Charles Krauthammer

WASHINGTON -- The charm of any U.N. Security Council resolution lies in the preamble, which invariably begins by ``recalling'' all previous resolutions on the same subject that have been entirely ignored, therefore necessitating the current resolution. Hence newly minted Resolution 1701: Before mandating the return of south Lebanon to Lebanese government control, it lists the seven Security Council resolutions going back 28 years that have demanded the same thing.

We are to believe, however, that this time the U.N. means it. Yet, the fact that responsibility for implementation is given to Kofi Annan's office -- not known for integrity, competence or neutrality -- betrays a certain unseriousness about the enterprise from the very beginning.

Now, it is true that had Israel succeeded militarily in its strategic objectives, there would have been no need for any resolution. Israel would unilaterally have cleaned out south Lebanon and would be dictating terms.

But that did not happen. The first Israel-Hezbollah war ended in a tie, and in this kind of warfare, tie goes to the terrorist. Yet there is no doubt that had Israel been permitted to proceed with the expanded offensive it began two days before the cease-fire, Israel would eventually have destroyed Hezbollah in the south, albeit at great cost to itself, Lebanon and Israel's patron, the United States. Which is why the war was called off.

Having obviated that possibility with the cease-fire, the U.S. is left with certain responsibilities. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice gave assurances that this resolution would not be a dead letter; that it had enough Chapter 7 (i.e., legally enforceable) language to give it teeth; that there would indeed be a buffer zone below the Litani River; that there would be a robust international force with robust rules of engagement.

Yet within days, these assurances are already fraying. Hezbollah has declared that it will not disarm. The Siniora government in Beirut has acquiesced to a don't ask-don't tell deal in which Hezbollah retains its entire south-of-the-Litani infrastructure -- bunkers, weapons, fighters -- with the cosmetic proviso that none will be displayed very openly. No strutting, but everything remains in place awaiting the order to restart the war when the time is right.

That arrangement is essentially a return to the status quo ante -- precisely what the U.S. had said it would not permit because that would represent a strategic disaster for the forces of democracy and moderation in the region.

Charles Krauthammer

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

Be the first to read Krauthammer's column. Sign up today and receive delivered each morning to your inbox.