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Opinion: Lebanon let terrorists thrive, now gets its due
The Tennessean
July 23, 2006

The tactic is nothing new. For nearly 60 years, authoritarian Middle Eastern governments have allowed terrorists based within their countries to conduct attacks on Israel while claiming to be unable to do anything about it. However, of late the tactic has been dressed up in a new guise, which uses democracy as a cover for terrorism, the better to play upon the free world's sympathies.

In Lebanon (as within the Palestinian Authority), what this amounts to is a sort of "have your cake and eat it too" situation, a version of the Hezbollah/Hamas "political wing/military wing" game. In this case, Hezbollah gets its war with Israel while Lebanon's leaders attempt to distance themselves from the consequences. When things get out of hand, as they did last week, the government can claim to be a helpless victim when it is, in fact, an enabler.

Israel, however, refuses to play the game. It holds Lebanon's government to account for failing to meet its basic responsibilities, part of which is to take charge of its own sovereign territory. Even now, as the country is falling down around them, Lebanon's elected leaders will not do the thing that Israel has begged them to do for years: put the Lebanese army on the southern border, and disarm Hezbollah in accordance with a U.N. resolution calling for the disbanding of all militias within Lebanon).

Whether they will not do this because they are incapable or simply unwilling is no longer the issue. Israel is forced to face the reality that Hezbollah is the de facto power in Lebanon. It cannot afford to bet its security on the mere hope that either Lebanon's president or prime minister will somehow wrest events from Hezbollah's leader, Hassan Nasrallah.

If anyone doubts who runs the show in Lebanon, they need only watch the news and read the papers. The media focus is on Nasrallah, who is deferred to as the spokesman not only of Hezbollah but of Lebanon as well. In contrast, the "legitimate" government of Lebanon is essentially missing in action, or nearly so. In short, if the media acknowledges Nasrallah as Lebanon's war-time leader and other Lebanese leaders passively allow him to occupy that stage, is it so strange that Israel would similarly acknowledge the fact?

No nation can abdicate its responsibilities for controlling — or at least making a good faith effort at controlling — terrorist forces operating from its sovereign territory. Likewise, no nation can be expected to allow terrorists to conduct operations against their citizens with impunity, striking, then retreating back across internationally recognized boundaries.

A government cannot say to its neighbor, "We can do nothing; the terrorists are too strong." If that is the case, then the terrorists are, in fact, the government and must be dealt with in that context. Lastly, no organized entity that claims to exercise the power of government can separate the actions of military forces it allows to operate within its borders from that of its governing authority. This is not allowed for any government anywhere. It cannot be accepted as a way of conducting business by anyone, now or ever.

The responsibility for this war is Hezbollah's and Lebanon's together. The former chose to make it their responsibility, and the latter allowed them to do so. The casualties on both sides are also the responsibility of Hezbollah/Lebanon.

By waging war and claiming leadership, Hezbollah is acting in the capacity of a government — a capacity that Lebanon's other government has chosen to abdicate. Neither can escape the consequences of their shared failure to exercise that function responsibly.

Original Text