Being original in a week such as this one is not an option, so my first question will be the obvious one: What policy should the U.S. administration pursue in light of the ongoing crisis in Lebanon? Do you want to see the U.S. more heavily involved, and how can it help the parties get closer to a reasonable solution to this deteriorating situation?
The U.S. has to walk a fine line in this crisis. On one side, it must stand by Israel in the face of Hezbollah’s unprovoked act of aggression. On the other side, it must support the government of Lebanon, which was democratically elected and is (with the exception of its Hezbollah ministers) pro-Western and anti-Syrian. Given Hezbollah’s status as a terrorist organization, and the backing it enjoys from Iran and Syria, the United States cannot afford for Hezbollah to emerge victorious from this confrontation.
Instead, it needs to use the crisis to finish the job the Bush Administration first started when it sponsored UNSC Resolution 1559. That resolution called for the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Lebanon AND the disbandment and disarming of all militias. Bush and Chirac insisted on the implementation of the first requirement but they ignored the second. Just as in the case of the Road Map’s requirement for the dismantlement of the infrastructure of Palestinian terror, the Bush administration preferred to believe that elections would produce governments in Lebanon and the Palestinian Authority that would then be able to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure. Instead, Hezbollah took advantage of the Lebanese elections to enter the government where it has wielded a veto over any attempt to disarm it. And we all know what happened in the Palestinian elections. So the Bush administration needs to use this crisis to make progress on the disarmament issue in Lebanon and the Palestinian territories. It should be clear by now that a failure to do so will doom Bush’s democratic adventure on both fronts.