Tuesday, August 01, 2006


Lots of talk around the 'net regarding Lebanon, but I'd like to step back for a moment and take the long view. What happens when Israel leaves Lebanon? Obviously Israel will leave southern Lebanon at some time, and judging by the Israeli government's statements, that day will be sooner rather than later. Israel will not stick around to clean up the mess they made. That wasn't the purpose of their operation. The purpose of the operation (which they have, thus far, failed miserably at) was the destruction of Hezbollah. While Hezbollah has been dealt a severe blow, they aren't destroyed. And they won't be destroyed in a month long operation. To be honest, there are really only two ways Hezbollah will be totally and utterly rendered impotent: option 1 is regime change in both Syria and Iran, while option 2 is strengthening Lebanon's government, and more importantly, their army. Both options suck, but we won't have "peace in the Middle East" (meaning peace for Israel and the surrounding area) until we do one of them.

Now, before we go any further, one must accept my statement that the U.N., and more specifically, U.N. peacekeeping forces are inept and powerless at best, and corrupt and criminal at worst. Point being that the U.N. is not an answer for this problem. Any force must be outside of the U.N.'s jurisdiction, if for nothing else than the fact that U.N. has "peacekeeping" forces and this region has no peace to keep. We need peacemaking forces.

So that said, I think it's obvious that option 1 will take at least another generation to achieve (barring something unexpected, like Iran going apeshit with their nukes) because of political realities in the U.S. and on the international stage, so that option isn't relevant to this discussion. Which leaves us with option 2. In order for option 2 to be a viable one, the Lebanese government must obtain a sponsor, someone to fill the role that Iran and Syria occupy with Hezbollah.

Let me step back for a minute and explain why this is so important. The Lebanese people are sick of Hezbollah. They have been for a long time. They kicked Syria out of their country just a few short months ago, so there is no love lost between the Hezbollah-Syria-Iran axis and the Lebanese people. But now all of that anger is directed against Israel, for a basic reason: Hezbollah-Syria-Iran isn't blowing up their country. That anger must be turned back towards Hezbollah, and by extension Syria and Iran, if option 2 is to work. That anger will probably swing back that way automatically once Israel stops attacking and Hezbollah reasserts itself in Lebanon, stronger than ever (if the above linked post is to be believed.)

So, assuming we have our preset conditions of leaving the U.N. out of it and having the Lebanese people reawaken their anger at Hezbollah and Co., how do we go about option 2?

As previously stated, an outside agent must come in and support the Lebanese government in its fight against Hezbollah. So we're clear, what I mean when I say "support" is a couple of things. First, the outside agent must provide a sizeable amount of weapons and military training to the Lebanese military. Second, the outside agent must provide an even larger amount of aid to the Lebanese government for the Lebanese government to distribute in rebuilding the country. Finally, the outside agent must let it be known that it supports the duly elected Lebanese government, and it will not stand idly by should someone *cough Syria cough* choose to overtly interfere with that government.

Who will the outside agent be? In my mind, we have three choices: a U.S. led coalition, a NATO-led force, or some sort of EU operation. To me the EU would be least plausable because the EU does not have the political will to back up this type of operation. Also, they really don't have the military know-how or the military coordination. This requires an organization that has shed its training wheels. In a perfect world, NATO would take on this role, but they are pretty tied up in Afghanistan right now, and are unlikely to want to take on more responsibilities. So that leaves the U.S. While the U.S. might not seem like the best option, I think we can pull it off and here's why: while we're seen as friends of Israel over all else in the Middle East, that perception is rather weak in Lebanon, and in any case the people of Lebanon are more anxious to get rid of Hezbollah. Plus, we wouldn't be acting directly, but would simply be providing support. And that is the crucial difference. While Israel went in to do things herself, this gradually turned the Lebanese people against Israel. They might hate Hezbollah, but they hate getting their homes blown up and losing their country's self respect even more.

How would we go about doing this? President Bush needs to propose this as part of his larger Middle East initiative of promoting liberal democracy. He needs to make sure to emphasize the point that all we are doing is providing aid to the Lebanese government so they can retake their own country from the terrorist thugs who currently control a large chunk of it now. We have no interest in control, and the only troops we have on the ground are advisors who will leave as soon as the Lebanese forces are stood up. But as I said previously, he also needs to emphasize that we will brook no external interference in Lebanese affairs, and that we are prepared to back our promise up with force.

The logistics of it would be extremely simple, and relatively cheap. $50 million 0r so in arms and military aid plus a couple hundred U.S. advisors to train the force. Also worth looking into would be bringing in coalition forces to help train up the Lebanese military; Jordan has helped train Iraqi special forces, and I know several other countries are involved with the training of Iraqi troops. It would definitely be worth it to bring them into this effort as well. In addition to the military aid, we would need around $100 million to disburse to the Lebanese government for rebuilding, especially in Hezbollah controlled areas. It's important to show that the Lebanese government can provide a viable alternative to Hezbollah when it comes to local administration and aid/rebuilding. (For the record, the monetary numbers are just spitballing, but I think they should be relatively accurate, given Lebanon's size and current condition. If anyone thinks they need to be drastically altered, drop me a line.)

Of course, the question is could Bush realistically pull this off. Most would say no, but I would say that it is possible, provided a few things. Bush accepts the fact that he has only 2 years left in office to make his mark, and that the next GOP candidate will distance himself considerably from Bush, and the fact that the GOP is going to lose some seats in Congress, to a variety of reasons, most of them domestic and of Congress' own making. Basically, he needs to say f**k it and just do this.

To me, $150 million, deployment of a couple hundred U.S. advisors, and the possibility of taking a severe political hit is more than worth the price of the start of viable peace in the Middle East.