Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff at PostGlobal

Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff

Germany

Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff is a Senior Director at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, a transatlantic public policy and grant-making foundation. He overseas the fund's policy programs. He was previously the Washington bureau chief of the German newsweekly, Die Zeit. Close.

Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff

Germany

Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff is a Senior Director at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, a transatlantic public policy and grant-making foundation. more »

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Ready for a Protectorate?

Germany -- The other day I met a man who believes an international force in southern Lebanon could do some good. His name is Lokman Slim, a democracy activist, author and filmmaker from Lebanon.

He is a critic of sectarian politics in Lebanon. Until last week, he says, Hezbollah was a "resistance movement in search of an occupation". Now it has found it's claim to victimhood. According to Slim there will be no permanent peace if Hezbollah retains its quasi-monopoly of representation of the Shia population. Slim hopes a peacekeeping mission could help change the political dynamic in Lebanon. However, it all depends on the mission, he cautions.

Last weekend the G-8 leaders asked the UN Security Council to study the creation of an "international security/monitoring presence". That force would have to be sent into a buffer zone in Southern Lebanon. If it's mission is "monitoring", not much needs to be done. A so called "Interim Force" of the UN is already there. It has been there since 1978. While meticulously registering missiles flying overhead and reporting on skirmishes along the international border, it has lost 257 of it's men getting caught in the crossfire. All that while achieving very little.

Of course, Lokman Slim is aware of the failure of UNIFIL. That's why he thinks a new UN mission would have to be "robust". Well, exactly how robust? If the UN force is to prevent Hezbollah from launching missiles directed at Israel, the buffer zone will have to be sizable given Hezbollah's Iranian made arsenal. The mission would have to be: enforce UN resolution 1559. And that means: disarm Hezbollah. In other words: years of counter-insurgency against a group that is deeply routed in and supported by a plurality of the local population in Southern Lebanon. If the world is really serious about this proposal it will have to mandate and equip a force to run a UN protectorate for at least a decade.

Lokman Slim is not a dreamer. He knows what the consequences of a "robust" mission are. Why is he still pondering the idea? "At least it will not only be Lebanese blood that is beeing shed", he says, "we will all share the burden." He hopes that casualties will prompt the world to get even more invested in Lebanon. Slim is not only a brave man, he is honest, too. He doesn't hide the fact that he is supporting those who are playing the oldest trick in Middle Eastern politics: if you can't change the balance of power, get others involved. By the way: that may be exactly what the Israelis were hoping for when they started their massive response to Hezbollah's provocations.

Protectorates work in few places and in rare moments only. They may buy time to come up with a proposal for a lasting peace. The jury is still out whether Kosovo is such a place. If a plurality of the population opposes its protector, success is unlikely. President Bush has a point when he claims that the root cause of the problem is Hezbollah. But the problem with Hezbollah is not only its arsenal, but its popularity. No UN force will change that.

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