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Lessons Learned

By Jed Babbin

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and British Prime Minister Tony Blair want to send an international force to separate Israel from Hizballah terrorists in Lebanon. Mr. Blair said a UN force should be sent to, "...stop the bombardment coming over into Israel and therefore gives Israel a reason to stop its attacks on Hezbollah." Kofi Annan said such a force could, "...pursue the idea of stabilization." But their idea assumes first, that a cease-fire would protect those worthy of protection, and second that restoring the region's ante bellum "stability" would promote long-term peace. Both assumptions are utterly false.

Hizballah is not some small, ragged band scattered around Lebanon. It is a huge terrorist structure, built over decades, that includes thousands of men, weapons, positions, offices and everything that enables it to control southern Lebanon. Israel is now destroying that infrastructure. A cease-fire would benefit Hizballah and threaten Israel. It would protect both Hizballah and the nations that support it - Syria and Iran - as well as the Lebanese that have accepted the terrorist organization as a legitimate part of their government. A cease-fire would allow Hizballah to rebuild its power base and enable it to resume its attacks whenever Damascus and Tehran desired. For Israel, a UN force would create no security whatever against future attacks. The UN's years-long record on the Israel-Lebanon border makes mockery of the term "peacekeeping." On page 155 of my book, "Inside the Asylum," is a picture of a UN outpost on that border. The UN flag and the Hizballah flag fly side-by-side. Observers told me the UN and Hizballah personnel share water, telephones and that the UN presence serves as a shield against Israeli strikes against the terrorists.

The Israeli response to the attack by Lebanon-based Hizballah terrorists was much more violent and effective than Hizballah, Iran or Syria expected. The Olmert government failed to make any significant response to previous raids from Gaza and Lebanon, which encouraged both terrorist regimes. The Syrian and Iranian regimes practice brinksmanship as their foreign policy. They attack as often as they can in as aggressive manner as they believe will not trigger a decisive response. Iran wanted to distract the G-8 summit from agreeing to do anything about its nuclear weapons program, so it apparently told its Hizballah surrogates in Lebanon that the time was ripe to begin a major offensive.

The Hizballah attacks began about two weeks after Israel suffered the usual international condemnations for its response to the Gaza-based Hamas kidnapping of an Israeli soldier. Even after the Gaza incursion - emboldened by international condemnation of Israel's "disproportionate" response -- Iran and Syria were convinced that Israel would do no more than make token raids into Lebanon. For the first time, Israel has acted in accordance with what used to be George Bush's theory: that a government which contains, supports or harbors terrorists is responsible for their actions. Israel is now demonstrating that there is a price to be exacted from nations who collaborate with terrorists. The reason Israel must not agree to a cease-fire now, and why a UN force must be rejected is the fact that the Arab nations may be starting to open their eyes.

An emergency Cairo meeting of the 18 Arab League nations' foreign ministers last weekend produced the most significant event in the region since Saddam fell from power. These meetings are routine, held in crises or for political posturing and on every occasion before last weekend have resulted in condemnation of Israel and (or) the United States. This meeting began with the Lebanese foreign minister Fawzi Salloukh proposing a resolution condemning Israel's military action, supporting Lebanon's "right to resist occupation by all legitimate means" (which even the AP report characterized as "language frequently used by Hizballah to justify its guerillas' presence in south Lebanon.") The Lebanese draft also called on Israel to release all Lebanese prisoners and supported Lebanon's right to "liberate them by all legitimate means." The "Lebanese prisoners" are virtually all Hizballah members and "legitimate means" translates to terrorism. The Syrian foreign minister, Walid Moallem, strongly supported Lebanon and Hizballah. But an historic obstacle was raised that blocked the Lebanese endorsement of terrorism.

The Saudi foreign minister, al-Faisal, led a triumvirate including Egypt and Jordan that, according to the AP report, was "...criticizing the guerilla group's actions, calling them 'unexpected, inappropriate and irresponsible acts.'" Faisal said, "These acts will pull the whole region back to years ago, and we simply cannot accept them." These are the rumblings that precede a political earthquake. The Arab leaders are frightened that the acts of the terrorists they have coddled for decades might have consequences for them. And they are very frightened of what Iran may do next. We must reinforce those fears because they provide the first big lever with which those nations can be moved.

The Arab foreign ministers apparently have the glimmerings of a lesson dawning in their minds. The US veto of a UN resolution condemning Israeli action makes clear that if Israel imposes consequences for support of terror, the US will not stand in the way. Punishing Lebanon for its government's acceptance of Hizballah is one step. The next logical step would be punishing Syria and then Iran. If President Bush means to implement the policy he has pronounced, he wouldn't merely get out of Israel's way. He would lead. Instead of criticizing Kofi Annan and asking him to call Bashar Assad to pressure Syria to "cut this s*#t out," he should find a more reliable messenger. The name of Peter Pace comes to mind.

The Iranians and Syrians are apparently urging Hizballah to intensify this battle in the coming days. Many more missiles and suicide bombers will be used against Israel. And the Israelis will continue their attacks in Lebanon and Gaza. If we pressure the Israelis to call a halt to action prematurely, the hope that rose from the Arab ministers' meeting will be dashed and the lesson taught that there is still no penalty for supporting, succoring and ordering terrorists to do their work. If we continue to reject a ceasefire, and openly encourage Israel to deal a decisive blow to Hizballah, then Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan will understand the lesson is quite the opposite. For Syria and Iran, the lesson will have to be applied directly.

Jed Babbin was a deputy undersecretary of defense in the George H.W. Bush administration. He is a contributing editor to The American Spectator and author of Showdown: Why China Wants War with the United States (with Edward Timperlake, Regnery 2006) and Inside the Asylum: Why the UN and Old Europe are Worse than You Think (Regnery 2004).

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