The folly of believing French promises

Well, once again, as before the Iraq war began, the French have pulled the football out as we played Charlie Brown again in the UN negotiations over the Lebanon resolution. When will people learn? The Wall Street Journal outlines how empty Resolution 1701 is and how the French have made it so.

On Thursday, Jacques Chirac confirmed a Le Monde report that his government was prepared to offer only some 200 combat engineers (in addition to the 200 French troops already in Lebanon) to what is supposed to be the resolution’s centerpiece: A 15,000-man U.N. force that will help the Lebanese army patrol their southern border and ensure that Hezbollah will no longer use the area as a staging ground for future attacks against Israel.

Given that the French contingent was supposed to be at the vanguard of this enhanced force, it’s unclear whether other nations will be willing to chip in with troops of their own. All of this after the French used the promise of a robust, French-led international force to get the U.S. and Israel to agree to a cease-fire and withdrawal. Even less reassuring is the insistence by French Defense Minister Michele Alliot-Marie that her troops will remain in the lead only until February, after which, apparently, it’s salaam and adieu.

The French, of course, were the ones who insisted on watering down the resolution in the first place to remove any teeth in the orders given to the UN troops about using force. So, now there is not evern a fig leaf that Hezbollah will be disarmed or that there will be any efforts to stop arms shipments coming in to Lebanon through Syria.

I hope that Condi Rice has learned this painful lesson about the futility of trusting the French, Kofi Annan, and the UN to solve tough problems of violence in that part of the world. You can’t have a ceasefire if one side will continue to rearm and ignore the resolution.

Israel can and will defend itself. The person who should really be furious here is Secretary of State Rice. She midwifed this cease-fire in the name of Lebanese democracy and as a way to use diplomacy, and the U.N., to tame Hezbollah and frustrate its patrons. She also believed French promises, so it’d be good to know if she now feels she was lied to. If this U.N. exercise turns out to be as feckless as it increasingly appears, U.S. credibility will also be a loser.

I wouldn’t even use the conditional voice here – this UN exercise is already feckless. And it is disastrous.

Cross-posted at Betsy’s Page

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