On July 14 in the chamber of the UN Security Council, the permanent representative from Israel, Ambassador Dan Gillerman, paused to address his colleague, the ambassador from Lebanon. “You know that what we are doing is right, and if we succeed, your country will be the real beneficiary.”
That is the sad truth about Lebanon. What it has been unable or unwilling to do for itself, will be done by Israel when it shatters the strongholds of Hezbollah to end the rain of Iranian-made rockets on its cities. This time, Israel will withdraw to its borders, leaving Lebanon yet another opportunity to assert its sovereignty.
Gillerman recalled a sunnier time in Lebanon’s recent history, prior to 1975 “when the Lebanese began their long descent into oppression and terror. This is a country that has been held hostage for more than 32 years by tyrants from the north and terrorists from the south.”
Carved out of the defeated Ottoman Empire after World War I by the French and English, Lebanon became a unique place where its large Christian population achieved a successful measure of governance in cooperation with Muslim citizens. The result was a place that was often called the Paris of the Middle East, a place that became a modern financial hub to the region.
With the fall of the Ottoman Empire after World War I, Lebanon became a French protectorate, while Iraq and Jordan fell under the influence of the British who also oversaw affairs in desolate area to the south called Palestine. Following World War II, Jewish refugees from the Nazi Holocaust and earlier Jewish settlers would establish Israel in 1948.
The “Cedar Revolution” that began on March 14, 2005, when more than a million Lebanese poured into the streets of Beirut to protest the February assassination of former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri was brief. Anger, frustration, and desperation had overcome the fear of Syrian repression.
On April 26, 2005, the last of the Syrian army departed, but Hezbollah, a militant Islamic organization dedicated to the destruction of Israel, ruled southern Lebanon.
The Syrians had moved into Lebanon obstensively to bring an end to a 15-year civil war (1975-1990) that had been triggered by an influx of heavily armed Palestinian refugees, driven from Jordan after their failed effort to overthrow the Hashemite monarchy.
Reduced to its simplest terms, it was a war between Christians and Muslims. It was, however, more complex because in Lebanon, everyone is defined by their religion and this includes whether one is Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Shia, Sunni, Druze or Maronite. The differences are exaggerated in the hothouse atmosphere of Islamic fantasies.
Israel, in effect, accepted Syrian control of Lebanon in exchange for control over Hezbollah. Yes, some rockets might hit northern Israel from time to time, but that was a small price to pay. Too many rockets put an end to that compromise. In time, Israel moved troops into the southern part of Lebanon to create a security zone. In 2000 it withdrew, having suffered too many casualties among its forces from a low-intensity warfare against them.
Israelis, weary from the endless attacks on their people, tried to secure peace by ceding land to the Palestinians in Gaza and promising to withdraw further from the West Bank. The Lebanese border to the north remained closely guarded against Hezbollah, a terrorist organization that had invented the suicide bomber and perfected the taking of hostages.
Gillerman called the Cedar Revolution Lebanon’s moment of truth. Would it take the opportunity to assert its sovereignty over southern Lebanon? It did not. In fact, in the elections that followed Syria’s withdrawal, Hezbollah candidates became a part of Lebanon’s reconstituted government.
Lebanon remained hostage to a stateless organization that answered to both Syria and Iran.
Syria’s desire to reclaim Lebanon and Iran’s desire to destroy Israel forced Hezbollah to demonstrate that the millions poured into it had been a good investment. In attacks coordinated with Hamas, both terror groups kidnapped Israeli soldiers. Suddenly the heat was off Iran as concerns about its ambition to acquire nuclear weapons gave way to the attention focused on events in Lebanon and Gaza.
There was never any doubt of Israel’s response. Am. Gillerman told the Security Council that “Hezbollah, together with Hamas, Syria and Iran, comprise the world’s new and ominous Axis of Terror, an infamous club, the entry fee to which is the blood of innocents and the terrorizing of the entire world.”
“The real occupying power in Lebanon is terror — terror instigated by Hezbollah, but initiated, funded and perpetrated by Syria and Iran.”
If you want to see what the other nations of the Middle East will look like if there is no intervention and preemption, look at Lebanon.
If you want to see what Europe will look like if subjected to a similar campaign of terror, look at Lebanon.
The implications for the United States are huge. This is where we secure a large measure of the oil our economy and way of life requires. This is where we have put our troops in harm’s way to break the grip of fanatical Islam and replace it with a modern form of governance.
Failure is not an option, but so far U.S. diplomacy has only encouraged its enemies.
This is not just about tiny Israel fighting for its security and survival. This is not about restoring Lebanon to its former grandeur.
This is about whether Western civilization has the guts to protect itself against a tyrannical enemy.