The Only Way Out

In this morning’s Washington Post, Charles Krauthammer outlines what may be the only sensible way to end the Israeli-Hezbollah war in Lebanon. Krauthammer argues that this war has created a unique situation; the Arab world, and most of the rest of the world, seems united in the opinion that Hezbollah, Iran, and Syria have gone too far and are the ones primarily responsible for the current state of affairs. Clearly, something must be done about Hezbollah, but there is only one nation with the capability to do it:

The road to a solution is therefore clear: Israel liberates south Lebanon and gives it back to the Lebanese.

It starts by preparing the ground with air power, just as the Persian Gulf War began with a 40-day air campaign. But if all that happens is the air campaign, the result will be failure. Hezbollah will remain in place, Israel will remain under the gun, Lebanon will remain divided and unfree. And this war will start again at a time of Hezbollah and Iran’s choosing.

Just as in Kuwait in 1991, what must follow the air campaign is a land invasion to clear the ground and expel the occupier. Israel must retake south Lebanon and expel Hezbollah. It would then declare the obvious: that it has no claim to Lebanese territory and is prepared to withdraw and hand south Lebanon over to the Lebanese army (augmented perhaps by an international force), thus finally bringing about what the world has demanded — implementation of Resolution 1559 and restoration of south Lebanon to Lebanese sovereignty.

Given that every other effort to rein in Hezbollah has ended in failure and has resulted in death and misery for the people of Lebanon and the people of Israel, this certainly seems like the only way that this can really be brought to an end. Any solution that results in armed members of Hezbollah on the ground within striking distance of Israel is only a cease fire, not a resolution.

Several questions remain, of course. How would Syria and Iran react to such an Israeli offensive ? And, more importantly, Krauthammer wonders if the political will for such a move exists in Israel and the United States:

Does Prime Minister Ehud Olmert have the courage to do what is so obviously necessary? And will Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s upcoming peace trip to the Middle East force a premature cease-fire that spares her the humiliation of coming home empty-handed but prevents precisely the kind of decisive military outcome that would secure the interests of Israel, Lebanon, the moderate Arabs and the West?

Those questions are all the more important given this report from the Guardian:

The US is giving Israel a window of a week to inflict maximum damage on Hizbullah before weighing in behind international calls for a ceasefire in Lebanon, according to British, European and Israeli sources.

The Bush administration, backed by Britain, has blocked efforts for an immediate halt to the fighting initiated at the UN security council, the G8 summit in St Petersburg and the European foreign ministers’ meeting in Brussels.

“It’s clear the Americans have given the Israelis the green light. They [the Israeli attacks] will be allowed to go on longer, perhaps for another week,” a senior European official said yesterday. Diplomatic sources said there was a clear time limit, partly dictated by fears that a prolonged conflict could spin out of control.

Under the circumstances, setting a deadline doesn’t seem to make sense. If the problem is the existence of a terrorist army on Israel’s Northern border, then the solution to that problem is obvious; either destroy that army completely or push it far enough away from the border that it is no longer a threat. If this war ends with a situation on the ground that is not much different from what existed before the fighting started, then all the fighting will have been for nothing, and we will just be biding time until the next war.

Related Posts at The Liberty Papers:

The 2006 Arab-Israeli War
So Be It
How To Fix The Middle East

  • Will Harris

    I agree, we need to let Israel do what needs to be done to bring this to an end. It is clear that Iran and Syria are not interested in peace, but just the opposite. If Israel can get the job done, then I say let them.

    Personally if I were Israel I would tell the rest of the world to shut up or put up. No one has tried to do anything enforce Resolution 1559 despite knowing the fact that Lebanon is not capable of doing so itself. The Israeli’s have finally had enough and are trying to fix the problem. I think the world should back them and go a step farther and sanction (heavily) any government that provides any support for Hezbollah.

    Unfortunately while this is a great idea, I cannot see it actually happening. Instead Lebanon I fear will become the hot bed for terrorist it once was out of this.

  • Kevin

    I concur with Will. I don’t see the political will in either the US or Israel to actually go into south Lebanon with tanks, AFVs, and infantry to destroy Hezbollah.

    But even as great of an idea as Krauthammer’s, it still suffers from a major flaw. The Syrians and Iranians will simply recruit and build a new proxy army in Lebanon to conduct their war against Israel. Only when the Israelis make the Syrians and especially the Iranians pay a major price in blood for their proxy wars is when Israel will finally enjoy peace.

  • Doug Mataconis


    I don’t disagree with either you or Will. The prospect of an Israeli war against Syria and/or Iran is, and should be, distressing to everyone because it will undoutably impact the entire world.

    But, I can’t help drawing the analogies to pre-WW2 Europe. Fighting Germany in the mid-1930s over Alsace-Lorraine, or in 1938 over the Sudetendland would have been bloody. But, given the history we know, I can hardly think how it could possibly have been worse.

    If we’re going to have to fight these guys eventually, I’d rather to it sooner than later.