Israel: Foreign Forces may be acceptable on northern border Posted by: McQ
on Monday, July 24, 2006
This is something we touched on in yesterday's podcast concerning the Israeli incursion into Lebanon. Essentially the question was, "if Israel is successful in pushing Hezbollah out of the area necessary to secure Israel from rocket attack, then what?" They can't stay. International pressure simply wouldn't allow it (and they tried it before with mixed results). And they can't live with the sort of totally inept peacekeeping force wgucg was previously in place. So what do they do?
I had mentioned that for the peace to be kept in that area a robust peacekeeping force with the actual mission of keeping the peace must be inserted and at the time of the podcast noted that there was little chance of this happening with the UN.
The Israeli defense minister, Amir Peretz, said Israel was interested in a NATO-led force and the prime minister, Ehud Olmert, spoke of one comprised of European Union members with combat experience and the authority to take control of Lebanon’s border and crossing points.
American officials said that they too were open to the idea but did not expect American troops to be part of the force.
“It’s a new idea, we’ll certainly take it seriously,” John R. Bolton, the American ambassador to the United Nations, said on the CNN program “Late Edition.”
Note carefully who Peretz is talking about. He isn't asking for a UN force which might be comprised of the military elements of 17 different third-world nations and a leader who's never effectively commanded anything over a battalion sized unit. He's being very specific.
NATO. Interesting, isn't it? NATO is becoming the go-to organization for peace keeping with teeth. Of course all of this is outside the mission of NATO, but as is clear to anyone with eyes, the UN is simply incapable of doing the job of peacekeeping properly. And, as we've also seen, involvement outside the mission of NATO didn't stop the organization from going to Afghanistan.
That given, here's the problem:
While the Israelis and Americans seemed increasingly focused on a multinational force for southern Lebanon that would work with the Lebanese Army to remove the risk to Israel of Hezbollah, it remained unclear how the European countries whose forces would participate would react or how Arab countries viewed the idea.
In a perfect world, that NATO force would have a two-fold function. A) Secure the border buffer area and prevent Hezbollah infiltration. B) Train the Lebanese army (much as we're doing in both Iraq and Afghanistan) to take over not only the security of that buffer zone, but the security of its own country.
Sounds great on paper, but it is something, I would guess, which would be a hard sell in both Europe and in the Arab world.
But, short term, it may be one of the keys to eventual peace in the area. First you have to separate the sides and make them realize they're simply not going to be able to get at one another. Then you can begin talking about a peace process in earnest.
Since the moment Dr. Rice started packing her sunscreen I’ve suspected she was on her way to do some serious, in-person arm-twisting in that area and to just that purpose. Not to broker a cease-fire, but to broker the right cease-fire. Nobody (other than Robert Fisk and his Coterie of Fools) is laboring under the delusion Hezballah can stop the IDF. Slow it down and make it bleed, yes. Stop it, no. They can run or they can stand and die, at the end of the day Israel will hold that territory. Then they’re going to have to turn it over to someone who A) isn’t Israel and B) is strong enough to keep it clear of Hezballah revenants. Lebanon? Eventually, but not now. Syria? Not hardly. UNIFIL II? Don’t make me laugh. The Arab League? hah. It’ll have to be NATO or something Coalition-of-the-Willing-ish. Sure there will be squawking, but there always is and I think Condi can take it.
An editorial in the Sunday Los Angles Times caught my eye, because it echoed a point I had made in the comments here: Southern Lebanon is essentially a failed state that Hezbollah has exploited in much the same way that al Qaeda exploited the failed state of Afghanistan. The Times came up with an interesting idea for a peacekeeping force that should at least get them a golf clap for thinking outside the box:
If it seems farfetched to compare cultured, urbane Lebanon with the barbarous Afghanistan or Somalia of the 1990s, consider what these nations have in common: a weak or nonexistent central government unable to control the militias waging war on its territory; an intractable history of religious, ethnic or clan strife; and a propensity among the neighbors to arm, fund and otherwise encourage the warring factions.
It’s doubtful that Israel’s latest war with Lebanon will be successful in rooting out militants; clearly, its 1982 invasion and subsequent 18-year occupation of southern Lebanon failed at the task. But having smashed much of the nation’s infrastructure, not to mention any chance at political accord, Israel probably has succeeded in creating a new power vacuum in the lands across its northern border. Who will fill it? Can any Lebanese political force supplant Hezbollah in the bombed-out and embittered south? Can any international military force establish a meaningful buffer zone between Lebanon and Israel?
What’s left of the Lebanese army cannot possibly be deployed to keep the peace in southern Lebanon. Sending Christian and Druze soldiers into bombed-out Shiite territory is a recipe for reigniting civil war. The United States, overextended in Iraq and viewed more than ever as an Israeli backer, couldn’t and shouldn’t send peacekeepers, as Rice acknowledged Friday. Europe is focused on its NATO duties in Afghanistan.
And the U.N. peacekeeping force in Lebanon has been notoriously ineffective. Would a fresh contingent of blue helmets — if the United Nations would send them — be any more effective at containing Hezbollah and deterring Israeli attacks? Only if their rules of engagement allowed combat.
So, if Lebanon, Israel, the United States, Europe and the U.N. cannot enforce a peace, who can? It’s a fiendishly difficult problem. But the head scratching should start in the Arab capitals. If they truly want a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — and there is some doubt that they do — might some Arab states be part of a multinational peacekeeping force?
It sounds like a naive question. Yet it may be no less improbable than a handshake between Yasser Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin seemed more than a decade ago. Egypt has one of the Middle East’s biggest armies; Morocco boasts a stable and popular government; Algeria has learned from its own experience in bitter internal strife; and Saudi Arabia has the means to fund such a force and the motive to quell a multinational Shiite jihad. Other nations with large Muslim populations, such as Turkey, might also contribute.
Yes, in light of the history of the region the idea sounds crazy. I think, though, that we are in the early stages of a political realignment in the Mid-East. In the future, the major conflict may shift from Arabs vs. Jews to Sunnis vs. Shiites. I think that the Arab states might be more interested in containing future Iranian-sponsored adventurism than in trying to invade Israel again.
Like you, though, I doubt that Israel will be willing to bet their existence on that roll of the dice.
My analogy to al Qaeda in Afghanistan breaks down in one key area. Most of the Al Qaeda terrorists in Afghanistan were Arabs who were foreign to Afghanistan, (didn’t even speak the language), and they were viewed with suspicion by the Afghanis. It made sense to launch a military campaign to "root them out".
Rooting Hezbollah out of Southern Lebanon, though, is about as feasible as rooting Mormons out of Utah. People who want to define victory for Israel in those terms are setting the bar impossibly high. The best that Israel can hope for is to degrade Hezbollah’s offensive capability and then look for some kind of political/security accomodation for the future.