It will be extremely rare for me to use this blog to comment on international events, but together with so many others, I have been deeply moved by the tragic conflict which is once again befalling Lebanon. Although I do not think that all of the World's ills will be solved by achieving peace in this part of the Middle East, it would certainly remove many of the causes of grievance which fuel the terrorism and strife which have blighted this area for more than 50 years.
Some people argue that on too many occasions powerful Western governments have turned a blind eye to the problems of southern Lebanon, and this has been the case once again over the past two weeks. After 10 years of careful and tentative physical and political reconstruction the Lebanon is once again thrown back into a state of near-chaos. Friends who have visited Beirut over the past couple of years have commented on the vibrancy and excitement of this international city - regaining the reputation and infrastructure it had previously enjoyed.
There is a view that the recent Israeli action was disproportionate. Hezbollah have no doubt been a cause of provocation and danger to northern Israel, the long term interests of the Israeli people cannot have been well served by destabilising the Lebanese Government and strengthening the hands of Syria and Iran in the region. The loss of innocent life on all sides cannot be written off as just another one of those things that happens in the Middle East. It has been deliberate and painful, and utterly unnecessary.
Perhaps this crisis simply highlights the perceived failure of the United Nations to be regarded as having any real significance over the past fortnight. Strong and early intervention by the United Nations may have averted this crisis - but as an international body it currently lacks real credibility and will only ever be regarded as the World's policeman in future if ALL member countries support it at ALL times. The UN should not be used time and again simply to pick up the pieces after one country has acted unilaterally against another. We are constantly being told that we live in an increasingly inter-dependent World, yet at the same time some nations continue to act alone and without regard to their neighbours or to the wider effects which their actions will have. So now more than ever there must be a strategic role for the UN to play in averting conflict and crisis; to ensure that governments do not go to war without first using every possible opportunity for finding a peaceful solution.
Maybe it is also time for the US government to show some greater leadership on foreign affairs. Even the most objective assessment of recent performance would suggest that the Bush Administration does not have all the answers to some of the World's more intractable problems. So at the start of this crisis the US should have given the UN its full support in brokering a ceasefire and a resolution of this conflict. Unless the US government does begin to act in this way there will be no incentive for other nations to treat the UN or its edicts seriously.
If the Lebanese Government is unable to regulate the actions of Hezbollah they should be offered help to do so. If the Israeli Government is concerned that its northern borders are not secure, they should be offered help to strengthen those borders. But neither Hezbollah nor Israel should think that they can obliterate the other. I just hope that it does not take the loss of many more lives for that lesson to be learned.