MARGARET WARNER: Philip Gordon, how big a commitment is this on the part of the Europeans?
PHILIP GORDON, Brookings Institution: It’s a pretty important commitment, because you remember that the cease-fire in southern Lebanon was contingent on an international force going in, as was the deployment of the Lebanese army to the south.
And for the past week, we’ve all been sitting around waiting to see if this key piece of the whole picture was going to happen. There was some doubts for a while, but now the fact that they were able to pledge 7,000 troops, which makes it easier for other countries, Muslim countries, to pledge the rest, it looks very positive.
MARGARET WARNER: So, Philip Gordon, explain Jacques Chirac and what happened with France, though. Last week, he was almost ridiculed for proposing just to double their current UNIFIL contribution from 200 to 400, after saying that they wanted to leave the force, they were behind the U.N. resolution. Yesterday, he said 2,000. What happened?
PHILIP GORDON: There was a big disconnect between what people were expecting from France and thought they understood from France and what the reality was. Everyone assumed that France would be delighted to lead this force and send lots of troops.
They have a historic role in Lebanon. People assume that Jacques Chirac wants to show France’s world role, the importance of the European Union. He has been tough on Iran and Syria, which assassinated his friend, the former prime minister of Lebanon, Rafik Hariri, all sorts of reasons that people were just assuming. France’s role at the U.N., France was key in negotiating the cease-fire and the U.N. resolution.
So we were all sitting around, figuring and assuming that France would lead this force. Nobody really checked with the French military and the French defense ministry which was going to have to send these troops.
And when they did, it also had to do with the particular mandate. If you remember, the first U.N. Security Council resolution was under Chapter Seven of the U.N. charter which means force could be used…
I think it's unusual for the chief of staff to go on a trip, particularly on a trip this long. The chief of staff is usually more of a chief operating officer in the White House itself, and normally when your principal—whether it's the president himself or the head of Cabinet agency—goes abroad, you have his deputy and those folks staying behind to help manage operations in his absence.