By DALE McFEATTERS
Perhaps it is the paucity of ideas for ending the conflict in Lebanon that led President Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair to agree to return to a two-year-old U.N. resolution that passed the Security Council with only lukewarm support.
Resolution 1559 was successful in its broad aim of persuading Syria to pull out of Lebanon but failed in its lesser goals of disarming and disbanding armed militias and restoring Lebanese government control over its entirety.
The British leader, as he has throughout Bush’s tenure, stood steadfastly by him in refusing to call, as have most of the major nations, for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire with the Israeli armed strike into Lebanon still far short of its goal of fatally crippling Hezbollah.
Instead, Bush and Blair said they will work for an updated Resolution 1559 and creation of a U.N.-sponsored international force to stabilize southern Lebanon while the Lebanese government and regular army reassert control.
They were sketchy on who would do this and how it would be done. The U.S. and Britain are the two countries most capable of doing it, but they have major military commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has already said that American combat troops would not be part of the international force.
This means convincing other countries to expose their militaries to Hezbollah, a thoroughly nasty and entrenched guerrilla force, and persuading Syria and Iran, with whom the Bush administration is loath to talk, to withhold financial and logistical support for Hezbollah.
Bush was asked whether the U.S. still had the influence to pull off this kind of diplomatic coup. He said it did, offering as his only evidence a U.S.-brokered resolution by the G-8 condemning Hezbollah.
Ending the war in Lebanon will take much more than another resolution.
(Contact Dale McFeatters at McFeattersD(at)SHNS.com.)