An idea is gaining ground. It is a Palestinian-Israeli peace to be concluded over the prostrate body of Lebanon. The project suffers from numerous ailments. They begin with the word “peace.” What is actually meant is an “armistice” of uncertain duration. That might be better than what we have now but it is, regardless of wishful thinking, considerably less than a “peace.”
The proposed (see the new French draft resolution before the Security Council) arrangement’s unstated cornerstone is a peace-keeping force. Officially the proposal begins with an armistice followed by the insertion of an international force and the army of Lebanon.
The gist of the problem of the proposed approach to problem solving is this. A real peace is, as things stand, unlikely. While Israel, Lebanon and some other Arab states might want it, a non-state entity that is a cheap-to-run proxy of recognized states (Syria and Iran) exercises de facto control over the moment’s battle-field. The Party of God – well supplied with prayers and arms – is committed to a struggle to the last drop of unwillingly hosting Lebanon’s blood. Therefore, any cessation of hostilities (whether that be a peace or an armistice) depends of Hizbollah’s intentions. These Jihadists will agree to little and whatever they promise they will not feel obligated to keep as agreements with faithless dogs lack validity once breaking them is of use to the Faith.
All plans for pacification are cognizant of Hizbollah and so they take into account the resulting problem of making, respectively keeping the peace. Doing either one of the above – keep in mind that the difference between the two roles is huge – presupposes a numerically large and qualitatively advanced fighting force. A relatively wide zone between Israel’s northern border and the Litani river must be tightly controlled by it. Unlike in the case of the token UN forces now withdrawn, passive “observation” will not cut the cake. The military force, actually the army to be put together for patrolling the deal must be credible. As it is likely to have to fight Hizbollah, the planned international army needs to have the will to make peace by warring for it and it must, therefore, be prepared to bring sacrifices in the fulfillment of its duty. The easy part will be to keep Israel from the throat ofLebanon. The hard part will be to restore ultimately (probably by force) Lebanese sovereignty over her entire state territory.
Since “credibility” also has a political dimension, the US cannot be part of the peace-keeping army. By implication this limits the stipulated military competence of the proposed force. Besides some symbolic participants included “out of politeness” the process of elimination limits the membership to a core provided by the secular states of Europe. Apparently the prospective participants are cognizant of this. Norway has been honest enough to announce that it shall not be part of the project. The rest hope that there will first be a “peace” after which the planned force will enter into the region. Irrationally it is also being assumed that the presence of an international army will assure general compliance.
This latter expectation has about the rationality of hoping to encounter marching snowmen in the Sahara. Keeping the peace and guaranteeing Lebanon’s currently not existent sovereignty means a job that Lebanon’s army of 70,000 could and would not tackle. In a worse-case-scenario the further aspects of the task are identical to what Israel’s current incursion finds difficult to accomplish. Once all this is added up it is difficult to see how the international force will muster the means and especially the determination to measure up to its assignment. Meanwhile it should be added that failure will not only jeopardize future solutions in the Near East but also compromise all future UN peace-actions involving anything that even resembles a military.