[Marxism] The buffer zone strategy

Marvin Gandall marvgandall at videotron.ca
Tue Jul 18 14:36:25 MDT 2006

The article below illustrates why the buffer zone plan favoured by the
Europeans (after allowing for a respectable interval for Israel to bomb
Hezbollah's military and support structure) has major obstacles to overcome.
The current force - UNIFIL - is a bystander. Reinforcing or replacing UNIFIL
with an effective international force, leavened with Lebanese government
troops, would still invite attacks by Hezbollah of the kind which drove the
US and allied troops out of Lebanon in the early 80s. Hezbollah would only
acquiesce if it were forced to by a serious erosion of its military position
or pressure from its Syrian and Iranian allies - neither of which seems
likely at present. This latter wishful thought underlay Bush's unguarded
comment yesterday that "we got to get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing
this shit."

The Israelis would welcome a reoccupation of south Lebanon in which troops
other than their own were exposed to the resistance forces - and are
unofficially on record to that effect - but are skeptical such a force can
be assembled. So they will continue to rely on "disproportionate" force to
demonstrate their power in the same way the schoolyard bully mercilessly
pounds the game little kid who occasionally tries to stand up to it.

The gross military imbalance between Israel and its neighbours is the root
cause of the current instability and human misery in the Middle East. If the
Palestinians or any of the neighbouring states had the capacity to
"proportionately" threaten and inflict the same degree of destruction on
Israel's infrastructure and civilian population, the chances of a lasting
regional peace would increase correspondingly. While others - including the
well-intentioned - might disagree, the development of an Iranian nuclear
deterrent would be a positive rather than a negative development for the
region. Far from further destabilizing it, it would redress the military
balance and be the most effective means of forcing the Israelis to come to
terms with Palestinian demands.

*    *    *

Push Made for Peacekeeping Force To Go Into Lebanon
Similar Strategy Failed 2 Decades Ago

By Peter Baker and Robin Wright
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, July 18, 2006; A15

ST. PETERSBURG, July 17 -- U.N. and European leaders pressed Monday for an
international peacekeeping force to be sent to Lebanon to defuse the
conflict with Israel, an approach that ended in failure two decades ago when
a U.S.-led foreign troop contingent was driven out by violence.

At the instigation of British Prime Minister Tony Blair and French President
Jacques Chirac, the Group of Eight industrial countries over the weekend
asked the U.N. Security Council to study creation of an "international
security/monitoring presence." As the G-8 summit wrapped up Monday, Blair
lobbied President Bush and other skeptics to embrace the idea, and U.N.
Secretary General Kofi Annan endorsed it.

In Washington, the State Department announced that Secretary of State
Condoleezza Rice will make an emergency visit to the Middle East to seek a
settlement. Her dates and itinerary are still to be set, department
spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters.

The call for an international force emerged as perhaps the biggest surprise
of the G-8 summit, which wrapped up Monday after a weekend dominated by the
latest Middle East violence.

The G-8 members -- the United States, Britain, France, Japan, Germany,
Italy, Canada and Russia -- reached a compromise plan Sunday that calls on
Hezbollah and Hamas to release Israeli captives and stop firing rockets into
Israel, and tells Israel to end its attacks and free arrested Palestinian
officials. The international force would be sent into a buffer zone
separating the sides in southern Lebanon only after fighting ended,
officials said.

"The blunt reality is that this violence is not going to stop unless we
create the conditions for the cessation of violence," Blair said after
meeting with Annan, who attended the summit as a guest. "The only way is if
we have a deployment of international forces that can stop bombardment
coming into Israel."

Blair was overheard on a live microphone at the closing G-8 lunch appealing
to Bush personally. "The thing that's really difficult is we can't stop this
unless you get this international presence agreed," Blair told him.

Bush did not respond audibly, but White House aides said the approach in
some form may be acceptable to the United States. The United States and its
allies are considering a variety of options, including a U.N. or European
Union force, and the subject is to be discussed at the United Nations on

"There are a lot of people with various ideas," said a senior U.S. official,
speaking on condition of anonymity. "It hasn't been thoroughly talked
through. There's a concept that you need that southern border region free
from threat. The Lebanese armed forces may not be up to that, and the issue
is how do you help them out?"

Still, John R. Bolton, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, raised
skeptical questions in New York. Israeli officials expressed opposition and
the idea seemed unlikely to be accepted by Hezbollah, which operates in
southern Lebanon with little interference from the Lebanese government.

Experts who have served in Lebanon dismissed the idea of an international
force unless it has the full backing of both Israel and Hezbollah. "This is
a monumentally stupid idea," said Augustus Richard Norton, who served with a
small U.N. observer force that has been deployed in southern Lebanon since
Israel's first incursion in 1978. He is a Middle East specialist at Boston

"It's a non-starter," Timur Goksel, who served 24 years with the U.N. force
and now teaches in Beirut, said by telephone. "If the intention is to
observe, there is already a force in place. If they are talking of a
deterrent force to prevent fighting, it will immediately be seen as an
occupation force here. And when you have an occupation force, no matter what
your flag, even under the United Nations, that's when the trouble starts.
This is a most ridiculous idea. Nobody will accept it."

There are two main scenarios for a foreign force. One is to expand the
existing U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon, or UNIFIL. The 2,000-member
contingent, which has suffered 257 fatalities of its own, has usually been
unable to do more than watch when fighting erupts. Israel rolled right by it
during its 1982 invasion.

UNIFIL's limitations were underscored over the past week when it basically
became stranded. A UNIFIL statement Monday complained that it was unable to
supply food and water to its own troops, much less help deliver humanitarian
aid to civilians, because Israel had not guaranteed free passage.

The other scenario is a fresh, stronger multinational force. But that too
has been tried in Lebanon, with disastrous results. After Israel's 1982
invasion, the United States led a four-nation force with France, Italy and
Britain in Beirut as part of a cease-fire. The U.S. force was gradually
sucked into Lebanon's civil war. Shortly after a U.S. warship off the coast
fired at a Muslim militia on behalf of rival Christians, a suicide bomber in
1983 destroyed a Marine barracks in Beirut, killing 241 Marines, in the
single largest loss of military personnel since World War II.

Supporters said any new force would have to be more robust than UNIFIL.
Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi suggested it would require at least
10,000 troops and a broad mandate. Chirac said it should be charged with
enforcing a 2004 Security Council resolution ordering Hezbollah to disarm.

Israel would almost certainly insist that the United States provide a major
portion of the contingent and command it. But regional experts question both
the U.S. will and the ability to provide forces. "The military is
overstretched. Most of the army is wrapped up in Iraq," said Norton, a
retired army colonel and former West Point professor. "A deployment in
Lebanon would potentially be interminable."

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