Writing in these pages in 1952, Lebanese diplomat Charles Malik urged the United States to protect the security of a free and independent Lebanon. He described Lebanon's unique position-and predicament-of standing between East and West, looking toward the culture and markets of the Arab world and toward the sophistication and political liberties of the West. He made an eloquent appeal: "The Lebanon could not be true to East and West alike unless she stood for existential freedom. In the end is this alone her justification . . . . Whoever is about to suffocate must be able to breathe freely in the Lebanon."1
The intervening 31 years have mostly been disastrous ones for Lebanese politics. Mr. Malik's vision of democracy and tolerance collapsed, as the country fought two civil wars and almost non-stop skirmishes. Instead of being a neutral bridge between the Arabs and Europe, Lebanon became a battleground for Arab-Israeli and inter-Arab conflict. The country that had looked East and West found itself betrayed on both fronts: by the manipulation of its Arab and Israeli neighbors and by the indifference of the West.
Last summer's Israeli invasion gave Lebanon a chance to break out of this vicious spiral. The war destroyed the Palestinian armed presence in Beirut and South Lebanon, which had exacerbated the country's internal problems. Just as important, the war forced the United States and its NATO allies to intervene decisively on behalf of the frail Lebanese government. But the war also raised the fundamental question of whether a permanent restoration of the nation of Lebanon is possible, or even desirable.
The answer is certainly yes. But the outlook is hopeful only if certain conditions are met. The first is a firm American commitment to help reestablish the sovereignty of the Lebanese state, through use of U.S. peacekeeping troops and military advisors. In making this commitment the United States must be prepared for a long and probably bloody war of subversion by factions that oppose the American presence; this could mean substantial American
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