It is clear that there isn’t going to be a “robust” multinational force–one strong enough to disarm Hezbollah–in southern Lebanon.
As Swopa at Needlenose has suggested, the French “hesistancy” can hardly come as a surprise to Israel–even though the Israelis now say they are “shocked, shocked” to discover that the multinational force is looking quite anemic. Swopa says…
[T]he Israelis and Americans… wanted a fig leaf to end a war that had backfired, and the French gave it to them by getting Hezbollah to agree to an “expanded international peacekeeping force” (wink wink, nudge nudge) that numerous realistic observers knew would probably never materialize.
As Praktike at American Footprints points out, Charles Krauthammer hasn’t yet given up hope on the idea that a force of some kind might be able to finished the job and disarm Hezbollah.
Krauthammer’s column in today’s Washington Post is entitled “A Moment to Be Seized in Lebanon.” Surely that title is an intentional, if tasteless, pun–a caustic reminder of those “seized” during the last multinational force in Lebanon. As Thomas Ricks and Robin Wright at the Washington Post recently recalled,
The last multinational force, deployed in 1982 and led by the United States, was repeatedly targeted by Muslim militants and forced to end its mission abruptly in 1984. U.S. forces were taken hostage. Marine Col. Rich Higgins was kidnapped shortly after he took over command of the U.N. Observer Group Lebanon in 1988. He died in captivity.
Surely all the wringing of hands about the multinational force begs a question:
Why No US Troops?
The most frequent answer seems to be that US forces are “overstretched.”
This was the explanation offered by Ricks and Wright on July 22, 2006 in the Washington Post,
In a departure from past peacekeeping missions to Lebanon, the force currently being discussed would not include U.S. troops, U.S. officials said yesterday…
U.S. forces are already stretched by operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and there are no troops to spare for Lebanon, Pentagon officials said.
As reported by Defense News Nicholas Burns, undersecretary for political affairs at the State Department, provided some similar explanations on August 17, 2006.
No U.S. troops will go to Lebanon “because of the nature of the conflict there,” said Nicholas Burns, undersecretary for political affairs, the third ranking official at the State Department…
American troops have “raised so many different passions among the Lebanese public due to the history of our involvement in that country” and in the region, he said in comments to reporters.
The United States also won’t send troops to Lebanon because “we are engage elsewhere in the world — in Afghanistan, in Iraq, in the Far East. We’re certainly doing our share for global stability,” Burns said.
The most clearly articulated of these explanations is the overstretched line: “we are engaged elsewhere.”
Burns also hints that “the history of our involvement” raises “passions among the Lebanese public.” Like Hezbollah Shiites? The same Lebanese Shiites who killed 241 Marines with a 1983 truck bombing?
Are those “Lebanese” passions that are likely to be raised? Or US passions–especially among elements of the uniformed military still haunted by that loss?
And then there is the most opaque but intriguing Burns explanation: “the nature of the conflict there.” What does that mean? That we do not want to be seen joining Israel in a direct confrontation with Shiites? Afraid of a reaction among Iraqi Shiites?
Ken Silverstein emphasizes the overstretched explanation:
The uniformed military… is ardently opposed to sending American soldiers to the region, according to my source [“a well-connected former CIA officer”]. “They are saying ‘What the fuck?’” he told me. “Most of our combat-ready divisions are in Iraq or Afghanistan, or on their way, or coming back. The generals don’t like it because we’re already way overstretched.”
But back in late July, his CIA source suggested that the idea had not yet been ruled out:
According to the former official, Israel and the United States are currently discussing a large American role in exactly such a “multinational” deployment, and some top administration officials, along with senior civilians at the Pentagon, are receptive to the idea.
Who–according to Silverstein–might these “top administration officials” and “senior civilians at the Pentagon” be?
You guessed it…
The scenario of an American deployment appears to come straight out of the neoconservative playbook: send U.S. forces into the Middle East, regardless of what our own military leaders suggest, in order to “stabilize” the region.
I don’t dispute this. It has a certain logic to it. And yet, I can find no instance of neoconservatives banging the drum for US boots on the ground. Krauthammer doesn’t make the case–at least not explicitly–in his recent column where he insists that the multinational force is “so critical.”
At best, there is the following cryptic remark:
Now is [Hezbollah’s] moment of maximum weakness. That moment will not last long. Resupply and rebuilding have already begun.
This is no time for the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations [John Bolton] to be saying, when asked about the creation of an international force, that “this really is a responsibility of the Secretariat.” Maybe officially, but if we are not working frantically behind the scenes to make sure that this preposterously inappropriate body gets real troops in quickly, armed with the right equipment and the right mandate, the moment will be lost.
Are French troops “real troops” in Krauthammer’s book? Or is that a nod toward a role for US troops?
I’m guessing that if Right Zionists really wanted US troops they might say so. They are not exactly shy or subtle. So, where is the demand for US troops?
Not a rhetorical question… has anyone seen Right Zionists banging the drum for US troops–as anticipated by Ken Silverstein?
Or is there some reason why that idea is a non-starter from the get go–even for “neoconservatives” who allegedly favor the projection of US military power anywhere and everywhere, even as an end unto itself, let alone when Israeli security is presumably at stake?