Another Bush Flip Flop?
The big question in the Bush-Blair scenario-- announced Friday morning -- for setting up an international force to augment the Lebanese army along the Israel-Lebanon border is what countries would be involved. Recently Condi Rice had floated a scheme involving military units from Egypt and Turkey. The French, long involved with Lebanon, could provide members, even taking the lead. Chirac, in an interview in LeMonde yesterday, made it clear that any NATO presence in an international force would be widely viewed as an "armed wing of the West", and hence not acceptable. Putting US soldiers between the two combatants would risk a devastating political fallout at home. The very thought of a GI getting shot by Hezbollah, let alone by the Israelis, would plunge the already confused Bush government into a nightmare.
Anyhow, in typical Bush fashion, there is a loophole in the plan. "Prime Minister Blair and I believe that this approach gives the best hope to end the violence and create lasting peace and stability in Lebanon," Bush said this morning. Then the president added he was sending Rice, who previously put herself on record against a ceasefire, to the region with "instructions to work with Israel and Lebanon to come up with an acceptable U.N. Security Council resolution that we can table next week." The word "acceptable" gives the president plenty of wiggle room.