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July 24, 2006
Rice: Lebanon Must Assert Sovereignty

Condoleezza Rice made a surprise visit to Beirut this morning, meeting with Lebanese PM Fuad Saniora as war continued to hit close to the capital. Rice made clear that any resolution to the conflict had to remove Hezbollah missiles and terrorism from the southern border, and that Lebanon's government had to assume sovereignty over its territory:

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met with Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora in Beirut on Monday in a show of support for that country's weakened democracy, which is struggling to contain the fighting between the Hezbollah militia and Israel. ...

"If there is a cessation of hostilities, the government of Lebanon is going to have to be the party," she said. "Let's treat the government of Lebanon as the sovereign government that it is."

That is the key point in all of the discussions regarding a cease-fire, and it expands on a point made by John Bolton last week at the United Nations. No one will trust a cease-fire agreement with a band of terrorists. For one practical reason, the terrorists have nothing to lose by violating an agreement -- no territory, no fixed assets, nothing. Second, the aim of terrorists has nothing to do with a negotiated peace but for all-out victory, which relates to the first reason.

Sovereign nations, however, have risks associated with war that underpins negotiations. A nation which attacks another risks its own territory being captured if it loses. That rule of war used to act as a deterrent to aggression in the past. However, with the advent of terrorist proxies and the tolerance of such in the Fourth Geneva Conventions -- which has never been signed or ratified by the US or Israel -- that risk has been minimized to the point where it pays to employ such tactics. It's no coincidence that the use of non-uniformed proxy terrorists have exploded since the mid-70s, when this convention gained acceptance by a significant number of nations.

Rice makes an important point in making Saniora responsible for the cease-fire, when one comes. We will no longer accept the notion that a state has no responsibility for actors within their own borders when they become a threat to other nations. This is the Bush Doctrine restated in Westphalian terms. States have sovereignty within their own borders, but with that sovereignty comes responsibility to ensure that they control the use of force that could threaten others. In fact, under the Bush doctrine, that responsibility is assumed with sovereignty -- and when actors from that state attack other nations, it is as if the nation as a whole attacked.

That's the message Rice delivered to Saniora this morning. We want Lebanon to thrive, but the Lebanese government can't have it both ways. If they cannot control Hezbollah, then they will reap the consequences of Hezbollah's actions, up to and including war. (via It Shines For All)

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at July 24, 2006 7:53 AM

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