July 28, 2006

More Opinions Than People

I once mentioned offhand in the comments section that Lebanon has more opinions than people. A Lebanese woman I had never met or encountered online before said she thought that remark was hilarious and gave me credit for "finally understanding Lebanon."

At the time I didn't feel like explaining what I meant. It didn't seem important. But now would be a good time.

Lebanon's bizarre internal political structure creates mental categories in its citizens that do not and never will exist in the West. It's hard enough to understand how Lebanese think even after living there myself for a while, so I don't expect casual readers to "get" this. But there are Lebanese (I know several) who are secular and pro-American, who want peace with Israel, and who also suppport Hezbollah.

I've been thinking for a while now about writing an essay explaining how this is possible, but Lebanon.Profile over at the Lebanese Political Journal beat me to it. So go read. Only a small minority of Shia think this way, but you should know about them. It means they're mentally flexible and can be brought around, under the right conditions, to healthier ways of thinking. Things will not always be as they are.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at July 28, 2006 07:38 PM

LP's article is indeed an excellent one.
I will add my recommendations to Michael's in urging everyone to go read it.

Posted by: Bad Vilbel at July 28, 2006 09:15 PM

That's nice. I keep on hearing about a moderate Arab silent majority that really wants to live in peace with Israel. I don't doubt anything the Lebanese blogger said. However, we keep on hearing that if we just give a little more they will come around and confront the bad guys in their midst. They never seem to have an effect.

I will believe it when I see it. The burden of proof is on them to show that they exist and can have a positive effect.

Posted by: Steve at July 28, 2006 09:42 PM

Steve: I keep on hearing about a moderate Arab silent majority that really wants to live in peace with Israel.

I don't know about this. In Lebanon, yes, at least a month ago this was the case. In Syria, I doubt it.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at July 28, 2006 09:47 PM

son your doing just fine, btw a friend of ours is stealing some of your shine...don't let that happen Michael, ..first rule in journalism.

Posted by: Dan Rather at July 28, 2006 10:13 PM

Robert Fisk is an asshat, "Dan."

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at July 28, 2006 11:13 PM

"However, we keep on hearing that if we just give a little more they will come around and confront the bad guys in their midst. They never seem to have an effect."

A unequivocal military defeat for Hezbullah will have the effect you are looking for. No one likes a loser.

Posted by: 3q52j24j at July 29, 2006 03:57 AM

I enjoy to read your articles.Hope the time will come and i will fly to Lebannon as tourist..and not as a soldier.
Sorry for citizen casualties(in the name of IDF).

Posted by: Vlad leshinsky at July 29, 2006 06:11 AM

Michael, calling Fisk an asshat is an insults to all asshats world wide.

I think you're right , once this thing is over, Lebanon will simply shake it off and restart the party, sort of like New Orleans.

Posted by: DaveindeSwamp at July 29, 2006 07:07 AM

Thanks for the link to Lebanon profile. It is wonderful that people like that are out there, and talking about how they feel

Posted by: miriam at July 29, 2006 07:26 AM

Interestingly, there's an old Israeli saying that if you gather ten Israelis, you'll have fifteen opinions and twenty political parties.

Some things are universal to a whole region.

Posted by: Mike at July 29, 2006 08:22 AM

People are still responsible for what they endorse. The Shia girl with the Jewish boyfriend is still engaging in anti-semitism by supporting Hezbollah. She has an obligation to speak out against Hezbollah's anti-semitism if she wants to be thought of differently.

Posted by: steve at July 29, 2006 11:08 AM

Count me among those who you feel are making the choice of strange bedfellows...

I am a Lebanese American and a veteran of the 82nd Airborne... I have Israeli IDF jump wings... yet, in a way, I see the justification of both sides in this fight...

I saw good people in Central America align themselves with the most horrible deathsquads, only to be heard, buy safety and gain vengeance...

Israel is ruled by loony likkudniks bent on theft and destruction. The United States is ruled by loony evangelists bent on theft and destruction. Lebanon is... well, it's ruled by whoever has the biggest guns. And right now, sadly, it's Hezbollah. We all eventually get what we deserve, don't we?

This moderate Arab majority you speak of will gladly live in peace with Israel once Israel stops stealing people's land and resources, and holding millions hostage in prison-like slums. It's really that simple.

There will always be extremists among us. But it's the idiotic, cruel, uneducated and racist foreign policies that give extremists credence among the populace...

Stop the robbing of natural resources, stop supporting oppressive regimes, stop killing innocent civilians, stop treating people like vermin... and guess what...???


And my dear boy, Robert Fisk is anything but an asshat... he is a rather brave and verbose fellow who has the twice the balls of most reporters...

Micheal, I enjoy reading you because sometimes you get it so right... then again, sometimes you get it so wrong...
cheers - from Los Angeles

Posted by: Roy El Saghir at July 29, 2006 11:54 AM

Steve: The Shia girl with the Jewish boyfriend is still engaging in anti-semitism by supporting Hezbollah.

She's a Sunni girl who does not support Hezbollah.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at July 29, 2006 06:46 PM

The most well-known of such maxims is the one concerning economists (put two economists in a room and you get three opinons). It was intended to point out the cluelessness of economists, their apparent sophistication notwithstanding.

In your example too, it should be remembered that the ability to simultaneously hold two contradictory beliefs as well as being the province of the complex, nuanced intellect is also the sign of the imbecile.

Posted by: anon at July 30, 2006 02:34 AM

"Robert Fisk is anything but an asshat... he is a rather brave and verbose fellow who has the twice the balls of most reporters..."

Due respect Mr. El Saghir, that may be true, but it doesn't excuse his egregious repeated factual errors. Until he improves his accuracy, he'll be nothing more than a joke to most bloggers, liberal or conservative.

Posted by: ElMondoHummus at July 31, 2006 07:14 AM

I hope Americans are taking note of just how well having a rich tapestry of diverse cultures and peoples is working out for Lebanon. Ain't multiculturalism grand?

Posted by: Mark at July 31, 2006 05:28 PM

I see statements above like "Arabs will live in Peace if only Israel will only do this or do that, but that will never happen as long as the Arabs with the influence of guns long for the end of Israel as a state and every last Jewish person killed. Sometimes, evil men with guns and ambition toward this kind of genocide, (i.e. Hitler, Mussolini, etc.)must be killed by other men with guns defending a nation. I did not see Israel lobbing shells into Lebanon trying to take possession of their country, but defending their own against agression from terrorists. I did not see Israel stay in Egypt after the war to destroy Egypt and I do not see them sending martyrs into Iran, Syria, Egypt etc. blowing up innocent people. I see innocent people dying in a provoked war which ALWAYS happens in every war, but do not see Israel as a country that wishes to destroy those it lives near. Additionally, if a country tollerates terrorists to operate in its country fulling knowing what those terrorists are capable of, no matter that the terrorist organizations come in under the cloak of providing assistance and money, that country gets what it deserves when the cape comes off the scorpian and it acts like what it is....a scorpian. The terrorists care nothing about Lebanon or its people, only their own agenda and how they can use these people as pawns and hide behind to achieve its goal, which is and always will be, the destruction of Israel. Like our mothers always told us when we were children. Be careful who your friends are!

Posted by: fred at August 9, 2006 12:46 PM
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