Friday, November 24, 2006

How to Let Lebanon Live


"Lebanon is one piece on a chess board, and its fate cannot be decided in isolation from the rest. Syrian and Israeli policies have more impact than the decisions of Lebanon's elected leaders. Both neighbors--probably the worst any country could ask for--have visions of the Lebanon they want. Syria prefers one where it can choose the president, parliament, prime minister and cabinet. Israel wants to rid Lebanon of what is undoubtedly its most popular political party, Hizballah. It would also like a compliant, pro-American president and government of the kind it tried to implant by force in 1982.

So, what can the United States do? I can tell you what it has done. In 1976, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger approved the Syrian occupation of Lebanon. In 1982, his successor, Al Haig, encouraged Israel's invasion. Then, in 1990, another American secretary of state, James Baker, gave the go-ahead for the Syrian army to return to the parts of Lebanon from which it had been excluded in 1982. Neither Syria nor Israel entered Lebanon without an American okay. An American diktat could keep them both out, if the US cared as much about Lebanon as its politicians claim.

The Middle East lurches from crisis to crisis--often on Lebanon's fertile ground--because no one in Washington has the integrity or the wisdom to force a peace that gives the Palestinians a place to live independently and Israel the chance to be something more interesting than a local military superpower. When Israeli soldiers stop uprooting olive trees in the West Bank and protecting settlers on the Golan, the Lebanese won't live in fear that someone is inciting them to war once again."

No comments: