Lebanon needs a peacekeeping force


As days stretched into weeks, as rockets and bombs killed many civilians in Israel and even more civilians in Lebanon, the world’s leaders made their plans for dispatching to southern Lebanon what news reports keep calling a "peacekeeping force."

Which raises just one small problem: When it comes to southern Lebanon, sending in a peacekeeping force is like sending in a unicorn-herding force. For there are no unicorns that can be herded in the Holy Land. And there is no peace that can be kept in Hezbollah Land _ which is what the world has blithely and blindly allowed southern Lebanon to remain.

The only solution now is for the world leaders to finally stop conning each other and send in a globally mandated peace-making force.

The planned international military force, with France (the international administrator of Lebanon after World War I) taking a lead role, must be armed with an international mandate to do what should have been done two years ago. It must militarily enforce the 2004 United Nations Security Council Resolution 1559 on Lebanon that called for the removal of all foreign military (and Syria finally left) plus the "disbanding and disarmament of all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias" (translation: Hezbollah) _ the only provision that was never enforced.

For two years the world did nothing but watch and cluck as Hezbollah continued amassing its arsenal, courtesy of its suppliers in Syria and especially its ultimate benefactor, Iran. Israel’s leaders _ to their own shame _ did not force the world to confront its failure to enforce 1559.

Israel’s famed intelligence experts were surprised at the huge number of rockets in Hezbollah’s arsenal, and at the range and targeting capabilities of sophisticated rockets that killed Israeli civilians.

How many of those rockets were shipped into Hezbollah Land surreptitiously in the two years since Resolution 1559 was enacted? We don’t know. But we do know where Hezbollah’s rockets were targeted _ at Israeli civilians. And where Hezbollah’s rockets and launchers were located _ among Lebanese civilians. So the world would see that Israel killed Lebanese civilians every time it struck a launch site. Israel’s massive retaliation, killing so many Lebanese civilians, cost it a world of support.

Meanwhile, we also know how many world leaders stepped up in the last two years to galvanize global action to disarm Hezbollah. Zero. Not the U.N.’s Kofi Anan. Not France’s Jacques Chirac. Not Britain’s Tony Blair. Not Russia’s Vladimir Putin. Not America’s George Bush.

Indeed, President Bush and his posse of policy enunciators (who spoke so boldly in making policy statements about Iraq and Afghanistan) all seemed to speak in an oddly passive voice whenever the subject of Hezbollah was raised in the past two years.

On March 9, Bush told a Lebanese television interviewer: "Our position is clear: 1559, which we strongly support, says that armed militias should be disarmed." But he never said how it should happen or who should make it happen. When the interviewer followed up, the president merely replied: "My comment is … that armed militias should disarm."

A year earlier, on March 15, 2005, during an Oval Office photo-op Q & A with Jordan’s King Abdullah, Bush said: "We view Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, and I would hope that Hezbollah would prove that they’re not by laying down arms and not threatening peace." Asked for clarification, Bush press secretary Scott McClellan repeatedly tight-roped the passive line: "1559 does call for Hezbollah to disarm. We want to see 1559 complied with."

You will not be surprised to learn who uttered the toughest statements concerning Hezbollah. Yes, Vice President Cheney. Two years ago, as the U.N. Security Council resolution was being drafted, Cheney gave a speech in Kennewick, Wash., where he launched into one of his favorite themes (which has the added virtue of being true).

In the 1980s and 1990s, terrorists learned two lessons: The first was that they could attack U.S. targets and get away with relatively little retaliation. Cheney then said, "The second lesson they learned was they could change U.S. policy. That if you struck the U.S. hard enough, that we would respond as we did, for example, in ’83 in Beirut when we [under President Reagan] took our forces out of Lebanon shortly after." President Clinton did the same in Somalia when 19 U.S. troops were killed in one day.

"That ended on 9/11," Cheney said, when Bush declared that terrorists would no longer have a safe haven _ anywhere.

Sadly, Hezbollah has been allowed to slip under the radar of the one facet of the Bush doctrine that a world of leaders should have embraced and enforced.

(Martin Schram writes political analysis for Scripps Howard News Service. E-mail him at martin.schram(at)gmail.com.)