WASHINGTON -- Five weeks have passed since the kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers provoked Israel to launch its most unsatisfactory military operation in 58 years. What problem has been solved, or even ameliorated?
Hezbollah, often using World War II-vintage rockets, has demonstrated the inadequacy of Israel's policy of unilateral disengagement -- from Lebanon, Gaza, much of the West Bank -- behind a fence. Hezbollah has willingly suffered (temporary) military diminution in exchange for enormous political enlargement. Hitherto, Hezbollah in Lebanon was a ``state within a state.'' Henceforth, the Lebanese state may be an appendage of Hezbollah, as the collapsing Palestinian Authority is an appendage of the terrorist organization Hamas. Hezbollah is an army that, having frustrated the regional superpower, suddenly embodies, as no Arab state ever has, Arab valor vindicated in combat with Israel.
Only twice in the U.N.'s six decades has it authorized the use of substantial force -- in 1950 regarding Korea and 1990 regarding Kuwait. It still has not authorized force in Lebanon. What is being called a ``cease-fire'' resolution calls for Israel to stop all ``offensive'' operations. Israel, however, reasonably says that its entire effort is defensive. The resolution calls for Hezbollah to stop ``all attacks.'' The U.N., however, has twice resolved that Hezbollah should be disarmed, yet has not willed the means to that end. Regarding force now, the U.N. merely ``expresses its intention to consider in a later resolution further enhancements'' of the U.N. force that for 28 years has been loitering without serious intent in south Lebanon.
The ``new Middle East,'' the ``birth pangs'' of which we supposedly are witnessing, reflects the region's oldest tradition, the tribalism that preceded nations. The faux and disintegrating nation of Iraq, from which the middle class, the hope of stability, is fleeing, has experienced in these five weeks many more violent deaths than have occurred in Lebanon and Israel. U.S. Gen. George Casey says 60 percent of Iraqis recently killed are victims of Shiite death squads. Some are associated with the Shiite-controlled Interior Ministry, which resembles a terrorist organization.
The London plot against civil aviation confirmed a theme of an illuminating new book, Lawrence Wright's ``The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11.'' The theme is that better law enforcement, which probably could have prevented 9/11, is central to combating terrorism. F-16s are not useful tools against terrorism that issues from places such as Hamburg (where Mohamed Atta lived before dying in the North Tower of the World Trade Center) and High Wycombe, England.