Once again, Fouad Ajami demonstrates his analytical acuity:
States can’t–and don’t–share borders with militias. That abnormality on the Lebanese-Israeli border is sure not to survive this crisis. One way or other, the Lebanese army will have to take up its duty on the Lebanon-Israel border. By the time the dust settles, this terrible summer storm will have done what the Lebanese government had been unable to do on its own.
No less a figure than the hereditary leader of the Druze community, Walid Jumblatt, was quick to break with Hezbollah, and to read this crisis as it really is. “We had been trying for months,” he said, “to spring our country out of the Syrian-Iranian trap, and here we are forcibly pushed into that trap again.” In this two-front war–Hamas’s in the Palestinian territories and Hezbollah’s in Lebanon–Mr. Jumblatt saw the fine hand of the Syrian regime attempting to retrieve its dominion in Lebanon, and to forestall the international investigations of its reign of terror in that country.
Nasrallah was in the end just the Lebanese face of Hezbollah. Those who know the workings of the movement with intimacy believe that operational control is in the hands of Iranian agents, that Hezbollah is fully subservient to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.
That raid into Israel, the capture of the two Israeli soldiers, was a deliberate attack against the new Lebanon. That the crisis would play out when the mighty of the G-8 were assembled in Russia was a good indication of Iran’s role in this turn of events.
The Shiites are Lebanon’s single largest community. There lie before them two ways: Lebanonism, an attachment to their own land, assimilation into the wider currents of their country, an acceptance of it as a place of services and trade and pluralism; or a path of belligerence, a journey on road to Damascus–and to the Iranian theocracy. By the time the guns fall silent and the Lebanese begin to dig out of the rubble, we should get an intimation of which Shiite future beckons. The Shiites can make Lebanon or they can break it. Their deliverance lies in a recognition of the truths and limitations of their country. The “holy war” they can leave to others.
No one can say with confidence how this crisis will play out. There are limits on what Israel can do in Lebanon. The Israelis will not be pulled deeper into Lebanon and its villages and urban alleyways, and Israel can’t be expected to disarm Hezbollah or to find its missiles in Lebanon’s crannies. Finding the political way out, and working out a decent security arrangement on the border, will require a serious international effort and active American diplomacy. International peacekeeping forces have had a bad name, and they often deserve it. But they may be inevitable on Lebanon’s border with Israel; they may be needed to buy time for the Lebanese government to come into full sovereignty over its soil.
The Europeans claim a special affinity for Lebanon, a country of the eastern Mediterranean. This is their chance to help redeem that land, and to come to its rescue by strengthening its national army and its bureaucratic institutions. We have already seen order’s enemies play their hand. We now await the forces of order and rescue, and by all appearances a long, big struggle is playing out in Lebanon.