Making Peace Stick In Lebanon

By Franklin D. Kramer
Saturday, August 19, 2006

Not all peacekeeping forces are successful, and certainly not in Lebanon, where U.S. Marines on a peacekeeping mission were killed in their barracks by terrorist truck bombs and where, a few years later, a U.S. military officer leading a United Nations peacekeeping force was kidnapped and killed. If peacekeeping is to be part of a long-term answer for Lebanon, the force there needs to be carefully designed to generate an effective solution rather than become part of the problem, as has been the case in the past. To do that requires answering five key questions.

First, what is the mission of the force? It may seem obvious that the overall purpose is to limit the use of violence. But the key question is how the force proposes to do that. Will it be an observer force, a reactive force or a force designed to create new conditions on the ground? To put it another way, will the force actively take on Hezbollah, will it leave that task to others, or will Hezbollah in effect be left alone? Over time, Hezbollah will seek to regain military strength. Will the peacekeeping force seek to ensure that Hezbollah has as little capacity as possible to commit violence? That was the purpose of the force put into Bosnia, and there the peacekeepers maintained the monopoly on violence. Lebanon will be a much harder task, but unless controlling violence is an affirmative mission, the peacekeeping effort is unlikely to succeed in the long-term.

Second, what will be the relationship of the force to the Lebanese government, and particularly to the Lebanese military? It will be going into a country where substantial efforts have been made to generate a more effective central government, with true control over the entire country. A critical element is how to turn Hezbollah into a political, not a military, movement. Enhancing the strength of the Lebanese government and giving it a monopoly on the use of force is thus a key to creating a stable, long-term situation. The government is unlikely to succeed unless it gets significant support from the outside -- and, especially, develops a continuing approach to disarming Hezbollah.

A coordinated effort between the peacekeepers and the government will be critical. The peacekeeping force will need political direction that allows it and the Lebanese military to offer complementary capabilities. An operational political-military committee should be created, consisting of both Lebanese officials and empowered representatives of the peacekeeping force. The committee needs to be promptly established and to meet regularly to resolve the numerous issues that will undoubtedly arise. Unlike many other missions, this one is in a country with a democratically elected government. It must align its efforts with those of the host government.

Third, will the mission go beyond the purely military? Lessons learned from numerous peacekeeping forces demonstrate that unless non-military security, economic, governmental and social factors are taken into account, military peacekeeping has no chance of long-term success. Hezbollah has made inroads into southern Lebanon in part because, beyond its terrorist activities, it also provides social services. Any peacekeeping effort will need the support of the people and therefore will have to move quickly into the non-military arena. It needs to be recognized that this force will be in competition with Hezbollah. There often is a "golden hour" when residents are delighted to have order restored with outside assistance, but in time outside "liberators" all too often turn into "occupiers" when the non-military problems are not taken care of promptly and effectively.

Fourth, what will be the composition of the force? The United States apparently will not be in the patrolling military element. Newspaper reports have suggested a role for various nations, including Turkey, France, Pakistan, Italy, Malaysia and Indonesia. The absence of the United States in the main force does not mean it will fail -- there are other forces that are highly competent. In East Timor, the United States was not involved; Australia very effectively led a U.N. force while the United States played an important backup role in logistics and other support, with the prospect of providing direct military support if necessary.

But a key question is the broad inclusion of Arab as well as other Muslim nations. Patrolling in a potentially hostile area is much more difficult if the peacekeeping force cannot communicate easily with the locals. And the engagement of Arab and Muslim nations could be important in finding a long-term solution.

Fifth, what resources will be provided beyond the peacekeeping force? As noted, non-military security, economic, governance and social factors all will be major elements of a real solution -- but these elements do not come free. It's important to enter a peacekeeping enterprise with eyes wide open about the overall costs. Doing just enough to fail might only add to the instability and insecurity in the region.

Lebanon presents a very hard problem, and it will take real resources to create a good solution. There is a "donors' conference" planned this month, but all too often such conferences are longer on pledges than on performance. The United States needs to recognize the value of playing a lead role in reconstruction if stability is to be achieved.

The U.N. resolution and the efforts many countries made to help establish the cease-fire demonstrate that the world recognizes we cannot stand aside while instability stalks the Middle East. But Lebanon is complicated, and as this very difficult undertaking gets going, it needs to be done in a way that makes success the probable outcome. Such a result will benefit the people of Lebanon, Israel, the greater Middle East and the world at large.

The writer was assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs from 1996 to 2001. He is currently an international consultant on defense and national security.

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