By Freedom Newspapers
After a brief interlude when the United States took a hands-off position toward the fighting in Lebanon, the United States has teamed up with France to offer a cease-fire resolution in the U.N. Security Council.
Because of opposition from Lebanon and other Arab states the resolution is unlikely to succeed. And even if it were passed in the cavern of winds on the East River, one wonders whether it would actually bring about a cease-fire.
A U.N. cease-fire resolution is an optimistic gesture, but if one of the parties to conflict is not interested in stopping the fighting it is unlikely to be effective. In the present conflict Israel, Lebanon and the jihadist Hezbollah group are demanding conditions that are unlikely to materialize soon. Neither side seems ready to quit fighting just yet.
The U.N. can raise peacekeeping forces to police a cease-fire and minimize accidental conflict when both parties agree to stop fighting (though one or both sides may contain or harbor elements likely to violate the peace). But the United Nations is in no position to impose a cease-fire on parties in the midst of fighting. What country would volunteer to put its troops in danger under U.N. auspices if the job is really war — defeating one side or the other?
All this is regrettable because the conflict offers a clear example of the fact that relying on the use of force as a primary means of accomplishing political objectives is fraught with danger and unintended consequences. When Hezbollah killed eight soldiers and captured two others in July, it may have intended simply to show some solidarity with Palestinian resistance forces in Gaza and prompt a prisoner exchange.
It probably didn’t anticipate the heavy response Israel brought to bear.
And it seems clear — although some Israeli military authorities deny it — that when Israel unleashed its air war and subsequent ground campaign on suspected Hezbollah positions that Israel did not anticipate the effectiveness, discipline and ferocity with which Hezbollah elements would fight. If Israel intended a swift campaign to degrade Hezbollah’s ability to launch rockets and incursions into Israeli territory, it has discovered the job will not be easy.
Thus both sides are locked into a struggle neither is willing to end quickly. The war runs the risk of destabilizing a Lebanon whose central government, having made a commitment to modest democratization, is still weak and whose army is ineffective.
Hezbollah runs the risk of having its military capacity degraded while destroying the good will it had built up among Shia Lebanese, not to mention Christians and Sunnis, who had not been militant but had been seduced by hospitals, schools and clinics supported by Hezbollah. Without that sympathy, Hezbollah militants will be less able to fade into the civilian population in the future.
Meanwhile, because Hezbollah is backed by Iran and Syria and Israel is backed by heavy military foreign aid from the United States, the conflict threatens to make the entire Middle East — hardly a model of stability in the best of times — even more unstable.
When the warring parties decide there is more to be lost than gained in continuing the conflict, it will wind down — unless more miscalculation widens the conflict. Perhaps that will coincide with a U.N. resolution, perhaps not. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is headed for the U.N. for deliberations on the cease-fire and setting up a peacekeeping force.
Unfortunately, few are likely to learn the lesson — it has been taught and ignored throughout human history — that massive use of force seldom solves or alleviates human problems.