Well, it now looks as if the window of opportunity for a ceasefire in the Levant has slammed shut on the fingers of its proponents. With the destruction of a UNTSO observation post, the mobilisation of three Israeli reserve divisions (by contrast, the total force employed so far has been one division-plus), Hezbollah’s successful defence of positions close to the Israeli border and their first launch of a long-range rocket, and the Israeli government’s claim that the world has given them permission to fight on, all parties to the conflict now seem to be giving war a chance.
If anything arose from the debate here, it was that the employment of an international intervention force might be useful in the context of a ceasefire and mutual concessions. There is no ceasefire, and even if by accident, the danger such forces would be in has been underscored. Worse, Hezbollah has tasted enough success to want to keep going, and the Israelis seem riled enough by this to escalate further. It is therefore unlikely anything would be achieved by sending NRF-7 to wander around the dry hills of the Litani valley.
Jacques Chirac’s remark that NATO, as the “armed wing of the West”, should not be involved is interesting. It admits both a Scott Martens/Sam Huntington reading-that NATO plus a few others roughly equals “the West”, so getting involved in a fight in the Middle East would be a step perilously close to religious war-and also a more limited one. Chirac may also have meant that any force should sail under the EUFOR or UN banner, or that a so-called “Virtual NATO” solution – a UN force made up of NATO member states’ forces, like KFOR or the intervention in East Timor – might be preferable.
It’s worth putting on record, however, that European forces (NRF7) were indeed available and ready when the crisis erupted.