By J. Peter Pham & Michael I. Krauss : | 24 Aug 2006
The following is not the outline of a rejected screenplay by an aspiring Hollywood writer trying to outdo 24. Nor is it product of a freshman political science student’s imagination, concocting a term paper after a weekend of partying. It is merely an introduction one of the most stunning aspects of contemporary international relations in the real world: the United Nations’ relentless campaign to undermine the security of Israel.
Consider the following:
Israel receives actionable intelligence concerning a specific shipment of weapons from Iran to Hezbollah near Bekaa Valley. This shipment is in flagrant violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1701 (August 2006), and also of predecessor resolutions, including Resolution 1559 (2004). It is also a clear breach of the Taif Agreement (1989), which ended Lebanon’s civil war. Finding that neither the 2,000 “peacekeepers” of the old, hapless UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) nor the new Lebanese forces deploying there are willing to interdict the shipment, Israel sends a crack commando unit to do the job. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan denounces the raid, of course, as a blatant Israeli transgression of the ceasefire resolution.
France, which supplies the general in command of the old UNIFIL force that allowed Hezbollah to rule over South Lebanon (as we previously documented), now agrees to lead the expanded and robust international force meant to implement 1701. After agreeing to spearhead the new force, what does President Jacques Chirac deem an appropriate contribution? A laughable contingent of 200 combat engineers who, according to French defense minister Michele Alliot-Marie, will remain in Lebanon for at most six months.
One nation that has volunteered forces for the new UNIFIL is Malaysia. But Malaysia refuses to recognize the legitimacy of Israel. The Malaysian government has been a major sponsor of Murabitun, an Islamist sect headed by former actor Ian Dallas (a.k.a. Sheikh Abd al-Qadir al-Murabit) and headquartered in a mansion in Scotland. Murabitun celebrates Hitler as a “great genius” one of the foremost jihadists of all times. In 2003 Prime Minister Mohamad distributed copies of Henry Ford’s anti-Semitic classic, The International Jew, to tens of thousands of delegates attending his party’s annual convention. [Even Ford himself ultimately recognized his book was a fraud and apologized to the entire world for it.] This is one of the neutral “peacekeepers” that Israel is supposed to trust to enforce 1701.
Not only is the UN delinquent, the Lebanese government appears utterly uninterested in fulfilling 1701’s foremost obligation, the disarming of the terrorist group that was using Lebanese territory to invade Israel. President Émile Lahoud, a Syrian-installed lackey and the constitutional commander-in-chief of the Lebanese Army assigned to secure the border with Israel, has stated that it would be “disgraceful” to disarm Hezbollah. Lebanese Defense Minister Elias Murr, another Syrian hanger-on in the patchwork quilt of Beirut’s coalition government, also declines to “strip Hezbollah of weapons and do the work that Israel did not.”
Meanwhile, Secretary-General Annan informs an Israeli television station that “dismantling Hezbollah is not the direct mandate of the U.N., which could only help Lebanon do the job.” One analyst told Britain’s Guardian (hardly a pro-Israeli publication), “All intelligence gathered by the [Lebanese] army is put at the disposal of Hezbollah, but Hezbollah does not offer the same transparency to the army. In a sense, military intelligence in the south [of Lebanon] is operating on Hezbollah’s behalf.”
This sequence of events is neither “reality television” nor “virtual reality.” It is reality, a question of life and death for millions of Israelis, Lebanese, and others. The deeper tragedy is that, over time, men and women of good faith get used to such absurdities and accept it as “normal.” This is the international equivalent of the infamous “soft bigotry of low expectations” so aptly decried by President Bush as regards aspects of our domestic policy. Slowly but surely, the West gets used to Arab states in particular (and the UN in general) flagrantly breaking their word. Gradually some come around to defining, as Richard Cohen did recently in an infamous Washington Post op-ed, Israel itself as an historical mistake, because its creation assumed that Arab populations could be able to coexist with modernity. What an incredible insult to Arab Muslims this is.
While she has not — at least so far — gone to the latter extreme, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has traveled quite a distance down this path. First, like her predecessor Colin Powell, she has fallen for the well-worn French diplomatic trick of promising a future strong Security Council resolution in exchange for America’s accepting a weaker one now. Secretary Rice then played an important role in compelling Israel to accept the watered down 1701 just as the Israeli Defense Forces were beginning to seriously degrade Hezbollah.
Rice then lowered expectations further by telling USA Today’s Susan Page last week that she didn’t “think there is an expectation that this [UN] force is going to physically disarm Hezbollah.” Thus did the Secretary of State put the lie to her own remarks at the Security Council one week earlier. At that time she had declared that the new UNIFIL “will have an expanded mandate, a greater scope of operations, better equipment, and much larger numbers” and would ensure that there were “no foreign forces, no weapons, and no authority in Lebanon other than that of the independent Lebanese government.”
In the same USA Today interview, Secretary Rice gave voice to a perilous preference of process over policy that deserves an extended quotation:
“You have to have a plan, first of all, for the disarmament of a militia, and then the hope is that some people lay down their arms voluntarily. You have cantonment areas where heavy arms are — but the disarmament of militias is essentially a political agreement and the Lebanese Government has said that it intends to live up to its obligations under Resolution 1559 and … the Taif Accord…– that they will not have any groups in Lebanon carrying arms that are not a part of the central security forces of Lebanon. So the political agreement is in place. Now the plan for disarmament is to be worked out. Kofi Annan is to present a plan. This will have to be worked with the Lebanese Government, it’ll have to be worked with the Lebanese armed forces, and I’m sure to the degree that support is needed for that, the international forces can help.”
Rice seems almost content to let the farcical scenario orchestrated at Turtle Bay — including the suggestion that the IDF commando raid was a threat to peace — play itself out. Unfortunately, this time the victims will not only include Israeli and Lebanese, but also the tattered diplomatic credibility of the United States. Our nation must stand on principle and insist, even when the UN itself won’t, that promises are promises and rules are rules — even when the promises are made by Arab states.
Currently, Israel is the canary in the coal mine. It fights mano a mano a battle that the entire West, diplomatic denials notwithstanding, is waging at a distance against terrorists and their state sponsors. If our foes sense that our will to fight is gone and that we are ready to accept lower standards for that region of the world, or if our allies sense a weakening of our commitment, then truly we are at the edge of the abyss.
Michael I. Krauss is professor of law at George Mason University School of Law. J. Peter Pham is director of the Nelson Institute for International and Public Affairs at James Madison University. Both are adjunct fellows of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.
This first appeared in Tech Central Station. Comments are welcome
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