In Sunday’s Magazine in the Times, there was an article on disarming Hizbollah, in which parallels are made to the situations in the Ivory Coast, Kosovo, the Congo and Northern Ireland. The point is made that disarmament cannot realistically be done by force (unless one is prepared and able to destroy the force) and that there has to be a good political and diplomatic framework that offers the militants a reason to disarm themselves.
Israel launched its air, land and sea attack on Lebanon with the goal, as Prime Minister Ehud Olmert put it, of “disarming this murderous organization”; in that regard, the campaign failed. How, then, could any lesser force succeed? Lebanon’s defense minister, Elias Murr, has defended Hezbollah and flatly asserted that the Lebanese Army “is not going to the south to strip Hezbollah of its weapons and do the work that Israel did not.” Neither will a U.N. peacekeeping force, however large. “You cannot impose peace on these people if they?re ready to fight you,” as a D.D.R. [disarmament, demobilization and reintegration] expert in the U.N.’s peacekeeping department puts it. “You need to be able to annihilate them, because they?re not going to lay down their arms voluntarily.” Even robust United Nations forces do not seek to annihilate their adversaries.
If Hezbollah cannot be forcibly disarmed, can some political arrangement induce the militia to disarm itself? This, of course, raises a question about Hezbollah?s aspirations: is it seeking to achieve through force a goal that can be attained through diplomacy, or through political activity? That this is in fact the case is the unspoken premise of United Nations Resolution 1559, passed in 2004, which sought to release Lebanon from the suffocating grip of Syria, and thus to begin a national dialogue that would ultimately lead to the incorporation of Hezbollah into Lebanese affairs.
I’ve said this before, but the only realistic way to get Hizbollah to disarm is politically and diplomatically. Israeli attacks on Lebanon only serve to strengthen Hizbollah’s raison d’être, showing that they do need a strong paramilitary force to defend Lebanon from another Israeli invasion. That the invasion might not have occured if it weren’t for the conflict is not really important: the conflict does exist. If Israel were really interested in getting rid of Hizbollah’s militia forces, then Tel Aviv would have to start another round of “land for peace” negotiations. The problem is that since Lebanon’s (and perhaps more importantly, Hizbollah’s) policy toward Israel is inextricably linked with that of Syria, the process would have to be much wider. This means that it wouldn’t be enough to just give back Lebanese territory; a peace initiative would have to include at least the Syrians if not the Palestinians in order to work.
This would be a lot of hard and complicated work; however, if Israel is really interested in peace, they’re going to have to start sometime. And the sooner the better.