Lebanon Held Hostage
I didn't think that this was the way things were going to play themselves out, but it makes so much sense. The Middle East is on the brink of all out war. Israel has been attacked by Hezbollah terrorists, and are now invading Lebanon in return. Iran, Hezbollah's chief benefactor and puppet master is taking Israel's response as a first-strike fairly personally (because of the Islamist position that it is their right to harass Israel and kill Jews free from any response). Add to that the fact that Syria is right next door, is as much a contributor to Hezbollah as Iran, and you have the makings of an all-out war.
The Lebanese government is a very curious creature. It is now technically free of years of Syrian control, but it remains effectively under the control of Hezbollah, which is essentially a separate nation operating within Lebanon. While the leaders, such as they are, of Lebanon favor a pro-western and anti-Syrian stance, they are powerless to control Hezbollah, which is somewhat popular among Shiite Lebanese who for decades have been marginalized by Christian and Sunni elements. In other words, Hezbollah is holding the tiny nation hostage.
And after the series of rocket attacks into Israel, the Israelis are making the government of Lebanon pay for failing to police their southern region. But Lebanon, in a fairly ignorant display of irresponsibility towards its neighbors (and thus its own citizens), has historically refused to rein in Hezbollah activity on their southern border with Israel, regarding such action as an undeserved gratuity to a neighbor for whom they care not a bit.
But now they have reason to care, given that Israel is making very clear that there is a price to be paid for housing terrorists and failing to control them. Unfortunately, while Israel is right to make things unpleasant for the Lebanese government for failing to control aggressive activity within its borders, it may also be risking war with Syria and Iran. But in a sign that neither rogue nation wants to pick a larger fight, Iran's bombastic president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad indicated that invasion of Syria would trigger a wider conflict. Put differently, this is a sign that while they hate Israel, neither really thinks that it is worth it to invite a strike from a clearly very angry, motivated, and militarily superior Israel.
Coupling that with the fact that the Bush Administration will not pressure Israel to stop shooting, (to do so would be to undermine his whole philosophy in the war on terror), it seems that the very green Lebanese government has its first very big challenge on its hands.
The fact that the government allows a terrorist organization to operate within its own borders says very little for its sovereignty, and as noted, there may be very little that Lebanon can do. But there is very much that Israel can do to make Lebanon wish it had done something. Which puts it at a crossroads--does it continue to repeat the mistakes of the past, playing the same old Islamist anti-Israel game, despite the fact that Israel will make Lebanon pay a price for being the staging ground for terror attacks into Israel, or will it decide to do the difficult and courageous thing and behave responsibly as Jordan did, making Syria the only remaining safe haven for terrorists?
If it chooses the latter, it will be a hard road indeed, but it is the only hope for a truly free and democratic Lebanon. If it chooses the former, its government will continue to be ineffective and little more than a hostage of Hezbollah.