- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 13, 2006

It remains to be seen whether the current state of United Nations concurrence in the matter of Lebanon, Israel and Hezbollah holds promise for success in our struggle against radical Islamist violence. But that the last five weeks of fighting and its denouement this past weekend constitute a failure of America’s immediate objectives is beyond reasonable dispute.

The stated American policy until last week had been to agree to no cessation of bellicosity unless the underlying causes were resolved. The unstated, but universally recognized, policy had been to give Israel diplomatic cover and rearmament support until Israel had taken apart Hezbollah’s capacity to function violently in southern Lebanon.

Due to political indecision and ineffective military policies, Israel failed to perform as expected. Hezbollah remained an effective fighting force right up to the moment of the U.N resolution passed last Friday night. And so they still are. Hezbollah fought Israel to a draw.

The effect of the televised carnage (without the offsetting advantage of victory by Israel) was seen by the Bush administration to undercut the political viability of our Muslim allies in the region: specifically, the governments of Iraq, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Lebanon, among others.

Thus fearing the political consequences on Middle East opinion of prolonging the fighting, the Bush administration shifted course and agreed to that to which it said it would not consent: cessation of hostilities with Hezbollah still armed and in place.

If the newly “robust” United Nations force envisioned by the agreement actually comes into being and is able to complete the disarmament of Hezbollah over the next several months, then President Bush’s policy switch will be seen to be wise. All peace-loving people should pray for such success. We certainly do.

If Hezbollah is defanged, it will be a sharp rebuke to the efficacy of radical Islamist terrorism. It will also constitute a significant blow to Iran’s hegemonic objectives in the Middle East and beyond, in that Iran will have had a powerful tool for violent coercion ripped from her arsenal.

But if, as we fear and as our enemies in the Middle East hope, next Easter finds Hezbollah still armed and dangerous, then this whole episode will have been a disaster and humiliation for the United States. It will have been even worse for Israel.

It will have weakened the persuasiveness of Israel’s military deterrence, the re-establishing of which will cost Israel dearly in the inevitable future fighting that will ensue. Worse, radical Islamist terrorists and their recruits worldwide will be heartened and emboldened.

It is anguishing to contemplate the ever steeper price — in both blood and treasure — that we will be required to pay in the future for our current weakness and irresolution.

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