  The Lebanese army IS deploying in southern Lebanon, something it didn’t dare to do before Israel bloodied the incumbent Hezbollah.  So far this undertrained army is showing no signs of disarming Hezbollah.  So far it’s deployment is mainly symbolic.  Now if it were only supported by a real UN FORCE…

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