Recently I've had the unusual experience of being in the minority on leftist blogs, and agreeing with the most hard core of right wingers on right-leaning blogs. Well, I call it like I see it.
The issue is the war in Lebanon. My own view is that the Israelis, having withdrawn from the area and subsequently been subject to small scale but escalating attacks from the area (which has been 'guarded' by an ineffective U.N. peacekeeping force), had little choice except to go on the offensive after the latest escalation, an attack by Hezbollah militants across the border on an Israeli army post, in which three Israeli soldiers were killed and two were captured. If Israel continued to do nothing, or simply bombed some target in Lebanon and called it even, these attacks would continue and they would continue to escalate, until you saw the same full scale war between Israel and Hezbollah that you see today, except that it would be being waged inside of Israel instead of in Lebanon.
Of course, if Hezbollah had their bases in designated military areas like most nations do, we would not have seen this level of civilian casualties. But they don't. They have their 'bases' in the basements of apartment buildings, in schools, in hospitals, wherever they can find a place that the Israelis will be excoriated if they dare attack. They use harbors, airports and civilian highways as supply lines (and if the Israelis really wanted to just destroy Lebanese infrastructure as opposed to preventing resupply for Hezbollah, they would have also bombed the ports, but they haven't because they have a navy that can blockade ports so that bombing port facilities is unnecessary, and will allow quick movement of emergency supplies into Lebanon when this is over and airports and highways still have to be repaired.)They launch missiles into Israel from urban areas (for example, the missiles that have fallen on Haifa were launched from Tyre) and then get out the cameras and wait for the bombs to start falling. Israel has done what few other armies try to do in order to prevent civilian casualties. They have dropped leaflets in advance that state that they will bomb a particular area so that people can leave. And hundreds of thousands of Lebanese have left southern Lebanon. But there are those who can't leave, and those are the ones who end up on TV. In fact, a Lebanese website has how even leveled the accusastion that the children in Qana were invalid children (mostly severely mentally retarded) who were collected from local families and planted in the building by Hezbollah when then left a rocket launcher on the roof specifically for the purpose of making sure the Israelis bombed the building. I don't know if the Lebanese who run the site are right about that, but it is interesting that when the building did collapse on the children (eight hours after the actual bombing) there were representatives of every major news organization on hand, among the hundreds of bombing sites around southern Lebanon (of course until the building collapsed, the story was not particularly newsworthy because there were not yet any casualties).
The fundamental problem for Israel is this though: Hezbollah is committed to the destruction of Israel. It is hard to stop fighting with someone who refuses to stop fighting with you, who refuses to negotiate with you, and who is committed to your annihilation.
So what can be done? Assuming that Hezbollah will continue to exist (and at some level they will, no matter how successful the Israeli offensive eventually is) and that over time they will re-arm themselves, and will still attack Israel if they can, what can be done to prevent this outcome?
The answer is to not only take Lebanese President Emile Lahoud at his word from two weeks ago, when he said that the Lebanese army should deploy along the border with Israel, but prevent attacks on Israel from that area, but give him the power to make good on that pledge. Of course Lahoud is a friend of both the Syrians and Hezbollah, but he is also the President of Lebanon, which is his primary obligation, and is still the only person who has made a suggestion that has the potential to form the basis for peace. Lebanon (unlike Syria) has recognized and participated in negotiations with Israel in the past. The Lebanese government is a democracy, and sooner or later Lahoud will be replaced democratically by other leaders.
And the model already exists. Israel has two secure borders. That is, two borders across which there are no terrorist attacks, no infiltration by terrorists, and in fact which trade can pass freely across. Those are their borders with Egypt and Jordan, two neighbors who have recognized and made peace with Israel. Of course, both borders are still monitored and militarized (not surprising given the history of past wars and present tensions) but the fact is that the Egyption army prevents terrorists from setting up bases to attack Israel from Egyptiat territory and the Jordanian army does the same in Jordanian territory. There may be an occasional rocket fired from Aqaba into Elat as there has been on rare occasions in the past, but the Israelis tolerate that because they know when it happens that the Jordanians are right on it, arrest and try the guilty party if they are caught, and certainly beef up police presence in the area for long enough to prevent it from becoming a regular occurrence. The Israelis don't necessarily expect a 100% success rate in stopping terror by the Jordanians and the Egyptians (the Amman and Sharm el Sheikh bombings show that they can't even be 100% successful at stopping their own terrorists) but they are satisfied that the effort is being made and it is on the whole very successful.
We've seen that the U.N. peacekeepers are useless in this situation. Deployment by a foreign peacekeeping force that has the teeth to actually keep the peace, possibly including Americans, has been discussed by I think that would be a terrible idea. Such a force will be looked at as occupiers and will itself be subject to attack (as Americans were, at a high cost in blood, when Ronald Reagan briefly tried to intervene in Lebanon). Given that we are already stuck in a situation like that in Iraq and in Afghanistan thanks to George Bush's bungling of both wars, I see no benefit to America to being stuck in a third middle eastern country fighting a guerilla war. Nor is this an answer even without Americans, because eventually a foreign force would face domestic pressure to withdraw and then we would be back to where we are today. So that leaves the Lebanese army, which according to common sense should be the only army in Lebanon, as also the only option to form a force which is in fact the only army in Lebanon.
Lahoud's problem is that right now, the Lebanese army is weak. It is not even the strongest army in Lebanon when the Israelis are out of the country, being less powerful militarily than Hezbollah. The world will need to do two things to guarantee peace in the region-- 1. give the Lebanese army the military hardware and professional training it needs to battle either Hezbollah or Israel if necessary (though the former is much more likely-- the Israelis keep their word, and won't attack Lebanon if they are not attacked from Lebanon), and 2. (this is the more difficult task to be sure) give the Lebanese government the support it needs to become a real government, so that they will also have the backbone to fight Hezbollah if Hezbollah or some similar group decides to set up shop in southern Lebanon. The Jordanians and the Egyptians have established the model, now Lebanon needs to follow it.
And if they do, it could lead to bigger things. The Israelis have been willing to withdraw from land in exchange for peace in the past (for example they gave the Sinai back to Egypt), and if this kind of model worked in Lebanon then it might even set a clear roadmap for the Syrians (who still want Israel out of the Golan heights) and the Palestinians.