To my complete and utter surprise, the cease-fire between Israel and Hezbollah seems to be in trouble, just a week after going into force. The Europeans are balking at sending troops. France, which was understood to be the major force in the international deployment, has offered 200. Other countries, including Italy and Spain, have offered larger numbers, but don't want to deploy them until the rules of engagement (RoE) are clarified. The largest question: Who is going to disarm Hezbollah? This problem was ignored in the cease-fire agreement, and, understandably, no one really wants to be responsible for a task sure to involve combat.
Meanwhile, over the weekend, Israel launched a raid into Lebanon. Israel claimed that the raid was designed to interdict weapons being smuggled from Syria to Hezbollah, and that the UN and Lebanese soldiers already in place have no interest in seriously preserving the cease-fire.
As I wrote in earlier posts, the cease-fire is a disaster waiting to happen. Neither the UN nor the European powers (a term I use very loosely) have the stomach or nerve to challenge Hezbollah, so how can they be responsible for enforcing a truce? By leaving the decision making in the hands of the individual European nations, rather than NATO, the cease-fire is now in the hands of the same people who dithered while the Balkans burned.
The onus is on the US to see that the cease-fire can hold. Not that the US can, or should, send troops; that would be a disaster. But President Bush must convince the Europeans to deploy a robust force, no smaller than 15,000 troops, to Lebanon with broad RoEs. These troops must be willing and capable of confronting Hezbollah, intercepting arms shipments, and taking whatever actions are necessary to ensure that the cease-fire holds and that Hezbollah's power in southern Lebanon is broken. Whatever it takes -- aid promises, technology transfers, political log-rolling -- the US must give. This misssion is simply too vital to fail.