Secretary Rice:

“What I won’t do is go to some place and try to get a cease-fire that I know isn’t going to last.”

“A cease-fire would be a false promise if it simply returns us to the status quo, allowing terrorists to launch attacks at the time and terms of their choosing, and to threaten innocent people, Arab and Israeli, throughout the region.”

“That would be a guarantee of future violence.”

I actually think Rice is right here. Thinking beyond the current suffering the conflict obviously has brought (and will bring) to both the Israelis and Lebanese, simply imposing a cease-fire without altering the status-quo ante (i.e. eliminating or, more realistically, significantly degrading Hezbollah’s ability to launch attacks against Israel from Southern Lebanon) will only allow this type of conflict to erupt again. The only advantage of the status-quo ante is that it will temporarily end the current conflict.

But that of course is the problem—it would be temporary. The ultimate solution is to have a Lebanese state with enough capacity to exert authority over its entire territory. This is a long term project. In the meantime there needs to be some kind of international force that can prevent provocative attacks from being launched from the border, allowing the state time to develop. But such a force is likely to succeed only if Hezbollah’s operational capacity is degraded—hence the coming Israel ground operation in the South before Rice’s visit to the region.

The rub of course is that there is no way to know for sure whether this strategy will work. In theory, this could be a transformational operation. In practice, it could degenerate into the same fiasco that created the conidtions for Hezbollah’s emergence over 20 years ago. I wish I could come up with a better idea–one that had a more obvious probability of success than the one currently being implemented by the Israelis and at least tacitly supported by the US. But not this morning.

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