- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 13, 2006

The last week has been filled with interminable meetings and rapid-fire press statements about any number of equally stupid cease-fire proposals and proposals for peace-keeping troops of one kind or another. They all have something else in common. They are all irrelevant.

Most observers agree that by standing up against Israel creditably, Hezbollah has already won the admiration of the whole Muslim world and greatly increased the power of its sponsors in Syria and Iran. Some kind of face-saving “cease-fire” will do nothing to sully what is being seen as this unprecedented military victory against the once-invincible Israeli military.

But who will win the peace?

Islamofascists like Osama bin Laden delude themselves with “dreams of Andalusia,” but the West has been deluding itself for decades with dreams of a Lebanon that once was, and never will be again. Hundreds of Katuysha rockets have been launched by Hezbollah and hundreds of “smart” munitions have been fired by the Israeli military. But the only bomb that matters in the end is the population bomb that had already gone off in Lebanon well before the war began.

A country that had a Christian majority right through the 1930s, memorialized even today in a silly French Vichy-era constitution with Christian rights to certain political office, is now more than 70 percent Muslim. Two-thirds of these Muslims are now Shi’ite. So how surprised can anyone be that the recent Lebanese-American University at Beirut poll shows that, if an election were held last month, more than 87 percent of Lebanese of all denominations would choose Hezbollah as the democratically elected government of Lebanon?

And when, not if, this happens, Hezbollah can no longer be discounted as some kind of de facto shadow government of what the West prefers to call as “the real Lebanon.” Hezbollah will be the majority party in a popularly elected de jure government, complete with a seat at the United Nations.

That means that if the Lebanese army ever took up those “peace-keeping positions” between Israel and Hezbollah urged by the much-touted U.N. Resolution 1559, all that would really happen is that the army of the Hezbollah government will be sitting on Israel’s border by invitation. If some kind of interim NATO or other cobbled-together peacekeeping force squats in some kind of demilitarized zone for a while, how can it not bow to the sovereign state of Lebanon’s laudable desires to lawfully implement U.N. 1559, once Hezbollah is in power?

If the Israeli military can do little about the Hezbollah Lebanon that will be the ultimate result of the peace, it still has time to alter the perception and the results of the war. There is no reason now why Israel or the United States should settle for anything that would not clean the entire Lebanese state of the Hezbollah arsenal. Forget delusions about “victory” being some kind of militarily insignificant security zone up to the Litani River. Destroying the Syrian cash-cow drug industry in the Bekaa Valley will hurt Syria more than an airstrike on Damascus. The time this cleanup occupies delays the inevitable democratic election of Hezbollah and leaves it looking far less successful in Arab eyes. It also means that Hezbollah will take years to repair its defense infrastructure.

Both that perception and that military reality count for a lot in the Middle East. And they count for a lot more than the legalistic nonsense by which international civil servants continually endanger the world by treating fantasy as reality and reality as just an inconvenience, easily dismissed by “men of good will” meeting at some nice resort.

It is time for prudent policy thinkers to crawl back through the looking glass that hung on the walls of the Hall of Mirrors at the disastrous Versailles Peace Conference after World War I. Few but T.E. Lawrence recognized the mess that the European imperialists were making in their sunset, carving up the Ottoman provinces of the Middle East for their special spheres of influence. Now, once again, the United States is stuck with their bill and has no choice but to try to correct what is rapidly becoming a potential nuclear catastrophe.

In doing so, the United States had better be open to finding new solutions and losing its lawyerly reverence for the status quo. Supposedly, the most dangerous thing in warfare is a second lieutenant with a map. But we should have learned by now what President Franklin Roosevelt understood innately: The most dangerous thing to peace in much of the world has been European imperialists with a map.

If the Shi’ites now prefer three nations rather than the “Iraq” created by the Versailles Treaty, they may well have found the solution to the intractable difficulty of holding some kind of federal Iraqi state together that may be more of an imperialist delusion than a political reality. Certainly, the Kurds will go along, and who really cares about the Sunni who doomed the attempt at the federal solution?

One thing is clear. Maintaining fictional states is a costly business. It is time to at least try to recognize real ones and hold them to account for their actions. A solution to stateless guerrillas with nothing to lose operating out of failed states may well be making them the successor governments. That is something Hezbollah may not have considered with its full implications.

Thomas Lipscomb is an investigative reporter and a senior fellow at the Annenberg Center for the Digital Future.

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