From the NY Post piece:
TEN days ago this newspaper praised France's efforts to find a realistic formula for ending the fighting in Lebanon. We did so in the belief that France stood ready to lead a "muscular" U.N. force of 15,000, mandated and equipped to assist the Lebanese army to dismantle Hezbollah's armed militias south of the Litani river.
We were perplexed when, with the unanimous passage of U.N. Resolution 1701, French diplomats appeared to be backing away from the idea that U.N. forces should help to disarm Hezbollah. We urged France's leaders to follow the logic of a strategy for stabilizing Lebanon that, long before Hezbollah precipitated the latest crisis, France had worked energetically to set in motion. Instead, the strategy has stalled.
I think most people were surprised, if not perplexed when we all first heard this. I know I was.
I mean, I had high hopes that France might be able to showcase their talents as leaders on the world stage and get the job done. I was genuinely excited and at the same time, apprehensive for them. I understand the dangers they would face, had they made a firm committment. But I, like the NYT, believe that this is their best chance to validate the worthiness of France's longtime ambition of being respected, as a world superpower.
Again, from the NY Post:
France still wants command of the U.N. force, but is acting as though it wants control simply for the sake of it rather than for the purpose of ensuring a sustainable peace. France was universally expected to commit at least 3,500 troops -encouraging substantial contributions from countries such as Italy, Turkey and Germany and the politically important inclusion of Muslim contingents.
France is right to insist on clear rules of engagement; vague orders are a chronic flaw in U.N. peace operations. But it was wrong to refuse for days on end to talk numbers, rendering coherent planning almost impossible, when speed in filling the security vacuum in Lebanon was of the essence.
No one (least of all me) can realistically came blame any country for wanting to set some ground rules. But, this resolution was co-written by the French. Because of that, it stands to reason that the French government is at least partly to blame for the vagueness, it is now protesting.
Yesterday President Chirac finally announced France's decision: a paltry 200 extra troops on top of the 200 already there. Where the other 14,600 will come from is now anyone's guess. For France to have retreated from a key role to the realm of "symbolic" gestures "symbolizes" only one thing: a French loss of nerve.
I cannot imagine that any nation that wants to lead a UN effort would only be willing to commit a paltry amount of bodies that most likely will be in harm's way. To lead, you must lead by example. You cannot lead by symbolism and you cannot command respect from others in the world arena, if you are not willing to commit to the cause. Why should anyone commit a large amount of troops to a cause, in which the leaders are clearly not committed to? Why would any nation entrust their soldiers' safety and well-being to leadership that is not willing to do so, themselves?
Will they see their error? Only time will tell. But there isn't much time remaining, before this thing blows back up.
By the Israelis' accounts, Hezbollah is using this cease-fire to re-arm, for a future assault. This is certainly consistent with past cease-fires; one cannot expect anything less from this one. But if past cease-fires are any indication, I would also be willing to bet that Israel will not stand idly by and allow Hezbollah to re-arm itself, to the levels just prior to this last conflict (or even more so).