Maybe Next Time

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The rush in the United Nations to demand a ceasefire in Lebanon and the interposition of peace-keepers is increasingly seen as a bankrupt policy. There are already 2,000 peace-keepers on the Lebanese-Israeli border. Like other peace-keepers, they are not needed when there is peace, and are ineffective when there is war. The spectacle of the uninvited and well-meaning Kofi Annan, erupting into the G-8 meeting at St. Petersburg and invoking the same tired, nonsensical formula for a problem that has made a mockery of such efforts since the British Mandate in Palestine, merely highlights the need for a new approach.

One of the welcome developments is the broad unity among what used to be called the Great Powers. It is a good thing that the G-8 agreed at St. Petersburg, blamed the Islamic terrorists for the problem, and made purposeful noises. President Putin, the host, and Italy’s new premier, Romano Prodi, did much better than the usual Russian obstructionism and Italian waffling.

But Tony Blair made it clear that Britain could not contribute anything to an international force. And Jacques Chirac, after a speech that might have prepared the uninitiated for a military effort worthy of Napoleon’s Austerlitz campaign or Marshal Foch’s great offensive to win the World War I in 1918, shouted that the international force must be not less than 8,000 men. The French president frequently is delusional, but even he cannot imagine that half a division is going to keep Hezbollah back more than 90 miles from the Israeli border, and prevent the infiltration of war supplies into Lebanon.

Only Stephen Harper and President Bush suggested anything that could plausibly reduce the problem: to encourage the Israeli Defense Forces to kill or scatter Hezbollah. This is war-making, but if it is executed crisply, that is often the only method of peace-keeping.

The second welcome development is that the major Arab powers have finally broken with their Iranian co-religionists. Egypt, Jordan, and even Saudi Arabia, have effectively taken the side of Israel against Hezbollah and Hamas. This may not last, but having happened once, it will recur. Not only has all the bunk about “the Arab street” yielded to the survival instincts of the moderate Jordanian king, who is rather despotic, Mr. Mubarak, and the repressive Saudi royal family; the solidarity of Islam has given way to a fraternity of unthreatening countries against terrorists.

This is particularly significant for Saudi Arabia, which is really a joint venture between the House of Saud and the terrorist-inciting Wahabbi establishment. If the Saudis can ditch the Islamic terrorism-mongers and keep their throne, this will change the correlation of forces in the area, and in the world, for the better.

The third welcome development is that it should be seen that democracy is not a solution in the Middle East, yet that it remains desirable. The Iraqi, Lebanese, and Palestinian elections were improvements on the absence of real elections, but not a panacea. The democratically elected governments cannot govern while the Iraqi factions are armed and insubordinate to the regime; while the military direction of Hamas comes from Palestinians in Syria and not the elected leaders, and while Lebanon is resistless against heavily armed interlopers such as Hezbollah.

The possible fourth welcome development is that it must now be clear to almost everyone that Israel could never have made peace with its Arab neighbors, as long as they were terrorist states or appeasers of terrorist states. Hamas is not really significantly worse than Arafat. And although some Israeli governments were too intractable and unimaginative, and the Palestinian issue was bungled by many Israeli leaders, the long Western dalliance with moral equivalence between reasonable Arabs, a wretched gang of aspirant, Arab Nazis and the generally admirable State of Israel, may now be ending.

Of course the incorrigible BBC, an ant-hill of flat-earth anti-Semitism, is already simpering about “asymmetry” of casualties between Israel and Lebanon. Can we have more than a few days to wait for retrospective wistfulness that the Anglo-Saxon powers lost only a fifth or sixth of the war-dead of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan in the World War II, without counting the enemies’ death and prison camp victims?

The best immediate solution would be if the Jordanians, Egyptians, Iraqis, Israelis, and Turks, with the G-8 helping them under some U.N. Security Council aegis, got rid of the Baathist regime in Damascus, and allowed young Assad to spend more time with his medical practice as an eye doctor in Ealing. It is preposterous that Syria, a dusty, impoverished little tyranny with a GDP smaller than New Brunswick’s, can be such a nuisance. But it cannot be the Americans or other outsiders who dispose of Assad. After getting rid of him and the tribal military clique of his father’s cronies around him, there will be no need to nation-build, as the Americans are trying to do in Iraq. The next Syrian strongman would be more careful.

Regime change in Syria would be the end of Hezbollah, enable Lebanon to function, produce resident government in Palestine, stop much of the insurgent infiltration into Iraq, and be a useful lesson to Iran. (We probably have five years before we will absolutely have to get rid of Iran’s nuclear capability, and there is an actuarial possibility it will come to its senses in the meantime). Unfortunately, such a consummation is unlikely, so we will probably have to settle for a comprehensive Israeli pummeling of Hezbollah, a respectable consolation prize, but not a durable solution. Maybe next time.

Lord Black is the author, most recently, of “Franklin Delano Roosevelt: Champion of Freedom.” An edition of this column originally appeared in the National Post of Canada.

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