A neutral Lebanon?

Can the Lebanese tragedy have results we have not thought of? It can. From each war between Israel and the Arab states - other than the October 1973 war where Arab forces acted decisively and proudly - have come frustration and a sense of grievance. That is true today. Frustration has led to results which - at the time - affected adversely American interests.

What good is there?

First, of course, there has been a change in America. TV has played a vital role. Attitudes are different. Questions are raised. But elsewhere?

Prime movers in trying to find a path to peace have been Egypt and Saudi Arabia. The ''rejection front'' has stood aside. The PLO has seen that its military pretensions cannot stand up to a sophisticated, American-supplied and highly effective military force. Now it - or its successor - can concentrate on the political front which will mean intense concentration on what is desirable and what is doable.

Finally, perhaps, this tragedy will galvanize the Lebanese people to work together and not against each other.

Is there a prescription for the future Lebanon? I think so. It is idealistic and perhaps not obtainable.

I think it is time for Lebanon to remove itself from the world's international system - to say that its problems and its aspirations are so unique that it seeks a new and different status.

By this I mean a neutral state. Not just neutral like Switzerland but neutral and disarmed like Austria.

This means that Lebanon will withdraw from the League of Arab States - perhaps from the United Nations. It will no longer proclaim itself the capital of any regional group. It will seek UN guarantees. It will ask for a multinational force to back up those guarantees - at least for a stated period of years. It will pass legislation preventing the use of Lebanese facilities by any power to attack any other.

In other words, it will seek true neutrality not only in what it speaks but in what it does or does not do.

A neutral, disarmed Lebanon which preaches no lesson other than tolerance could be a shining beacon in the Middle East. It would also mean that no outside power, Syria, Israel, the PLO, Libya, or the US could interfere with internal political working of the new system.

Perhaps - some day - we will see it happen.

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