5 JULY 1975, Page 3

Lebanon, the guerrillas and the Arab world

For a very long time Lebanon has been essentially a stable country. In spite of the necessity for American intervention in Lebanese affairs under President Eisenhower, and in spite of the much more recent incapacity of the Lebanese government and army to prevent the use of their country by Arab terrorists as a base against Israel, longstanding good relations between the Christian and Muslim populations made for a considerable measure of internal security. Now, however, the country is being torn apart, and even the formation of a new and united government is likely to do little to still the strife that has erupted on the streets in the last few weeks. There can be little doubt that this strife has grown directly from the presence on Lebanese territory of Palestinian guerrillas.

It may seem inhumane, when Lebanon is suffering so much, to draw attention to the fact that she is the second Arab country to have suffered deeply from the activities of stateless Arab terrorists: not long ago Jordan, too, was forced to look to her internal security, not because she was to be punished for any lack of zeal in the struggle against Israel — her troops fought better than any other Arabs during the Six Day War — but because, as King Hussein discovered, frustrated guerrillas eventually always turn on their hosts, especially when their ideology is totalitarian, and especially when they wish to blame their own failures on some inadequacy in the host. Just as the Lebanese have discovered the hand of the Palestinian behind their own troubles, so Egypt's police have been compelled to watch carefully guerrillas on their soil, and Saudi Arabia, one of the most stable of Arab countries, pays tribute money to keep the guerrillas away. Something will have been learned if Arab governments, whatever show they continue to put on at the united Nations, and however cold they continue to be towards Israel, grasp the salient point that their own internal continuity is severely threatened by their ferocious guests.

The events in Lebanon further draw attention to a certain continuing fragmentation in the Arab world. Egyptian politicians state in public and admit in private that they would find it impossible to avoid attacking Israel again if Syria were to find a casus bellt. But it seems true that President Sadat does not want a war, and will try to avoid one if possible. There is, of course, no guarantee for Israel in his professions — and certainly none that would justify the cession of territory that Egypt continues to demand — but they are some slight indication that the monolith is not what it was. Then, too, there has been a quarrel of growing seriousness between Syria and Iraq, which has been quietened rather than settled by recent attempts at accord. If this fragmentation were to continue, and the Arab countries were to seek their own individual interests, rather than pursue their mindless crusade against their neighbour, then there would be some real prospect for eventual peace in the Middle East.

It is all the more to be regretted, therefore, that Western — and especially American — diplomacy seems still to operate in the conviction that, essentially, one Arab nation faces one Jewish and, in the pursuit of this mistaken conviction to increase their pressure on Israel for concessions. Up to this moment Israel has been offered absolutely nothing from her Arab neighbours which would guarantee her existence, let alone the ability to defend and preserve her security. It is for Western nations, assuming their continued fundamental commitment to the existence and independence of Israel, rather to point out to the Arabs what is required of them and, if they will not come forward with constructive proposals, merely to await the development of divisions the beginnings of which are already evident.

Uhuru for Hills

It is high time that the Foreign Secretary fell in with President Amin's demands and went to Kampala if the life of Mr Denis Hills is to be saved.

President Amin is, to be blunt, a man untroubled by principle or diplomatic nicety. He has expressed a wish to see a senior British government figure and he has Mr Hills and possibly other British hostages to ensure that he has his way. Diplomatic channels have predictably failed as have appeals to African leaders. There is the glimmer of a possibility that Saudi Arabian or Zaire intervention may save the life of Mr Hills though President Arnin's desire to see the Foreign Secretary remains, and another pretext will no doubt be found to secure the end he desires.

Given the unstable political condition in Uganda, Foreign Office objectives should be, in the short term, the withdrawal of all British nationals who can be prevailed on to leave, and, in the longer view, the maintenance of a British interest in the area. There is no evidence whatsoever that President Amin is mad as is sometimes averred by the press. In fact, there is a considerable body of expert opinion that suggests that the President has a considerable grasp of political reality and a better feeling for situation than Lieutenant General Sir Chandos Blair who appears to have aggravated a delicate situation by refusing to be photographed with him. The alternatives to negotiation might be a policy of destabilisation or armed intervention. They have been considered and discarded since, in the first instance, they would take too long and, in the hands of the British Foreign Office, would certainly fail, and in the case of armed intervention would be logistically impossible and crystallise Third World support for the President. There remains the alternative suggested by President Amin. A mission by the Foreign Secretary during the next few days to buy Mr Hills's life and the lives of all remaining British nationals by the conceding of such grants in aid during the next few years as may be appropriate or were due to be given until the expulsion of the Ugandan Asians in 1971. The supply of spare parts for the Saracen armoured cars, dearly bought by Uganda during the past few years, should at once be resumed. The financing of these arrangements over a period should ensure the two-way nature of the deal and, as tempers cool and memories shorten, there should be a gradual movement towards a respectful awareness of the differences between command-post rule and that democratic order which few in the West doubt that President Amin would equally dominate through the elective process when he is ready to try.

Fall from grace

Having written a week ago of our admiration for the ability of the Indian courts to retain their independence, and of our regard for India's preservation of democracy in spite of all the strains and pressures to which Asian states are now subject to turn towards totalitarianism and dictatorship, we are saddened by the latest developments of Mrs Gandhi's monomania. Of armed civil strife there has been no evidence, though Mrs Gandhi has vaguely suggested the existence of as yet unproven illegal plots against her. If such strife were about to break out, the recent record and the high discipline of the Indian Army would suggest that it had more than the necessary ability to cope with it.The Indian Prime Minister, the star of whose reputation shone so brightly so recently, has, following her inability to make any serious effort to tackle her country's social and economic problems, now sullied her own reputation and that of her family by recourse to action the consequences of which are difficult to foresee, but which are almost certain to be dire.

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Scot-tun ponce The latest report of HM Inspector of Constabulary on crime and the police in Scotland makes very mixed reading. On the one hand the Inspector, Mr David Gray, has been able to express pleasure at the increased effect of police involvement in community affairs; on the other, the 14 per cent increase in crimes known to the police more than cancels out the favourable figures of the past two years. On the whole, however, good news offsets bad: road casualty figures for the year — at 2,343 — were the lowest for twelve years and, at a time when almost no one could argue that police anywhere in the United Kingdom were particularly well-treated, the Scottish force nonetheless saw an increase in strength of 267. The stubborn difficulty remains the increase both in crimes of violence and in the carrying of offensive weapons: even these, Mr Gray is satisfied, are on the decline in areas where community involvement groups are in action.