Yet the elements of dark comedy are there. The building’s ablaze! A deeply worried crowd assembles. A desperate mother begs to toss her baby into the thin air of hope. But below, the crowd begins a lengthy debate over who should catch the child, or even if the child should be caught at all. A Frenchman steps forward bravely, forgetting for a moment that he has no arms. A Russian points to another interesting fire down the street. An American can’t help but wonder aloud to a nearby Brit why they don’t just bring around a fire truck with a ladder. The armless Frenchman volunteers to drive! A BBC reporter shows up to press for a respect for the right of a fire to blaze brightly.
For years, Lebanon has been a make-believe nation existing on the charity, cynicism, or indifference of its neighbors who pretend to wish for a solution to the “problem” not of Lebanon, but of Israel. After a deep plunge into civil war, Lebanon became the favored theater in the Islamic jihad waged against Israel. The U.N. has passed so many Leb-centric resolutions that the country resembles a new year more than a real country. The current Hezbo blitz of Israel is occurring because various U.N. resolutions calling for the Iranian militia to disarm have been ignored in favor of a U.N. observer “force” and a national army that is little more than a collection of badly dressed men in old trucks. The prime minister of Lebanon protests loudly when real countries propose ways to save his imaginary one, but everybody’s in on the joke, so his concerns about having foreign troops on the fairway of his pitch-and-putt nation are given careful consideration, the way Tiger Woods might line up a shot through the clown’s mouth, out his ear and into the cup.
The affection Iran and Syria have for the charade of an “independent Lebanon” is evident in the way they direct Hezbollah, their sockpuppet army of muftihadeen — a force recently identified by the BBC World Service as “the Lebanese resistance” and by BBC TV newsguy James Reynolds in as “the Lebanese militia,” giving them the sanctity of national police status, I guess, like the Hezbo Highway Patrol. (A sense of professionalism is urged gently on the most active participant in the war, that would be the press, by Le Figaro.) Hezbollah’s actions now, as over the last many years, has nothing to do with a respect for Lebanon. It has to do with exploiting Lebanon’s weakness, something they wish to perpetuate as long as necessary.
In a sane world, the farce would end because a planet of grown-ups would rise to put a stop to this juvenile “struggle” by use of severe corporal punishment. Spare the rod, spoil the peace, you know. Instead, as Iran feverishly builds nukes, the matter is given the full weight of U.N. deliberation, as international diplomacy continued to ooze out between news of mass murder plots by middle-class British lads who read the Koran (and no doubt the Guardian) and pray often.
The French danced forward in this skit to offer to provide the military teeth necessary to prevent the U.N. from producing yet another gum-clenching exercise in meaninglessness. Taking the lead on a resolution that seemed so likely to succeed in disarming Lebanese-based terrorists that the Arabs punted it into the near-oblivion in which it now rests was clever. In fact, it was probably the smartest strategy available to accomplish Chirac’s real goal, which is to keep the French army out of harm’s way. No wonder France seems relieved to hear the news, reported in Le Monde today, about a theatrical Russian “solution” — a 72-hour “humanitarian” ceasefire to allow three days of frenzied humanitarianism, including gardening, tea, first aid and the re-arming of Hezbollah by its frustrated Islamo-fascist sponsors.
The public diplomacy of course has had a political pay-off for the needy Chirac: The French gambit was all done in negotiations that were carefully posed for the convenience of the French media. The papers showed Chirac looking presidential, in that slightly tipsy way of his, and his foreign minister, Philippe Douste-Blazy, is made to appear authoritative and in charge, as in this fairly typical dispatch in Le Nouvel Observateur. On the radio, French President Jacques Chirac said a failure to gain an immediate ceasefire was a moral defeat — and condemned the U.S. for standing in the way simply to indulge a stubborn quibble over what possible effect a demand for an immediate ceasefire would have on a terrorist army that has thrived for years by ignoring one long-distance international call after another.
Chirac has no intention of putting French troops on the ground in Lebanon, of course, at least not before the hotels are reopened and the beaches are safe for baguettes. But he may have opened the door to an unexpected consequence, since his government has been quite convincing in its argument that only the presence of French troops in a multinational force will have an effect — assuming, that is, the troops were determined to actually enforce a peace that would not only inconvenience the puffed-up functionaries of Beirut but also disable the murderous mob in the southern part of Lebanon. That might be dangerous — and not because of Israeli air raids.
After all, it’s Hezbollah who needs to be controlled, not Israel. As the Times accidentally let slip today, “the basic issue of the war — the disarming of Hezbollah — [has] not yet been resolved.” This casual observation must come as a shock to those, like the hopelessly befogged leader writer at the reliably anti-Israeli Guardian, who would like to believe that the basic issue of the war is make Israel stop its egregious, unapologetic, highly insensitive acts of blatant self-defense. Fortunately, some of the paper’s readers are smarter than its writers: “If Hizbullah put down their weapons today, there would be no more violence. If the Jews put down their weapons today, there would be no more Israel,” wrote a smart man named Harry Gunstein in a letter to the editor.
If the U.N. wants to get serious, of course, all they have to do is demand that Hezbollah and the fairy government of Lebanon respect the U.N. resolutions already in place. Or they can put a military force dedicated to “peacekeeping” in a way that doesn’t parody that word the way the U.N. invariably does. Or maybe the appetite for irony is growing in the Middle East after all, since the whole idea of an “immediate ceasefire” that Hezbollah would respect is a pretty good joke.
— Denis Boyles is author of Vile France: Fear, Duplicity, Cowardice and Cheese.