Monday, August 28, 2006

Why couldn't this be the FIRST alternative?

Reported this morning by the Herald that there might be talks on the release of the two Israelis.
Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, speaking in a television interview, said also that if he had known Hizbollah's capture of Israeli soldiers would produce the 34-day war that ensued, he would never have sanctioned it.

Nasrallah told the privately owned Beirut television station New TV that Italy was trying to involve itself in contacts designed to bring a prisoner-swap, though he did not say how.

"The United Nations is interested and the negotiations would be through [Lebanese parliamentary speaker Nabih] Berri," Nasrallah said.

In Rome, the head of the defence committee of the Italian senate said he expected talks to begin this week.

Now I agree, there will be a lot of water to flow before anything really happens. Given the (very belated) acknowledgement of strategic reality by Nasrallah, I would guess that Israel's response is going to be short and to the point; like pointing upward with the second finger rather than the index. I also acknowledge that such a response would be justified for most circumstances. Have you heard the "but" here yet?

The Israelis for their part can not take the high ground either. Their campaign was totally unsuccessful, expensive, and has created far more diplomatic enemies than amis in the wider world (with the obvious exception of course).

There are parallels for such exchanges going back as far as the high points of the Cold War, and (without any specific knowledge) I would guess the same happened in WW2 as well. Those of us who remember the 50's and 60's should also remember the drama of the spy exchanges at Heidelburg Gate in Berlin.

I can not help the question.


Aside -

The very big concern that comes from this, and especially the acknowledgement by Nasrullah, is the comparative powerlessness of the Lebanon government. It is apparent that the Lebanese government is totally ineffectual, and many will delight in pointing that out once again.

My concern is not how the Lebanon government "appears". This is nothing more than everyone realising that the King in fact has no clothes.

The very big worry is that the international community allowed Lebanon to reach this sorry pass. There was "relief" when Syria invaded, because it gave "credible force" to defend Lebanon. There was "relief" when Syria agreed to withdraw, because it removed a primary cause of the tension in the Levant and gave a semblance of credibility to the Lebanon "government". There was "relief" when Israel invaded and occupied Southern Lebanon because "someone was doing something concrete about the attacks on Israel". There was "relief" when Israel agreed to withdraw as it gave a semblance of credibility to the Lebanon "government".

At no stage however did the welcome feelings of relief, or for that matter the feelings of concern that matters were getting out of control, EVER lead the international community to try and find meaningful and acceptable solutions to the problems at hand - viz. to ameliorate the plight of the Palestinians caused by the pogrom of 1947; to secure from Palestinians acknowledgement of Israel's right to exist; to solve the political stresses caused by the partition and immigrations. It was, has been ever since, far more important to satisfy the political and power ambitions of internal politics than to take rational solutions to solve the problems of the Levant. And for anyone who reads that, I mean EVERY NATION; not US, or Egypt, or France or Russia or Jordan, or Syria or Iran or Palestine or Israel.

How could the loss of control by the Lebanese government have been prevented? Probably inevitable given that one of Lebanon's "enemies" is Israel, and the other is Syria. Probably inevitable given that any action by Lebanon to restrict the Shi'a in the south would bring down the wrath of the Syrians - as it has already done. Probably inevitable given that any failure by Lebanon to restrict the Shi'a in the south would bring down the wrath of the Israelis - as it has already done.

So what can the international community do? In particular, what can the UN do?

Well, the UN has traditionally been in the "double damned" bind as well.

UN involvement has always been restricted to one side of the border.

UN involvement has always been limited to observation.

The right to self defence of UN sponsored forces has always been severely curtailed.

There has never been active right of enforcement of UN Resolutions.

As I have said previously the outcome of the present UN attempts will no doubt be "sad but true". And I think it equally a propos to question the reasons for that as well.

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