Thursday, August 17, 2006

Chirac gets it right on Lebanon troops?

When you have bloggers such as Far and Wide's Steve V and Sicilian Notes' Richard Waghorne, the former a raging critic of Israeli operations in Lebanon and the latter a largely uncritical supporter, agreeing on something you can't help feeling like the unlikely has happened - France is doing something right.

They have both criticised France's reluctance to increase UNIFIL troop numbers beyond a fairly token 400, up from their current commitment of 200. France's reluctance is mirrored by the Germans who have offered naval anti-smuggling patrols and perhaps border security, the UK and Denmark who have also offered ships, the Italians who are ready to send 3,000 but not yet and the Irish who have earmarked 200 (which would bring them up to the legal maximum of about 850 overseas at any time due to the Liberia mission) but who are also holding back.

The reason is that which I posted on some days ago (albeit having taken a second swing at it) - Resolution 1701 does not provide necessary powers to do what the Lebanese Government have now openly said they will not do - disarm Hezbollah fighters if they don't feel like being disarmed. Instead, the fear is that UNIFIL will be, as usual, caught in the crossfire without a clear mandate.

Steve V blames France for this:

Chirac's refusal to send a robust force gives the impression that France is nothing more than a paper tiger, unwilling to take any practical risks. Other countries looked to France for leadership, and now they essentially fail the region. Sending a paultry (sic) engineering company tells the world that France doesn't merit the status it so often demands.

This is despite the fact that it was France who together with the US negotiated the initial resolution draft, before Russia began backing its clients in Syria and Iran and the Lebanese themselves began buckling to their Hezbollah cohort in cabinet, leading to the dilution of the resolution's aims. It was said at the time that a Chapter 7 resolution was unnecessary since Lebanon was inviting the UN in and would act to enforce the resolution's aims. Well, the UN seem to be welcome but the Lebanese Government have now made it clear they will not enforce the resolution.

Meanwhile Richard Waghorne thinks the Israelis should just follow the Likud hardliner view and head back across the border.
Israel should point to Hezbollah's continuing violations of the ceasefire arrangments, the inability of the Lebanese army to disarm it, the tragic farce of the 'international force', and resume the job it left unfinished at the soonest opportunity, this week, using the ground operations that proved militarily highly effective in the last days of the recent fighting.

The Israelis know that any protest on their part, however well founded, would be futile. They only have friends or enemies - there seems to be no swaying either with logic or justification of anything. In any case, I doubt many Israelis would agree with Waghorne's urging them on - the IDF tried to win an air war and failed, and in the process revealed a yawning intelligence gap regarding Hezbollah tactics and weaponry. A respite could be as valuable to Israel, if not more so, than Lebanon.

He also takes a swipe at the Irish political posture too

Ireland says we won't send troops if, you know, they might get shot at and stuff. Makes you proud, doesn't it? Nothing like living in a pretend country for idyllic unreality.

The issue isn't whether they would be shot at Richard - it's whether they could shoot back.

This interlude might also be a welcome opportunity for reflection for those bloggers who are not serving and have not served in the military, like myself and I suspect both of the bloggers mentioned above, to reflect on the sacrifices made by those who fight with rifles rather than keyboards.
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