A Masterstroke by France?

Via Delong, Matthew Yglesias has an interesting take on France’s diplomatic strategy in the recent Israel-Lebanon war.

In essence, through two consecutive bait-and-switches — first over the wording of a UN resolution, and second over the deployment of French troops to Lebanon — France managed to get both parties to agree to a return to the status quo ante, which is better for both sides (that’s why the tricks worked), but that neither side could admit to wanting. That’s a pretty good result, especially considering that Chirac spent essentially none of France’s resources achieving it.

Now, yes, it’s true that it would be nice for some gigantic crew of foreigners to come into Lebanon, disarm Hezbollah, police the border, and create a giant, happy, stable democracy at peace with its neighbors. But nobody really knows how to pull this off. The internal political balance in Lebanon is extremely delicate. Nobody — not Israel, not France, not the United States, not even Hezbollah’s patrons — was or is in a position to actually destroy or disarm Hezbollah absent a wider reform of all of Lebanon. The two most recent revisions to the Lebanese domestic scene — the Taif Accords and the Cedar Revolution — both deliberately involved wink-wink acceptance of Hezbollah’s militia in exchange for Shiites not demanding the level of political power in Beirut that demographic realities would suggest. And — with good reason — nobody wants to open up the pandora’s box of Lebanese consociationalism for further revisions.