I had been working on a project post about the Iraq war, but the urgency of the Lebanon situation demands that I post more comprehensively my thoughts on its resolution.
Both Hezbollah and the Israeli government must please the hysterical constituencies on their respective sides. Neither party will agree to a settlement that resembles plain defeat: Israel will not unilaterally disengage, and Hezbollah will not accept a retreat or peacekeeping force without some tangible gain.
Frankly, Israel must be willing to accept a prisoner exchange. I freely admit that this would damage its efforts at deterrence. But refusing to consider a policy because of one negative consequence is little short of juvenile. At what price must Israel buy "deterrence"? The wholesale destruction of Lebanon, the radicalization of its people, chaos throughout the region?
The international community must call for the establishment of a peacekeeping force to patrol Lebanon's southern extreme, one with powers beyond those of today's feeble UN presence. Hezbollah could have its freed prisoners, its token to demonstrate to the Arab street that it did not completely surrender. It would reconstitute itself as an enervated guerilla army outside the international force's territory. But the important results would stand: Hezbollah's earlier power would dissipate, the situation would stabilize and the bloodshed would stop.
Of course, even with the prisoner exchange "carrot," Hezbollah might not agree to the proposal. I cannot, however, see any alternative.
Perhaps, paradoxically, an Israeli incursion into a sliver of Lebanon would make negotiation easier. Hezbollah would then be able to claim two "concessions" from Israel: release of prisoners and withdrawal from southern Lebanon. But Israel must simultaenously halt bombings in Beruit and the north of the country. If the aim is to expel Hezbollah from its immediately threatening position in the south, the actions must match.