Lebanon: NATO into the Breach?

As the Israeli war on Hezbollah continues – and it is, pace the protests of the anti-Israel crowd at home and abroad, not a war on “Lebanon” – the outline of the endgame for this phase becomes more clear. The Israelis are willing to accept an international force on its northern border, provided that force has a robust mandate, and provided it is led by NATO. This is at once a good idea and a bad one, and its implications extend far beyond the mere imposition of peace, such as it is, between Israel and the Litani.

The first thing to remember is that Hezbollah is an Islamist organization, and as such it is not especially interested in having its warmaking capacity thwarted or taken away. Its apologists enjoy praising its provision of social services – much as Hamas, the Soviets, and the Nazis all did in their respective societies – but that provision is at best a sideshow to its raison d’être: the extermination of the Jews. (One expects that in time, or if the Jew-killing mission is frustrated, this impetus will turn toward a broader mission of destroying the non-Muslims within grasp – surely a chilling prospect for the much-harried Christians and doughty Druze of the Lebanese state.) Hezbollah without the annihilationist capability is as sensible as the Ku Klux Klan as a clinical provider. Yet this is what many expect it to become, stripped of its weaponry under a NATO tutelage: some manner of charming third-world advocacy group, colorful, strenuous, and emasculated.

The reality is that Hezbollah will fight. Even as it fights the IDF in the dusty valleys of southern Lebanon now, it will fight the Westerners who arrive to strip it of its core mission. It cannot do less: it knows that acquiescence means the end of itself in its own conception; and its mentors abroad do not fund and teach it on the premise of peace. If the present war is that of the IDF versus Hezbollah, the next will be NATO versus Hezbollah. The Europeans of NATO – and it will be all Europeans – may prosecute the mission with somewhat less enthusiasm than the IDF; but it will be the same mission nonetheless. Israeli acquiescence to “peace” in this sense is an Israeli handoff of the war to foreigners. It’s a good deal for Israel – and a momentous one for those stepping in.

NATO has had two combat missions in its existence. It drove Serbia from Kosovo, and it now fights Islamists in Afghanistan. The suppression of Hezbollah would constitute its third, and it would strongly imply a fundamental strategic realignment of the alliance. The original intent of NATO was to serve as a mutual-defense pact in the face of territorial aggression; but it was never invoked when its member states suffered actual aggression outside of the North Atlantic area. The first activation of its mutual-defense provisions came in the wake of the 9/11 massacres, when NATO aircrews helped monitor North American airspace as US forces streamed into central Asia. (Strangely, this was not invoked when the Moroccans tried to seize Isla Perejil.) This direct response to Islamist aggression, compounded with the Afghan mission, and compounded with the prospective campaign against Hezbollah, all add up to a new role for NATO: as the anti-Islamist military front of the West at large.

This is hardly a wholesale or overt re-orientation, of course. NATO member Turkey would never acquiesce to the open realignment of the alliance in this manner. Nor would the more dhimmi-minded NATO members – Zapatero’s Spain, Belgium, et al. But that is formality: reality would be something different. As we travel further into the 21st century, the great questions of the age will be met by great combinations of states and peoples. NATO defended the West against the existential threat of the last half of the 20th century. If it assumes the burden, with Israel, of defending against the existential threat of this century, it will be, in one sense, a profound change. In another sense, it will be a rational continuation of an eminently worthy mission.

@ traveller

What are the huge interests for Russia in Iran besides the common interest of killing the source of terrorism and death? Could you clarify? Thanks.


Iran has the desire to reestablish the old Persian empire, based on the shia religion and oil. This includes control of the Basrah oil fields which they have already aquired as soon as the americans leave Iraq. The Saudi oilfields are exactly at the area where the Saudi shia community lives. Kuwait is 35 percent shia, Bahrein is 80 percent shia, the UAE is 40 percent shia. This together with the shia community which has control of Syria today. Hezbollah is only a small part of the shia in Lebanon, the majority of the lebanese shia belong to the Amal party of Nabil Berry, but together they constitute half of the lebanese muslims and can easily take over Lebanon if Israel allows it. Now look at the map and we speak about already a certain control of Iran, Iraq, Syria and half of Lebanon with a total oil production of ca. 8.000.000 bpd and a potential serious threat to the rest of the middle east. In 1981 I saw a Pentagone map in the Institute for Strategic Studies in Georgetown, near Washinton D.C. with the action radius of each type of Israeli warplane specified as to the protection of the Saudi oilfields against a Soviet attack, which was and is the main reason of the U.S. support for Israel, protection of the Saudi oilfields.
Meanwhile Russia decided that a military adventure in the Middle East was not the way to go, but they stayed very good friends with Iran and if Iran even succeeds halfway in their empire dream, than Russia plus Iran control the world oil price and bring the West to its knees. Why do you think the international green and red movements are against nuclear energy? Because it would make the West more independent from oil...
Is this a big enough interest?

@Joshua Trevino

In principle you are right, but if NATO wants to be successful it has to have the tacit agreement of Russia, because the fight against hezbollah is not against islam but against shia Iran and there Russia has huge interests