An “International Force” — With No Americans?

Kevin Drum wants to know where all those troops are going to come from if the U.S. isn’t providing any for the “robust” international force the administration is proposing to police Hezbollah-land. Citing this report in the Forward,– which informs us the internationals will be charged with policing Lebanon’s border with Syria, as well as keeping order in southern Lebanon – Drum writes:

“This is fascinating. At a guess, something this ambitious would take a minimum of seven or eight combat brigades plus associated support and logistics. Call it 40,000 troops in round numbers. “The United States has previously said that it won’t be able to participate in this because our troops are tied down in Iraq and Afghanistan. The UN can’t help since it deals only in peacekeeping missions, not combat missions. None of the troops can come from Middle Eastern countries, of course. NATO troops are largely committed to Afghanistan, and Europe has in any case been notably reluctant to commit combat troops to either the Middle East or Africa.“What’s needed here are (a) large numbers of (b) quickly deployable (c) combat troops. Offhand, I can’t think of anyplace this could come from. Am I missing something?”

Drum is missing at least two things, the first being that government officials don’t always tell us the truth – shocking! – and I’d bet the ranch American soldiers will be assigned to this international force for the reasons Drum states above. What’s the alternative? Besides which, there’s something a bit fishy about Condoleezza Rice’s official denial of American participation:

“We are looking at what kind of international assistance force makes sense, but I do not think that it is anticipated that U.S. ground forces are expected for that force.”

American forces may not be expected, but they may show up anyway. That, it seems to me, is the clear meaning of Condi’s convolutions, a classic non-denying denial if ever there was one. Translated into plain English, this means they’re going to have to get Israel to okay the plan, before they spring the idea of sending U.S. troops to defend Israel on Congress and the American people. If they hope to get it through without much congressional opposition, the administration must first run it by the Israelis and get them on board. The Israel lobby will do the rest.

Secondly, Drum dismisses the possible participation of troops from our Arab allies — Jordan, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia — on the grounds that … well, just because.  Yet there is no reason why the Jordanians, for example, could not provide security — or the Egyptians. I can’t see the Israelis agreeing to the presence of Saudi troops, but the others would be preferable to Hezbollah. Let Arabs take bullets meant for the IDF! And don’t forget the religious overtones: Arab Sunnis would be fighting Arab Shi’ites, Iraq’s civil war would go regional, and the Sunni card would be played.

In the meantime, as I pointed out in today’s column, by the time the Western allies agree on the nature and tasks of a multinational army of occupation in southern Lebanon – I give it three to four months, and that’s going at warp drive 10 — the Israelis will continue to pound away at the whole of Lebanon. And you can kiss Beirut goodbye….