Paul Greenberg

Has any country ever been so ill-served by its leadership as Lebanon?

Well, there is the always a-borning, never-quite-born state reserved for the Arabs of Palestine. In Abba Eban's famous phrase, its leaders - all the way back to the Grand Mufti - have never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity for peace. Lebanon's leaders must run them a close second.

For years the Lebanese have given Hezbollah's killers safe harbor and cheered them on when they marched in the streets. They've turned whole neighborhoods and large swaths of that beautiful country over to this state-within-a-state, and have done little but step aside as Lebanon became one big terrorist arms depot.

Beirut's power brokers even took Hezbollah into the country's Cabinet and made it part of their governing coalition. It was the start of a beautiful friendship.

None of Hezbollah's murderous attacks - whether on a Marine barracks in Beirut or a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires - were enough to disturb this delicate, ever closer détente cordiale.

So long as the Lebanese economy revived, and the reconstruction of the country after its disastrous civil war could proceed apace, what business was all that extraneous gore to Beirut's boulevardiers?

Lebanon's government never did get around to carrying out the United Nations resolution restoring its sovereignty over the south of the country, which became a staging area for Hezbollah's raids into Israel.

There was no hurry. All those years, it was only other people who were being blown apart. Surely none of that blood would splatter on the simple sharkskin splendor of a Beirut business suit . . . .

And now this. The state-within-a-state turned out to have not just an army within an army, but a foreign policy of its own, too. Which now has dragged the whole country into a devastating war.

Cities, airports, army barracks, television stations, beaches, highways . . . all lie in ruins. Bodies are pulled from the wreckage, as if this were some horrible aftermath of a suicide bombing in Jerusalem. Refugees stream steadily northward. A vast exodus is taking place, and humanitarian convoys must be organized. And all poor Lebanon did was let evil take root.

The result: pain, suffering, chaos. For wherever Hezbollah was in Lebanon, fire and blood now have followed, and Lebanon's leaders let it go everywhere.

Who knew those Katyushas imported from Iran via Syria would actually be fired?

Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.