UN Resolution 1701 calls for the implementation of a cease-fire on the Israeli-Lebanon border, the disarmament of Hezballah, and the monitoring of the movement of arms into the area. The agreement, reached after intense negotiations at the UN, was predicated on the positioning of a UN peacekeeping force, to be provided primarily by European troops, with France publicly committing to supply a significant portion of the "boots on the ground". Today’s Wall Street Journal (subscription required) comments on the thus far lackluster offerings of the Europeans, who are fearful, short on available soldiers, and reluctant to bear the expense of shipping and supporting their forces in such a dangerous environment. To quote the WSJ, in part (emphases mine):
Europe’s difficulties in raising enough troops to enforce the cease-fire in Lebanon have exposed some hard truths that are testing the Continent’s ability to serve as a global military power and Middle East peacemaker…
…so far, Paris has offered only 400 soldiers, and Europe is having trouble raising as many ground troops as the UN says it needs to create a balanced force of troops from European and Muslim countries (apparently, Muslim countries are not having the same difficulty).
…The hesitation, however justified by events on the ground, is forcing Europeans to grapple with some uncomfortable realities: They don’t have enough deployable combat troops; they are disliked as much as the US by Mideast radicals; and their determination to stop the destruction and insert peacekeepers could come at a higher price than they are willing to pay.
…EU nations cumulatively spend around $200 Billion on defense each year, but can deploy and equip relatively few troops of the kind needed to go to a conflict zone such as Lebanon. Even for France, which along with the UK boasts by far the EU’s most capable military, keeping more than 15,000 troops deployed around the world for more than short periods is a strain. France already has 13,200 troops in the field globally.
Perhaps a review of the defense spending on the part of our European allies (above) can help us understand their dilemma. Defense spending by NATO and EU countries has traditionally lagged far behind the US, even during the darkest periods of the Cold War. It is not an exaggeration to say that Europe hid behind the skirts of the US when it came to preparing to fight the former USSR. Given the fall of the communist empire, those same countries have chosen to spend even less of their GDP to "defend" themselves, drawing down defense spending even more than the US did during the 1990s. At the same time, European elites have promoted a vicious strain of anti-Americanism, blaming our policies and culture for much of the world’s ills.
Disdaining military solutions to military problems, preferring the charade of diplomatic negotiations that have suppressed the symptoms of geo-political crises but not solved the underlying root causes, and deferring, as much as possible into the future, the reckoning of most problems, the Europeans have now been exposed in their shortcomings. They cannot act militarily to protect, or prevent any act of war committed against themselves or their allies. They are, in a word, powerless.
One has to wonder if the Iranians have noticed the same thing. Is it too much to assume that the Iranians understand that there is no possibility of a European-organized strike against their nuclear facilities? Is it possible that the Iranians understand that negotiations without the threat of action are meaningless? The answer to these questions must be yes, yes, and yes.
The future is now becoming clearer. Iran, determined to assume the leading role in the Muslim quest to restore the Caliphate, will continue it’s development of nuclear weapons. Europe will stand silent, powerless to act, while the US will continue to be villified by all parties. Only after Iran has demonstrated its willingness to fight for its vision of the future, with some monstrous attack, will the Europeans be awakened to the folly of their decisions. Will it be too late?
UPDATE: The European edition of the WSJ has a column by Nidra Poller with the headline: "A Lace Handkerchief Fluttered in the Face of Reality", where she writes:
The resolution tightens Hezbollah’s stranglehold by handing it a victory it could not earn on the battlefield; Iran warmed up its exterminating engines; Syria decided that Hezbollah-type action was more promising than diplomatic acrobatics; Hamas swore it would not be outdone by the brave fighting brothers. In other words, jihad. …
Far too much has been made of President Chirac’s personal gripe with Syrian President Bashar Assad, and far too little attention is paid to France’s troubling complicity with Iran and its merciless Hezbollah arm. The charming French minister of defense, Michèle Alliot-Marie, says she is not sending troops unless and until the U.N. can guarantee their safety. An anonymous source cited by Le Monde journalist Mouna Naïm claims that a French diplomat went directly to the Iranians to obtain a promise of mutual nonbelligerency. Barah Mikhail, a fellow of the French government-friendly IRIS think tank, spelled it out in an Aug. 19 radio interview: France doesn’t want to be put in a situation where its soldiers would have to side with Israel against Hezbollah. To choose between a Western democratic ally and a terrorist organization seems too morally troubling for Paris.
Also, apparently having reached the desired understanding with the Iranians, President Chirac today has announced that France will now send 2,000 soldiers to Lebanon. Vive le Republique!