Charles Krauthammer

WASHINGTON -- There is crisis and there is opportunity. Amid the general wringing of hands over the seemingly endless and escalating Israel-Hezbollah fighting, everyone asks: Where will it end?

The answer, blindingly clear, begins with understanding that this crisis represents a rare, perhaps irreproducible, opportunity.

Every important party in the region and in the world, except the radical Islamists in Tehran and their clients in Damascus, wants Hezbollah disarmed and removed from south Lebanon so that it is no longer able to destabilize the peace of both Lebanon and the broader Middle East.

Which parties? Start with the great powers. In September 2004, they passed U.N. Security Council Resolution 1559, demanding that Hezbollah disarm and allow the Lebanese army to take back control of south Lebanon.

The resolution enjoyed the sponsorship of the United States and, yes, France. As the former mandatory power in Lebanon, France was important in helping the Lebanese expel Syria during last year's Cedar Revolution, but it understands that Lebanon's independence and security are forfeit so long as Hezbollah -- a lawless, terrorist, private militia answering to Syria and Iran -- occupies south Lebanon as a rogue mini-state.

Then there are the Arabs, beginning with the Lebanese who want Hezbollah out. The majority of Lebanese -- Christian, Druze, Sunni Muslim and secular -- bitterly resent their country being hijacked by Hezbollah and turned into a war zone. And in the name of what Lebanese interest? Israel evacuated every square inch of Lebanon six years ago.

The other Arabs have spoken, too. In a stunning development, the 22-member Arab League criticized Hezbollah for provoking the current crisis. It is unprecedented for the Arab League to criticize any Arab party while it is actively engaged in hostilities with Israel. But the Arab states know that Hezbollah, a Shiite militia in the service of Persian Iran, is a threat not just to Lebanon but to them as well. Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan have openly criticized Hezbollah for starting a war on what is essentially Iran's timetable (to distract attention from Iran's pending referral to the Security Council for sanctions over its nuclear program). They are far more worried about Iran and its proxies than about Israel. They are therefore eager to see Hezbollah disarmed and defanged.

Fine. Everyone agrees it must be done. But who to do it? No one. The Lebanese are too weak. The Europeans don't invade anyone. After its bitter experience of 20 years ago, the U.S. has a Lebanon allergy. And Israel could not act out of the blue because it would immediately have been branded the aggressor and forced to retreat.


Charles Krauthammer

Charles Krauthammer is a 1987 Pulitzer Prize winner, 1984 National Magazine Award winner, and a columnist for The Washington Post since 1985.

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