Charles Krauthammer

Which is why the expected Round Two will, in fact, not happen. Hezbollah is in no position, either militarily or politically, for another round. Nasrallah's admission that the war was a mistake is an implicit pledge not to repeat it, lest he be completely finished as a Lebanese political figure.

The Lebanese know that Israel bombed easy-to-repair airport runways when it could have destroyed the new airport terminal and set Lebanon back 10 years. The Lebanese know that Israel attacked the Hezbollah TV towers when it could have pulverized Beirut's power grid, a billion-dollar reconstruction. The Lebanese know that next time Israel's leadership will hardly be as hesitant and restrained. Hezbollah dares not risk that next time.

Even more important is the shift once again in the internal Lebanese balance of power. With Nasrallah weakened, the other major factions are closing in around him. Even his major Christian ally, Michel Aoun, has called for Hezbollah's disarmament. The March 14 democratic movement has regained the upper hand and, with outside help, could marginalize Hezbollah.

In a country this weak, outsiders can be decisive. A strong European presence in the south, serious U.S. training and equipment for the Lebanese army, and relentless pressure at the U.N. can tip the balance. We should be especially aggressive at the U.N. in pursuing the investigation of Syria for the Rafiq Hariri murder and in implementing resolutions mandating the disarmament of Hezbollah.

It was just a year and a half ago that the democrats of the March 14 movement expelled Syria from Lebanon and rose to power, marking the apogee of the American democratization project in the region. Nasrallah's temporary rise during the just-finished war marked that project's nadir. Nasrallah's crowing added to the general despair in Washington about a rising ``Shiite crescent'' stretching from Tehran to Beirut.

In fact, Hezbollah was seriously set back, as was Iran. In the Middle East, however, promising moments pass quickly. This one needs to be seized. We must pretend that Security Council Resolution 1701 was meant to be implemented, and exert unrelieved pressure on behalf of those Lebanese -- a large majority -- who want to do the implementing.


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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