Today, the Times has printed an editorial favoring the withdrawal of Syrian forces from Lebanon. The author appreciates the new U.S. sanctions against Syria, but only as a first step:
The sanctions may be helpful, and the United States has long called for an end to the Syrian military presence of Lebanon — just last week President Bush said that "the people of Lebanon should be free to determine their own future, without foreign interference or domination." But the Bush administration, working with the European Union, should be doing more to encourage Syria's withdrawal.The author notes, most likely in recognition of the protracted civil war which plagued Lebanon from 1975-1990, that Lebanon has the potential to explode:
American sanctions have heightened pressures on Mr. Assad. Yet by themselves they will not improve Syrian-Lebanese relations. In fact, trying to force a Syrian pullout may be dangerous. It could lead to domestic tension in Lebanon that Syria would highlight, and even encourage, to reaffirm its indispensability to civil peace.But beyond that intimation, the author doesn't hone in on the reasons why the U.S. is probably not pressing for withdrawal, with or without European participation.
First, Syria is unlikely to agree to any withdrawal from Lebanon unless it achieves Israel's withdrawal from the Golan Heights. Despite coming close to an agreement under Barak, the Sharon Administration does not want to return the Golan Heights to Syria, giving Syria an excuse to walk away from any discussions on Lebanon.
Second, Europe would likely press for a resumption of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. The Sharon Administration does not want to engage in peace talks, as it wishes to perpetuate the myth that "there is no one to talk to" and wants nothing that will interfere with its unstated plan to annex much of the occupied West Bank.
Third, to avoid the collapse of Lebanon into a renewed civil war, the West would likely have to deploy tens of thousands of peacekeeping troops to the region for several years. The United States is already overcommitted in Iraq. European nations are likely to comment that they have already committed significant numbers of troops to present, more pressing peacekeeping efforts (e.g., the Congo Region), and are likely to observe that there are areas of the world, such as Darfur, far more in need of immediate intervention than Lebanon. They are likely to also consider the past experience of peacekeeping troops in Lebanon - experience which helped inspire even Reagan to "cut and run".
It would be nice to achieve peace and democracy for Lebanon - and a more wise or pragmatic administration might have made Lebanon a model for economic development and democratization in the Middle East rather than invading Iraq - but at present there does not appear to be the political will to achieve that end.