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August 16, 2006
Rice Protests Too Much?

Condoleezza Rice takes to the pages of the Washington Post in an effort to explain to Americans why the US pressed for the cease-fire agreement adopted unanimously by the UN Security Council. Rice insists that UNSCR 1701 delivers the construct for a lasting peace, if fully implemented. That, however, is the problem, which even Rice acknowledges:

The agreement we reached last week is a good first step, but it is only a first step. Though we hope that it will lead to a permanent cease-fire, no one should expect an immediate stop to all acts of violence. This is a fragile cease-fire, and all parties must work to strengthen it. Our diplomacy has helped end a war. Now comes the long, hard work to secure the peace.

Looking ahead, our most pressing challenge is to help the hundreds of thousands of displaced people within Lebanon to return to their homes and rebuild their lives. This reconstruction effort will be led by the government of Lebanon, but it will demand the generosity of the entire world. ...

Already, we hear Hezbollah trying to claim victory. But others, in Lebanon and across the region, are asking themselves what Hezbollah's extremism has really achieved: hundreds of thousands of people displaced from their homes. Houses and infrastructure destroyed. Hundreds of innocent lives lost. The blame of the world for causing this war.

While I normally have tremendous respect for Secretary Rice and I'm one of the few who actually think that 1701 represents a limited gain for Israel, the arguments Rice offers here are eye-rollers. Of course the problem is implementation -- that's been the problem all along. The UN has demanded the disarming of Hezbollah before, but no one bothered to do it. Israel finally decided to take the task on itself after tiring of the empty rhetoric coming from Turtle Bay. The most pressing issue is this implementation, not the hand-wringing over civilian displacement, a concern that Rice does not extend to the hundreds of thousands of displaced Israelis.

This doesn't represent much of an improvement. UNSCR 1701 does promise a better world, but it unfortunately leaves it to the UN to deliver. Predictably, it has failed to demonstrate much enthusiasm for the task. Its leader, Kofi Annan, told Israelis that the primary basis for its agreement to 1701 -- the disarming of Hezbollah -- doesn't really concern the UN, despite two demands for the action from its own Security Council. Annan also told Israelis that the UN would get around to sending troops to support the Lebanese Army ... in a year. Maybe.

My optimism over 1701 relies on the fecklessness of the UN, not on its supposed usefulness. The UN has proven that it understands the problem in Lebanon, and that it has little interest in solving it. It completes the descent to League of Nations status and further undermines its credibility. Had the UN actually implemented 1701, it would have struck a blow against terrorism and non-state actors, and would have strengthened sovereignty and the stability of national borders.

The UN and Annan cannot feign ignorance after the passage of 1701. If they want peace, then they have to act to establish it by disarming Hezbollah and thwarting its proxy use by Iran and Syria. If they fail to do so, then Israel has both their recognition of the problem and their failure to act in defense of their own mandates as a tacit endorsement for action themselves. It's similar to what happened with Iraq in 2003, only this time the UNSC hasn't the UNSCOM/UNMOVIC dodge to offer as an obstruction on behalf of dictators and terrorists. Annan can't even gin up the UNIFIL force that the UNSC required.

Perhaps Rice felt it improper to take such a cynical public stance. If so, she would have been better off keeping her pen in the holder than publishing this particular justification.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at August 16, 2006 6:25 AM

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» We Are Programmed to Fail! from Pekin Prattles
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