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WORLD ORDER AFTER THE LEBANON WAR

WORLD ORDER AFTER THE LEBANON WAR

*All in all, the Lebanon War is likely to be remembered not for the
birth pains of ‘a new Middle East’ (Condoleezza Rice), but as the death
throes of a system of world order that accepted war as the inevitable
basis of stability and change in relations among sovereign states.*

*WORLD ORDER AFTER THE LEBANON WAR*

**

*Richard Falk* (VIII/24/2006)  Prof @ Princeton University

**

*There has been much commentary on the significance of the Lebanon War.
There is an unresolved debate about whether there was a victorious side
in the war, and even what the idea of victory means. There are various
suggestions about how to prevent a new war between Israel and Hezbollah,
whether by relying mainly on the UN stabilization force or by reviving
diplomacy between Israel and its various adversaries. Is it time to talk
with Hezbollah and Hamas? What does the inconclusiveness of the war tell
us about the benefits and limitations of military superiority in such a
conflict? Could Israel have used its military capabilities more
effectively, or were deeper structural restraints operative? These are
all important issues, deserving of reflection and dialogue, and
hopefully encourage a turn away from violence by all sides in their
search for peace and security.*

**

*Beyond these immediate concerns lies the question of world order, and
the extent to which some gaps and weaknesses were disclosed by the
Lebanon War and its outcome. In a deep sense this question of the shape
of world order has been present at least since the collapse of the
Soviet Union in the early 1990s.  It was given a temporary spin by the
first Bush president, George H.W, Bush, who introduced the phrase `a new
world order' to describe the possibility of using the UN Security
Council as an effective instrument of collective security in the
aftermath of the Cold War. The Security Council was no longer gridlocked
by the pervasive antagonism between East and West, and as was shown by
the mandate to reverse Iraqi aggression against Kuwait in the first Gulf
War. It seemed possible to implement the Charter promise to protect
victims of aggression and conquest by enlisting the world community as a
whole in an undertaking of collective self-defense. There were many
criticisms of the manner in which the UNSC gave unrestricted discretion
to an American-led coalition in 1991 to take over the conduct of the
war, determine its goals, and control the dynamics of post-conflict
diplomacy. But the undertaking did effectively restore Kuwaiti
sovereignty, and in that sense could properly proclaim `mission
accomplished.' But no sooner were the guns silent in Iraq than the idea
of a new world order was quietly abandoned by Washington, put back `on
the shelf' as one senior American diplomat described the new mood. On
reflection, the US Government seemed reluctant to affirm UN authority to
such an extent, or to find itself assigned unwelcome undertakings in the
future by a more confident Security Council.*

**

*In any event, subsequent developments during the 1990s moved the United
States away from a reliance on the UN to address world order challenges.
The failure of peacekeeping in Somalia (1993), the non-response to
genocide in Rwanda (1994), and the shocking ineptitude of the UN in
Bosnia, especially the dismal spectacle of UN peacekeepers standing by
as spectators during the massacre of some 6,00 Muslim males at
Srebrenica in 1995. These moves away from the UN took place during the
presidency of Bill Clinton, a moderate, internationally minded American
leader. This new trend reached its climax in 1999 when an alleged
imminent threat of ethnic cleansing in Kosovo led to a war under NATO
auspices, `a coalition of the willing' led from Washington, engaging in
a controversial instance of `humanitarian intervention' without the
benefit of UN authorization. And then in 2003 the Iraq War went ahead
despite the failure of the US and Britain to persuade the Security
Council to authorize the use of force. In both these instances, there
seemed to be a renewed reliance on traditional alliance diplomacy to
pursue both humanitarian and geopolitical objectives. Rather than a new
world order, there was a reversion to an older idea of a world order
managed by dominant sovereign states to serve their interests and
promote their values. *

**

*At the same time, outside the security domain, there were other ideas
being discussed about the changing nature of world order. Some observers
expressed the view that the rise of market forces combined with the
compression of time and space as a result of information technology and
the mobility of international capital was producing a borderless world
leading many to adopt the label of `globalization.' Others speculated
that the Internet was an extraordinary instrument of empowerment that
was making the peoples of the world a potential `’second superpower’
based on the leverage that could be generated by a networked world civil
society acting in unison. And still others emphasized the revolutionary
relevance of climate change, bringing about extreme weather in the form
of tsunamis, hurricanes, polar melting, droughts, and disease,
threatening human catastrophe that could be averted only if effective
global governance were established as a matter of urgency.*

**

*All of these developments have greatly complicated our understanding of
the nature of world order in the 21^st century, but we have yet to
absorb the implications of the 9/11 attacks on the United States, and
the American decision to declare a `global war on terror' in response.
The Lebanon War (as well as the Iraq War) reinforces what I would call
the unlearned lessons of 9/11. The most important of these is the change
in the nature of power and security: even the most traditionally
powerful state is now vulnerable to a devastating attack by a determined
and skilled non-state actor, and unlike an enemy state, this adversary
is itself basically invulnerable to a debilitating counter-attack by
military means. Such an actor occupies no territory, and offers no
targets, and has no leadership that can be persuaded to surrender. The
failure to heed the lesson of 9/11 resulted in relying on a war strategy
to address the adversary instead of adapting the response to the
non-state nature of the threat. What was appropriate after 9/11 was not
a generalized war, but a set of particularized responses associated with
greatly improved international law enforcement possibly supplemented in
exceptional situations by special forces operations undertaken with the
consent of either the territorial government or the UN. Such a police
approach, to be successful, would need to be combined with concerted
efforts to address whatever legitimate grievances had played some part
in motivating such extreme violence. *

**

*What does the Lebanon War add to this picture? It reinforces in a more
vivid fashion this new ratio of power with respect to combat between
state power and a non-state adversary. The military machine of the state
can inflict virtually unlimited destruction and cause great suffering to
civilian society, and yet it cannot consistently destroy the capacity of
its non-state adversary to strike back. Israel had repeatedly defeated
and deterred Arab states that had challenged its security in a number of
wars. Its military might and skill had been successfully used in the
past to achieve a series of political victories in a series of wars that
expanded its territory, raised its prestige, intimidated its neighbors,
while creating a reputation of invincibility. But in this different
world order, relying on military muscle against a seemingly weakly armed
opponent will not yield a victory, even for Israel. Instead, militarism
now exposes the vulnerability of supposed military powerhouses to the
increasingly effective tactics of non-state political adversaries. Of
course, both sides learn within their respective paradigms. Israel
adapts future war plans to overcome failure in Lebanon, while Hezbollah
tries to anticipate these adjustments in planning to mount an even more
devastating resistance in the course of the next flairup. *

*In the face of experiences in Iraq and Lebanon, the frustrated states,
addicted as they seem to be to military solutions for political
problems, are likely to go back to their drawing boards, devising new
weapons and tactics, but convinced that in the future it will be
possible to restore the relevance of superior military power as measured
by wealth and technological capacity. This will be a costly mistake. It
overlooks the extent to which war is becoming dysfunctional in the 21^st
century, wasting incredible amounts of resources that could be put to
much better uses in raising living standards and creating a more stable,
cooperative world. If military power is not the answer, what is? It has
never been more important to find sustainable solutions to the deep,
unresolved conflicts of the Middle East. The problems of Israel could be
most reliably addressed by a fair political compromise that acknowledges
Palestinian rights, restores Syrian territory, and produces a full
withdrawal from Lebanese territory.* *{tex note - ? DIPLOMACY?}*

**

*The United States could similarly gain security and confidence by
disengaging from wars that have no foundation in law or morality, and
joining with other countries to protect the societies of the world from
extremist violence, constructing arrangements for improved international
cooperation and for global governance. It is instructive to take account
of the greatest achievement of Europe since 1945, which is not, as
generally believed, the high level of economic integration, but rather
the truly remarkable establishment of a culture of peace that has made
the outbreak of war within the boundaries of the EU virtually unthinkable. *

**

*An appreciation of the Lebanon War from the perspective of world order
may encourage this perception that the viability of the war system was
based on being able to limit the playing field of /international
/conflict to sovereign states exercising governmental control within
recognized international boundaries. Even this role for war has been
earlier deeply challenged by the advent of weaponry of mass destruction,
especially nuclear weapons, the existence of which continues to threaten
humanity in a variety of ways. But with the rise of non-state actors as
international players, modalities of war are more and more likely to
lead to the persistence of deadly conflict rather than to victory. The
United States currently spends more on its military capabilities than
the rest of the world combined, and yet it has never in its history felt
as vulnerable to attack or as unable to translate battlefield outcomes
into desired political results. *

**

*All in all, the Lebanon War is likely to be remembered not for the
birth pains of ‘a new Middle East’ (Condoleezza Rice), but as the death
throes of a system of world order that accepted war as the inevitable
basis of stability and change in relations among sovereign states.*
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