Just what are we doing in Lebanon? Israel’s rosiest estimates claim 400 guerillas killed. More conservatively, the figure is about 100. That’s out of 7,000 Hezbollah guerillas, and volunteers arrive daily.

Israel cleared 2 to 12 villages of Hezbollah, and see the guerillas returning already. Israel cannot guard every Lebanese village, and there is no way to stop Hezbollah from seeping back. The Lebanese army won’t risk it.

Israel destroyed from 30 to 100 missiles launchers and possibly a thousand missiles. Hezbollah’s losses are easily replaceable. They need not deliver weapons by main roads in trucks. Guerillas never have much problem trafficking weapons, and in Lebanon they have a supportive population that hates Israel. In the unimaginable case of Iran refusing to supply missiles, Hezbollah can buy them elsewhere or simply shower Northern Israel with fertilizer-filled tubes like Hamas does in the South. Hezbollah also has a more lucrative and media-friendly target—Israeli troops in Lebanon. Hezbollah already beat the Israeli army in Lebanon with hit-and-run tactics and will surely win again in long term.

Israel spends handsomely on the war, close to $2bn a month, including losses from economic disruption. Hezbollah spends peanuts, and the donations flow in.

Israel had lost one such war in Lebanon. We started with border incursions, then moved to the Litany River, then to Beirut, and became an inept, easy-to-target occupying power. That position proved predictably unsustainable.

Now the situation is even worse. The United States, with its penchant for exporting democracy, pushed for democratic (instead of strong) government in Lebanon and Palestine and produced failed states. Hezbollah and Hamas will not easily give up the political power they obtained in legitimate elections. And fighting Israel is their only political platform.

Betrayal is not only bad but also costly. Israel turned away from her Christian Lebanese allies after they exacted vengeance in Sabra and Shatila. The Muslims subsequently killed many Christians, especially the SLA guerillas and their families. Now Israel cannot get the Lebanese Christians to do local clean-up operations in the Muslim villages and sends her soldiers into urban combat. Lebanese Christians can be cruel when the Israeli army does not want to and terrify the villagers into abandoning their support for Hezbollah.

Israel could bring Christian radicals to Lebanon to do the job. Groups from the US, Western Europe, and Russia seek a training ground and action. They number in the tens of thousands. Muslims would hate them and attack them rather than Israel. World opinion would support radical Christians more than it does Jewish Israel. At some point, the Lebanese Christians will join their foreign coreligionists.

Israel’s best option is to do away with Lebanon and correct the colonial error of carving that multi-religious state from Syria. What France did, Israel can undo. Israel must divide Lebanon with Syria and create a buffer Christian state in between.

Instead, the Israeli government welcomed the ceasefire. Submitting to the UN was the only face-saving way to end a pointless war. The international mob’s decision substituted for the political and military strategy Israel lacks. Israel followed the UN guidelines because her government has none.

(At this is written, Hezbollah has agreed to a ceasefire only as a pro-forma measure. It will not accept a ceasefire while the Israeli troops are present in Lebanon, and in Hezbollah’s opinion, that includes the Shebaa farms. Worthless UN troops will not move in under fire. Military operations may continue until the Lebanese army comes on the scene. That Hezbollah will demilitarize, I really doubt. More likely, the Lebanese army will absorb Israeli strikes and provide a live shield for Hezbollah to rearrange itself and rearm.)