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America vs. The World

The big trouble with dumb bastards is that they are too dumb to believe there is such a thing as being smart. — Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Beirut to Putin: come in, Putin

I think by now the world realizes that the only way to keep Israel and Lebanon apart (if that’s what it truly wants) is by sending in an international armed force that is both strong and popular.

A week ago, I was ready to write about why NATO is the only force that could fit the bill. Since then, it became clear that America and Britain won’t be sending troops and the United Nations seems more interested in stepping it up.

(America has enough on its plate, and its troops may actually further destabilize the region as a terrorist target; Britain is militarily maxed out in Iraq; and neither fully supports a ceasefire at this time, particularly one that doesn’t lead to the end of Hezbollah.)

The UN’s existing force in Lebanon, UNIFIL, consists of 2,000 relatively-impotent “monitoring” staff from China, France, India, Italy, Poland, Ukraine, Ireland and Ghana. If they want to accomplish anything, they’ll need actual “security” troops, the kind that carry guns and are allowed to use them if push comes to shove.

So there’s recently been talk of trying to get some “heavy-hitters” in the mix to make it work. Germany’s a contender: with Merkel in place, they may be ready to shed their pacifist attitude for a bigger stake in global affairs. Turkey’s also a good choice, politically straddling the West and Middle East with a reputation for strength and moderation.

But in my opinion, only one nation (besides an unwilling America) can actually bring some stability to the region: Russia.

Russian leadership has historically leaned towards the West, and this is the perfect opportunity to do so in a tangible and productive way. By teaming up with a mostly Western armed force (possibly even in a leading role) they can build some credibility and relevance on the world stage.

Working together with (preferably) NATO or (likely) UNIFIL, Russia brings some real muscle to the operation, wielding the power to move real troops in and the clout to keep Syria and Iran out. And there’s not a chance that Israel nor Lebanon nor Hezbollah nor Syria would open fire on a Russian force; it’s the one nation that manages to somehow be allied with all of them.

And here’s where you ask why this will never happen. Simple—the Middle East is a political and military quagmire, and Putin would rather his fellow world powers struggle through it than dive in himself. (Also known as China’s global strategy.)

So prepare to watch Germany or France grab the wheel of Kofi Annan’s Titanic while Israel and Hezbollah lob rockets overhead, because the only nations powerful enough to actually achieve something are either unwilling or unable.

You wanted to see what a post-hegemonic world looks like. Enjoy the show.

2 Comments:

Anonymous P. Pirx said...

The idea of a Russian force in Lebanon has merit. And, it may not be quite impossible. Russia is yearning for a renewed recognition as a great power and a sweet enough deal perhaps can be engineered. But I wouldn't keep my hopes high.

Blogger Gordon the Gnome said...

Russia is part of virtually every current international roundtable: the Madrid Quartet (on Israel/Palestine), the Party of Six (on North Korea), the G8 (as number 8), the Security Council. And yet, they never seem to contribute much to move things forward, which can mean one of two things.

1. They can't.

2. They don't want to.

And when it comes down to it, is there really any difference?

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Jeff Goldstein is a wanker.