Thursday, August 17, 2006

A bit of thoughtstream on the recent UN ceasefire...

My description of the UN Security Council as having no judicial organ doesn't appear to be completely accurate. From time to time the Secretary General of the UN has expressed a statement one way or the other over interpretation of a UN resolution. Such skerricks as I've found suggest that this is a power that the Secretary General must exercise with great restraint lest they lose what hard-to-gain international legitimacy they have by coming down too strongly on one side or another.

The ceasefire is more or less holding at the time of writing. Given past criticisms of the UN, I should in fairness praise the efforts of that body in successfully getting the fighting to stop in a conflict where neither side wants the fighting to stop. But as the news outlets keep saying, it's a brittle truce.

Both sides are already working on ways to circumvent the Security Council's desires, and the concrete implementation of Resolution 1701 has some nightmarish difficulties associated with it. There's no clear guide for what happens when. Lebanese forces are in no hurry to enter Lebanon until Israel has pulled out. Israel has no intention of pulling out until UNIFIL takes control of the area. UNIFIL isn't going in until Lebanese forces are in place.

Meanwhile, the Hezbollah members of the Lebanese government have stated flat out that Hezbollah is not going to disarm. Of course, as a non-state actor, Hezbollah is beyond the mandate of the UN, and it's up to the Lebanese government to deal with internal security matters. Unfortunately, in a military conflict between the Lebanese government and Hezbollah, the government would almost certainly lose.

Israel is a state entity, and is expected to follow UN resolutions, so their circumvention has to be a little more crafty than flat-out disregarding it: as Resolution 1701 calls for “the immediate cessation by Israel of all offensive military operations", Israel has taken it upon itself to continue any defensive operations. It has also taken it upon itself to define what constitutes "defensive" - the continuing naval, air and land blockade of Lebanon, for example.

I very much fear that the current ceasefire is the sort of ceasefire which only gives the antagonists time to rearm.

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