IN THE NEWS
Rick Shenkman puts the Lebanon problem in the simplest terms. [Thanks to Your Right Hand Thief for the link.] Every day in Iraq adds to the negative example: today, snipers killed 20 Shi'ite pilgrims, another outrage that the world's most powerful military was unable to prevent.
Still, Shenkman's comments are worth a little embellishment. While the rest of Lebanon--including people who were once hell-bent on killing each other, like Michel Aoun and Walid Jumblatt--have kept political competition confined to peaceful battlefields, Hezbollah has reserved the right to unilateral military action. Lebanon's meager police and military forces are outmatched in any conflict with Hezbollah, who unlike its rivals, sees more pros than cons in a resumption of Lebanon's horrible civil war.
To succeed, Hezbollah's rivals will need help. The Israeli campaign against Hezbollah did not help. The Bush Administration's green light to the Olmert government did not help. At some point, Hezbollah will have to be disarmed. Otherwise, Lebanon will be held hostage to Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, or his successor, in perpetuity. Lebanese security forces need personnel, training, equipment, and the sure knowledge that, when they confront Hezbollah, they will have a good chance of winning. (That last bit may require assurances from regional and outside powers that, when the chips are down, the Lebanese government has friends who will rush to help.)
The last few weeks of conflict between Israel and Hezbollah have moved Lebanon farther away from this goal. The current worries over the size and effectiveness of the UN peacekeeping force, and the risk that the cease-fire might collapse before the peacekeepers arrive, show how little help Lebanon is really getting.