July 26, 2006

Lebanonís Premature Liberalism

“This is not Norway here, and it is not Denmark.” -- Lebanese Christian militia leader Bashir Gemayel.

Beirut Destruction 2.jpg

Last month I made a terrible mistake.

A reader from Lake Oswego -- a suburb of my city of Portland -- emailed and asked if he thought he should take his wife and children to Lebanon on their next vacation. I said sure. Just stay out of the Hezbollah areas along the border with Israel and in the suburbs south of Beirut. And make sure your kids understand that Lebanese drivers are considerably more reckless than drivers in Oregon, that they should be more careful than usual when crossing the street.

Needless to say, this was absolutely awful advice.

My friend Sean LaFreniere - who drove with me to Northern Iraq on a whim -- was scheduled to be with me in Beirut right now. (I am at home and he is now blogging from Tunisia and Turkey.) He was slightly nervous, but I told him he did not need to worry. Lebanon could become a dangerous country again. There are warning signs to watch out for, I said, and I told him what they were. At the time (and this was only a few weeks ago) those warning signs were not yet flashing red. Who would have thought war could engulf the whole country, and not just the border, in one day with no warning?

I kept my eye on the country, even so, because potential medium-term trouble was quietly brewing. Many Lebanese Christians, Sunnis, and Druze were getting so impatient with the impasse over Hezbollah’s weapons they threatened to reconstitute their own armed militias that were disbanded after the war. Peaceful and diplomatic negotiation over Hezbollah’s role in a sovereign rather than schismatic Lebanon was not going to last very much longer. Once the rest of Lebanon armed itself against Hezbollah, a balance of terror would reign that could explode into war without any warning. That was the danger. That was the nightmare. That’s why Hezbollah had not been disarmed.

Syria’s Bashar Assad threatened to make Lebanon burn if his occupation troops were forced out of the country. Most Lebanese think that’s what last year’s car bombs were about. After former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, a Sunni Muslim, was assassinated downtown, all the car bomb victims were Christian. All the random car bombs exploded in Christian neighborhoods. The idea - or so the Lebanese thought - was to whip up sectarian hatred, to get Christian militias to rearm and retaliate, and to re-ignite the Lebanese war. Assad yearned to burn Lebanon, and he was not shy about saying so. Syria, or so he hoped, might be invited back in to stop the chaos with the soldier’s peace of the Baath.

That plan didn’t work. Hardly anyone wanted a return to civil war. No Christian vigilantes retaliated against Muslims (Sunni or Shia) because they knew it was a trap set by the Baath. That, most likely, is why the siege of the car bombs came to an end.

Sectarian tensions and hatreds run deep in Lebanon, even so, far deeper than those of us in the West can begin to relate to. 32 years ago Beirut was the Paris of the Middle East. But 15 years ago Lebanon was the Somalia of the Middle East. It made the current troubles in Iraq look like a polite debate in a Canadian coffeeshop by comparison. There is no ethnic-religious majority in that country, and every major sect has been, at one time or another, a victim of all the others.

I spent a total of seven months in Lebanon recently, and I never could quite figure out what prevented the country from flying apart into pieces. It barely held together like unstable chemicals in a nitro glycerin vat. The slightest ripple sent Lebanese scattering from the streets and into their homes. They were far more twitchy than I, in part (I think) because they understood better than I just how precarious their civilized anarchy was. Their country needed several more years of careful nurturing during peace time to fully recover from its status as a carved up failed state.

By bombing all of Lebanon rather than merely the concentrated Hezbollah strongholds, Israel is putting extraordinary pressure on Lebanese society at points of extreme vulnerability. The delicate post-war democratic culture has been brutally replaced, overnight, with a culture of rage and terror and war. Lebanon isn't Gaza, but nor is it Denmark.

Lebanese are temporarily more united than ever. No one is running off to join Hezbollah, but tensions are being smoothed over for now while everyone feels they are under attack by the same enemy. Most Lebanese who had warm feelings for Israel -- and there were more of these than you can possibly imagine -- no longer do.

This will not last.

My sources and friends in Beirut tell me most Lebanese are going easy on Hezbollah as much as they can while the bombs are still falling. But a terrible reckoning awaits them once this is over.

Some Lebanese can’t wait even that long.

Beirut Mob.jpg

Here a Christian mob smashes a car in Beirut for displaying a Hezbollah logo. My friend Carine says the atomosphere reeks of impending sectarian conflict like never before. Another Lebanese blogger quotes a radical Christian war criminal from the bad old days who says the civil war will resume a month after Israel cools its guns: "Christians, Sunnis and Druze will fight the 'fucker Shia', with arms from the US and France."

Israeli partisans may think this is terrific. The Lebanese may take care of Hezbollah at last! But democratic Lebanon cannot win a war against Hezbollah, not even after Hezbollah is weakened by IAF raids. Hezbollah is the most effective Arab fighting force in the world, and the Lebanese army is the weakest and most divided. The Israelis beat three Arab armies in six days in 1967, but a decade was not enough for the IDF to take down Hezbollah.

The majority of Lebanon’s people were wise and civilized enough to take the gun out of politics after the fifteen year war. Lebanon was the only Arab country to do this, the only Arab country that preferred dialogue, elections, compromise, and debate to the rule of the boot and the rifle. But Hezbollah remained outside that mainstream consensus and did everything it could, with backing from the Syrian Baath and the Iranian Jihad, to strangle Lebanon’s democracy in its cradle.

Disarming Hezbollah through persuasion and consensus was not possible in the first year of Lebanon’s independence. Disarming Hezbollah by force wasn’t possible either. The Lebanese people have been called irresponsible and cowardly by some of their friends in America for refusing to resume the civil war. Unlike Hezbollah, though, most Lebanese know better than to start unwinnable wars. This is wisdom, not cowardice, and it's sadly rare in the Arab world now. They are being punished entirely too much for what they have done and for what they can't do.

Israel and Lebanon (especially Lebanon) will continue to burn as long as Hezbollah exists as a terror miltia freed from the leash of the state. The punishment for taking on Hezbollah is war. The punishment for not taking on Hezbollah is war. Lebanese were doomed to suffer war no matter what. Their liberal democratic project could not withstand the threat from within and the assaults from the east, and it could not stave off another assault from the south. War, as it turned out, was inevitable even if the actual shape of it wasn’t. Peace was not in the cards for Lebanon. Its democracy turned out to be neither a strength nor a weakness. It was irrelevant.

Holding up as a democracy in a dictatorial region isn’t easy. Chalk this up as yet another thing Israel and Lebanon have in common with each other that they don’t have in common with anyone else in the Middle East -- except, perhaps, for the Kurds in Northern Iraq. Unlike Israeli democracy, though, Lebanese democracy may not have the strength to keep breathing. Already some right-wing American "realists" are suggesting Syria return its forces to Lebanon. (Bashar Assad may be as much a foreign policy genius as his late father.) The March 14 Movement, the Cedar Revolution, may be too weak to survive until the region as a whole is transformed. If the Lebanese, the Americans, and the Israelis are not wise in the coming days, weeks, and months it could die the same death as the Prague Spring in the late 1960s, crushed under the treads of Soviet tanks and smothered until the day the world around it had changed.

When Israel and Hezbollah reach a ceasefire at last, round two of this conflict will commence in short order. No one knows if the Lebanese will be able to keep the gun out of politics after all that has happened. A tiny minority of Lebanese (with help from the remaining Syrian agents) can burn the country to the ground all over again.

“What will become of us?” is the question on everyone’s mind. No one can know what will happen after Israel lifts its siege and the temporary national unity flies apart into pieces. And it will fly apart into pieces. The only question is how far the pieces will fly and how hard they'll land.

During all seven months I spent in Lebanon the overwhelming majority feared an imminent return to civil war. I always told them they were too pessimistic even while I wondered if I was too naïve. Perhaps I’ve absorbed too much of that Lebanese fatalism by spending so much of my time among them. And perhaps my naivete has finally been washed away. I really don't know. It’s an old question that I don’t know how to answer.

Either way, the odds are quite a lot grimmer than they recently were. Lebanon could, indeed, become a free fire zone even if most Lebanese do everything they can to make it not so. Just a few thousand Hezbollah fighters set two countries on fire all by themselves. Don’t discount what bloody mayhem and hell a few thousand armed Druze, Christians, and Sunni can do if they decide to go hunting Shia in revenge for destroying their country. Don't forget, also, that Lebanon is now surging with tens of thousands of furious, displaced, homeless, unemployed, and undisciplined young Shia men enthralled with Iranian-style jihad.

Insha Allah, Lebanon might be okay. Perhaps the status quo ante will return, only with a weaker and even more marginalized Hezbollah seething in its corner and thrown off the border. There may be scattered acts of sectarian violence that threaten to ignite into war and never quite do. Kidnappings could come back in style. Al Qaeda may finally have its turn at the Israeli border if their Hezbollah enemy is no longer there to keep them away. I do not know. The Lebanese themselves do not know. But one thing I do know is that after the first war ends there really could be another.

Don’t take your kids. Stay out until further notice.

Post-script: I was planning a trip to Iran in the near future, but of course I did not see this coming. Iran will have to wait. I’m returning to Lebanon as soon as the airport re-opens. Please hit the Pay Pal button and help me buy airfare.

If you would like to donate money for travel expenses and you don't want to use Pay Pal, you can send a check or money order to:

Michael Totten
P.O. Box 312
Portland, OR 97207-0312

Many thanks in advance.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at July 26, 2006 08:03 PM
Comments

That was really good.

Posted by: Chris at July 26, 2006 08:12 PM

Aren't you the one who accused me of hyperbolic exagerration when I wrote "everything could explode at any moment" from the Israeli border?

I was more right than I had any idea. I sure do hope I'm wrong this time. Damn near anything could happen next.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at July 26, 2006 08:29 PM

My best friend's business partner and family arrived in Beirut for their vacation two days before this all broke out.

He said the biggest impediment to getting back home was the US Embassy.

Posted by: Matt at July 26, 2006 08:42 PM

That was one hell of a writeup, Michael. Great piece. And I sure hope some of the people who've been trolling around in the comments section lately, read it and read it again.

As a Lebanese living in the US, I am constantly amazed at how many people spout out about Lebanon and Israel (from both sides) in complete ignorance. "Why didn't the Lebanese kick out Hezbollah?". "All Lebanese support terrorism. They deserve this. They had it coming" and so on.

It's good to see that a few people out here, stateside, do get it.

And even though the picture you paint for the future is somewhat pessimisstic, I am currently hard pressed to think of an alternative. You are right, this conflict was, in the end, inevitable.

Posted by: Bad Vilbel at July 26, 2006 08:45 PM

Michael,

Awesome post, You took out your emotions, but the passion and love for Lebanon are clearly evident. Never lose those.

One point that I would like to have your input on is, what do you suggest Israel do? They obviously cannot allow Hezballah to do as they wish on Israel's soil.

And, once again, Thank you for a great post!

Posted by: Brooklyn at July 26, 2006 08:55 PM

Michael, thank you for your continued impassioned analysis. I hope that you're wrong, but I'm afraid that you're right, as you were when you predicted "everything will explode." But please be careful if you go back to Beirut!

Posted by: Rebecca at July 26, 2006 08:58 PM

mt: you wrote:

"By bombing all of Lebanon rather than merely the concentrated Hezbollah strongholds, Israel is putting extraordinary pressure on Lebanese society at points of extreme vulnerability."

sorry: this is nonsense.

99% of beirut is untouched. as is most of lebanon.

the iaf and idf has only attacked hizb'allah sites.

and if the lebanese had fulfilled unscr#1559 this op would've been unnecessary.
thewy had 6 (six) friggin years, and never once asked for help.

they had a year since bashar split.

but they monkeyed around.

i think that israel is totally in the right: they werfe friggin attacked - BY LEBANON - n every legal sense.

get real.

Posted by: reliapundit at July 26, 2006 09:17 PM

reliapundit: if the lebanese had fulfilled unscr#1559 this op would've been unnecessary.

Obviously this is true.

Now, please tell us (and be specific and exact) how the weakest and most divided Arab fighting force (the Lebanese army) was supposed to defeat the strongest (Hezbollah) when even the Israelis couldn't do it after more than ten years.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at July 26, 2006 09:25 PM

Bad Vilbel: I am constantly amazed at how many people spout out about Lebanon and Israel (from both sides) in complete ignorance.

You and me both, buddy.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at July 26, 2006 09:28 PM

Hi Michael,

As always, I enjoyed reading your post. You have a unique perspective on Lebanon that is not available elsewhere.

The Cedar Revolution was exciting and promising, but at the end of the day, changed nothing. Hezbollah is the de facto power in Lebanon, while the elected government is merely a powerless bystander. They, in effect, have a mad dog on their property that they can not leash, muzzle or control. Their dog (keeping with the metaphor)went over to the neighbour's and killed and kidnapped the neighbour's kids. And Lebanon couldn't do the neighbourly thing and retreive those kids, nor could it assure its neighbours that it would make sure that the dog never did it again.

As you said,to issue that sort of challenge would have meant war with Hezbollah. Instead, failure to prevail over an armed militia within their borders has made Lebanon the aggressor in this conflict--
after all, the fault always lies with the owner, not the dog......

Stay safe when you return to Lebanon.

Posted by: lin at July 26, 2006 09:44 PM

In our lifetime the Lebanese army will never be as strong as or stronger than Israel's army has been up to now.

As you said Israel's military wasn’t strong enough to defeat Hezbollah militarily so what makes you think the Lebanese military would?

Terrorism cannot be defeated by a force of arms alone.

It is only when the people of Lebanon have the will to fight back against Hezbollah will they stand any chance of defeating the militia.

After almost 20 years of Hezbollah's non compliance with the Taif Agreement it is clear that they will never disarm peacefully. There will be bloodshed before they disarm, as much as Syria was not going to leave Lebanon without bloodshed.

The Israelis know the character of such terrorist groups.

They have tried peace with the Oslo Accord and the PLO started the Intifada as a thank you.

They evacuated the Gaza strip and Hamas bombed Israel from the evacuated territories in response.

They evacuated southern Lebanon and got attacked by Hezbollah as well.

For Israel it is time to fight. For the Lebanese it is time to fully establish the sovereignty of their nation.

Posted by: Freedom Now at July 26, 2006 10:06 PM

A thoroughly lucid and insightful evaluation, and based on actual knowledge, rather than dogma or rhetoric. Thanks also for the poise and balance on the Israel issue, something entirely lacking in the blogosphere these days.

One question. It seems to be a popular theory that Hezbollah was under a lot of pressure to disarm, and their move against Israel was designed to lure the Israelis into a massive attack that would remove this pressure. This theory is mostly advanced by anti-Israel partisans who want to demonstrate that Israel is not only guilty of a brutal war of aggression, but are also "dupes" for playing into Hezbollah's hands.

It seemed more plausible to me that Hezbollah simply misjudged the Israeli reaction (indeed, they have said as much)and that their intention was simply to draw Israel into a tit for tit. I was not aware that there was any real pressure on Hezbollah to disarm, but I have no idea.

Did the Lebanese government place any pressure on Hezbollah to disarm? I do remember Emile Lahoud stating, with high arrogance, that Hezbollah was Israel's problem.

Posted by: MarkC at July 26, 2006 10:14 PM

MarkC,

Lahoud was appointed by Syria. His constituency is in Damascus. His credibility among his supposed constituency in Lebanon (the Christians) is zero.

80 percent of Lebanon wants Hezbollah disarmed. The only people in Lebanon who dispute this are Hezbollah supporters.

"The government" does not exist as an entity. It is a byzantine confessional system of competing blocs, most of which oppose Hezbollah but can't do much about it any more than you and I can disarm Texas.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at July 26, 2006 10:21 PM

Hezbollah is the most effective Arab fighting force in the world, and the Lebanese army is the weakest and most divided.

That's not what I'm hearing.

Stratfor is saying that the Syrian Army is strong enough to subdue Hezbollah, not that they're going to be invited to.

I was talking to an Egyptian immigrant today who said that the Egyptian army is the second strongest force in the middle east, a close second to Israel...

Are you SURE that Hezbollah is so strong?

Clearly the Syrian army is weaker than Iran, and as I said Stratfor thinks that Hezbollah could be suppressed by Syrian forces.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at July 26, 2006 10:26 PM

Mark C,

If I may try to answer your questions.
There was indeed pressure on Hezbollah to disarm, from pretty much all the other Lebanese factions. The same factions that were opposed to Syria's presence in Lebanon, that lead to the Cedar Revolution.
You have to disregard the comments of Mr. Lahoud (i'm ashamed to say this) who's nothing but a Syrian puppet. This is a president who's term was extended in an unconstitutional manner, at the point of a Syrian gun (prior to their leaving). He's their man, and, sadly, does not represent anyone but himself and Syria.

Over the past year, the Lebanse were trying to remove whatever Syrian influence remained in the state institutions (including the Army), as well as talking about impeaching Lahoud (or at the very least, removing him from office in some way).

The Lebanese were also talking about disarming Hezbollah. As Michael points out in his article. None of the sunni, druze or christian factions are very happy about Hezbollah being allowed to carry weapons. This was the main agenda of the "national dialogue" that was underway for the past few months.

Having said that, I think Michael is right in his assessment that in the end, the national dialogue was doomed to fail, because Hezbollah was not going to agree to be disarmed. That's their entire reason-d'etre. You take away their weapons, they are nothing. So of course, they were going to resist that at any cost, including starting a civil war (I remember Nasrallah telling other Lebanese factions that anyone trying to disarm Hezbollah would have their arm cut off (I am sure he meant that figuratively, but still)).

So in the end, this crisis was inevitable. There is simply no way Hezbollah was going to let themselves be disarmed peacefully. And Israel was certainly not going to stand by idly while this threat lingered on its northern border, and its soldiers were being kidnapped. And sooner or later, a provocation was bound to happen. And here we are today.

I do think that even though Israel is doing what it thinks is right and what it thinks is good for its security in the short term, this IS actually playing into the hands of Syria and Iran to a certain degree.
(And believe me, I dont say this because I am anti-Israel, or because I want to show them as dupes).

Posted by: Bad Vilbel at July 26, 2006 10:28 PM

I am right there with you. I have been since you left, and I will be there when you go again. It isn't much, but money is on the way.

Good luck,

Lance

Posted by: Lance at July 26, 2006 10:31 PM

Unfortunatly this is one of the cases where Hizbolla gets to choose the place where combat takes place and they have chosen civilian centers.

It leaves Israel to either do nothing or attack as they have. I can not see them do nothing (nor can I demand given what Hizbolla is/was doing to them). There was a graphic (hand drawn, not photo) I saw a few days back with a Hizbolla combatant hiding behind a baby carriage and an Israeli in front of one shooting at each other. To some extent that is hyperbole, but as far as I can see there is more truth there than not.

If the Lebonese army and people wishes to make a real go at it I would support western support such as what we have done in Iraq. I suspect that several western countries would do the same to rid the place from Hizbolla. But, at least from yours and others writing I do not think the situation is such that it will occur (I do not think the ones who could make this work have the will and the ones with the will/desire to fight want to rule). I suspect that Israel will pull out and there will be much talk in the rest of the world with Lebanon fighting.

I may be reading you and the other wrong (what I'm going by wasn't exactly in the context of what is going on now), but the idea of no civil war means there will be a bloody one. Like above, you don't really get to chose if the other person decides to kill you, and once they decide to do so to ignore it (or refuse to participate) makes everything even more bloody and allows the most violent to take charge. Both sides have to tire of war, if one side does and the other doesn't the agressor wins by default.

Anyway - I hope I'm wrong and it works out better than that. I look forward to reading your stuff as this unfolds - much better analysis than anything I've seen on any "real" journalist programs/articles.

Posted by: strcpy at July 26, 2006 10:44 PM

"Already some right-wing American "realists" are suggesting Syria return its forces to Lebanon." Name one, just one well known right-winger who thinks this is a good idea.

Bogus claim...

Posted by: Joel at July 26, 2006 10:45 PM

strcpy,

I'd like to point out your Iraq analogy: 3 years of fighting there, with the strongest military on earth, and over 100,000 troops...and the insurgency still rages.

These things aren't easy. And they don't get done in a few weeks. And ultimately, it has been proven over and over again that you cannot completly militarily defeat a local guerilla force.

Hezbollah is not the strongest army in the middle east (not even close). Not in the conventional sense. But they have the advantage of being a guerilla force. Guerilla forces are extremely hard to defeat entirely.

Posted by: Bad Vilbel at July 26, 2006 10:55 PM

Bad Villbel:
Hezbollah is not the strongest army in the middle east (not even close). Not in the conventional sense. But they have the advantage of being a guerilla force. Guerilla forces are extremely hard to defeat entirely.

I don't expect regular Lebanese or Israelis who oppose Hezbollah think they can be annihilated. But they have to at least get to the point where they are not a military force that deploys fairly advanced and deadly rockets supplied by other states, Iran and Syria.

So if Israel continues to target their supplies and infrastructure, they will stop Hezbollah from dragging the region into another war, at least for a few years. In the end, a moderate Iranian and Syrian government will have the biggest long term effect on Hezbollah.

Posted by: Jono at July 26, 2006 11:09 PM

I love this blog and will continue to read and enjoy it regardless if it represents my point of view or not.

There is one more item that disturbs me about this post.

Michael says, "Al Qaeda may finally have its turn at the Israeli border if their Hezbollah enemy is no longer there to keep them away"

Using that logic perhaps we should have kept Hitler as a buffer against the Soviet Union.

...There is no evidence of any substantial support for Al Qaeda in Lebanon. This quote is just a bad statement, which reeks of the scare tactics that I see way too often in such political writing.

Posted by: Freedom Now at July 26, 2006 11:13 PM

Josh Scholar: Clearly the Syrian army is weaker than Iran, and as I said Stratfor thinks that Hezbollah could be suppressed by Syrian forces.

Does Stratfor think the Syrian army is stronger than the Israeli army? The Israeli army has never been able to suppress Hezbollah, and it sure wasn't for lack of trying. That same Israeli army kicked the living bejeezus out of the Egyptians.

Syria can only subdue Hezbollah if Hezbollah lets them. Which is possible, but then we're talking politics not war-making capabilities.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at July 26, 2006 11:18 PM

Michael,
Another great post.

I'll also ask: what should be done?

It appears to me that Israel has been clueless in their response (and given the makeup of the government, I guess I shouldn't be surprised). They should never have bombed Beirut, because no matter how many Hezbollah they kill there, or how much equipment they destroy, it isn't worth the political cost. (my response won't address the moral issues - only utilitarian).

If they had wanted the world to see them as weak, they could hardly have done better than sending in tiny forces against long fortified and booby-trapped Hezbollah positions. Hezbollah can now claim that they bested Israel's best (the Golani brigade). Even if the casualty ratio was 20 to 1, it's a victory for Hezbollah.

The 2km buffer zone offered by Olmert is a surrender - Israel will be rightly seen as caving in.

My guess is that the only thing to preserve Israel's reputation (which is, ultimately, a deterrent against further terrorism) is for them to rapidly conquer the entire southern zone, using massive force, giving civilians the opportunity to leave, and then smashing the villages. In other words, fight the military part of the war very quickly, with maximum violence.

At this point, the appearance of Israeli weakness or iresoluteness is dangerous to all opponents of Islamofascism.

But Michael, yuu travel the region. I've never been there.

What should Israel do? Is it still possible for Israeli and international actions to help preserve Lebanon, or is it too late?

Posted by: John Moore at July 26, 2006 11:21 PM

Bad Vilbel,
Yes, the Iraq insurgency has lasted years, as Hezbollah did in the 90's, both driven by populations opposed to foreign occupation. If hezbollah fought the Lebanese army, they could not portray themselves as the national resistance and their opponents as puppets and collaborators. Military defeat of a guerilla organization is so difficult because the guerillas have legitimacy among their supporters. On that measure, the Lebanese army have an advantage Israel will never have in Lebanon, nor the US in Iraq.

Posted by: bgates at July 26, 2006 11:24 PM

Freedom Now: There is no evidence of any substantial support for Al Qaeda in Lebanon.

That's true in Iraq, too. Doesn't stop them from going there and blowing stuff up.

The day before he died, Abu Musab al Zarqawi accused Hezbollah of being a "Zionist" enterprise because they wouldn't let Al Qaeda hit Israel from their turf.

I'm not saying this is going to happen, but it's a possibility that didn't exist before and Israel (and any multinational force) had better watch out for it. Al Qaeda loves to slip into chaotic places.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at July 26, 2006 11:30 PM

Incredibly good, but no surprise that you write as Brooklyn so nicely said: "You took out your emotions, but the passion and love for Lebanon are clearly evident." (I wish I knew how you do that!)

However, I'm a bit disappointed in your (lack of) analysis of the Lebanese Army, and especially its composition.

It seems obvious to me that one thing which should be happening is a draft/ call for volunteers to immediately increase the manpower strength of the LA. And to integrate these larger forces.

Deliberately increasing the multi-ethnic security forces, and more roaming on the streets by the local police as well as the LA?

Lebanon is showing that a "people" might well be tested in their willingness to fight for democracy, before they can achieve it.

I wonder, perhaps a military coup? led by some Sunni Druze Christian troika to install martial law? I don't this so likely, but I suspect it would be better than what is actually chosen.

So far, you haven't shown a "Lebanese people" willing to fight for Lebanon, only Shia or Sunni or Druze or Christians willing to fight for themselves.

Switzerland's Canton Confederation model comes to mind, so that each group mostly runs their own affairs in their own canton, but join together against foreign occupation.

Keep up the great work, please -- too bad Iran is on hold; but wasn't that Iran's stalling for more time (to build nukes) mullahs' plan?

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad at July 26, 2006 11:31 PM

Tom Grey said So far, you haven't shown a "Lebanese people" willing to fight for Lebanon, only Shia or Sunni or Druze or Christians willing to fight for themselves.

This is exactly where the problem with Lebanon has always been. Like many other countries in the Middle East, who were, let's say, "artificially" carved out by the Brits and French after WW1, the tribal and sectarian loyalties remain to this day, more deeply rooted than any sense of patriotism and unity.

I think we're already much better in that regards than we were during the 1975-1990 civil war. But I think there's still a LOT of ground to be covered before the people of the Middle East start thinking of their countries first, and start acting with the kind of ingrained patriotism I see here in the US everyday.

I think THAT is one of the biggest "disconnects" the west has in understanding the dynamics of the middle east. I think you can see the how "not getting this" might have lead to the US's miscalculations clearly reflected in Iraq today.

Posted by: Bad Vilbel at July 26, 2006 11:50 PM

Syria can only subdue Hezbollah if Hezbollah lets them. Which is possible, but then we're talking politics not war-making capabilities.

Good point, but that doesn't change my point that Egypt is a large, well equiped army. And Hezbollah is certainly nothing of the sort.

My impression is holding through other discussions I'm having about Egypt's strength, that your sentence "Hezbollah is the most effective Arab fighting force in the world, and the Lebanese army is the weakest and most divided" was wild hyperbole and very misleading to people who don't know the facts about actual armies in the middle east.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at July 27, 2006 12:00 AM

The same person suggested that the Egyptian army could be an effective peacekeeping force if it came to a final settlement in the Palestinian territories needing peacekeepers.

I'm not sure if these things would be a good idea. Clearly is an Egyptian (and American by the way) who is very proud of Egypt.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at July 27, 2006 12:04 AM

Josh, the Israelis beat Egypt repeatedly but have never been able to defeat Hezbollah. Hezbollah is the only Arab fighting force Israel hasn't been able to beat.

The Egyptian army is bigger, for sure, and can (theoretically) conquer more territory. But if I were an Israeli soldier I would far rather face the Egyptians in battle.

(Realize we're talking apples and oranges here, comparing a conventional army with a bunch of guerrilas.)

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at July 27, 2006 12:06 AM

. But if I were an Israeli soldier I would far rather face the Egyptians in battle.

I'm not sure why. A hostile Egypt would be a real threat to Israel's existance. Hezbollah isn't, not yet, not by a long shot.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at July 27, 2006 12:27 AM

Come on, Josh. Israel has beaten the Egyptians before. They have never been able to defeat Hezbollah.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at July 27, 2006 12:32 AM

The problem with "defeating" hezbollah is just that of fighting people who hide among civilians rather than fight.

The problem there is avoiding civilian casualties and not being able to tell civilian from foe. But that doesn't make them a great fighting force, or even a threat, it just makes them terrorists.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at July 27, 2006 12:35 AM

In fact, someone claimed that Hezbollah has been dressing their men up in Israeli uniforms in order to confuse the ground troups.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at July 27, 2006 12:37 AM

I would be completely shocked if hezbollah had, say a daisy cutter to hit Isreali ground troups with (fuel air bomb - the nearest thing to a nuke without being a nuke).

I wouldn't be surpised if Egypt had them, now.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at July 27, 2006 12:41 AM

When you look at how Egyptian soldiers have performed on the Gaza/Egypt border, the idea of having them as a peacekeeping force in the Palestinian territories is a disastrous idea - if you want them actually to fulfill their tasks.

Posted by: Alcibiades at July 27, 2006 01:12 AM

Lebanon, Israel and the world will benefit and have a chance to survive in Peace when 2 things happen:

1) Regime Change in Syria;
2) Regime Change in Iran.

They MIGHT NOT even need regime change in Iran if weapons flow through Syria can be TOTALLY stopped.

Posted by: Charles_in_Texas at July 27, 2006 01:23 AM

"Last month I made a terrible mistake."

"Just a few thousand Hezbollah fighters set two countries on fire all by themselves"

"but a decade was not enough for the IDF to take down Hezbollah"

thats twisting facts a bit.. but what the heck Generalissimo Totten

There here and they're unusually queer, The SUPER HEZBOLLAH Conquistador Race, 1/2 man 1/2 Ummah!

LOL!

Posted by: R at July 27, 2006 01:41 AM

Excellent write-up, man.

I wonder if it's accurate to say IDF can't beat Hezbollah? They didn't defeat them during the civil war, but I thought Israel's withdrawal was forced by international pressure, not superiority of arms. In any case, the effectiveness of targeted bombing against guerilla forces (think Afghanistan, Fallujah) has been established pretty well-- and Israel is using our hardware. All the talk about Hezbollah's incredible fighting spirit seems remarkably similar to what was being said in the media about the Taliban a week before they turned tail.

Posted by: WJA at July 27, 2006 01:49 AM

R = Rubin

Posted by: Rubin at July 27, 2006 01:49 AM
According to Bill Roggio at the Counterterrorism Blog:
The Israelis have confirmed that Hezbollah is fighting like a professional military. Their units are fighting at the company level at the least (Unit size of approximately 100 men), and perhaps in larger formations. Intelligence also confirms there is specialization within the Hezbollah units, including trained infantry, mortar teams, missile squads, and logistical personal. Iran has trained and organized Hezbollah's army into something far more deadly than a militia force. Hezbollah's core 'active' army is estimated at 3,000 - 5,000, with as many as 50,000 part time militia and support personnel that can be called upon to fight (20,000 is the average estimate).
Posted by: Alcibiades at July 27, 2006 02:01 AM

So....we are meant to believe that history began with Hizbollah's incursion? What about the Israeli abductions, the sonic boom flights in Lebanese airspace and the murder of Gazan Palestinians in the weeks leading up to that?

Hizbollah is supported in part by Iran, as they are shiites, but anyone who thinks they are proxies for Iran, is either peddling propaganda or ignorant.

Syria is irrelevant in all but the neocon/zionist ambitions.

Posted by: justaguy at July 27, 2006 02:11 AM

Iran is sending suicide bombers to Lebanon to start a civil war.

Posted by: M. Simon at July 27, 2006 02:17 AM

WJA, I think that's pretty much what Michael meant - the IDF in Lebanon wasn't able to secure a decisive victory against Hezbollah and go home.

US hardware has certainly proven supreme on the battlefield, but fighting still goes on in both Afghanistan and Iraq regardless.

I think the bigger issues are whether Hezbollah has safe havens to retreat to when things start to get really tough (like Pakistan for the Taliban), and whether they can get resupplied by Syria and Iran. I wonder if that's why Israel escalated the fighting so much, so fast - limited bombings might allow Hezbollah to hide their key people in or near "safe" areas, and keep bringing in new equipment to replace that being destroyed.

Posted by: Marcus at July 27, 2006 02:17 AM

Excellent writeup Michael! This sure is one dangerous mess.

Posted by: Dawnsblood at July 27, 2006 02:20 AM

strcpy at July 26, 2006 10:44 PM,

Human Shield graphic.

BTW any one interested in using the graphic can use the link at my url. It is on Netscape so my bandwidth cost is zero.

Just use the "img" html.

Posted by: M. Simon at July 27, 2006 02:21 AM

Welcome back Michael. Boy we missed you. Great post. I appreciate (some of) the thoughtful comments made by your readers.

What would you recommend supporters of Israel do at this point. I think many of them are quite conflicted about the current operations because they really do get that the many of the Lebanese are likely future allies with like-minded values.

If civil unrest did break out in Lebanon when the Israelis leave is it likely to be everyone piling on Hezbollah, or will the Hezbollah be allied with others groups within Lebanon?

Posted by: Sully at July 27, 2006 02:29 AM

Michael Totten,

The Israelis could easily defeat Hizbollah. Arab regimes are excellent at dealing with such folks.

Hama in Syria and Black September in Jordan show the way.

The reason Israelis are dealing with these folks with kid gloves is internal and international opinion.

I have read reports of Israeli morale. Wounded men in hospitals can't wait to get back into the fight. They say they enjoy what they are doing. These guys will be Israeli leaders in 20 years.

The peaceniks in Israel are marginalized. The opinion is that the folks on the Right were right. The only option is victory.

Posted by: M. Simon at July 27, 2006 02:40 AM

Good post insofar as it explains (along with your previous, invaluable posts from Lebanon) why the war that has broken out was only a matter of time.

Some additional background:

Hizbullah's goal of Israel's destruction,

The extent of Hizbullah's entrenchment in Lebanon.

Hizbullah's overall goal: the takeover of Lebanon.

Posted by: Barry Meislin at July 27, 2006 03:21 AM

Michael, you have described the situation in Lebanon masterfully. But how are the Lebanese's seemingly intractable problems solved? Regime change in Syria and Iran? Israeli occupation? Diplomacy? Civil war? Assassination squads to decapitate Hezbollah? Or are there no solutions? Certainly there are no easy ones.

I know little about Lebanon, but it seems like it once was a cosmopolitan oasis. It will be a terrible tragedy if the promise of the Cedar Revolution is destroyed by the blood cult of Hezbollah. I am eager to read your reply.

Posted by: Fargin_Bastage at July 27, 2006 03:32 AM

Good post, Michael.

Soon after you wrote "everything could explode at any moment" Iran issued a threat that, in the event of a US or israeli attack on Iran, they would set off their Hezbollah attack-dogs in Southern Lebanon. It was immediately apparent that Israel would have no choice but to strike Hezbollah to disable this Iranian threat. Should Israel succeed in substantially weakening Hezbollah, it must increase the possibility of Iran backing down in its conflict with the US.

One player that isn't getting the attention it deserves is Saudi Arabia. It was very interesting that Saudi Arabia jumped in yesterday with pledges of $1.5bn to rebuild Lebanon. They're not known for rushing out with the chequebook and we can assume that they haven't suddenly been overcome by humanitarian or charitable urges. So I wonder what their strategic thinking is. Why make this offer now and what message does it send to Hezbollah, Israel, Lebanon, Syria and Iran?

Posted by: Steve M at July 27, 2006 03:33 AM

The West has one hand tied behind its back, because of our squeamishness about killing "non-combatants." Wars are won by defeating an entire population -- not by trying to perform an impossible surgery.

Posted by: Brad at July 27, 2006 03:43 AM

When you hate, you become what you hate. Love thy neighbor.

Posted by: mayport at July 27, 2006 04:01 AM

mayport,

Hizbollah is intent on genocide of the Jews.

http://www.ngo-monitor.org/archives/infofile/hrw_avibell_230706.html

That love thy neighbor stuff can be over done.

Posted by: M. Simon at July 27, 2006 04:16 AM

Hizbollah Guilty of Genocide

Posted by: M. Simon at July 27, 2006 04:19 AM

The punishment for taking on Hezbollah is war. The punishment for not taking on Hezbollah is war.

Michael,

Very interesting piece, we are all learning as we go here. You just happen to be on the bleeding edge. My hat’s off to you.

I asked you back on “My Friend is a Refugee” -
What realistic expectation did lebop and people like him have of curbing HA? What I'm wondering is, did this have any other way to go with HA being a loaded gun in S Lebanon waiting for Iran to pull the trigger?

I mean, it was either (a) or (b) as you note or ( c ) slow strangulation as Hezbollah co-opted the government and Syria realized its strategic ambition of Lebanon as a vassal state.

I have been reading this site over the last week and it seems reasonable. They show a map of Beirut and make the assertion that the damage, to Beirut anyway, is to a very small area of the city. What say you?

Could it be possible that this is the best possible solution? That is, the Israeli’s fight HA and subdue it sufficiently for the Lebanese to establish true sovereignty? That way the internal spiritual damage from Lebanese fighting Lebanese is less.

Posted by: jdwill at July 27, 2006 04:33 AM

mayport,

A quick note. If I have learned anything since 9-11, it is that ideas and words are important. Let enough stupidity go on long enough, and there will be real and painful consequences.

High sounding moralistic bumper sticker statements without any context don't help though. You need to spell out what, when, and why. Otherwise someone might confuse you with others who use such statements to suppress critical thinking.

Posted by: jdwill at July 27, 2006 04:43 AM

your praise of hizballah's fighting ability has the ring of BAGHDAD BOB to it. or at least rw apple and that ilk who argued DURING THE AFGHAN WAR that the taliban would defeat the USA.
and that Saddam would use WMD and defeat us.

the fact is we beat the taliban and saddam and the idf is beating hizballah. YUP: they are losing.

nasrallah knows this.

why else would he want a cease-fre and run away to damascus?

israel could have syed in south lebanon and gaza.

it did not flee because of the abilities of the jihadothugs - as you seem to think.

hizballah is being defeated right now.

sure: there is serious fighting in afghnaistan and iraq - mostly becasue the usa did not have the balls to finiosh the jopb: a nuke on torabora would have ended that mess. we should have shot saddam and moki alsadr, too.

fdr and truman knew how to fight wars: RUTHLESSLY UNTIL YOUR ENEMY IS UTTERLY DEFEATED.

PATTON:

"I don’t want to get any messages saying, “I am holding my position.” We are not holding a Goddamned thing. Let the Germans do that. We are advancing constantly and we are not interested in holding onto anything, except the enemy’s balls. We are going to twist his balls and kick the living shit out of him all of the time. Our basic plan of operation is to advance and to keep on advancing regardless of whether we have to go over, under, or through the enemy.”

“From time to time there will be some complaints that we are pushing our people too hard. I don’t give a good Goddamn about such complaints. I believe in the old and sound rule that an ounce of sweat will save a gallon of blood. The harder we push, the more Germans we will kill. The more Germans we kill, the fewer of our men will be killed. Pushing means fewer casualties. I want you all to remember that.”

“There is only one tactical principle which is not subject to change. It is to use the means at hand to inflict the maximum amount of wound, death, and destruction on the enemy in the minimum amount of time.”

“Now I want you to remember that no bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country."

if the anto syrian pols in lebanon had the courage, they could have asked the un to form a military allaince to disarm hizballah. they never asked.

the lebs are a mix of murderers and cowards. you are a leb-sycophant.

isrsel is doing what must be dome - what unsvr 1559 demanded - and the lebenon and much of thr appeasing world is too cowardly to do: the right thing: kill the enemy.

Posted by: reliapundit at July 27, 2006 05:03 AM

the primary, deep FATAL FLAW of the entire mid-east the last three years has been this:

NOT REQUIRING POLITICAL PARTIES TPO DISARM.

hamas should NOT have been allowed on the ballot unless and until they disarmed.

ditto hizballah.

and ditto moki alsadr's so-called political party.

all of our current problems in leb/iraq/gaza-wb stem from this stupid mistake.

and it is ultimately bush's fault for not demanding it. and then doing something if the party failed.

sharon and abbas and the leb people and the iraqis bear some blame - but bush could have laid down a marker and chose not to. a big mistake.

Posted by: reliapundit at July 27, 2006 05:47 AM

Thanks again for your writing, Michael. Very worthwhile, as always.

Following up on Joel's comment. You wrote, Already some right-wing American "realists" are suggesting Syria return its forces to Lebanon. He asked that one be named.

Perhaps there is one---or more---but it would be unusual, I think. The `realist' school in foreign affairs tends to back dictators and strongmen, seeking a self-defined `stability' as the goal. This `stability' is generally of an inter-national nature, and often (usually?) ignores and is unconcerned with the stability or conditions within a nation.

Prior to Ronald Reagan's presidency, I'd say that `realists' dominated both sides of the American political spectrum. Since then, and especially with him and with the current president G.W. Bush, `realists' are increasingly dominant on the left and marginalized on the right. Not totally, perhaps, but `realists' tended to oppose U.S. actions in Afghanistan and (to a much greater extent) in Iraq, on the basis that it would upset the stability of that portion of the world. G.W. Bush recently spoke in opposition to Syrian influence in Lebanon (he is generally opposed to and opposed by `realism', and is considered on the `right', at least in foreign affairs). The only "realist" (pro-Syrian might be more accurate) I've noted advocating such a return is David Lesch of Trinity U., San Antonio, who is not known for being on the `right' in U.S. politics.

So, I can buy "realists" advocating a return of Syrian forces to Lebanon, but this does not appear to coincide with the general views on the `right'. Perhaps the closest might be the Pat Buchanan types, but even they are more isolationist than `right' (although often placed on the right by the press, most American conservatives that I know really have little in common with him, at least on foreign affairs).

All that said, I'm open to correction and am looking forward to your comments should you wish to do so, and to your future posts no matter what.

God bless!

Posted by: crosstalk at July 27, 2006 05:57 AM

And perhaps my naivete has finally been washed away.
-MJT

You're getting there. Expect some help with the airfare in a few days, but please be damn careful. Hizbullah knows who you are now.

Hezbollah is not the strongest army in the middle east (not even close). Not in the conventional sense. But they have the advantage of being a guerilla force. Guerilla forces are extremely hard to defeat entirely.
-VB

Guerillas can be defeated, but it requires cutting the guerilla force off from resupply and isolating them from the civilian population that they hide among. You cannot do this by acting against the guerillas directly, which means that you have to act against the civilians (not by attacking them, but by doing things that are generally considered highly oppressive, like forced resettlement).

One example of this is how the British fought the insurgency in Malaysia- and even then, it took over a decade and there was a lot of brutality that didn't get into the history books. I don't know if that is politically possible in the current media environment.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Briggs_Plan

Posted by: rosignol at July 27, 2006 06:06 AM

MJT: "Aren't you the one who accused me..."

Yes, and clearly events have proven me wrong with respect to the Israeli soldier's remark. (Though I'm pretty sure he was implying Hizbullah would be the party responsible for the escalating).

In any case, I've read way too much horseshit lately about how "the Lebanese government should have just followed the UN resolution and disarmed Hizbullah, and then all would have been well, but now they're getting what they deserve blah blah blah."

As you note, that would have been impossible to do while preserving the fragile political arrangement.

The only thing I am a bit curious about in this post is this statement:

"Many Lebanese Christians, Sunnis, and Druze were getting so impatient with the impasse over Hezbollah’s weapons they threatened to reconstitute their own armed militias that were disbanded after the war. Peaceful and diplomatic negotiation over Hezbollah’s role in a sovereign rather than schismatic Lebanon was not going to last very much longer. Once the rest of Lebanon armed itself against Hezbollah, a balance of terror would reign that could explode into war without any warning."

I was under the impression from Lebanon experts I know who have been there as recently / more recently than you that Siniora had been having success convincing the public Hizbullah should disarm without fomenting the kind of sectarianism you describe. Your scenario is one nightmare scenario, but the real reason the government never disarmed Hizbullah is because Hizbullah guerillas were/are the defacto dominant military power within Lebanon, no?

Posted by: chris at July 27, 2006 06:13 AM

Steve M. asks what the Saudis are up to. There are several answers.

First, the Saudis are, actually, very generous when it comes to humanitarian aid. They are particularly so toward friends and the consider Lebanon to be a great friend.

Second, if they can pull public support away from Hezbollah by funding reconstruction, they're happy to do so. Arguably, they could have been providing funds earlier, to undercut Hezbollah social program efforts.

Third, the Saudis do see Hezbollah as a surrogate for Iran. And Iran is a huge problem for the Saudis. Both vie for the leadership of the Gulf. Iran can (and does) directly threaten Saudi well-being, at least in terms of oil transport. Saudi oil facilities are within minutes' (seconds') reach of Iranian military assets.

Posted by: John Burgess at July 27, 2006 06:27 AM

A fine post Michael.

Lahoud was appointed by Syria. His constituency is in Damascus. His credibility among his supposed constituency in Lebanon (the Christians) is zero.

Ah. Another piece of the puzzle.
Thanks.

Posted by: Stephen_M at July 27, 2006 06:46 AM

Rosignol - I'd also add that the Malayan insurgents were largely Communists, who drew much of their support from the ethnic Chinese minority. Their lack of popularity with the majority Malays probably made them easier to isolate.

Another interesting regional case study would be the political struggle against Communism in neighbouring Singapore - like modern Islamists, the Communists were well-funded, dedicated and enjoyed considerable grassroots support, but were eventually outmanoeuvred and defeated. Again, though, some of the tactics used to get there (such as indefinite detention without trial) would be difficult to justify in a modern Western context.

Posted by: Marcus at July 27, 2006 06:57 AM

I am Israeli. Michael Totten, may God bless you on your trip to Lebanon.

Only people like you will bring the good Lebanese and the Israelis together.

I will be hitting that tip jar tonite.

Posted by: Marty at July 27, 2006 07:02 AM

It would appear that you advocate that Israel (and by extension, the USA) should just chalk up a few (perhaps a hundred or two) casualties as a payment to the terrorists. We were hit, Israel was hit, you suggest they sacrifice and just move on?

Posted by: judith at July 27, 2006 07:29 AM

Michael,

I loved the "civilized anarchy" reference: so true...

I've been reading your blog for about a year now and as a Lebanese in America, have delighted in your excellent reports from Lebanon. Why is it that most "big name" journalists from "big name" newspapers never seem to get Lebanon? Why do such supposed "professionals" never learn to see things beyond their comfort-zone or culturally-imposed boundaries? I wish that articles like yours WERE mainstream news - not the diluted, overly simplistic nonesense spouted in the MSM.

Keep up the good work: looking forward to more...

ZM

Posted by: ZM at July 27, 2006 07:40 AM

I've thought for some time that your writings on Lebanon are a terrific insight into the minds of the "cafe" Lebanese -- the folks who really don't much mind what else happens as long as they can sit in the Beirut cafes, send their kids to piano lessons, and do other entirely normal (and understandable) things.

But, as you're demonstrating, the "cafe" Lebanese have not only no counsel for others, but not even for themselves. From their/your point of view, Hezbollah simply must be tolerated, and it's the rest of the world's -- particularly Israel's -- fault that the cafe lifestyle has been shattered.

What can they actually do? They can:

1. Live with Hezbollah and other adventurist Arab terrorists, and the consequences: when the cafe lifestyle is there, it'll be built on sand, and will be washed away every now and then, for long periods of time. While doing this, work for the "international community" to insert blocking forces, hoping to keep the sand castles up longer.

or

2. Crush Hezbollah. What you're missing in the Lebanese civil war analogy was that was a (at a minimum) six-sided conflict. Some of the parties to that conflict are largely gone (the PLO, which was involved in literally all of the largest arab-on-arab massacres -- either on the giving or receiving end).

For more, see the URL.

Posted by: Joel Rosenberg at July 27, 2006 07:52 AM

Mr. Totten said:
"Now, please tell us (and be specific and exact) how the weakest and most divided Arab fighting force (the Lebanese army) was supposed to defeat the strongest (Hezbollah) when even the Israelis couldn't do it after more than ten years."

Why hasn't the Lebanese government asked for help with this problem? Instead, they seem to be coordinating with Hizbullah. Nasrallah says he informed the Lebanese government of the plan to kidnap Israelis and they gave tacit approval.

Posted by: Michael Smith at July 27, 2006 08:27 AM

Incredibly interesting discussions on Counterterrorism Blog and also at Obsidian Wings about Hez, Israel, and Lebanon.

The info from CT is especially bleak regarding Lebanon and Hezbollah and what has to be Israel's response. There doesn't seem to be any way out of this apart from massive destruction on a greater scale in Lebanon by Israel in order to elminate Hezbollah. Chances are, as Israel succeeds in this, Hez sleeper cells will be activated around the world.

Hezbollah apparently has already will increasingly locate its missiles and other armaments in Christian and Druze areas, making them prime targets of the IDF. Unless some powerful agency steps in (and none exist), Lebanon will be destroyed.

Since the Hezbollah goal is to eliminate Israel, Israel has no choice but to eliminate Hezbollah, whatever the cost (borne by its own people and other civilians). I believe it will do this but not much will remain in Lebanon afterward.

If the world were a fair place, we would be hanging the leaders of Iran and Syria for fomenting this.

Posted by: Seymour Paine at July 27, 2006 08:42 AM

If the world were a fair place, we would be hanging the leaders of Iran and Syria for fomenting this.

Asymetric warfare makes the military branch of a terrorist organization hard to hit - but it leaves the supporters of terrorism in a relatively vulnerable position. If the world were an intelligent place, we'd be fighting the strategy of asymetric warfare, not its army or its cities.

The state leaders, bureaucrats and bankers who support Hez would be our targets. As Sun Tsu said:

Thus, what is of supreme importance in war is to attack the enemy's strategy;

Next best is to disrupt his alliances;

The next best is to attack his army.

The worst policy is to attack cities. Attack cities only when there is no alternative.

The world in general seems to have read that advice backwards.

A wise man once said:

The United States makes no distinction between those who commit acts of terror and those who support and harbor them, because they're equally as guilty of murder. (Applause.) Any government that chooses to be an ally of terror has also chosen to be an enemy of civilization. And the civilized world must hold those regimes to account.

If Bush did what he said he'd do, he'd be another Sun Tsu.

Posted by: mary at July 27, 2006 09:14 AM

frankly I think the "counterterrorism blog" and obsidianwings contain some of the least studied work out there. Both miss the basics and niether reflect what serious military analysts are saying.

The fact is Isael is ulikly and essentially unable to put a serious dent in Hezbollah. Every Hezbollah missile being fired, or destroyed on the ground by Israel will be replaced by syria and Iran.

Iran has been made the big winner in the region by US policy, and this excercisin in power by Iran in Lebanon and the Israeli resposne (needed as it may be) is itself adding to Tehran's power.

What we are seeing however is severe limits in IDF power, and worse, perceptions of power. They can't get into lebanon a few hundred meters without getting mauled and that is new.

The idea of standing up a Christian force to counter Hezbollah is desperate thinking.

Posted by: James at July 27, 2006 09:24 AM

You're missing the point, James: Israel can't get a few hundred meters into the heavily-prepped border areas and fight house-to-house there without "getting mauled" as they destroy the Hezbollards there, sure.

But the way to destroy a heavily-fortified line defense has never been to move along the well-defended line, but to punch through and/or bypass it, cut lines of communication and resupply, etc.

Olmert is, at present, apparently still hoping that an international force will be configured to cut off Hezbollah resupply. That's a futile hope, at present -- the IDF is going to have to punch through, at least to the Litani, whether it's during this round or the next.

In terms of the rest of the Lebanese (usually referred here as the "Christians," as though the Druze, Sunni, and [sadly few] anti-Hezzie Shiites aren't involved) being unable to take on Hezbollah, that's simply nonsense. Unwilling until now? Sure. Probably still unwilling? Yup. Unable? Nah. And as Michael Totten's at least suggesting, that's likely going to be happening shortly, whether it's while the IDF is still engaged in the South or not.

It won't be "great". It'll be horrible, ugly and messy. But, unlike the "Cedar Revolution," -- where the Christans, Druze, and Sunni largely "took guns out of politics" while Hezbollah built up not only their guns, but their fuhrerbunkers and missiles -- it might well be based on reality, rather than the reassuring fiction that the Lebanese could have a decent, democratic, civil society while accepting Hezbollah as a legitimate part of it.

Vichy Lebanon was a nice dream, I guess, but it was just a dream.

Posted by: Joel Rosenberg at July 27, 2006 09:43 AM

James-
The problem with your thinking ("a few hundred meters") is that the Israelis haven't really tried to destroy Hezballah.

Is it a strong force? Yes. Could it be defeated by the IDF, fairly easily? Yes. This would essentially consist of utterly destroying every town south of Beirut, every building, every road, every bridge, and killing anyone who is in that area or who is attempting to enter that area.

Everyone knows how to effectively deal with an Arab guerilla force that is militarily inferior- you do what the Syrians did at Hama. You ignore the civillians and slaughter everyone.

Of course, a little thing called morals gets in the way there.

On a totally separate note-
I've often held that associating liberalism (in the political philosophy sense) with the Hobbes-Locke chain fundamentally misrepresents the picture. Yes, both agree that government derives from people. But Hobbes is writing in chaotic time and is worried about his life, while Locke is writing in relative peace. MJT alluded to this in his post, but the fact is, we've been supporting liberalism and democracy in the ME with no governmental bodies to support them. Locke is able to write what he does about the rights of man because of a lack of chaos. That lack can only derive from a respected government, which is lacking in most countries in the ME at this point.

Posted by: Josh at July 27, 2006 09:43 AM

Michael-

I'm sorry to watch what is happening to your adopted country. I had hoped for better for Lebanon.

What I am curious about is why after the fighting started, Lebanon didn't join the fight in whatever limited way it could. If most of Lebanon wants Hezbolla removed, couldn't the army supply advisors to the IDF? It may help avoiding civilian areas (assuming that they exist). It would also quiet down the international community a little.

Posted by: John Davies at July 27, 2006 10:04 AM

John Davies,

Short answer: 35 percent of the army is Shia, and maybe 15 percent of the officer class is Syrian-appointed.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at July 27, 2006 10:07 AM

Michael Smith asks:
Why hasn't the Lebanese government asked for help with this problem? Instead, they seem to be coordinating with Hizbullah. Nasrallah says he informed the Lebanese government of the plan to kidnap Israelis and they gave tacit approval.

Just because you don't think they asked for help doesn't mean they really didn't. You need to be a bit more informed before making posts like this.

For the past year, the Lebanese government had been doing just that. PM Siniora, despite being severly undermined on the local political scene by Hezbollah, the Aounists, and the pro-syrian camp, went to the US, met with president Bush and asked for support in getting resolution 1559 implemented. I'm too lazy to go digging around for archive links, but it should fairly easy to find.
Various anti-syrian leaders did the same thing, during the past year. Walid Jumblat (leader of the Druze community and vehemently anti-syrian) also made a trip to Washington, during which he decried Hezbollah and asked for help from the international community in disarming the group.
The maronite patriarch was in the US with a similar message only DAYS prior to the current hostilities.
Our leaders were doing what (little) they could.

Fine, i get it. It wasn't enough and Israel needed to make a point. I don't necessarily blame Israel for that. But let's not sit here making up falsehoods. Let's not start playing "revisionist history", please.

Posted by: Bad Vilbel at July 27, 2006 10:44 AM

Caveman gives us the kind of story that's not reported much in the mainstream media:

http://blissstreetjournal.blogspot.com/2006/07/siege-of-mari.html

Posted by: Bad Vilbel at July 27, 2006 10:58 AM

Short answer: 35 percent of the army is Shia, and maybe 15 percent of the officer class is Syrian-appointed.

And maybe another part of the picture is that there isn't a will to do that among the rest. At least, there hasn't been -- and unless the Beirut Lebanese fail to notice that, so far, the devastation in Beirut has been limited to Shiite areas the collective size of a race track, there may not, yet, be sufficient motivation.

The notion that any military force that has a significant Lebanese Shiite component is going to take on Hezbollah is both a nonstarter, and suggests as to how the Hezbollah problem is going to have to be solved.

As to the requests for "help" in disarming Hezbollah, all of the requests I've heard of were either openly or barely not openly for more money, or pro forma calls for vague "international" "help."

That said, I could be wrong. If Siniora or Jumblatt asked for troops and/or guns to get rid of Hezbollah with, I'll be happy to admit that I was wrong, once I see a credible cite. But, so far, the asking for guns and troops in Lebanon appears to have only come from Hezbollah, which has gotten both from Iran.

Posted by: Joel Rosenberg at July 27, 2006 11:05 AM

Mr. Totten, Lebanon is an adopted country of mine as well, I visited there for the first time in May for a few weeks and fell in love with Lebanon. As an American, I am deeply sorry for the inaction and indifference of my government towards Israel and its actions towards Lebanon and its people. The general attitude here in the US is very pro-Israel, but the information we are being given is misleading, to say the least. This situation is forcing me to think seriously what it means to be American and reevaluate my future relationship with the United States.

When the situation stablizes I am seriously considering going back to Lebanon and help rebuild. Do you have any ideas as to NGOs I could work with, or ideas to help rebuild? Also, I was planning on going to Iran later this year or early next year, before that country too is engulfed in conflict. Why are you postponing your trip to Iran?

Posted by: Lebanon Lover at July 27, 2006 11:06 AM

Bad Vilbel said:

"Fine, i get it. It wasn't enough and Israel needed to make a point. I don't necessarily blame Israel for that. But let's not sit here making up falsehoods. Let's not start playing "revisionist history", please."

Asking a question is not "making up falsehoods"; nor is it "playing revisionist history". It's simply an effort to get information from those who purport to be knowledgeable of the situation in Lebanon.

Posted by: Michael Smith at July 27, 2006 11:23 AM

Mr. Rosenberg,

I don't think you can go and openly ask for guns and weapons against what, in the end, is your co-countrymen without risking civil war.

Which is something the Lebanese anti-syrians were VERY afraid of (having learned our lesson between 1975 and 1990). I don't think civil war would've helped Lebanon, and i certainly don't think it would've helped Israel.

In the end, a military solution was never going to be an effective one against Hezbollah (as Israel is discovering now). Do i like that? Not one bit. It sucks. But it doesn't do you or me any good to live in a fantasy world. We have to be realistic and figure what (if anything) WILL work. And I still think in the end, like it or not, it will have to be some combination of a diplomatic solution and military PRESSURE (not necessarily action).

It's so easy to make fantastical comments not based in realism. Here's an example: Why is the US still having trouble subduing the insurgents in Iraq? Why are they still unable to foster a strong Iraqi state? They have all the weapons in the world, and then some. 140,000 troops on the ground. etc. etc....it'd be nice if someone could snap their fingers and have that overwhelming military superiority give instantenous results. Unfortunately, that's often unrealistic.

Posted by: Bad Vilbel at July 27, 2006 11:23 AM

Mr Smith:

Why hasn't the Lebanese government asked for help with this problem? Instead, they seem to be coordinating with Hizbullah. Nasrallah says he informed the Lebanese government of the plan to kidnap Israelis and they gave tacit approval.

This does not look like a question to me. It looks like a statement.
I have seen no evidence of "coordinating with Hezbollah". The prime minister of Lebanon has repeatedly condemned their actions and asserted that he had no prior knowledge of Hezbollah's kidnapping plans.
Are we to believe Nasrallah's every words now? That guy is a liar of the first degree and it serves his purposes, at the moment, to appear to undermine the lebanese government by making such statements.

I apologize if my tone seemed somewhat short. But I really get frustrated reading this constant stream of "Why hasn't the Lebanese government done anything about Hezbollah."

I've explained over and over (as has Michael Totten, and countless others) that the Lebanese government did what it could (which wasn't much). The will was there. The means were not. Which is why i agree with mr. Totten in the assessment that the current crisis was, in the end, inevitable. I don't think there is anything Israel or Lebanon could've done differently to avoid it.

Posted by: Bad Vilbel at July 27, 2006 11:29 AM

Mr. Joel Rosenberg,

I can't help but notice the pejorative connotation of your use of "go native" in your post regarding Michael's comments. As per dictionary.com, "This expression is closely associated with the often contemptuous view British colonists had of indigenous peoples." While the phrase could well be used in a less-negative manner, the way you bandy it about I have trouble seeing how you don't intend it as the equivalent of saying Mr. Totten has taken off his clothes and put a bone in his nose.

Posted by: rrkent at July 27, 2006 11:54 AM

another great post michael, i think we should look at the picture which is that these are skirmishes between US and iran like before the main band comes on the stage they throw in an appetizer group to warm people. what is happening is there is power struggle between US and iran,syria all over middle east and it exploded in lebanon through indermediary channels. one thing should not be forgotten iran have been at war with US the day they have taken US embassy diplomats hostage for 400 days,by killing 250 narines in beirut by their proxy hezbollah. if US wants to achieve its middle east goals it has to deal with iran and syria sooner or later. a showdown is inevitable.

Posted by: a kurd in california at July 27, 2006 12:24 PM

One thing, Michael, that I think you've missed despite your insider's perspective on Lebanon's democracy, or perhaps because of it, is how irrelevant that democracy was - not only now, but all along. The Lebanese government has long struck me as less a real government than a sort of "government in exile" of the type many dictatorships have. It was an elected body that could not control the country's military (Hezbollah being the dominant armed force in the country), could not control its own territory, could not keep its people safe, etc. The de facto government of Lebanon for the past 6 years has been HA, because they were the ones with the powers of enforcement.

If Iran had attacked Israel and Israel responded this way, would anyone be calling it collective punishment because not all Lebanese support the Ayatollah? No - because a state attacking a state is an act of war. To my eyes, it's clear that the real state power in Lebanon is HA and that the democractic government is a fig leaf that HA has decided not to crush because it's convenient for international opinion. And I can emphathize with the dispair of the Lebanese and still support Israel's actions.

In Israel there is a saying that "we have no other country." What that means is that if Tel Aviv was bombed the same way as Beirut has been, most Israelis (not all, but most) wouldn't flee the country like the Lebanese you are describing, but would rebuild it, because their attachment to their country cannot be severed. The Lebanese who are fleeing are demonstrating what Israel already knows - that they do not love their country enough to want to fix it. It was painful for Israel to give up the Gaza territories - painful, and pundits predicted a civil war! - but they did it, despite the "impossibility" of it. It would have been painful for Lebanon to remove its own problem - Hezbollaland - but unlike the Israelis the Lebanese were concerned with their personal lives and not the good of their country. That's not a moral judgment - most people are like that - but it's silly to think that the average Lebanese would EVER have risked going against HA. Strongly worded letters to the ineffective democratic institutions are not action, and the Lebanese had no desire to take action.

Israel didn't have to do this now, but the inability of the Lebanese to ever disarm HA meant that they were going to have to do it eventually no matter what.

As to Israel pulling out 6 years ago and now going back, the morale in Israel is VERY different. Israel now knows what the Right has said all along - that even if you give in to every demand, even if you pull communities out of Gaza and retreat from Lebanon and try to appease the killers, they aren't going away. Anyone who thinks that HA would disband if only Israel gave back Shabaa Farms and released some murderers from prison is living in a dream world where the experiment of the last 6 years never happened.

Posted by: lamedzayin at July 27, 2006 12:28 PM

RE: the Saudis. They're protecting their investments, or at least trying to salvage some, while showing loyalty to their Sunni brethren. Saudi investment has played a big role in Lebanon's recovery mirage (the economics was real, but it could not last).

The longer-term question, as the Saudis buy a swathe of military equipment ($16 billion in purchases last week, another $26 billion rumored to come shortly) and appear to be refocusing on Iran, is whether they will also pay and arm their Sunni brethren in Lebanon once the fighting starts.

If they do, Hezbollah will have much more of a fight on its hands. But remember, too, that this is the Saudis. If they step in with armed aid, Michael's bit about al-Qaeda in Lebanon is very likely to come true.

Zarqawi's dream of an offensive against the Shi'ites may yet come true after his death, and elsewhere. Ah, irony.

Posted by: Joe Katzman at July 27, 2006 12:31 PM

A wonderful post, as usual, Michael. But depressing as hell. Maybe I just missed it, but as far as I can see (both from the post and from your responses to the various comments) there simply is no solution to Hezbollah. (Ignoring the ultra-extreme approach of genocide against the Shia in Lebanon, of course.) Is it really that bad? Or have I merely overlooked something?

Stay safe!

Posted by: wj at July 27, 2006 12:44 PM

I enjoyed your comments above. Thanks. I have a question that I wonder if you can answer. When the Israel-Hizbolah war was first reported, I heard repeatedly that Hizbollah had entered Israel, killed 8 soldiers and kidnapped 2. Then as the incident was repeated and called the incident that provoked the violence or started the war, the 8 dead soldiers seemed to disappear. People say only that the kidnapping of 2 soldiers provoked the war. What about the 8 dead soldiers? Did I miss something? Why did the press stop talking about these 8 deaths as part of the cause?

Posted by: Tatiana at July 27, 2006 12:44 PM

wj,

There may be no solution other than regime-change in Iran. I am very reluctant and sorry to say this, but I fear that's how it is.

Ask me again in a couple of months, though. Things are changing fast and none of us know what will come next.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at July 27, 2006 12:48 PM

Every crisis is also an opportunity. Perhaps Hizbollah will be disarmed this time, with international troops and the Lebanese armed forces patrolling the Shia areas.

There will be violence, but as in Iraq it may not be strong enough to snuff the flickering fire of freedom in the Levant.

Democracy is always stronger than people think.

Posted by: TallDave at July 27, 2006 12:55 PM

On the Al Quaida plea on TV today: didn't the Lebanese Sunni militia blow up a church or two and even the Russian embassy a few years ago (mid 90s or so)? How are these Sunni groups related to AQ? What is AQ's motivation for making the statement on TV? Are they seriously thinking their fighters will appear in Southern Lebanon?

Posted by: Tatiana at July 27, 2006 01:09 PM

It's my understanding (and I could easily be wrong) that Hez and Hamas have the support of their local kinsmen partly due to their "military" prowess, but mostly due to their "social service" operations. These function as a sort of welfare/relief agency, spreading around great gobs of money in the process.

As I understand it, that money ultimately comes from Iran. It seems to me that cutting off that supply of money is the only way to ensure that Hex, or something like it, does not reappear after the military operations shut down.

If Hex and Hamas did not have strong local support, they would find it much harder to operate. The key is to cut off their support. This cannot be done by local military action.

The world needs to remove the (quite rational, in the short term) reasons why the local population supports these organizations, replace them with reasons to NOT support these organizations, and (perhaps) supply other, more beneficial outlets for popular support. So:

1) Cut off the money from Iran.
2) Discredit Hez and Hamas in the eyes of their present supporters.
3) Give their supporters other dreams.

Any suggestions on how to do any of these things?

Posted by: SteveA at July 27, 2006 01:11 PM

Brad: "I have seen no evidence of 'collaborating with Hezbollah'"

There was an item on Stephen Pollard's blog about an interview with Nasrallah and his cooperation with the Lebanese government.

http://www.stephenpollard.net/002728.html

Posted by: Alasdair at July 27, 2006 01:13 PM

Michael said: Don’t discount what bloody mayhem and hell a few thousand armed Druze, Christians, and Sunni can do if they decide to go hunting Shia in revenge for destroying their country.

Michael, the IDF destroyed our country, make no mistake.

Posted by: Lira at July 27, 2006 01:19 PM

From the interview with Nasrallah...

"...I told them [the Lebanese government] on more than one occasion that we are taking the issue of the prisoners seriously, and that abducting Israeli soldiers is the only way to resolve it. Of course, I said this in a low-key tone. I did not declare in the dialogue: 'In July I will abduct Israeli soldiers.' This is impossible."
Interviewer: "Did you inform them that you were about to abduct Israeli soldiers?"

Hassan Nasrallah: "I told them that we must resolve the issue of the prisoners, and that the only way to resolve it is by abducting Israeli soldiers."

Interviewer: "Did you say this clearly?"

Hassan Nasrallah: "Yes, and nobody said to me: 'No, you are not allowed to abduct Israeli soldiers.' Even if they had told me not to... I'm not defending myself here. I said that we would abduct Israeli soldiers, in meetings with some of the main political leaders in the country. I don't want to mention names now, but when the time comes to settle accounts, I will."

Posted by: Alasdair at July 27, 2006 01:20 PM

Alasdair,

Everyone knew that Hezbollah would kidnap Israeli soldiers. I wrote about it myself months ago on this blog. This was no secret. Anyway, they have been doing it for years.

The fact that Nasrallah mentioned it in public doesn't mean anything. It may be news to you, but it wasn't news to the Lebanese or the Israelis.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at July 27, 2006 01:23 PM
As you said Israel's military wasn’t strong enough to defeat Hezbollah militarily so what makes you think the Lebanese military would?
Israel's military is certainly strong enough to defeat Hez militarily, what it doesn't have is the political will to do so. The notion that the people surrounding Hez are mere uninvolved civilians, and not willing allies, is a destructive meme. Get over it and destroy totally any area with Hez soldiers. Human shields do it because they don't believe they'll actually have to suffer for it. Make them suffer. Sure, the Europeans will whine about it, but they won't do anything just like they won't do anything but whine about Iran and Syria. Posted by: Bob Smith at July 27, 2006 01:26 PM

Thanks for the 35% Shia note on the Leb Army.

Here's what a more fierce anti-Hez Leb people/ gov't could do: call for new volunteers/ draftees of non-Shia folk who would swell the 70 000 (?) or so up to 100 000; with all 30 000 new Sunni Christian Druze folk being trained to disarm terrorists.

I saw the lovely Lebanon babes of last year in MJT pictures; and Spirit of America; and the big crowds against Syria followed by huge crowds for Syria followed by even more huge crowds against Syria.

How many of the young men under 40 have tried to join the Leb Army in order to disarm Hezbollah? I don't think very many.

I don't think Israel will be allowed to "do it", because "it" would mean killing too many not-fully guilty Shia who are not provably Hez supporters.

But hopefully the anti-Hez Lebanese people will be able to when Israel leaves.

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad at July 27, 2006 01:26 PM

The reason Israel has not been able to defeat Hezbollah is because of political, not military, constraints. If they fought Hezbollah the way we fought WWII -- i.e., all-out, without handwringing over every civilian casualty -- they could easily wipe them out as a military force.

To make it stick, though, would require going after Hezbollah sponsors Syria and Iran.

Posted by: Dana H. at July 27, 2006 01:33 PM

I got the solution for getting rid of Hezbollah.. Napalm, and lots of it!

Then again, that's my solution for everything....

Posted by: annie nomus at July 27, 2006 01:37 PM

Shit Michael you need to get on CNN,MSNBC or FOX. That was a very honest though pesssimestic picture of what's really going over there.

Posted by: tommy in nyc at July 27, 2006 01:37 PM

lamedazyin,

You can't fault any civilians for fleeing when bombs are landing on their hands. I'm pretty sure Israeli civilians in northern Israel have also fled to the more secure parts of the country over the past 2 weeks. It doesn't mean either populace doesn't like their country enough.
In fact, we DID rebuild our country after 15 years of civil war, between 1990 and 2006. And I guarantee you we will rebuild it again after this is over.

Your argument makes very little sense.

Posted by: Bad Vilbel at July 27, 2006 01:38 PM

Steve A,

You are absolutely correct. Hezbollah and Hamas bought the loyalty of their constituents mostly by being the sole providers of social benefits, education, healthcare, etc. to an otherwise neglected and impoverished constituency (be it the Shia in Lebanon, or the Palestinians neglected by years of corruption in the PLO).

In the case of Hezbollah, most of that money comes from Iran.

Cutting off that supply (how do you do that though?) would go a long way in discrediting Hezbollah (although that would take time).
In parallel, if the Lebanese government, with major financial backing from the Saudis and the international community, did over time, provide jobs, services, etc to the south of Lebanon, that would go a long way in regaining the loyalty of the Shia and would undermind Hezbollah's appeal.

Sadly, this approach requires a long haul, and is made further difficult when bombs are falling and infrastructure is being demolished. Which is why i think the current events are playing directly into the hands of Hezbollah.

Posted by: Bad Vilbel at July 27, 2006 01:44 PM

Alasdair,

As Michael already replied. Nasrallah has been boasting about kidnapping soldiers for many years. That does not constitute "collaboration". Furthermore, I still don't understand why people are quoting Nasrallah. He's a liar. Now all of a sudden you believe him?
This is the same guy that claims Hezbollah is intact. Do you believe that too?

Find me ACTUAL evidence that a lebanese state institution somehow aided and abetted Hezbollah's kidnapping of the 2 soldiers.

Posted by: Bad Vilbel at July 27, 2006 01:48 PM

I don't think you can go and openly ask for guns and weapons against what, in the end, is your co-countrymen without risking civil war.

That betrays, I think, a clear misunderstanding: there is going to be a civil war in Lebanon. The situation that ended up with the rest of Lebanon in a Concordat with the Hezbollah-supporting Shiites made that a necessity; Hezbollah was not going to be disarmed by Lebanese joining a useless army that is disproportionately Hezbollah-supporters, anymore than it was by the same people chanting along with the hot Lebanese girls in their facepaint, as decorative as they were.

Tom Grey: you're looking for improbably clean solutions. Less sanguine solutions to the problem of Lebanon might have been possible if the Lebanese had seen the necessity years ago; they're not possible now. The implicit request that Israel be held back now so that the Lebanese can get back to business as usual will, if acted on, only make things worse later on, just as the IDF cleaning out Hezbollaland now is more difficult and bloodier than it would have been in 2002, and will be more difficult (although likely less bloody, for Israel) when (not if) the IDF has to go north of the Litani to fumigate the south.

Mind you, I don't object to the Lebanese wanting a cease-fire. The rockets that would be brought in from Syria during it won't be aimed at Beirut, after all.

But the moment that the first rocket was launched at Haifa, it should have been clear to the Lebanese that they'd been wrong: Hezbollah is willing to fight Israel to the last Sunni, Christian, and Druze.

Talldave: you and/or I won't live to see an Arab democracy, with the possible exception of Kurdistan (for very, err, loose use of the term "Arab"). There never has been one (unless you believe Dhimmi Carter that Arafatopia and Hamastan were/are), and the best shot during our lifetimes wasn't Lebanon, but Iraq. I wish it were otherwise, but wishing doesn't make it so.

rrkent: I stand by what I said, not the spin you've put on it. If Michael Totten chooses to take offense at what I think is a reasonable view of his views, let him do it all by himself, without you egging him on. He's a grownup.

Posted by: Joel Rosenberg at July 27, 2006 01:49 PM

It seems to me that Lebanon needs a civil war. I don't say this lightly and I wish it wasn't necessary, but there is no way to allow Hezbollah to remain as an armed militia and there is also no way they'll voluntarily disarm.

The problem is that the Lebanese army is too divided, weak, and untrained to handle the task. But there is another Arab country that has been in a similar predicament, has the training, personnel, and might be willing to help out. As I see it the Lebanese government should seek out the support of the Iraqis. The Iraqi police may be a mess, but the Iraqi army seems to be highly regarded for their capabilities and, maybe more importantly, their non-sectarianism.

The thing is you need to establish a new core to the Lebanese military. One that views their responsibility as being to their country first. That core can be trained to deal with rogue elements no matter who they are. That core needs to be started now so that it will be the focus of the energies of those who would otherwise tend towards secterian violence. If it is successful then the Lebanon that the 80% you claim oppose Hezbollah will have something to both disarm them and on which they can base the future of a non-sectarian nation.

Just the thoughts (and probably wishful thinking) of an Israeli American who would love to see the Lebanese solve their "Hezbollah problem".

Posted by: Boaz at July 27, 2006 01:52 PM

I keep hearing about how going after Iran and Syria is the only way to properly defang Hezbollah. While I agree with that premise, I'd like to explain why that is not likely to happen anytime soon:

Israel does NOT want the Syrian regime destablized or overthrown.
There is no clear replacement for the Assad regime in Syria at the moment, just like there was no clear replacement for Saddam in Iraq. The only Syrian opposition group that's worth a damn is the Muslim Brotherhood.
Toppling the Assad regime would turn Syria into another Iraq. A haven for Al-Qaeda types. An unstable country, very likely torn by civil war, or even more likely, controlled by a group even more hostile to Syria than Assad, namely the Muslim Brotherhood.

The USA does not want a regime change in Syria for the very same reasons. While their hands are full in Iraq, they cannot afford to have yet another unstable country threatening both Israel and our own troops in Iraq.

This is why Israel and the USA are currently NOT in a good bargaining position. This is why this mess is playing into the hands of Syria and Iran. Those 2 countries have basically proven to themselves that they can stir up trouble, whenever convenient, and threaten Israel and The US in Iraq, with very little consequences to themselves. (They don't give a shit if Lebanon is demolished every time they kidnap a soldier, believe me).

Posted by: Bad Vilbel at July 27, 2006 01:54 PM

Michael,

Thanks for the post. I've found your blog very informative. I wanted to ask you (and any Lebanese out there) about one of your points:

"Most Lebanese who had warm feelings for Israel -- and there were more of these than you can possibly imagine -- no longer do."

Assuming this is true, how exactly where those warm feelings communicated to Israelis? From what has happened, it's clear that it was not through the political realm - Hizbollah, a party sworn to Israels destruction, was part of the government; and the two countries were still technically at war.

Was it through the cultural realm? Were there joint Israeli/Lebanese art projets? Musical exchanges? Plays about everyday Israelis performed in Lebanon?

Was it through the personal realm? Were Israelis invited to visit Beirut? Did Lebanese travel to Tel Aviv, or even make a point of meeting Israelis when outside the region?

Was it through the educational realm? Were children taught anything about the Jewish religion? Were high school students taught about the geography and demographics of their neighbor?

Maybe those "warm feelings" are so hard to imagine because they weren't well expressed.

We always read in the press how Israeli actions create hate in the hearts of Palestinians and (now) Lebanese. But what does Arab hate create in the hearts of Israelis? And just imagine what a little Arab love could create...

Posted by: Shoshanah at July 27, 2006 01:55 PM

Bad Vilbel: I apologize for laughing, but I couldn't help it. Your suggestion that Hezbollah will be put down by nationally-funded jobs programs was voiced just yesterday by Rhode Island Senator Jack Reed.

A friend of mine who is, by temperament (although he's changing) a Democratic liberal said something like, "Sheesh -- he just looked in the Democratic playbook under 'Violence', and it said, 'promote government-sponsored job programs.'"

As to which Lebanese government institution aided and abetted the Hezbollah kidnapping -- and, for that matter, the rocket attacks -- why, that's easy: all of them. Read your own government officials repeated admissions that they didn't do anything to control Hezbollah.

Posted by: Joel Rosenberg at July 27, 2006 01:55 PM

You (and others) have seen an essential truth:

Israel and Lebanon (especially Lebanon) will continue to burn as long as Hezbollah exists as a terror miltia freed from the leash of the state. The punishment for taking on Hezbollah is war. The punishment for not taking on Hezbollah is war. Lebanese were doomed to suffer war no matter what.

Unfortunately you (and the Lebanese) continue to shrink from the inevitable conclusion: the only way Lebanon can ever have peace is to defeat Hizb'Allah utterly. The Lebanese people (not just their military) must take up arms [again] and kill them. It won't be easy, but it is simple.

The majority of Lebanon's people were wise and civilized enough to take the gun out of politics after the fifteen year war.

No, Michael. The majority of Lebanon's people were foolhardy. The gun was obviously NOT taken out of politics, since Hizb'Allah kept theirs and never stopped using it. The only thing most Lebanese did was ensure they would remain unable to protect themselves.

Sometimes being civilized means being willing to fight for your own civilization, rather than be overwhelmed by savages.

Posted by: mariner at July 27, 2006 01:58 PM

It seems to me that Lebanon needs a civil war. I don't say this lightly and I wish it wasn't necessary, but there is no way to allow Hezbollah to remain as an armed militia and there is also no way they'll voluntarily disarm.

Well, of course they do, as of course Hezbollah won't. Despite all their talk about health services and food kitchens, the Hezzies are every bit as aware as the non-Hezzie Lebanese that Mao was right: political power does grow out of the barrel of a gun.

The difference is that Hezbollah was willing to do something about it. How large are the Christian, Druze and Sunni militias at the moment.

Posted by: Joel Rosenberg at July 27, 2006 02:00 PM

The bunker system is exposed, now. And, the sites the IDF hit were all parts of this underground encampment. Missiles, fuel storage. Food. Water. Bunkers. Built under the noses of the UN. Probably with some knowledge among the Lebanese.

Israel didn't just bomb from the air. But, yes, thousands of missiles has rained down on Israel, now. But her population doesn't flee. Nor does the MSM report much of it.

Instead, yesterday, through a Kuwaiti source, an Israeli newspaper wrote that Nasrallah was in Damascus. He was wearing civilian clothes. (A burka?) And, he was meeting with Assad. And, with the FM from Iran, who came to Syria.

There were reports that there was pressure being put on Assad, to allow re-supplies to get through to Lebanon.

WHile Israel has retaken the Wazari River. And, shored up it's strength around the Shaba Farms. And, Golan.

Ahead? A lot more pressure on the network that was used to shuffle in everything that's being blown up by the IDF.

It also seems that the IDF has listened into Nasrallah's conversations; since these intercepts have made it into the press reports. Or at least up to the Net. (Which is all I read, anyway.)

Today, Iran began calling for a "cease fire." It seems "Plan B" is to try to use the old european community to pressure Israel to pull back.

But that landscape may have changed?

When this is finally over, and I hope it is over soon, the three kidnapped soldiers will be returned. And, Assad, at least, will learn he gets no bonus points. No returned geography.

What Nasrallah does ahead, I do not know.

But a crimp in his recruitment happens if there's a curtailment of re-supplies into Lebanon. Let alone, how much stomach would the Lebanese have, to see Hezbollah's strength rebuilt?

There's been a change in landscape.

When you get back to Lebanon, and you could fly into Ben Gurion, tomorrow; you'd see a country facing war with courage. And, I don't think the Israelis are in any mood to be shoved around. Let alone shoved around by the likes of Kofi Annan; and the idiots in paris.

But it's the future. One never knows what can happen next. But, always, pray for the best.

Posted by: Carol Herman at July 27, 2006 02:02 PM

Joel,

You say you're looking for improbably clean solutions. Less sanguine solutions to the problem of Lebanon might have been possible if the Lebanese had seen the necessity years ago; they're not possible now.

People keep saying this and forgetting that until March of 2005, there was no Lebanon. There was a Syrian occupation. So "years ago" is not a valid comment. We couldn't have done shit "years ago" because we were under occupation.

I do agree with this statement though:
The implicit request that Israel be held back now so that the Lebanese can get back to business as usual will, if acted on, only make things worse later on

Which is why I would like to find some sort of solution to this that does not take us back to the status quo. Problem is, i don't see a solution from my vantage point. And i am not convinced that the current Israeli response is working. Let's agree on that maybe? We need SOMETHING ELSE.

Boaz:

You say Lebanon needs a civil war. Disregarding the callousness of such a statement for the moment, and putting an entirely "business" hat on. I still don't think that's a solution.
Lest you forget, we already had that civil war you speak of, 1975-1990. Repeating it is not going to get us to a new place, but more likely, will take us right back to where we are today (if not worse).

You also say:
The thing is you need to establish a new core to the Lebanese military. One that views their responsibility as being to their country first.

I agree with this statement wholeheartedly. That is exactly what Lebanon needs. Unfortunately, Lebanon, is still living in the tribal and sectarian loyalties of the past (albeit not as badly as we used to). This is also exactly why we cannot have a civil war, which would return us even further back into the world of sectarian and tribal loyalties.

As an Israeli, you should understand (and i hope i don't come off condescending here) that your best bet is a democratic, strong and unified Lebanon. Not a divided and weak one.
For the past 50 years, you've had exactly that: a divided weak neighbour, with sectarian loyalties that have made it very easy for Syria, Iran and even you Israelis to create proxy militias, and turn them against each other.

Posted by: Bad Vilbel at July 27, 2006 02:04 PM

See Wretchard at Belmont Club.

He speculates that he has a hopeful answer: the IDF kills many of the Hez cadres, which, unlike missiles, are irreplaceable in the short term. He speculates that the IDF have a plan; what it is; why it might work.

He calls his post: Pulp Fiction.
I hope it's true.

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad at July 27, 2006 02:11 PM

I'm copying my question in comments to Neo-Neocon's article (http://neo-neocon.blogspot.com/) discussing this piece.

You strike me as thoughtful, realistic, and willing to be hopeful, so... with the stated 'IF's, is there a 'realistic' hope?

Quote following:

I appreciate your commenting on Mr. Totten's very lucid piece. It is obvious to me that:

Lebanon's helplessness is
America's helplessness is
Israel's helplessness.

I, for one, am not happy about America-Israel-Lebanon helplessness, especially in the face of Hizballah-Syria-Iran.

My IF'y question:

IF Hizballah's military is crushed,
- AND -
IF Syria is crippled (destroy air force and tanks),
- AND -
IF Turkey, et al, interdict Iranian arms shipments by air,
- AND -
IF the Bekaa Valley is under some imaginable anti-Syrian Lebanese Army control...

...would Lebanese pluralism & democracy have a chance?

Posted by: jf at July 27, 2006 02:12 PM

Hmmm.

Now, please tell us (and be specific and exact) how the weakest and most divided Arab fighting force (the Lebanese army) was supposed to defeat the strongest (Hezbollah) when even the Israelis couldn't do it after more than ten years.

Ask for help?

I don't believe at all that anybody wants to garrison either southern Lebanon or any part of Lebanon. But a military operation to take down Hezbollah in coordination with the Lebanese government AND citizens, that could have been possible.

Frankly it would have been extremely difficult politically for the USA to have refused a direct plea for help from the Lebanese right after their Cedar Revolution. The political momentum coupled with highly experienced American troops and specific guidance from Lebanese could have permanently defanged Hezbollah or even destroyed it.

The single biggest problem in fighting a group like Hezbollah is in identification. It's difficult to identify the fighters and the physical assets. A great deal of the American effort in Iraq is entirely in generating and accumulating intelligence in order to fuel anti-terror operations. Similar operations in Lebanon would have been vastly simpler because the Lebanese already know who are Hezbollah and where their physical assets are.

5 American combat brigades could have locked down Lebanon in coordination with the Lebanese, overwhelmed Hezbollah militarily and isolated each specific Hezbollah operating group for a strategic defeat in detail.

But the Lebanese never asked anyone for help, ever.

Posted by: ed at July 27, 2006 02:12 PM

Michael I have a close friend in Beirut. He lives in the Hazmieh(sp?) area. He says it is calm in his nieghborhood. I hope it still stays calm. I am really afraid, and I wish I could get him out.

Posted by: Pamela at July 27, 2006 02:13 PM

Joel,

Laugh all you want (I don't get offended easily). I still firmly believe that money speaks and buys loyalty more than any fancy-assed ideology.

Case in point:
* The Lebanese Shia welcomed Israel in the 1982, because they were so oppressed by the PLO.
They turned against Israel when that occupation in turn created hardships.

  • The Lebanese shiite were marginalized for years under the old Lebanese feudal system. And that was in large part the reason for our 75-90 civil war.
  • Hamas didn't become a prominent force in Palestinian politics by being an extremist group (although they are that). They did it by providing these services to the palestinian people who were tired of living in abject conditions due to the PLO's corruption. A huge percentage of the palestinians voted for Hamas this past election for that simple reason.

I realize that to us who live in the US (i do too, btw), hearing the old democrat slogans (i am not a democrat btw) is somewhat amusing. Mostly because the democrats have never really used any of their money to provide grassroots services any more than anyone else.

The word grassroots is key here. That's how Hezbollah and Hamas did it. No massive bureaucracies and corruption. A somewhat more adequate parallel in the US would be the kind of work done by various faith-based organizations and churches. That stuff ALWAYS buys you loyalty, despite what you might think.

Hell, you think Russian jews would've been so gung-ho moving to Israel in the 80s and 90s if :
a- They weren't being oppressed in the USSR and
b- There wasn't a nice financial package waiting for them in Israel?

Honest answer please :)

Posted by: Bad Vilbel at July 27, 2006 02:16 PM

I've been arguing for some time that the dictator regimes in Iran and Syria will not stop their proxy wars until they are made to feel some personal pain as a consequence (ie, JDAMs on their heads). I still think this is self-evidently true... but it may not matter, if Condi and Co. mean what they've been saying.

Should NATO or other reliable (i.e., willing to shoot back) international forces occupy southern Lebanon as is the stated plan, Hizbollah will undoubtedly attack them, as Condi must realize. Then we'll have a war between the international community and Hizbollah, which Hizbollah will lose, badly, and discredit itself as well. The int'l community could then arm the Lebanese gov't. This would be a typical machination of Condicraft: turn the world against your enemies.

This is not the 1980s. There is no other superpower mucking things up behind the scenes.

Posted by: TallDave at July 27, 2006 02:24 PM

Carol Herman: He was wearing civilian clothes. (A burka?)

Arabs do not wear burkhas, least of all Lebanese. Burkahs are 2000 miles to the east.

You have seen the Lebanese dress code in all those "babes of Lebanon" photo galleries.

you could fly into Ben Gurion, tomorrow

I was there three days ago. The Israelis treated me like a Hezbollah agent and grilled me for five hours when all I wanted to do was get on the next plane out. They are unable to Google people's names at the airport (doh!) and are therefore unable to properly detect who might be friendly or hostile.

They also don't know what an Iraqi passport stamp looks like. "Incompetent" comes to mind.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at July 27, 2006 02:26 PM

In answer to your last questions, of course not. While most Israeli Jews came there via the typical method -- the birth canal -- the vast majority of those who made aliyah came from places where they were horribly treated -- whether we're talking about the USSR, Bevin's internment camps (and their predecessors) or dhimmitude (and worse) in the Dar Al Islam.

That said, if the Lebanese haven't figured out that there will be serious outside support available once they decide to rid of the Hezbollah vermin rather than accomodating them, they're not nearly as bright as we both know that they are.

People keep saying this and forgetting that until March of 2005, there was no Lebanon. There was a Syrian occupation. So "years ago" is not a valid comment. We couldn't have done shit "years ago" because we were under occupation.

Now you're trying to confuse me. You're surely not telling me that you think that Arabs can't do anything to resist what they consider an "occupation," can you?

As I said in my discussion with Jerry Pournelle just the other day -- it's on his website; look it up, if you'd like -- the Lebanese collectively suffer from both ADD and memory loss, but surely they know that there are other alternatives to pretending that history began two weeks ago.

Just for the sake of argument, let's pretend that Lebanese history began in March of last year. What might non-Hezbollah folks who understood the realities (that Hezbollah couldn't, in the long run, be tolerated; that they weren't going to be disarmed by the outside, etc.) have done in the interim beyond the flag waving and coffeedrinking?

And what might they do both now, and in a couple of months, after their skies are largely empty of IDF F16s?

Posted by: Joel Rosenberg at July 27, 2006 02:29 PM

Yet again, people saying "Lebanon never asked for help." It's just about to make me want to rip my hair out. Can somebody please do the research and find and post links to the following:

- PM Saniora visit to the US in April 2006 (i think), during which he discussed implementing 1559 with president Bush.

- Walid Jumblatt's numerous interviews and speeches declaring a need to disarm hezbollah and cautioning the Lebanese alone could not do it.

- Jumblatt's visit to washington, earlier this year, with very much of the same.

- The Maronite Patriarch's visit to Washington and Boston during which he expressed strong support for 1559 and the disarming of Hezbollah and discussed the means of it with President Bush.

- Condolezza Rice's comments after her first visit to Beirut (earlier this year, i think) that although the US wanted to see 1559 implemented, the administration realized that diarming Hezbollah was going to take some time and was not an achievable target right away.

So for God's sake. Please, do your research before spouting off about Lebanon "never asking for help".

Posted by: Bad Vilbel at July 27, 2006 02:32 PM

Joel Rosenberg,

I don't think you have done much study of the previoius history of the IDF in Lebanon, why it lost to Hezbullah, and what has and hasn't changed.

What has changed since:
- Iran has become a much more powerful regional actor (no serious person on any side or political viewpoint disputes this at all), is a much higher proportion of the population

- The Hezbullah is better armed and has a larger force

- there is no standing or armed Lebanese factional ally/proxy for Israel

- The Lebanese who did feel warm to Israel, and there were many, are now outraged.

This is being played out right now and will only get worse. The IDF is unable to even hold the towns it took. An personw with military expereince would tell you that it is clear what happened at Bint Jbeil -- the IDF fell for an obvious and devestating ambush. We have commentators here telling us Nasrallah is in Damascus wearing a burka. yeah, right.

The ground is turned in a way to push some very dangerous trends.

Posted by: James at July 27, 2006 02:33 PM

Joel,

I certainly understand your argument. It is also not my intention to come across as hostile. I'm not.

Instead of repeating myself, i'll point you to my just-posted comment about the various Lebanese leaders talking about disarming hezbollah and drumming up support for such plans, over the past year. Even Condi Rice admitted this project was gonna take some time.

Now, I say this, but I do not mean to make the "We needed more time" argument. Very simply put, I don't believe it would've worked anyway. And Israel certainly would not have wanted to sit by idle while her soldiers were kidnapped, just to give the Lebanese state more time. Which is why i think this conflict was inevitable. Bound to happen sooner or later.

What I was hoping for at first, was that Israel would make a point. A strong one. Thus shaking the Lebanese into a new dynamic vis a vis disarming Hezbollah. The problem though, as the conflict drags on, is that the "point" being made becomes less and less clear. Hezbollah's position becomes stronger everytime Olmert downgrades his objectives (He went from "Eliminating hezbollah" to "Pushing them 20 miles past the Litani" to "Pushing them 2 miles north of the border").
The longer this drags on, the more this plays into the hands of Hezbollah by turning more moderates to support them (For the first time ever, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt denounced Hezbollah right after the hostilities. 2 weeks in, they're not clamoring about solidarity with their arab friends..See a trend?).

The trick was to make your point and then let a new dynamic emerge while you still looked strong. That's what i was hoping for personally...Suffice to say, that ain't happening now.

Posted by: Bad Vilbel at July 27, 2006 02:46 PM

An excellent op-ed piece by Joshka Fisher, former German foreign minister:

http://www.dailystar.com.lb/article.asp?edition_id=10&categ_id=5&article_id=74308

Goes to show there are much larger considerations being discussed behind closed doors.

Posted by: Bad Vilbel at July 27, 2006 03:38 PM

mct wrote:

"The Israelis treated me like a Hezbollah agent "

and (to describe Israeli airoirt security):

'"Incompetent" comes to mind.'

i think (1) the Israelis may KNOW something about totten that i only suspect. and (2) that totten's charge of "incompetence" - against what is acknowledged as the BEST airport security in the world betrays ANTI-SEMITISM. WHY? it is an obviously IRRATIONAL conclusion that cannot be based merely on his one anecdote.

ALSO: totten shows a cross and crescent on his website BUT NO STAR OF DAVID. yet he calls his blog "mideast journal" subliminally he is saying that Jews don;t belong there - or at least on his blog.

i say: f--k you totten. you and the lebanese. had you EVER written on yourblog OR ANYWHERE that you felt hizballah should be forcibly disarmed? no. becasue you are a jerk who lives in a nowhereland where jihadotrerrorists like hizballah just "fade away.

well, here in the real world they have to be KILLED.

that's what war is.

choose sides. accept what needs to be done to win and stop whining.

you are a hnad-wringer and a whiner and an anti-semite.

Posted by: reliapundit at July 27, 2006 03:48 PM

Reliapundit is banned for trolling.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at July 27, 2006 04:09 PM

Great article. Thanks for posting.

I naturally believe that things are spiraling downward everywhere, so I am as pessimistic as the next guy.

I hope that the worst does not happen but frankly the only saying that comes to mind is this town ain't big enough for the both of us. When one of the 'us' is a collection of low-rent fanatics with a messianic view of reality,backed largely by the 'under-class of society, I don't see what can happen except violence of one degree or another.

Israel has thrown a lighted match into the tinder, but it was tinder beforehand. Someone was going to, sooner or later, start playing with matches.

Hezbollah ---- Deviders not Uniters!!

Posted by: dougf at July 27, 2006 04:11 PM

Michael HAS in fact posted that HA needed to be disarmed. Numerous times.

Michael does not have to "pick sides" either. It's call free choice. It kinda goes along with "Freedom" and "Democracy".

Posted by: bad vilbel at July 27, 2006 04:13 PM

was reliapundit for real? i mean, was it some weird joke?

Posted by: razib at July 27, 2006 04:27 PM

In response to reliapundit's asinine charges...Hezbollah threatened me with physical violence because they correct recognize me as an enemy. And I publicly called for their disarmament in a Los Angeles newspaper.

Also, Charles Johnson over at Little Green Footballs designed my Web site. He put the crescent and cross on my Web site, not me. Anyone want to call Charles an anti-Semite...feel free.

In the meantime, anyone else who feels like accusing me of working as an agent for terrorists or being anti-Semitic will be banned without warning.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at July 27, 2006 04:28 PM

The surest way of cutting off "the supply" to 'The Party of God' is to eliminate the suppliers.

Syria and Iran are bathing in gasoline and playing with matches.

Ahmadinejad is likely goimg to get his conditions for the return of the 12th Imam sooner than he expects...Which is to say sooner than he can get his hands on nuclear weapons.

Hopefully Mahmoud's glorious road to jahanam will be paved by his own people rather than for them by others at their expense, and by other means.

Posted by: monkeyfan at July 27, 2006 04:31 PM

Michael,

You seem to have gotten a bit testy, though understandably. I know the whole situation creates a good deal of stress for you; I wish you luck in heading back and reporting further on events in Lebanon.

Drop me an email if you'd like to get a beer sometime. I live in North Portland and work downtown.

Posted by: Shelby at July 27, 2006 04:50 PM

Shelby,

I'm not testy in general, just fumigating the trolls.

As far as beer goes, ask me in a week. I may have time to come up for air then...

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at July 27, 2006 04:53 PM

I'm not testy in general, just fumigating the trolls.

more power to you! i checked out reliapundit's blog. i guess they are a the real deal, and not someone out to make jews look paranoid.

Posted by: razib at July 27, 2006 04:57 PM

I have disagreed with Michael Totten a time or two but his views are his own and they are not tied to the enemies of western civilization, the Islamo Fascists. I have also disagreed with some of his critiques of Israel but he is not an anti-semite.Infact as I visited some of the Lebanese blogs(blogs with a heavy anti-Israeli slants) last week I noticed MT's blog listed under the "foe" section of the blog links. Agree with him, disagree with him, but his views are unique and what he wants is a pluralistic(in mid east terms) Lebanon and he, unlike the Islamo fascists, does not yearn for the destruction of Israel. I often disagree with him but I have found him to be civil, consistent, and I learn from him even when I don't buy all of his arguments. I have also found that if you ask him questions in a civil manner he will respond to your questions and arguments without attacking you personally. He might attack your arguments but that is the nature of a good discussion.

Posted by: kevin peters at July 27, 2006 05:03 PM

I noticed MT's blog listed under the "foe" section of the blog links.

I saw that on one blog only. Is there more than one?

I get along very well with most Lebanese bloggers. Almost all of them are Westernized lower-case "l" liberals.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at July 27, 2006 05:07 PM

MT:
I went to Truthlaidbear last week and clicked on several Lebanese blogs but the "foe" link was only on one, I can't remember the name. It stuck in mind because I have noticed in my expierences in discussing the middle east I have found that you can go from friend to foe very quickly. I tend to be very pro-Israel but because the issue is so tense one bad sentence can turn friend to a foe in a heartbeat. I have found this true no matter what side of the fence you are on and if you try to straddle at all, look out. I read your blog because I like to find views that challenge my outlook on the region. I don't agree very often but I like the general tone of the discussion, even when it heats up.

Posted by: kevin peters at July 27, 2006 05:26 PM

Reliapundit and his ilk actually think and talk like Nasrallah and Ahmadinejad.

Michael It is interesting you mentioned Little Green Footballs. You see these mindsets cropping up more and more often at Little Green Footballs as well.

They throw around the term Antisemite and dilute it to no meaning. If you do a search of the term antisemitism on LGF, 90% of the citations are well outside any standard definitions by antisemtism scholars in Israel itself. It is almost a new MacCarthysim to use the term nowadays.

There are in fact many people who see, understand, condemn, and advocate fighting the Islamofascists and terrorism to the death, who also see problems with the situation in Lebanon and for that matter see huge problems in Israel's policies (long and short term) concerning the Palestinans and Lebanon.

Some answers are simple but many more reflect complex issues.

Israel has a right to defend itself. It has avowed enemies that are putrid and powerful. That is a very different issue than labeling intelligent people questioning either the strategy in Lebanon or the moral issues brought up by killing hundreds of civilians.

Posted by: James at July 27, 2006 05:32 PM

Michael,

My very Jewish brother was detained at Ben Gurion for hours and missed his flight. He had been visiting me in Israel with a Jewish group, but they still found him suspicious. I don't think it's incompetence - it's caution. And you know damn well why they need to be cautious.

Posted by: Shoshanah at July 27, 2006 05:33 PM

Bad, I think you're not thinking this through very thoroughly -- and I do wish you'd stop accusing me of not having researched this enough, simply because I come to different conclusions than you do.

As to Israel "making a point," I think you're making a fundamental error about the nature of what military action can do, and how it can be used.

Hezbollah can't be, for example, bombed into submission if they're not willing to submit. That said, they can be killed; good militaries are good at killing people and breaking things.

If you don't think that the IDF has made the point that Lebanon's accomodation (at best) of Hezbollah is a bad idea -- for Lebanon -- and that ridding itself of Hezbollah is both an important (check; they knew that) and urgent (as Michael Totten's writings have made clear, they didn't see that) for Lebanon, how much more damage do you think would make that point?

Would the actual level of damage being claimed by the Euroweenies and the Lebanese government -- and, for that matter, Michael Totten with his talk about the "bombing all of Lebanon" -- be necessary?

My own take is that, sooner or later, the level of destruction visited on the "Palestinians" by Hussein ibn Talal in the six months of "Black September" is going to be necessary, if it's visited on Hezbollah and their Shiite supporters. That is, unfortunately, a minimum, I think.

Next time the Lebanese invite the devil to sup, they need a much longer spoon.

Posted by: Joel Rosenberg at July 27, 2006 05:34 PM

the Israelis may KNOW something about totten that i only suspect.

LOL Yeah Michael has been unmasked. He's secretly been working for the Revolutionary Guard this whole time (as anyone can tell from the fulsome praise he heaps on them here). Hence the trip to Iran: he needed to pick up his check.

Anyone want to call Charles an anti-Semite...feel free.

Wow, this conspiracy goes deeper than I thought...

Posted by: TallDave at July 27, 2006 05:36 PM

Shoshannah: My very Jewish brother was detained at Ben Gurion for hours and missed his flight. He had been visiting me in Israel with a Jewish group, but they still found him suspicious. I don't think it's incompetence - it's caution.

Suspicion isn't incompetence. The inability to recognize an Iraqi passport stamp is. So is the fact that the airport's computers are not connected to the Internet and that Israel security cannot punch anyone's name into Google.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at July 27, 2006 05:39 PM

Wow, Michael.

So you were in Israel. At the Ben Gurion airport 3 days ago. And, you're angry that you were treated to a long inquisition.

It reminds me that you were also in the Kurdish part of Iraq. And, your friends from IRAQ THE MODEL could not get in.

In America, we're not used to "PROFILING." But the day will come when lives depend on it.

I don't think the Israelis are incompetent. I think you're just very angry. So you don't see straight.

It's been about two weeks' worth of time, since the Israeli's reacted to the capture of two Israeli soldiers. Lots of lessons are being learned, here. And, whether Nasrallah escaped to Damascus wearing a dress. Or not. Isn't the issue. He did toss his black turban off, however. And, Assad and he are discussing "how things are going in Lebanon." While Assad is not lifting a single jet into the air. And, the IDF is tightening its hold in Southern Lebanon.

If the reports that have reached the media are true. Then, a lot of the Hezbollah resources have been ground up. (Which is one of the reasons a very small area in Beirut has been pounded. ALL THE STUFF THAT HEZBOLLAH HAD, be it their money supply (banks). Or the buried underground bunker network, have in fact been trashed. This makes it harder for the HEZBOLLAH'S TO RE-TOOL.

From the screams now coming out of Iran, you could guess that resupplying Nasrallah right now won't be easy. Nor does it seem likely that Assad is willing to join the fray.

Up ahead, Lebanon will be facing life without the Hex threat. It seems that it is being reduced.

This also means Maliki, returning to Iraq, has also seen the light of day. As the iranian threat is meeting it's match in one place. Lebanon. Perhaps, syria has real problems, too?

We're only in WEEK #2, here.

And, I'm going to guess you weren't able to find transportation from Israel into Lebanon. So, Nasrallah isn't the only person finding difficult times, due to Israel's "house cleaning."

I'll also guess that as long as syria tries to represent Lebanon at the diplomatic table, there's a rising anger, now, coming from the Christians and the Druze.

"Babes in toyland" won't solve this problem. But the Shia's stick may be getting broken, if not trounced.

The Cedar Revolution? Didn't the Ukranians also have one of those? Where their idealism outstretched their reality? I do wonder what reality holds, ahead, though. Vichy Lebanon isn't much of a solution, though. If not Assad, then Chirac? Oy.

Posted by: Carol Herman at July 27, 2006 05:58 PM

Michael,

In the second photo there is a man with what appear to be camo fatigues and a blond crew cut. Pretty much hidden in the shot, but seemingly out of place. Any idea who or what he might be?

Also, behind and to the right of the car is what might be a Boris Karlof reanime - this guy must be seven feet tall.

If these guys are the Christians, please send help for the lions.

Posted by: jdwill at July 27, 2006 06:02 PM

Joel,

Again, I apologize if I accused you of not doing your research. Fair enough. It's been a rough week around here, with some people posting complete and utter fiction (as you have seen yourself I'm sure).

I'm not sure I followed your last post. It seemed to me like you and I somewhat agree on certain points: The point has already been made to the rest of Lebanon that Israel will not tolerate Hezbollah. (i think that's what you are saying?) That's also what I said or meant to say (now that i re-read my previous post, i see how it might have sounded unclear). What I was trying to get at is that Israel needs to make this short. The point has already been made to the Lebanese at large that we need to deal with hezbollah. We get it. The message is received loud and clear.

Furthermore, the international community gets it (despite the official rethoric) and the moderate arab countries get it.

The problem is in PROLONGING the military conflict. The longer it goes, the more the initial message that Israel delivered gets forgotten and eroded.

You and I disagree perhaps on the tactics here, but i think Israel's best chance was a week into this conflict. At that point EVERYONE was blaming Hezbollah. Everyone wanted to kick their asses (and i say that both metaphorically and literally). 2 weeks, 3 weeks into the conflict, Israel is not looking as strong as they did with the initial strikes. And the anger at Hezbollah is fading.

The fact that Israel now admits they likely can't eliminate Hezbollah altogether (which was the original goal stated) and would likely have to settle for a 2 mile buffer zone is not lost on the assholes in Tehran and Damascus. Nor is it lost on Hassan Nassrallah. As we speak, those guys are probably waiting to declare victory to their constituents. We'll get to hear more arguments from hezbollah about how we lebanese need them to defend us from the israeli aggression (eyeroll) and how they stood strong and emerged victorious.
And lastly, we'll get to watch Nasrallah point at the rubble in South Lebanon, and tell the Shia "See how evil Israel is? They destroyed all the hospitals and schools we built for you."

Posted by: Bad Vilbel at July 27, 2006 06:04 PM

lamedazyin,

You can't fault any civilians for fleeing when bombs are landing on their hands. I'm pretty sure Israeli civilians in northern Israel have also fled to the more secure parts of the country over the past 2 weeks. It doesn't mean either populace doesn't like their country enough.
In fact, we DID rebuild our country after 15 years of civil war, between 1990 and 2006. And I guarantee you we will rebuild it again after this is over.

Your argument makes very little sense.

Posted by Bad Vilbel at July 27, 2006 01:38 PM

Actually, most Israelis have not fled, just entered bomb shelters. But of course I am not talking about fleeing during the actual firing. I'm talking about all those moderate Lebanese we keep hearing about who are leaving the country for good. Whether or not Israelis are running from their North (which as I said they by and large are not), you can rest assured they are planning on coming back to rebuild when the war is over.

Posted by: lamedzayin at July 27, 2006 06:06 PM

So are a lot of Lebanese. We did, after all, rebuild Lebanon between 1990 and 2006.
We'll do it again.

Our two peoples are a lot more alike than most people like to admit. Trust me on that.

Posted by: Bad Vilbel at July 27, 2006 06:20 PM

The reality is that Hezbollah must be destroyed. With the nattering nabobs meeting in Rome to discuss options and reaching no conclusion, Israel will be allowed to commence full scale liquidation of the Hez scum.

Nobody else, including the Lebanese, can do it; so we (the US) let Israel run until there is no more running to do.

IDF/IAF have smashed command and control for Hez and Hez is on the run. Hez is attempting to fight IDF head on and they will lose. This time it is different folks.

Once Hez is liquidated, the money will flow in to rebuild Lebanon, nuture along the democratic government and strengthen/rebuild the army. In the meantime an international force (perhaps NATO) could move in to stabilize and monitor southern Lebanon.

Then attention can be turned to Syria so that the screws can be turned on Baby Bashar.

Let's roll!

Posted by: Bill at July 27, 2006 06:27 PM

"Once Hez is liquidated, the money will flow in to rebuild Lebanon, nuture along the democratic government and strengthen/rebuild the army. In the meantime an international force (perhaps NATO) could move in to stabilize and monitor southern Lebanon."

Yeah, once Israel takes out all of Lebanon's hit points, Lebanon can just restart the game--let's just remind them to save their character often so they can start up where they left off. Let's roll! Yee-haw!

Posted by: rrkent at July 27, 2006 07:34 PM

The Viet Cong could not have won without Soviet money and arms; nor could the Afgans have won without US arms and money. Al Qaeda, Hamas and Hezb'Allah could not have survived without Soviet arms and money and later Iranian, Saudi and Iraqi money.

Saudi and Iraqi money is cut off. All that remains is Iranian money and Syrian sanctuary. Remove these two and Hezb'Allah, Hamas and Al Qaeda can be beaten in the field as they run out of ammunition, explosives and weapons. Leave the financing in place and terrorism will continue as long as the money flows.

Posted by: sol vason at July 27, 2006 07:51 PM

Carol Herman: I don't think the Israelis are incompetent. I think you're just very angry.

How many times do I have to say this? The Israelis (at least three of them) in the airport Passport Control booth do not know what an Iraqi passport stamp looks like. This is incompetence, not anger on my part because I was profiled.

It's also dumb that their computer system is disconnected from the Internet and Google, etc. Why unplug their system from a powerful means of threat detection?

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at July 27, 2006 08:12 PM

Carol Herman: And, I'm going to guess you weren't able to find transportation from Israel into Lebanon.

This has not been possible for many decades except via IDF tanks.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at July 27, 2006 08:14 PM

jdwill: In the second photo there is a man with what appear to be camo fatigues and a blond crew cut. Pretty much hidden in the shot, but seemingly out of place. Any idea who or what he might be?\

He is Lebanese army.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at July 27, 2006 08:16 PM

Bad Vilbel: Our two peoples are a lot more alike than most people like to admit. Trust me on that.

Ain't that the truth.

I have been to both countries. Israel and Lebanon have far more in common with each other than they have with any other countries in the world. This gets totally lost amid all the bang bang, but it's obvious to anyone who has been to both places.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at July 27, 2006 08:20 PM

Michael, you've written a truly thought provoking post here, and the comments are for the most part solid gold.

Lebanon is paying the price of sovereignty. They are the EU but without the U.S. providing security; I have heard the term "latte democracy" bandied about before now but don't use it myself because it's not quite that simple.

But it's close. Sadly enough.

Hezbollah has been operating for decades in Lebanon. They are an arm of the Iranian revolution, and they occupy swathes of Lebanon supposedly under "observation" by the U.N.

There's a lot of back and forth about "winning" or "disarming" Hezbollah.

Can anyone define "win"? Seems to me that the victory conditions that Israel would have to achieve (in the eyes of western intelligentsia/media and the Muslim world) would translate roughly as massacre.

I say that because even if the IDF spends a month or six killing Hezbollah fighters at an exchange rate of better than twenty to one, fixes and destroys every bunker and log store south of the river, eventually sanitizes the southern forty or fifty miles of Lebanon to the extent that no more Iranian missiles remain, and then kicks control of the battlefield over to some third party (it's not going to be the U.N. on Israel's borders ever again), all that needs to happen is for one sniper or mortar team or kidnapping squad to strike across the border and Hez will be credited as the victor.

I mean, shit, it's been the operating modus for fifty years now, right?

If the objective is to stop the killing, then the people directing the killing need to be dealt with.

That means Syria and Iran.

This is a world war. The only side holding street parades and broadcasting martial music ala August 1914 happen to the headchoppers, but it is August 1914, again, just the same.

Hezbollah isn't "winning" anything right now. They are fighting a set piece battle against a force designed expressly for that purpose. They can die in place, but they can't survive a protracted engagement. They are guerillas, as everyone points out.

I have been watching and listening to the diplomatic kabuki dance, and am frankly in awe of the irony therein.

Hezbollah depended on the continuation of the status quo - international condemnation of Israel translating into political or economic pressures leading to imposed ceasefires and sham peace processes - and are now watching CNN and Sky as players like Jordan and Saudi and the EU fail to follow the script.

A country that can't control it's borders - or foreign relations - isn't much of a country. Lebanon in it's latest iteration enjoyed enclaves of liberality because the resultant economic benefits were judged worthwhile for the real masters, Syria (and Iran, by extension) and Hezbollah. That resisting those masters is dangerous as hell is neither here nor there.

If you are going to be a country, you have to BE a country. Bloody as that may get. Or, don't be surprised when your neighbors have to blow your house down to get the murderers who live next door to you. Because that is where we are right now.

I don't have any answers. If Lebanon publicly appealed to the world (including Israel) for help to rid their country of Islamofascists headchoppers and their Syrian suppliers and Iranian controllers, and promised to be a free democracy at peace with all its neighbors in the aftermath, I'd support sending U.S. troops there in a heart beat.

The pictures that you, Michael, have drawn of the Lebanese people show me that they are a civilized, intelligent, proud people... trapped on the edge of the darkness we only see on days like September 11.

Syria and Iran. If we want the killing to stop, we know where to go.

None of us knows the cost yet. But we will.

Posted by: TmjUtah at July 27, 2006 08:54 PM

Good piece. 'Insha allah' is the same demonic blood god that is responsible for the insanity into which Hezbollah propelled Lebanon. Not a good idea to reference the demon.

Posted by: noallah at July 27, 2006 09:02 PM

In reply to Mr Lamedzyain I would suggest we start an "Idiot of the Day" category.

"...The Lebanese who are fleeing are demonstrating what Israel already knows - that they do not love their country enough to want to fix it.."

You are an absolute ignorant and idiot for that matter. The Lebanese have been fixing and rebuilding their country for the past 15 years and will continue to do so. Read a book or a newspaper for heaven's sake before you make a full of yourself.

You also claim:

"...most Israelis (not all, but most) wouldn't flee the country like the Lebanese you are describing, but would rebuild it, because their attachment to their country cannot be severed."

You've just topped your idiotic statement with another one. Do you honestly think that "ALL" Israelis have gone back to their homeland. I just happen to know 7 israeli families here in the US who would never go back. Hmmmmm!!!

Seriously, take some time off to remove your foot from your mouth and then grab a book or two and start learning about the conflict in the middle east. Heck, here's a good one to read "From Beirut to Jerusalem".

Posted by: Jason at July 27, 2006 09:05 PM

I forgot to mention that I'm sending another check.

Thanks for the good work, sir.

Posted by: TmjUtah at July 27, 2006 09:51 PM

Lots of posts since mine, but I can't get on here enough to keep up with the flow, normally I do not respond but I felt I needed to here:

"Posted by Bad Vilbel at July 26, 2006 10:55 PM

I'd like to point out your Iraq analogy: 3 years of fighting there, with the strongest military on earth, and over 100,000 troops...and the insurgency still rages.

These things aren't easy. And they don't get done in a few weeks. And ultimately, it has been proven over and over again that you cannot completly militarily defeat a local guerilla force.

Hezbollah is not the strongest army in the middle east (not even close). Not in the conventional sense. But they have the advantage of being a guerilla force. Guerilla forces are extremely hard to defeat entirely."

I do not see where I figured it would be over quickly and totally. In fact (just as in Iraq) I doubt it will be over for decades. People have long memories - there is still resentment and hard feelings over the Civil War in much of the US.

The only "Iraq anaology" is that if the Lebonese wanted to make a go at removing them we should help. That statement doesn't even assume any level of success - I have no real idea what level of succes to suspect (that would depend on how much support Hizbolla has from the average Lebonese). However, any group of opressed people that are really willing to fight (and die) for thier freedom (real freedom - not to replace one terrible regime with another) I support our help if we can, even more so if it will benifit us (both in reduction in terrorist bases and it would give a good buffer zone from Syria - want to see why Iran is acting as they are? Look at a map and think of the area we know control with Iraq and Afghanastan and the logistics/tactics of a war with them).

I would guess that Lebanon would be much more difficult than Iraq to do. I suspect from things people have written that Hizbolla has a certain amount of popularity that Saddam didn't even come close too. A much larger area and more popular than than Saddma in the so called "sunni triangle" in Iraq. But it is still very much worth doing.

Posted by: strcpy at July 27, 2006 09:58 PM

Suspicion isn't incompetence. The inability to recognize an Iraqi passport stamp is.

It's utterly bewildering to me that they wouldn't recognise an Iraqi stamp at Ben Gurion. That's over the top. It makes me wonder whether they weren't lying to you. They do weird things at that airport.

So is the fact that the airport's computers are not connected to the Internet and that Israel security cannot punch anyone's name into Google.

Less unlikely; the best firewall is a pair of scissors. Most high-security military facilities have at least a section not connected to any external network.

But since they told you they didn't recognise your Iraq stamp (a thing that pegs my BS detector), I'm not inclined to trust anything they said. I think you were one of the lucky winners in their long-running daily small-room-with-single-unshaded-bulb raffle (which I believe they expand during, erm, times of tension). At least, I've heard weirder stories.

p.s. Your post was fantastic. Nobody ever knows what's really going on over there, but you're clearly closer than most.

Posted by: Data at July 27, 2006 10:00 PM

strcpy,

Thanks for clarifying. I had interpreted your original comments to be yet another one of the myriad ones we've read on here lately that either suggest Israel will make quick work of Hezbollah. Or that the Lebanese government should've somehow been capable of dealing with Hezbollah in the one year it's been independent, and with no reliable army.

Posted by: Bad Vilbel at July 27, 2006 10:11 PM

Michael,

Who says Israel is 'bombing all of Lebanon instead of the Hezbullah centres'?

You have proof of this?

Such unverifiable claims make the situation worse. I suggest by repeating this you have now made another, much more serious mistake.

Posted by: Bruce at July 27, 2006 11:18 PM

Bruce,

Ehden, Jounieh, and Byblos were bombed. They are all Christian cities in the north.

Sidon and Tripoli also were bombed. They are Sunni.

Civilian roads out were bombed, too, as was the international airport terminal.

The lighthouse in my neighborhood was destroyed.

Four trucks that could have been related to Hezbollah (but weren't) were blown up in the Christian neighborhood of Achrafieh, Beirut.

I could go on, but you get the point by now I assume.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at July 27, 2006 11:32 PM

"it has been proven over and over again that you cannot completly militarily defeat a local guerilla force."

Yes you can. Cannot<will not. The U.S. could level Iraq as well as any other country in the region. I am not suggesting that we should level the place, but the U.S. is better off with:

"I will burn you and everything you love to the ground for the final time"

over

"Yeah, we are buddies."

"But they have the advantage of being a guerilla force. Guerilla forces are extremely hard to defeat entirely."

Not exactly. A guerilla force dies like everyone else if you apply the proper amount of firepower.

I agree with your points as far as the current conflict goes. I am certain that the threatened "guerilla/terrorsim/non-conv." war will not last very long if it is waged on the states.

Posted by: mike at July 27, 2006 11:32 PM

rrkent,

While this isn't a video game where you can press restart, it is the modern world where investment capital can work miracles.

Lebanon has rebuilt before, it will rebuild again.

Will it be quick and easy? As easy as pressing restart on the XBOX? No!

However stopping now under the false pretenses of "peace" or "cease-fire", overseen by a limp/corrupt UN will only let Hez off the hook (again!!!), to eventually rebuild, rearm and attack again.

Let's roll! Do it now as the opportunity has presented itself! Carpe diem!

Lebanon is unable to get rid of Hez themselves. The rest of the world doesn't want to stick their toe in the country. So let the Israelis run forth and destory as many cells and Hez combatants as possible.

Everyone understands this won't be nice-n-clean and there will be tactical mistakes along with unintended deaths. That is the nature of war, one in which the Israelis did not start.

Hez (along with Syria and Iran) have gambled and lost. Hez will now pay the piper.

Syria is next and most likely will need to be dealt with via confrontation.

Iran is another story in my opinion; confrontation could be dicey and turn the tide against support for democracy (I believe most Iranians want freedom, democracy).

Yet if the world can deal fatal blows to Hez, Syria and undermine the Iranian regime such that the people of Iran throw the imam-bums out, those are pivotal steps that further reshape a very troubled part of the world.

Lebanon had a breif moment/taste of freedom/democracy; it was under false pretenses as Hez was festering below, sinking their tentacles into government, UN outposts, schools, hospitals, shielding themselves shamelessly amongst the citizenry.

There will come a time (hopefully sooner than later) where Lebanon chooses their destiny, to finally rebuild dream of a free society.

Peace comes about when one side realizes the other will never give in and will continue to fight/kill/annihilate their enemy.

The battle for peace has been underway for some time now and it must be demonstrated to the enemies we will not relent.

Posted by: Bill at July 28, 2006 12:12 AM

Which is why I would like to find some sort of solution to this that does not take us back to the status quo. Problem is, i don't see a solution from my vantage point. And i am not convinced that the current Israeli response is working. Let's agree on that maybe? We need SOMETHING ELSE.

There is a solution that does not take us back to the starting point.

It will be painful, bloody, and expensive... but the alternative is the status quo.

in the short term, Lebanon's options are 1) have Israel cause as much damage to Hizbullah as they can (i.e., the current Israeli response), 2) Destroy Hizbullah yourselves (which means another civil war), or 3) go back to the status quo and go through what's going on now every 3-5 years, as Israel and Hezbullah go through the hudna-rebuild-fight-ceasefire-hudna-rebuild-fight-ceasefire cycle again and again and again.

Of course, this assumes a few things, mainly, that Assad and the Mullahs will remain in control of their respective countries indefinitely. Assad might, but the Mullahs probably won't- an Iranian nuke is certain to draw a very, um, 'vigorous' response from the US, and they seem hellbent on getting it.

The long-term question for Lebanon is if you want to be on the sidelines when that starts, or on the front_line. If Hizbullah is still in Lebanon, you are going to be on the front line.

I understand that it is difficult to take the long view when your country is being invaded. Please try to do so anyway. Some seriously bad $h!t is coming, and this is just the prologue.

You and I disagree perhaps on the tactics here, but i think Israel's best chance was a week into this conflict. At that point EVERYONE was blaming Hezbollah. Everyone wanted to kick their asses (and i say that both metaphorically and literally). 2 weeks, 3 weeks into the conflict, Israel is not looking as strong as they did with the initial strikes. And the anger at Hezbollah is fading.

That's one way to look at it.

Another way to look at it is that the Israelis are weakening Hizbullah so that the Lebanese can finish them off. Believe me, regular Israeli troops are much better trained and equipped than either the Lebanese army or any Lebanese militia, it is better for you if the Israelis do the hard stuff.

A certain number of Lebanese are going to die. The number will be smaller this way.

ps to MJT: I was there three days ago. The Israelis treated me like a Hezbollah agent and grilled me for five hours when all I wanted to do was get on the next plane out.

Stuff like that is why no El Al flight has ever been hijacked. If you want security, you give up a certain amount of convenience, money, and liberty. Believe me, there are lots of bad people would would dearly love to get on an airplane flying out of Israel. Especially now.

As far as not recognizing an Iraqi passport stamp is concerned, please remember that it's probably been a very, very long time since they last saw one. And no airport in the world connects the computers at the ticket counter to the internet, for very good reasons.

Posted by: rosignol at July 28, 2006 12:43 AM

I think Israel is, slowly, losing the non-Leb political battle. They could improve their political battles with more pictures of bunkers, and missiles, and pictures of the locations of missiles in or near civilian houses. They could complain more loudly about UN implicit support for Hez -- by being there for 6 year, but NOT disarming, nor even accurately describing what they saw Hez doing. Now the UN is acting like human shields to protect Hez fighters and supporters.

Non-fighting Hez supporters are the problem, just as Sunni Iraq supporters of terrorists are the Iraq problem. (The Shia death squads can be dealt with quickly, I believe, once the Sunni supported terrorists stop murdering Shia.)

I support a "sustainable cease-fire". I'm afraid Israel is lowering the goal-posts, but haven't followed their official statemsnts. I think they've always officially maintained very limited operations.

I strongly believe Israel made tactical mistakes by too many anti-Christian, anti-Druze, anti-Sunni attacks. But I'm humble enough to know I could be wrong -- it depends on the future answer to this question: Who is to blame?

If Israel can successfully blame Hez, they win the future. If Hez successfully blames Israel, Israel doesn't win. I know the freedom state I want, but not how to get there if the Shia people support Hez.

I can also believe that, even if Israel "loses" this, by leaving without stopping Hez, they come come back and destroy more Hez assets in a future "loss".

Only if Hez actually stops killing Israelis does Israel "win"; and if, after this, Hez keeps killing Israelis, that will be proof the Israeli response was NOT "disproportionate".

I have to admit I was hoping Israel would suck in the Syrians into an attack to save Hez, so that Israel could defend themselves some more by bombing Syrian gov't installations in Damascus -- but Syria isn't saving Hez with the Syrian army, yet. Will they? Who knows.

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad at July 28, 2006 01:43 AM

I love reading ahistorical bullshit from a bunch of racist zionists. You do our president great hommage in one downsmanship. You are a bunch of yahoos. Israeli soldiers the greatest fighters on earth as long as they are armed with 5 billion dollars worth of U.S. military technology every year and are fighting impoverished Arabs who might have a few rockets and some rifles.

Best start treating your neighbors with respect and start acting like human beings for a change. You've guilt tripped the world for sixty years with the holocaust even though the hard core zionist founders of your country collaborated with the nazis against their own. zionist terrorists drove the Palestinians out of their homes as early as 1930. With the collaboration of the British you marginilized the people living in palestine and treated them like dirt until they finally rebelled then you used the British as proxies to fight your battles for you. You decimated 350 Arab villages and massacred every man ,woman, and child in Dier Yessin a people who never did anything to the people in Hagganah. In other words you acted like Nazis. Because you are Nazis. Your country has trained death squads in Central America. Your country supported the Apartheid Government of South Africa when the rest of civilized world had a trade embargo against them.
It is amazing what a wonderful job the Zionist media in the U.S. has done brainwashing you nabobs. Oh, and tell the Zionist pig neocons who have cost the American taxpayers 200 billion dollars so far in their little proxy war in Iraq thanks a lot.

Seven million people living in shithole sliver of desert isn't worth starting a world war over. Even if you deluded fucks do believe you are Gods chosen, nobody else who is sane shares those sentiments.

Posted by: yeranalyst at July 28, 2006 02:37 AM

"Seven million people living in shithole sliver of desert isn't worth starting a world war over. Even if you deluded fucks do believe you are Gods chosen, nobody else who is sane shares those sentiments."

In another thread, I was asked why America isn’t responding to threats with the use of overwhelming force as I believe we should. I responded by discussing what our children have been taught by modern educators and intellectuals:

“For decades, the intellectuals of the left -- the professors and teachers in our colleges and schools, supported and echoed by many in the media -- have waged a long and successful ideological war to convince us that not only is America no better than any other nation, but that we are in fact responsible for much of the world's ills.”

I then listed some of the revisionist history they have been taught about American-sponsored genocide, the superiority of other cultures, etc, and concluded as follows:

“Having had this narrative rammed down their throats from grammar school through college, they are unleashed on society brimming with hate at this long, unrequited list of injustices committed by or on behalf of their country, and they are ready to swallow any story or theory -- however preposterous -- that fits with this view of the world.”

We now have a concrete, and perfectly typical example of the type of mentality this war against the west has created: yeranalyst. The content of his post reveals the sort of utterly twisted revisionist history now being taught -- and its seething hostility is typical of a mind that has been taught not to think, but to indulge the resentment inherent in a world view in which we are all victims of vast forces of evil that trample the rights of people all over the globe and brainwash the masses.

We have two whole generations of such people in America and the west. Granted, most are not as damaged as yeranalyst -- but a large percentage of those two generations share many of his premises and experience the same emotions, just somewhat less intensely. Such people will never believe the west worth saving or defending. And you cannot persuade them otherwise. A very wise man once said, “You cannot reason a person out of a position that they did not reason themselves into in the first place.”

Posted by: Michael Smith at July 28, 2006 03:54 AM

Maybe Mr. Smith you can enlighten us as to which U.S. atrocities you are accusing me an others as touting in our revisionist history.

For people like you their is no need to revise history when that history is a tome of lies perpetuated by the ruling class.

I'm willing to go over every example of what you deem to be revisionist history. Let us see who is telling the truth and who is shoveling dung. Or would you prefer to just make accusations using unsubstatiated broad patriotic brush strokes to gild your lilly.
What is wrong with this country is not people who are questioning and critical of the policies of the ruling class. The problem is unquestioning, ill informed history and political dilittantes who have informed themselves by reading U.S.A. Today or watching MacNeil Liar Report.

The truth is you are an intellectually lazy conformist who wants to feel good about the state of U.S. political affairs because it makes you feel good about yourself.

Ask someone who was tortured at Guantanamo or Abu Ghraib or someone who has a child that was just incinerated by an American incendiary bomb if they give a shit about how good you feel about yourself.

You are probably one of the mentally questionables who believe that Arab Hijackers attacked the World Trade Center because They "hated our freedoms" or perhaps you believe that all these people who oppose our country simply appeared out of an evil vacuum a parallel dimension of bizarro world. Or perhaps you just simply believe that anyone who opposes this country is evil apriori.

Until you get more specific in your charges. The only reasonable reply to your bluster is "I know you are, but what am I."

Posted by: yeranalyst at July 28, 2006 04:40 AM

Bad . . . apology certainly accepted. Not a big deal; having one's country attacked doesn't necessarily lead to courteous expression.

You and I disagree perhaps on the tactics here, but i think Israel's best chance was a week into this conflict. At that point EVERYONE was blaming Hezbollah. Everyone wanted to kick their asses (and i say that both metaphorically and literally). 2 weeks, 3 weeks into the conflict, Israel is not looking as strong as they did with the initial strikes. And the anger at Hezbollah is fading.

That, I think, is you letting your understandable preferences cloud your thinking.

The issue isn't some transient Lebanese irritation with Hezbollah. The issue is simply this: are the non-Hezbollah Lebanese (for simplicity's sake: the Christians, Druze, and Sunni) now persuaded that it's in their urgent interest to take whatever actions are necessary to dismantle Hezbollah ... even though such actions are, at a minimum, going to be very bloody, and require an acceptance of at least a long-term loss of practical (if not theoretical) Lebanese sovereignty of the south, at least to (and probably farther than) the Litani?

Assume -- as I think is more than an assumption -- that Nasrallah won't "step back", as Michael Young hopefully suggests that he might. Will Nasrallah be fighting more than the "figurative" war that's all that Young, supposedly radically, is suggesting that he might "soon" be facing?

If not, isn't it clear that the lesson has, as of yet, not been learned by the Lebanese?

Understand, I'm not uncritical of Israel. I don't think that fighting along the boobytrapped border rather than crashing through to the Litani was the right call. I don't think that minimal attacks on the Lebanese Army make sense (if it's really so Hezbollah-bound, it's not something that can be "rebuilt" to be useful), nor do the too-great (IMHO) attempts to separate Hezbollah from their human body armor (I think reasonable procedures to minimize casualties among the human body armor are, well, reasonable; but giving Hezbollards the opportunity to flee was a bad idea, when it happened in the south and in Beirut; the effect is to encourage Hezbollah to get even more sophisticated in its use of human body armor), etc.

And I look at the map of Beirut where the destruction has been preposterously localized (compare it to, say, Berlin or Dresden or Tokyo during WWII, and you'd wonder what the complaint is about) and hear normally reasonable people like Michael Totten talk about how Israel is destroying "all" of Lebanon (although, to be fair, he has recently dismissed the notion of random bombing as silly, and is merely implying that Israeli attacks should only be localized in Shiite areas) ...

... and I think, nope, the lesson hasn't yet taken.

Posted by: Joel Rosenberg at July 28, 2006 05:22 AM

Michael, I read in The Daily Star that besides the Hezbollah station, both LBC and FTV were also bombed off the air. Disrupture of infrastructure, physical and ethereal, so to speak, doesn't do much for cohesiveness. I've read a lot about U.S. desire for a strong Lebanese state but much of the Israeli targeting makes sense only in the context of a willingness to leave a destabilized Lebanon behind after cessation of hostilities. Would you agree with that?
Based on your knowledge, and this question is also for the other posters with knowledge of Lebanon, how long can the current government actually last? Its impotence is apparent to every Lebanese; who could possibly respect it now? If the war ended tomorrow, what condition would Lebanon be in, other than chaos?
One last question, sure to rain missiles down upon me. In all scenarios, Hezbollah seems to be the master of the option; it can't win, but neither can it be eliminated. Why not incorporate it into a reformed, regular Lebanese Army? Purge its most radical Islamist elements first (as probable or as improbable as disarming the entire force) and reorder it from an irregular to a regular force charged with the defense of southern Lebanon. History is filled with militias becoming part of their national armies and while this may seen implausible it's no more so than notions of disarming Hezbollah. Thanks.

Posted by: joe at July 28, 2006 05:24 AM

We now have a concrete, and perfectly typical example of the type of mentality this war against the west has created: yeranalyst.

I am not at all certain yeranalyst is an American. The rhetoric used strongly reminds me of people who have grown up in places with a state-controlled media, and I'd be surprised if more than 1% of Americans had ever heard of Deir Yassin, or knew what Haganah was. But people who grew up in, say, an arab middle eastern country would almost certainly have heard of these things.

Culture isn't just what you know, it's what you don't know.

Posted by: rosignol at July 28, 2006 06:46 AM

I'm afraid Unreliapundit is for real. His blog is not huge, but it has been linked to favorably by many prominent sites on the right. I know it reads like a Colbert-esque parody of the right, but I'm afraid he is totally serious. I have done some debunking of his more ludicrous claims at my blog.

One of the truly funny things about Unreliapundit is that he quotes Patton, advoates total war, etc., but he recently deleted all comments on his site to cut down on people exposing his ridiculous, unfounded assertions for what they were. A true chickenhawk, if ever there was one.

Posted by: Joe Yangtree at July 28, 2006 07:02 AM

Rosignol says:
Another way to look at it is that the Israelis are weakening Hizbullah so that the Lebanese can finish them off. Believe me, regular Israeli troops are much better trained and equipped than either the Lebanese army or any Lebanese militia, it is better for you if the Israelis do the hard stuff.

That is all fine and well, as long as you assume Israel is weakening Hezbollah to a point where someone (the Lebanese) can finish them off.
I was of this opinion 2 weeks ago. Seeing Israel's "goals" downgraded from "remove Hezbollah" to "1 mile buffer" and seeing that more rockets are raining down on Israel today than 2 weeks ago makes me wonder if Israel is REALLY hurting Hezbollah as much as we all want them to.
If Hezbollah is still standing, when this is over, even at 50%, they'll have gained way too much standing for the Lebanese to "finish them off". That's the point i made earlier: The longer this conflict goes, the more Israel is seen as the bad guy, and Hezbollah as the "victims" (I cringe at using that word, but you get the idea). And that will make it harder for the Lebanese to finish off said "victim" without infuriating the Shia (not only in Lebanon, but everywhere else).

After week 1, when Siniora came out on TV asking for a cease fire, a return to the 1949 armistice and a spread of Lebanese troops to the south. Everyone could've been behind him had he taken on Hezbollah right then and there.
Not so today.

Posted by: Bad Vilbel at July 28, 2006 09:13 AM

Joel Rosenberg,

In response to your long post (too long to quote).
I really don't disagree much with what you say there.

I do think the lesson is being learned by the Lebanese. I do think it IS SINKING IN.

I don't think the irritation with Hezbollah was transient at all, considering we were looking at disarming them a year ago. The sunni-druze-christian (who are not traditional allies) had banded together (what we call the march 14th alliance) not merely to throw out the Syrians, but at a more deeply rooted level, because all 3 communities feel threatened by Hezbollah and the Shiite influence coming from Iran.

Did they do enough to take on Hezbollah? No. We agree on that. The near-traumatic fear of a new civil war kept this alliance timid and close to powerless over the past year.

I think, at the VERY LEAST, the current round of hostilities made it loud and clear to them that something will need to be done to dismantle Hezbollah ASAP, and that we don't have months and years to do it. And that it won't necessarily be peaceful. I think all Lebanese see that today.

Posted by: Bad Vilbel at July 28, 2006 09:23 AM

"I am not at all certain yeranalyst is an American."

You may be right. He uses the phrase "our country" and "this country" in reference to America, so I assumed he is in America. Perhaps he grew up in an Arab country and then moved to the Great Satan. In any case, the ideological war against the west (and I include Israel under that umbrella term) is being waged in universities and by intellectuals all over the world, so he could have been indoctrinated somewhere other than America.

Posted by: Michael Smith at July 28, 2006 09:58 AM

There is a lot of MSM talk about a cease fire. Obviously Israel will be one party that signs the Cease Fire Agreement but who is the other party?

It can't be Lebanon or Egypt or the
Palestine Authority because they have nothing they are firing that they can cease firing. It can't be Syria or Iran because signing would be an admission of responsibility.

It can't be Hezb'Allah because they are a bunch of terrorists and letting them sign would recognize their sovereignity over Lebanon. Further, who ever signed for Hezb'Allah would be admitting personal responsibility for intentional indiscriminate bombing of Israeli civilians which is a war crime under international law.

Therefore only Israel will sign a ceasefire because the other side cannot. Suppose Kofi Annan signs for Hezb'Allah.

Suppose the following day a Katusha rocket is fired at Israel, hits something and explodes. Does this cancel the cease fire? Or is all the talk of cease fires just another way to kill Jews.

Posted by: sol vason at July 28, 2006 10:18 AM

Rosignol, You are right about two things. It is doubtful that many more than one percent of the American public have heard of Deir Yassin and I was raised in a country with a state owned media. I grew up in Wisconsin. Mutual Broadcasting was partially owned by the CIA. Copley News Service was wholly owned by the CIA. William Paley former president of CBS was CIA. Phillip Graham and Ben Bradlee of Washington Post fame were CIA. Walter Pincus was CIA. Arthur Sulzberger was CIA.

What's the point of your post anyway. That I might be Arab and that Arabs can't be trusted.
By the way Israel has one of the most censored medias in the world. So what is the difference if it privately owned if is state controlled. You Israeli sympathizers sure do like to obfuscate the truth with your semantics and disinformation.

If someone is critical of Israel then they are antisemitic aka racist. If someone points out the obvious that zionism is racist then the argument is that is impossible because jews are made up of many races ( through conversion) convenient since one is also jewish by birthright. Also by this logic if one is critical of Israel, and that is antisemitic, then by logical extension all jews must be judged and bear responsibility for whatever the wackos in the Israeli government decide to do.
Now you say that is ridiculous, yet, that is the very argument that some zionists are putting forth in an effort to gain public sympathy for Israels indiscriminate carnage in Lebanon namely Alan Dershowitz. Here is a quote - "There is a vast difference — both moral and legal — between a 2-year-old who is killed by an enemy rocket and a 30-year-old civilian who has allowed his house to be used to store Katyusha rockets. Both are technically civilians, but the former is far more innocent than the latter. There is also a difference between a civilian who merely favors or even votes for a terrorist group and one who provides financial or other material support for terrorism.

Finally, there is a difference between civilians who are held hostage against their will by terrorists who use them as involuntary human shields, and civilians who voluntarily place themselves in harm's way in order to protect terrorists from enemy fire."
Some would say that his logic if reversed would provide all the justification in the world for killing innocent Israeli citizens. They voted into power the wacko right wingers who pre meditatetively planned the destruction of Lebanon as long ago as a year prior to the border skirmish that Hisbollah concocted to negotiate a prisoner exchange. The Lebanese government was about to make public at the U.N. that Israel planned and coordinated the assasination of Hariri as well as other Lebanese officials. This not only makes Israelis terrorists but it also makes them liars as they are prone to be. Remember the USS Liberty? No you don't like talking about the USS liberty. So grave a treachery it would made Hitler blush after the night of the long Knives. What's a few dead American seamen compared to greater glory of Israel. Kill some Americans to draw them into a war as your proxy. Sound familiar? I said, does it sound familiar! Let's talk about it. Who wants to speak up. No seriously, I want to see how you spin that one. Then you have a history of turning on your benefactors don't you. Remember the King David Hotel bombing? Back to Dershowitz' convoluted logic, since the people of Israel conciously and volitionally voted for a terrorist government this apparently makes the citizens of Israel, no matter what age, fair game for destruction.
A couple of Israeli soldiers killed and a couple kidnapped is all the justification in the world for f-16 bombing sorties on multi-story apartment buildings in Beirut or dropping incendiary bombs on passenger cars in southern Lebanon incinerating children and toddlers. Are you fucking nuts. Kiss my Scottish-Irish American ass.
What a horrible inhuman thought the destruction of Israel yet in all of its Rube Goldberg prevarication it is quite alright for Israel to destroy Lebanon and the Palestinians and the Iranians and the Syrians and the Iraqis and it is quite alright for seven million people to be sitting on a stockpile of 200 deliverable nuclear warheads because you are a peace loving non aggressive "democracy". Democracy if you are not Arab, Sephardic or Druse and are Ashkenazi.

It comes as no surprise to me that usury was invented by these zionists ancestors. There is always a high price to pay for entering into a contract with racial elitists whose intelligence service motto is "victory through deception".

Posted by: yeranalyst at July 28, 2006 12:19 PM

"It comes as no surprise to me that usury was invented by these zionists ancestors."

Since modern Zionism (i.e. the Israeli nation state) has existed materially for 60 years and as a movement for about 110 (Herzl, Jabotinsky) and you comment that "usury was invented by these zionistic ancestors", usury, being in effect since the middle ages, your comment is directed towards Jews, not Israelis. The statement you have just made is anti-Jewish hate speech.

Enjoy the anonymity Internet because if you made that comment (and most of the rest of your post) on a street corner in my country (Canada) you'd be arrested on the grounds of inciting hatred.

MJT, please ban this individual with his disgusting views, if I wanted to read the Protocols of the Elters of Zion I would log onto a Neo-Nazi site.

Posted by: that is antisemitism at July 28, 2006 12:57 PM

Veranalyst is banned.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at July 28, 2006 01:02 PM

Bab Vilbel,

You said,
You say Lebanon needs a civil war. Disregarding the callousness of such a statement for the moment, and putting an entirely "business" hat on. I still don't think that's a solution.
Lest you forget, we already had that civil war you speak of, 1975-1990. Repeating it is not going to get us to a new place, but more likely, will take us right back to where we are today (if not worse).

Then you didn't resolve your civil war. At best you merely established an armistice. At worst you conceded a victory to Hezbollah. They get to keep their arms, get to keep governmental control of their region while keeping offices in Beirut and getting seats in parliament.

As before, these statements are callous, but they are accurate. If you don't want to be responsible for Hezbollah's actions you have two choices. Throw them out of your government and the north of Lebanon while letting them rule the south of Lebanon as their own country or fight them to remove their ability to act unilaterally as a part of Lebanon.

To not do these things is to abdicate to them the ability to use Lebanon for their own purposes.

Boaz

Posted by: Boaz at July 28, 2006 02:20 PM

Michael, I just dont see how Al Qaeda is a factor in this confrontation or why you even brought it up.

You have to be crazy to think that after the murder of Hariri the Lebanese are going to be warm to outside influence like Al Qaeda.

The Lebanese Shiite population is not going to go away even in the worst possible defeat of Hezbollah and they sure as hell arent going to take kindly to Al Qaeda because they are particularly disturbed by that group’s terrorist campaign against Shiites in Iraq and the many death threats that Al Qaeda has made against Lebanese Shiite clerics.

Al Qaeda won’t find much hospitality from the Christians, Druze or the Lebanese government, so if the terror organization wants support in Lebanon that leaves only the Sunnis. Fortunately, the Grand Mufti of the Sunnis, Sheik Rashid Kabbani, has denounced Al Qaeda many times and he is more interested in Muslim unity than Al Qaeda’s sectarian violence (he is very friendly with the Shia and even the Iranian government).

To be fair Al Qaeda has attempted to recruit Palestinian Sunnis living in Lebanon, but failed miserably. There was no interference from Hezbollah and the two groups have never fought each other (Hezbollah always gets more credit than they deserve). It was Al Qaeda’s extremism that failed to win the Palestinians over.

The Palestinians are much more secular minded than Al Qaeda and did not respond to Al Qaeda’s Islamist overtures, so the terrorist group threatened to liquidate Palestinians that got in their way. Naturally, that didnt go over very well with the Palestinians and Al Qaeda failed miserably.

In any case, if Al Qaeda were to organize in Lebanon it would be a godsend to Lebanese unity. Finally all ethnic groups including the Shia would have a common enemy. Unless Al Qaeda takes over the entire Middle East, the establishment of a powerful affiliate in Lebanon is a pipe dream at best.

It is interesting to note that Hezbollah trained Al Qaeda operatives in the 90s and Mughniyeh (the head of their military wing) has met with bin Laden. So while the US has never had direct links to Al Qaeda, the subject of US support for the Mujahideen during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan is continually pointed out by US critics, but Hezbollah’s past cooperation with Al Qaeda is not deemed worthy of any mention.

This is because there is a serious lack of critical thinking when it comes to terrorist organizations. They are more often than not viewed as the result of oppressive Israeli and American policies. Thus any time they kill innocent civilians, Israel and America are blamed. That is one hell of an incentive for terrorists to target civilians.

Posted by: Freedom Now at July 28, 2006 05:42 PM

Michael,

I have just a few minutes online (I'm taking an LSAT diagnostic early tomorrow morning), and I haven't read any of the comments, but I have to say this is a fantastic post.

Thank you.

Posted by: lebanon.profile at July 28, 2006 08:41 PM
The Israelis beat three Arab armies in six days in 1967, but a decade was not enough for the IDF to take down Hezbollah.
External enemy keeps the nation united, just as you said about Lebanon. Israel works the same way. Israel's top management can't afford to take down such a beautiful enemy. I am sure that Hezballah, as well as Hamas in Gaza, receive a good deal of their funding from the Israeli taxpayers. Being one of those taxpayers, I am quite sad about the way Israel maintains itself. Posted by: Mansour at July 29, 2006 04:02 PM

>> a world view in which we are all victims of vast forces of evil that trample the rights of people all over the globe and brainwash the masses.<<

I'd say this is a pretty fair assessment of the world, but I'd peg the villains as international, from every country, not just America.

Posted by: robin at July 29, 2006 05:49 PM

Israel should have surprised the puppet masters behind Hezbollah by attacking them directly. They should have destroyed Assad and his entire military, and obliterated huge chunks of Iran's military. Then step back and declare "You want more? Don't call off Hezbollah." Then follow through.

Sidestepping the hostage situation of Lebanon would be less messy than any larger conflict with the main antagonists behind the strings. And more directed at the real problem.

What they're doing now is like treating cancer by cutting off every tumor as it appears without addressing the primary malignancy.

Posted by: Korla Pundit at July 31, 2006 12:02 PM

Israel should have surprised the puppet masters behind Hezbollah by attacking them directly. They should have destroyed Assad and his entire military, and obliterated huge chunks of Iran's military. Then step back and declare "You want more? Don't call off Hezbollah."

....and the Iranians close the straits of Hormuz to oil tankers, and tell the US: 'You want oil? Call off your pit bull.'

There is a lot of groundwork left to do before taking on Iran is a good idea.

Posted by: rosignol at August 1, 2006 12:39 AM

DO U THINK THAT AL QAEDA REALLY EXISTS ???

USA and Israel Support all Terrorism in the WORLD.

Thanks
Good luck

Posted by: Lopez at June 20, 2007 03:04 AM

hi

Posted by: mohammed at July 8, 2007 02:54 AM

Nicely written... I guess it shows how well westerners (romans) understand the arab-islamic world, but will you ever know HOW we understand YOU ? And WHEN we will be looking at you the same waythat you are looking at us now ? seeing you with all your divided ethnic, religious, and cultural groups !!!! nobody knows, we might already have started ;)
kisses to everyone who can read this :)

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