A Clever Bit Of Diplomacy

The joint U.S.-French proposal to the U.N. Security Council regarding the war in Lebanon is quite clever, in its own way.

A buffer zone between Israel and Lebanon would be created along Lebanon’s southern border, of about 400 square miles — basically everything south of the Litani River. Hezbollah militia (presumably meaning any Hezbollah personnel carrying weapons of any kind) would have to evacuate that zone. In their place would be 15,000 members of the regular Lebanese Army and 15,000 members of a U.N. peacekeeping force. In theory, this is a good way for everyone to claim victory. Hezbollah can claim victory because it continues to exist. Israel can claim victory because it drove Hezbollah out of missile range of its borders. The U.S. can claim victory because its terms are the ones that were accepted. Iran and Syria can claim victory because they were able to project their power into the region painlessly and to withdraw with their regional tools intact and public deniability of their involvement.

I don’t know if it will work or not. I see three big problems.

First of all, Hezbollah, the last time I checked, is not a member of the United Nations. So it and its leaders, who have painted themselves in a corner by demanding death or absolute victory (read: the destruction of Israel), are not bound by the terms of the agreement — and even if they were, it’s doubtful that they could be trusted to do what it says.

Secondly, the nationality of the U.N. peacekeeping force has not yet been determined. It will likely not include any Americans. In fact, it is likely to contain quite a few French soldiers. The French did an absolutely terrible job of securing the peace in the Ivory Coast’s civil war. The French are not particularly motivated to help Israel so much as they are motivated to secure peace in Lebannon. And the Lebanese Army is, while certainly motivated differently than Hezbollah, not an entirely reliable force since the Lebanese government remains a puppet of Syria.

Third, it’s far from clear to me that the proposed buffer zone is really going to do anyone any good. It includes the cities of Tyre and Nabatea, which are both (by Lebanese standards) large urban areas. It would be easy for a Hezbollah operative to hide a considerable stash of weapons, even of missiles, in one of those cities. And even if Hezbollah does move north of the Litani River, it’s not clear to me that this really is out of missile range. There have been Hezbollah missle strikes as far south as Nablus (which is in the West Bank; one suspects that this missile missed its intended target, as indeed have most of Hezbollah’s missles).

But, it appears that this proposal is acceptable to Israel. It will certainly be acceptable to Lebanon, which will have its own army in its own borders, and its own government will gain a greater degree of control over its wayward southern provinces as long as its peacekeeping force is present there. So at this point, chances look good that the proposal will be adopted and its terms implemented by the various nation-states who will be party to it. Whether the violence actually ends will be up to Sayyed Nasrallah and his evil minions.

Peace is good, no doubt. But victory would have been better.

Burt Likko

Pseudonymous Portlander. Homebrewer. Atheist. Recovering litigator. Recovering Republican. Recovering Catholic. Recovering divorcé. Recovering Former Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. House Likko's Words: Scite Verum. Colite Iusticia. Vivere Con Gaudium.