Charles Krauthammer

We are headed for a complete repudiation of the bottom-line American position. The stakes are high. Not so much for Israel, which in the end will take care of itself. By the now-inevitable Round Two, Israel will have rejected the failed Olmert-led exercise in hesitancy and will have new leadership, new tactics and new equipment (for example, expensive new plating for its tanks, which were so vulnerable to advanced Iranian antitank weaponry).

What is most at stake, from the American perspective, is Lebanon. Lebanon was the most encouraging achievement of the democratization project launched with great risk with the invasion of Iraq. The Beirut Spring, the liberation from Syrian rule and the election of a pro-Western government marked the high point (together with the first Iraqi election that inspired the events in Lebanon) of the Bush doctrine.

Syria, Iran and Hezbollah have been working assiduously to reverse that great advance. Hezbollah insinuated itself into the government. The investigation of Syria for the murder of Rafiq Hariri has stalled. And now with the psychological success of the war with Israel, Hezbollah may soon become the dominant force in all of Lebanon. In the south, the Lebanese army will be taking orders from Hezbollah. Hezbollah is not just returning to being a ``state within a state." It is becomingthe state, with the Siniora government reduced to acting as its front.

That is why ensuring that Hezbollah is cut down to size by a robust international force with very strict enforcement of its disarmament is so critical. For all its boasts, Hezbollah has suffered grievously militarily, with enormous losses of fighters, materiel and infrastructure. Now is its moment of maximum weakness. That moment will not last long. Resupply and rebuilding have already begun.

This is no time for the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. to be saying, when asked about the creation of an international force, that ``this really is a responsibility of the Secretariat.'' Maybe officially, but if we are not working frantically behind the scenes to make sure that this preposterously inappropriate body actually gets real troops in quickly, armed with the right equipment and the right mandate, the moment will be lost. And with it, Lebanon.

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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