The Only Way Outby Doug Mataconis
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.
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