Guess Who Favors US Troops in Lebanon

Posted by Cutler on August 24, 2006
Isolationism, Lebanon, Right Arabists, Right Zionists

I was wrong.

I have been trying to figure out why nobody has been proposing sending US troops in Lebanon, especially in light of widespread “disappointment” with Israel’s campaign and growing “reluctance” on the part of France to lead a robust Multinational Force.

Most recently (here and here), I speculated about the possibility that Right Zionists would like to see US forces in Lebanon but might have quietly abandoned that idea when told by Karl Rove & Co that the administration was not prepared to take (more) casualties ahead of midterm elections.

Maybe I have been barking up the wrong tree. Like Ken Silverstein, I was expecting Right Zionists to be the primary champions of a US troop presence. After all, the most pro-Israel factional players in the Reagan administration–e.g., NSC staffer Howard Teicher–were also the most ardent advocates for an active US military mission in Lebanon back in 1982 and 1983. Right Arabists like Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger were the most reluctant.

Well, I recently stumbled upon a Baltimore Sun Op-Ed by Drew Bennett, a Marine colonel on the faculty at the National War College, who warns against deploying troops in Lebanon. It was Bennett who noted what I had overlooked:

Although the Bush administration says that it does not plan on putting troops on the ground, some – including former Secretary of State Warren Christopher and former National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft – suggest that the United States might need to send peacekeepers into Lebanon

Bennett is correct.

In my own previous post on Brent Scowcroft’s July 30, 2006 Washington Post Op-Ed “Beyond Lebanon” I completely overlooked the following passage:

The obvious vehicle to direct the process would be the Quartet (the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations), established in 2001 for just such a purpose. The Quartet, beginning at the foreign-minister level, would first organize the necessary international force for southern Lebanon and Gaza and then call for a cease-fire. The security force would have to have the mandate and capability to deal firmly with acts of violence. Ideally, this would be a NATO, or at least NATO-led, contingent. Recognizing the political obstacles, the fact is that direct U.S. participation in such a force would be highly desirable — and perhaps even essential — for persuading our friends and allies to contribute the capabilities required.

Ok, then. [Note: “Recognizing the political obstacles”–i.e., popular resistance to taking casualties, right?]
Warrent Christopher hits the same note in his July 28, 2006 Washington Post Op-Ed, “A Time to Act.”

[T]he United States has an indispensable role to play. A succession of Israeli leaders has turned to us, and only us, when they have concluded that retaliation for Hezbollah attacks has become counterproductive. Israel plainly trusts no one else to negotiate on its behalf and will accept no settlement in which we are not deeply involved. Further, based upon my experience in helping bring an end to the fighting in the Balkans, the Europeans are unlikely to participate in a multinational enforcement action until the United States commits to putting its own troops on the ground.

No doubt about it. Here are two significant “Arabist” figures–one Republican and one Democrat, both held in contempt by Right Zionists–calling for US troops in Lebanon.

Now the hard part: what does it mean?

As I’ve mentioned before, the current conflict in Lebanon seems, in many ways, like a replay of 1982. But it is surely tempting to think that this issue–the source of pressure for US troops–marks a very significant change of some sort.
Ideas?

7 Comments to Guess Who Favors US Troops in Lebanon

  • Sending US troops to Lebanon is tied with how the US and “Quartet” would deal with the Iranian nuclear issue at hand. Any escalation of conflict with Iran would jeopardize the US troop’s safety in Iraq and could lead to the interruption of the oil supply from the region. As such, Iraqi civil war handcuffs US in the region; hence the Bush administration has so far delegated the peacekeeping to Europeans and (NATO).

  • Warren Christopher does say that the Euros will be reluctant if the US doesn’t put its own troops down, but we’ll have to see what France ultimately will do. They were quite elated with themselves about drafting up the cease-fire qualifiers with the US. Will they be just as happy to send out troops? What kind of discontent will arise from such a thing?

  • Any escalation of conflict with Iran would jeopardize the US troop’s safety in Iraq and could lead to the interruption of the oil supply from the region. As such, Iraqi civil war handcuffs US in the region

    Perhaps. But the foreign policy establishment has traditionally been the voice of “stability” in the region (thus the US doesn’t topple Hussein in the Gulf War, supports Saudi Arabia, etc). Would not these same people (Scowcroft et al) be the ones rushing to prevent American military involvement? (Especially so since they would have another opportunity to talk about the Iraq war which they were rather upset by). This consideration of military support indicates the US may be less hamstrung and overstretched than we have thought.

    Also, if the administration shows no signs of supporting an American military presence, is this because of Rove’s influence or the foreign policy establishment’s lack of influence? Are there people central to the administration being silenced about this issue, or are the people who would say something not central to the administration? Could this still be terrain onto which is mapped the foreign policy factionalism of the administration? (What would Podheretz and his interlocutors have to say?)

  • A report by Britain’s most influential think-tank, Royal Institute of International Affairs at Chatham House – entitled Iran, its neighbours and the regional crises published today, reinforces my previous post. The keyword repeated in this report is “destability”. (see http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,251-2325352,00.html)

    “If the US were to attack Iran, then it would do so knowing that its forces in Iraq would be at an even greater risk than they currently are. Any US attack against Tehran would expose the US presence in Iraq to retaliatory destabilising interventions by Tehran,”

    In another part the report notes the following

    “Washington’s biggest security headache, as it considers whether to embark upon an assault against the Islamic Republic, is neither Iran’s ability to fight in the airspace, nor even in the streets of its border towns (if the US were indeed to surprise most analysts and attempt a land invasion). The greatest threat to the US is Iran’s ability to further destabilise the already chaotic public spaces of Iraq.”

    The report adds: “The great problem facing the US is that Iran has superseded it as the most influential power in Iraq. This influence has a variety of forms but all can be turned against the US presence in Iraq with relative ease, and almost certainly would heighten US casualties to the point where a continued presence might not be tenable.”

    Here is the link to the entire report:
    http://www.chathamhouse.org.uk/pdf/research/mep/Iran0806.pdf

  • Military involvement in Iran itself is a different matter. My post was dealing with potential US military involvement in Lebanon. Foreign policy realists have traditionally been the people most concerned about maintaining regional stability, hence opposition to the Iraq war, previous US involvement in Lebanon etc. Sending US troops into Lebanon would surely be perceived by Iran as an “escalation of conflict.” Yet here we see realists supporting US troops in that country despite potential Iranian responses. To me this is some indication that the US is potentially less hamstrung in its regional action by its situation in Iraq than we might believe (or at least the foreign policy establishment perceives the US as less bogged down than we think).

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