July 30, 2006

Hezbollah’s Coup d'État

The fog of war makes it impossible for me or anyone else to determine whether or not Israel’s war against Hezbollah is succeeding of failing militarily. But it’s painfully obvious that Israel’s attempt to influence Lebanese politics in its favor is an absolute catastrophe right now.

The (second in a decade) attack on Qana that killed scores of civilians has all but cemented the Lebanese public and Hezbollah together.

Cable news reports that 82 percent of Lebanese now support Hezbollah. Prime Minister Fouad Seniora – whatever his real opinion in private – is now closer to openly supporting Hezbollah in public than he has ever been.

The March 14 Movement (the Cedar Revolution) is, at best, in a coma if not outright dead.

Hezbollah was popular while Israel occupied South Lebanon. When Israel left Lebanon it finally became possible for Hezbollah's power to be strictly relegated to it own little corner because support for the organization evaporated.

Now that Israel is back, Hezbollah's support is back.

It doesn't matter if this support is reasonable or not. (It isn't reasonable. Israel wouldn't even be in Lebanon if it weren't for Hezbollah.) But it was entirely predictable.

Support for Hezbollah will drop again after Israel leaves. But Israel can't (or won't) leave until some kind of arrangement is hammered out. And Israel will now have to deal with a manifestly more hostile Lebanese public while working out that arrangement.

This is a disaster for Lebanon, a disaster for Israel, and a disaster for the United States. It is a tremendous boon to Syria and Iran.

I wish I knew what a possible solution might be, but I don’t. I’m pretty sure, though, that “more of the same” isn’t it.

UPDATE: Tony Badran says "Hezbollah's plan all along was a classic coup d'etat, very similar, as Pierre Akel recently wrote, to the fascisti's takeover in Italy." Seems to be working very well for them right about now.

I'm sorry for not being my usual more-optimistic self. What can I say? It is not always warranted.

When I first arrived in Beirut a British expat friend who lived there for nine years said "Do not underestimate them" when I told him I was going to meet and interview Hezbollah.

Please allow me to second that.

UPDATE: Mary at Exit Zero (no peacenik, she) wrote in my comments:
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.
Posted by Michael J. Totten at July 30, 2006 03:44 PM
Comments

I had been seeing this war as an attempt to capitalize on Hezbollah’s overreach to crush it and liberate Lebanon completely. I am afraid that the air campaign against Katusha launchers that set the IAF up for stupid errors like Qana was fatal folly. As I have said repeatedly, it would be better if the Israeli’s left the rocket launchers alone, have their civilian that are in range hunker down, and concentrate on fixing and closing with Hezbollah on the ground; if this is possible. This is my fervent hope.

This may be a foolish hope. I can’t read through the drama queen rhetoric to know whether or not irreparable damage has been done to future Israeli Lebanese relations. I may also be a fool for believing that that a critical mass of Lebanese are ready to move on past the self-destructive Arab mentality of alternating victim hood and implacable rage at the existence of Israel.

Posted by: jdwill at July 30, 2006 03:57 PM

Israel walked into a trap with this war and I can't conceive of any way in which they can exit the war in some way that doesn't leave them much weaker and Hezbollah much stronger. Sad as it is, they probably should have f*cking thrown a spare bomb at an empty Hezbollah bunker and then quietly negotiated to get their soldiers back. As bad as that would have been, what actually has happened the past 3 weeks is much, much worse.

Posted by: Mike Silverman at July 30, 2006 04:29 PM

I fail to see why this is a disaster for the United States.

I is a disaster for the Republicans and their bomb everything and everyone strategy...

By highlighting what a failure this strategy has been for the last five years...the events in Lebanon may actually be a huge benefit to the United States with just a little over three months to the next election.

Posted by: monkyboy at July 30, 2006 04:33 PM

It isn't over until it's over.

Posted by: yogi at July 30, 2006 04:56 PM

"it would be better if the Israeli’s left the rocket launchers alone"

I guess you don't live in Israel. It seems to me that there should be zero tolerance for rocket launches from an adjacent country. The deaths of these children were caused by one party - Hezbollah - as they deliberately engaged in warfare from a civilian location.

That said, I support the 48 hour hold to see if this could have been prevented/future bombs can better avoid collatoral damage. I think not but it seems a reasonable step to take.

Posted by: Sweetie at July 30, 2006 04:58 PM

Monkyboy: I fail to see why this is a disaster for the United States.

We lost an Arab ally today, and the Arabs are rapidly losing their only democracy.

If you think this is good or even neutral for the US then you definitely don't live in the same mental universe as I do.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at July 30, 2006 05:09 PM

I agree we lost an Arab ally, Michael.

But we lost that ally because Israel used the same boneheaded tactics we've been using in Afghanistan and Iraq against Hezbollah.

It doesn't work.

Instead of endlessly spinning failures...try something different...

Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.

-Samuel Beckett

Posted by: monkyboy at July 30, 2006 05:29 PM

Monkyboy,

Afghanistan and Iraq were totalitarian dungeons when the US attacked. Lebanon was an almost-democracy, in far better shape than Afghanistan or Iraq have ever been in their entire histories.

Say what you will about Afghanistan and Iraq, what's happening now is very different.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at July 30, 2006 05:34 PM

I doubt very much that 82% of Lebanese support Hezbollah. Support has probably risen since the war started but nowhere to near that level. The Sunnis and Christians hate the Chiites, a hard reality that won't change in 20 days. The civilian deaths in Qana are Hezbollah's fault, not Israel's. I hope the Israelis see through the current Hezbollah media play and keep at them until they lay down their arms. Peace or a ceasefire now will result in a bigger war and more deaths later.

Posted by: SavageLeb at July 30, 2006 05:40 PM

Michael, you just pretty much summed what I've been thinking today, and what I've been fearing would happen for the past week or so.

jdwill,

You probably remember our lengthy argument of last week, where i postulated that Israel missed a golden opportunity one week into this campaign, while opinion of their actions was still high, even in Lebanon, and opinion of Hezbollah was at a low.
I postulated that Israel should've made their point (by bombing the crap out of Hezbollah for a week) and then immediately gone into negotiations with the Lebanese government, leading to the so-called buffer zone and a disarming of Hezbollah process, backed by a strong NATO-like force.

My fear all along was that Israel was being drawn into Hezbollah's game. With every mounting civilian casualty, the Lebanese people (who ultimately are the ONLY ones who can disarm Hezbollah down the line) shifted more into the Hezbollah camp. In the end, as Michael says here, this plays right into their hands and the hands of their masters in Syria and Iran.

Israel went from a really promising bargaining position to what's gonna end up being yet another case of being bogged down and trying to save face.
Lebanon, also a loser in this proposition, went from having a chance to disarm Hezbollah, thanks to the IDF (even if you won't hear this line of thinking mentioned in official lebanese circles) to having no real choice but to back Hezbollah.

I say "no real choice" and I choose my words carefully here. Leave aside the rethoric of "everyone has a choice". The reality is, there is no way you can support a foreign military, who's just killed children and civilians (even if it's by mistake) over your own people. It's a sad truth, but we all, in the end, function in that way.

I know this might be apples and oranges, but there are lots of Americans who don't support the war in Iraq. But you'd be hard pressed to find one that doesn't stand behind our troops.
There are lots of Israelis who don't support their government's decisions (be it in Lebanon or in Gaza), but you'd be hard pressed to find one that doesn't stand behind the IDF.
And whether we like it or not, Hezbollah IS once again (sadly) the "resistance".

Posted by: bad vilbel at July 30, 2006 05:42 PM

Afghanistan and iraq may have started out differently than Lebanon, Michael, but they've all wound up in the exact same place:

A small band of fanatical Muslims humbling a powerful democracy.

If Israel was serious about stopping the rocket attacks, they'd fire all the "scientists" who have turned missile defense in lifetime tenured positions and hire some real scientists who want to actually solve the problem.

For all the money Israel and America have spent on missile defense, they could have built a wall between Israel and Lebanon (and Gaza) ten miles high by now.

Posted by: monkyboy at July 30, 2006 05:47 PM

Michael,

I spent four months in egypt last semester studying abroad, including a week spent in lebanon. Lebanon was gorgeous, the coolest country Ive ever been to. You could drink and drive, speed, do whatever you wanted practically.

But, I have a hard time believing that Lebanon has been reduced to a "third world country" because of Israel's strategic bombing. I've seen satellite photos of the targeted hizballah sites in the Beirut area, and the city is hardly being carpet bombed or destroyed, as one might believe by the dramatic media reports. I'm sure it sucks for most Lebanese, but the infrastructure can and will be reconstructed with the impending aid of the world community. The US and our allies do not want to see a Lebanese government too weakened. I wouldn't become too dire or pessimestic, this isnt the end of the world for Lebanon.

Posted by: Joe at July 30, 2006 05:49 PM

What kind of "ally" is one that trucks with terrorists, has terrorists in its government, and does not raise a finger whent those terrorists attack a sovereign nation across international border? If this is the best "ally" we can find, good riddance.

Posted by: Quantum at July 30, 2006 05:51 PM

Joe,

I know there is no carpet bombing of Beirut. But the Lebanese economy has been gutted stem to stern, a fourth of the population (the most radical) has been displaced, and the government is undergoing the worst kind of regime-change possible.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at July 30, 2006 05:53 PM

Quantum,

I don't think you've paid much attention to anything I have written about pre-war Lebanon. What you think was going on a month ago is actually going on now. Sigh.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at July 30, 2006 05:55 PM

We lost an Arab ally today, and the Arabs are rapidly losing their only democracy.

Michael, when I read this and when I read in an earlier post how most Lebanese were pro-Israel (albeit secretly) until this war started, I can't help but thinking, "with friends like these...."

What seems to be lost in all of this is the question of what good is/was friendly Lebanese sentiment towards the US or Israel if it came hand in hand with accepting Hezbollah as a fait accompli. I am not trying to troll or stir the pot here, I just wonder what good Lebanese warm fuuzy feelings are worth when it led to this. And make no mistake about it, with 12,000+ rockets aimed at Israel and Iran pulling Nasrallah's strings this war was not a matter of if, rather merely a matter of when.

Please help me Michael if I am misreading things, but you and most other experts on Lebanon assert that the Lebanese people were/are powerless to stop Hezbollah, thus this war had to happen sooner or later. So do feelings really matter one way or the other when the smart bombs and katushyas were gonna fly anyways?

Posted by: Randy at July 30, 2006 05:58 PM

Randy: So do feelings really matter one way or the other when the smart bombs and katushyas were gonna fly anyways?

If Israel had hit Syria instead of Lebanon, Israel would have boosted its political capital in Lebanon isntead of depleted it.

Israel has no political capital in Syria to lose. And since Syria actually controls and supports Hezbollah, Syria deserves it.

Root causes and all that.

There was nothing inevitable about dragging the Beirut government into this.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at July 30, 2006 06:03 PM

If you don't mind me saying so, I think you overestimate your Lebanese friends and the strength of their commitment to "democracy". What has happened over the past few weeks (including the most recent bombing in Qana) is inevitable in any war. Maybe I'm too sceptical but I find all this self-righteous grief a little hard to swallow in a region that has known nothing but war for the past 40+ years. After all, the Lebanese did a bang up job of bombing and killing each other during their most recent (not the first, I might add) civil war from 1975-90. I, too, know many (Christian) Lebanese here in Canada and they strike me as very hard people. They cannot credibly claim that they are new to all this. Consequently, if it is indeed true that 82% of them now support Hezbollah, it suggest that:

1) they are incredibly politically naive (which is HIGHLY doubtful); or
2) they were secretly supportive of Hezbollah (due to being anti-Israeli) all along and, in their anger, they have now let the charade drop.

As you say, it is not reasonable. However, I think it is difficult for any Westerner - even someone like yourself who has spent a lot of time there and obviously has warm feeling for the region - to really understand the Arab/Muslim mindset. I think the Israelis do (it's their neighbourhood) and this is why they are forging ahead and doing what they feel is necessary.

I don't know if I would worry too much about the US losing an ally. Allies that can change at the drop of hat (or who don't reveal their true intentions) aren't worth it. It seems to me that the US has enough of those types of "allies" already (and I include my own country!). Besides, in the constantly shifting sands that constitute Middle-Eastern politics, this could be all forgotten and forgiven as soon as the other side oversteps itself.

Liam

Posted by: liam at July 30, 2006 06:10 PM

Michael,

I've stayed mostly silent in your comments because after reading your essays for months now I feel a lot closer to the people of Lebanon. A year ago, I would have said to h*** with them and backed Israel to the hilt. Now I just have this big cold lump in my stomach, like watching a slow, nasty train wreck. I understand why Israel is doing what they are doing, but it hurts all the same. I hope this is over soon. I hope Israel, the US and the world community help Lebanon rebuild and may Syria, Iran and that idiot Nasrallah burn in h***!

Posted by: Dawnsblood at July 30, 2006 06:18 PM

Michael said:

If Israel had hit Syria instead of Lebanon, Israel would have boosted its political capital in Lebanon isntead of depleted it.

Well, perhaps true...but Lebanese opinion is only one factor. Had Israel struck Syria, immediately the cries would have erupted, "But why attack Syria??? It was some Hezbollah renegades who kidnapped the Israeli soldiers, not Syrians...so why not attack them? The Jews are using this as an excuse to do what they've always wanted: have war with Syria!"

Michael, as much as I feel bad for Lebanon, let's face it: no matter what course Israel took, her outright enemies in the region, and their ideological puppets elsewhere, would have portrayed her actions as inevitable, brutal, disproportionate Israeli aggression.

Posted by: popskull at July 30, 2006 06:23 PM

Bad Vilbel,

I postulated that Israel should've made their point (by bombing the crap out of Hezbollah for a week) and then immediately gone into negotiations with the Lebanese government, … Israel went from a really promising bargaining position to what's gonna end up being yet another case of being bogged down and trying to save face.

Too late for a do over, I guess.

Well, I have been contending all along that Hezbollah had to be fought sooner or later, by Israel, Lebanon, or eventually a coalition. This has been a bad week. Qana of all places - the site of Jesus' miracles where apparently lightning does strike twice.

If you read the Wiki link you are struck by the evil déjà vu of this. On the one hand, you could say the Israeli’s are demonstrating the definition of stupidity by repeating the same actions and expecting a different result. On the other hand, you have to consider that Iran and Hezbollah bear the true responsibility – the problem is how to make them pay? Or at least stop?

Posted by: jdwill at July 30, 2006 06:33 PM

I tend to agree with jdwill. Hezbollah rockets have been remarkably inefficient in killing Israelis. Furthermore, all the attacks and the resultant political impacts have not done any good - more rockets fell in Israel last night than at any time in this little war.

In a cold hearted analysis, the loss of the civilians might be considered a tolerable cost compared to the potential strategic results of the bombing campaign. Of course, it might never fly in internal Israeli politics. History tells us of Winston Churchill sacrificing the residents of Coventry to protect the Ultra/Enigma secret.

One thing the Israelis could do is to use less lethal weapons. It doesn't take much - certainly not 500lb of explosive - to destroy these mobile launchers. In Iraq, the US started using practice bombs to kill Iraqi army tanks when they were too close to civilian targets. 500lb or 2000lb of concrete, dropped from 15000 feet, is going to destroy anything Hezbollah has (other than buildings) just as well as high explosive.

The US is designing weapons to reduce collateral damage. One effort I heard about uses a relatively small amount of explosive, and for shrapnel a low density material - for a small but highly lethal kill radius - in this case to take out the residents of a house without harming the people in adjoining houses.

.........

On the economic issue... Israel is also suffering badly, as a significant proportion of its population is sitting in shelters or carrying weapons rather than working.

Furthermore, I strongly discount a lot of the language about how badly Lebanon's infrastructure is being hurt - the Israelis seem to be careful about that. As I understand it, the immediate problem is the loss of a lot of tourist revenue, just when it is most needed.

I think it would be appropriate for the world (meaining, alas, the US) to provide financial aid to both countries once this is over - unless Lebanon becomes a non-democratic country.

Posted by: John Moore at July 30, 2006 06:39 PM

It's funny to hear the guns don't kill people, people kill people crowd saying Israel should attack Syria because Syria gave Hezbollah weapons.

I thought we shouldn't hold weapons makers responsible for what their clients do with them...

Posted by: monkyboy at July 30, 2006 06:41 PM

One major problem with attacking Syria is their possession of ballistic missiles carrying chemical warheads. If they were to use them, and they might in an existential war, all hell would break loose.

Posted by: John Moore at July 30, 2006 06:59 PM

jdwill: On the one hand, you could say the Israeli’s are demonstrating the definition of stupidity by repeating the same actions and expecting a different result. On the other hand, you have to consider that Iran and Hezbollah bear the true responsibility – the problem is how to make them pay? Or at least stop?

This is exactly what I was trying to convey last week. Israel needs to stop trying the same brute force approach over and over, expecting different results.
Having said that, you're right, I don't have an alternative to offer. How do you make the REAL guilty parties pay?
Michael suggested hitting Syria. I don't believe that was ever in the cards. Israel knows better than to make a tactical mistake of that nature. Hitting Syria would have drawn Iran into a military conflict which Israel and the USA are not ready to tackle just now (for various reasons I won't get into here).

I think the best course of action should have been (too late now):
- Hit ONLY Hezbollah targets (no Lebanese infrastructure) for about a week. Get the point across.
- Enter into negotiations through the international community, if need be, with the Lebanese government. With an understanding that if Lebanon does not disarm Hezbollah and create a buffer zone, Israel intends to go after infrastructure and civilians will get hurt.

It looked for a day or so that this was close to happening, last week. But then things started bogging down...and here we are.

Posted by: bad vilbel at July 30, 2006 06:59 PM

I want to live in monkyboy world. I don't know exactly what colour the sky is there but everything is always so 'simple'. It's Bush's fault, and everything can be solved with merely a turn of phrase.

It must be ever so relaxing there. Envious I am.

As to the Israeli 'strategy' --- ptui !!

It has been neither 'fish ' nor 'fowl'. Just a bureaucratic tap-dance supported by a failing and flailing air campaign.

"As I have said repeatedly, it would be better if the Israeli’s left the rocket launchers alone, have their civilian that are in range hunker down, and concentrate on fixing and closing with Hezbollah on the ground; if this is possible.'--jdwill

Yeah, that about says it all. It was not the 'brutality' of the response that was the problem' it was the misdirected, ineffective, tentative, brutality.

Trying to prevent large losses in the IDF has led Israel into a hopeless cul-de-sac. Now everyone(including poor Lebanon) EXCEPT the bad guys are losing.

Geez, who would've thunk it ?

Posted by: dougf at July 30, 2006 07:04 PM

How pleasant it must be for the terrorists to see so many people of the west willing to surrender already. Please stretch your throats out over there for the beheading party.

Meanwhile, here is a very wise man, Tony Blair:

"... of course, there's a sense of shock and frustration and anger at what is happening, and grief at the loss of innocent lives. But it is not a reason for walking away. It's a reason for staying the course, and staying it no matter how tough it is, because the alternative is actually letting this ideology grip a larger and larger number of people....

And we're not going to defeat this ideology until we in the West go out with sufficient confidence in our own position and say, this is wrong. It's not just wrong in its methods, it's wrong in its ideas, it's wrong in its ideology, it's wrong in every single wretched reactionary thing about it. And it will be a long struggle, I'm afraid. But there's no alternative but to stay the course with it. And we will."

Will we? I don't see it here.

Posted by: Lloyd at July 30, 2006 07:05 PM

dougf,

If the Republicans would have spent 1% of their pork-laden "defense" budgets over the last 5 years on buying up and destroying weapons...Iraq, Afghanistan and now Lebanon would have been much easier problems to solve.

A few timid souls actually proposed that for Iraq, remember?

The N.R.A. soon squashed that crazy idea.

So now Israel is paying for the Republican's Cheap Guns for Everybody! stand.

Will the Republican's supporters ever ask them for actual results?

Or will Struttin' and Spinnin' win them yet another election?

Posted by: monkyboy at July 30, 2006 07:10 PM

Lloyd,

Who said anything about surrender? I'm talking about strategy here, and results. This strategy is producing bad results for (almost) everybody so far.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at July 30, 2006 07:13 PM

"But there's no alternative but to stay the course with it. And we will."---Blair

Will we? I don't see it here.--Lloyd

I am perfectly content to 'stay the course', but not a course that leads directly over the nearest convenient cliff.

I am not opposed to out and out brutality if that will get the job done. I just demand that it:

A. Actually does get the 'job' done.
B. The 'job' is defined properly in the first place, so that 'blowback' is anticipated as much as possible.
C. It be conducted in the most 'efficient' manner.

Israel's campaign has failed on all 3 levels.

Now that is just my opinion, but I had the same opinion a week ago, and things have just gotten WORSE.

Staying THIS course is at best problematic , I fear. That attitude does not make anyone a 'nervous nellie'. Sometimes it's perfectly OK to be nervous. In this case it is increasingly looking to be mandatory .

Posted by: dougf at July 30, 2006 07:15 PM

Well I, for one, will consider myself bucked up.
God bless Tony Blair.

Posted by: jdwill at July 30, 2006 07:18 PM

But Michael, you didn't really address my question. SO what if Israel attacked Syria, the rockets would still be launching from Lebanese soil and Hezbollah's core fighters and members would still hold sway over Southern Beirut and the south of Lebanon.

I still don't see what exactly the value of Lebanese public opinion is, nor do I see how dragging the Beirut government in was unavoidable again given that Lebanon is a democracy, that the Lebanese government claims sovereignty over their whole country, and that the Lebanese government and people were resigned to Hezbollah and their rockets fomenting hostilities with Israel.

My original question of what value Lebanese public opinion really has to anyone if they are impotent in the face of Hezbollah, and now I question how the Beirut govt. could possibly have been left out of this. Michael what scenario could Israel possibly have played out where Syria was attacked but Hezbollah was not? And what about the value of Lebanese public opinion?

Posted by: Randy at July 30, 2006 07:38 PM

But Michael, you didn't really address my question. SO what if Israel attacked Syria, the rockets would still be launching from Lebanese soil and Hezbollah's core fighters and members would still hold sway over Southern Beirut and the south of Lebanon.

I still don't see what exactly the value of Lebanese public opinion is, nor do I see how dragging the Beirut government in was unavoidable again given that Lebanon is a democracy, that the Lebanese government claims sovereignty over their whole country, and that the Lebanese government and people were resigned to Hezbollah and their rockets fomenting hostilities with Israel.

My original question of what value Lebanese public opinion really has to anyone if they are impotent in the face of Hezbollah, and now I question how the Beirut govt. could possibly have been left out of this. Michael what scenario could Israel possibly have played out where Syria was attacked but Hezbollah was not? And what about the value of Lebanese public opinion?

Posted by: Randy at July 30, 2006 07:39 PM

MJT said: Who said anything about surrender? I'm talking about strategy here, and results. This strategy is producing bad results for (almost) everybody so far.

People around here (and elsewhere) need to start understanding that just because someone points out that a certain strategy isn't working, does not mean they are pro or anti a given side.

I am still amazed at the ability of grown men and women to jump to conclusions and assume you (or anyone really) is anti-Israel and pro Hezbollah for pointing out certain failings in Israeli actions.

Since when is criticism the same thing as partisanship?
Are we so jaded by the mainstream media's childish portrayal of complex issues that we have give up our ability to apply rational and critical thinking?

Posted by: bad vilbel at July 30, 2006 07:50 PM

Bad Vilbel,

Spengler, the dark one of historical bent, weighs on the very same topics we have been discussing. I highly recommend reading his collection of essays – with a handy supply of salt, but he is a very provocative thinker.

Some (ed. too many?) highlights:

To de-fang Hezbollah implies the effective dissolution of the Shi'ite community, a third of whom live within Katyusha range of Israel. …
It is easy to say that the present war has unleashed chaos, but the question is: Upon whom? The collapse of Lebanon's Shi'ite community opens the prospect of chaos in the region, but to Israel's advantage.

Iran will face the humiliation of seeing dissolved a Shi'ite community it armed and nurtured, at the same time that Western powers demand the abandonment of its nuclear-weapons program. This will be too great for Tehran to bear; ultimately the West will have to take on Iran directly,

Who dug the honeycombs of bunkers underneath Shi'ite villages south of the Litani River and in the Bekaa Valley? Hezbollah's fortifications must have provided the lion's share of the livelihood of numerous Shi'ite villages.

At least 200,000, and perhaps twice that number of refugees, have descended on Syria, joining half a million displaced Iraqis and perhaps 300,000 Palestinian refugees. Refugee streams clog the few undamaged routes between Syria and Lebanon. Evidently Syria fears destabilization; Information Minister Mohsen Bilal linked his July 23 threat of military action against Israel to the "evacuation" of Lebanon.

It is hard for Israel to root Hezbollah out of its nest, but easy to destroy Syrian armor and air capability. The fact that Israel has not done so already is due to Washington's horror of further instability in Mesopotamia.

What, then, provoked Mohsen Bilal to offer to jump headlong into an Israeli trap? Contrary to Washington's hopes, the Bashar al-Assad regime may not be viable after the destruction of Hezbollah. The flood of refugees is painful to absorb. In addition, Syria's economy depends on Lebanon.

Lebanon's Shi'ites, the country's resentful underclass, have little stake in the tourism industry and other objects of Saudi investment in their country. Their livelihood is a function of war, of Iranian subsidies in particular.

When chaos is inevitable, it's best to learn to like it, as I advised on March 14 (How I learned to stop worrying and love chaos). Ultimately the chaos in the Middle East plays to US advantage. In the meantime, it would not hurt to print gasoline ration cards.

Interesting, no?

Posted by: jdwill at July 30, 2006 08:00 PM

Ultimately the chaos in the Middle East plays to Chinese advantage...all the U.S. gets out of it is a big bill...that we have to borrow from China to pay.

Posted by: monkyboy at July 30, 2006 08:10 PM

jdwill,

Interesting reading indeed. Can't say I agree with his conclusions. And I can't say that I agree with some of his premises.

I don't see the shiite community "desolving" even after a Hezbollah defeat(whatever that means) or disarming. This is after all, a population that makes up a 3rd of Lebanon. They're not gonna vanish into thin air.

I'd agree with his assertion that disarming/destroying Hezbollah does deal a blow to Iran. I think everyone agrees on that.

I also agree with his notion that Israel will not take on Syria because of the US's fears of instability too close to Iraq.

There are some who believe the US benefits from chaos in the middle east. I don't honestly see it. I think it is in the interests of the US and its close ally Israel to have a stable middle east. Specially as the REAL threat now seems to be Iran (I distance Iran from the Middle East on geographic/ethnic basis). I believe the current administration in the White House has made a huge bungle of Iraq, but I believe that their intentions were in the right place: Trying to stem iran's growing influence and that of their islamic-style revolution.

Posted by: bad vilbel at July 30, 2006 08:26 PM

Bad Vilbel,

Right. Like I said, with a grain of salt. But he raises points that you don't commonly see others addressing, like the public works economics of the bunkers and the refugee strain on Syria. Just how secure is Assad?

Well, time is up for now.

Posted by: jdwill at July 30, 2006 08:31 PM

How old are you monkeyboy?

Posted by: mike at July 30, 2006 08:38 PM

Michael. The advice hasn't been read backwards. Its very easy to write selectively with a short attention span, and look at the current level of violence to suggest that Israel chose that tactic first, over all others.

But for several years, Israel has been trying to use diplomacy, the UN even passed resolution 1559, but to no avail. The US and several European nations have tried to isolate Iran and Syria, but to no avail. Hezbollah still receive support from these two nations.

Actually, if you look at Sun Tsu's advice, the Arab nations have been following it perfectly in their strategy to attack Israel. They have used the UN to condemn Israel for every small response to terrorism. The worldwide media have tried to isolate the US as Israel's major ally and supporter, even though the US also funds Egypt and Jordan.

Don't criticise Israel's actions as stupid. By all means, criticise them as being possibly ineffective, although time will be the best judge of that.

But certainly, at this point in history, they are not stupid.

Posted by: Jono at July 30, 2006 08:39 PM

Too old to believe the fairy tale that America is the only superpower in the world, Mike.

There's a new sheriff in town, and they're laughing at us right now...

Posted by: monkyboy at July 30, 2006 08:41 PM

Michael I had an email today (Monday) from an NGO in Lebanon that Christians are being used as human shields by Hezballah.

Posted by: Marion at July 30, 2006 09:07 PM

Who is the new sheriff monkey boy

Posted by: mike at July 30, 2006 09:09 PM

Michael:
At least at this point, as far as my limited knowledge of military strategy goes, the IDF strategy of having primarily a bombing campaign has not worked. With twenty twenty hindsight they should have sent ground forces in right away and stopped 10 to 20 miles in and tore up the Hezbollah forces in that area. And then leave. I am sure the more military astute could point out numerous problems with that idea but it might have worked better then what we have now.

But simply attacking Syria would have created problems as well. As noted in another post, the Hezbollah rockets would have rained down on Israel and Israel would have had to invade Lebanon anyway. And the U.N. would not have accepted that attack as self defense even if MT would have cheered it. In fact Kofi would have begun actions against Israel for initiating war against a sovereign nation that had not attacked Israel. Michael you know that Syria and Iran are behind Hez, many of your posters know it, but reality and the U.N. rarely but heads.

In regards to the reaction to the tragic civillian deaths bringing Lebanese people around to supporting Hezbollah I won't try to deny your take because you know more about Lebanon then I do. But if they do support Hezbollah then I hope they are not suprised when they find themselves with a Iran style government and a Mullahocracy. And if they think that will bring them security, no small factor, I think they will be disssapointed. Because the next war with Israel will be short in coming because that is what Hezbollah wants.

Posted by: kevin peters at July 30, 2006 09:23 PM

Here ya go, Mike:

http://tinyurl.com/rpb77

Posted by: monkyboy at July 30, 2006 09:33 PM

But for several years, Israel has been trying to use diplomacy, the UN even passed resolution 1559, but to no avail. The US and several European nations have tried to isolate Iran and Syria, but to no avail. Hezbollah still receive support from these two nations.

Who is talking about diplomacy? Diplomacy has never been an effective weapon against asymetric warfare, especially against an intractable enemy.

The idea is to attack the strategy of asymetric warfare. This tactic has been successfully defeated in the past, history has plenty of examples. We had the Declaration of Paris in 1856:

Until 1856, international law recognized only two legal entities: people and states. People were subject to the laws of their own governments; states were subject to the laws made amongst themselves. The Declaration of Paris created a third entity: people who lacked both the individual rights and protections of law for citizens and the legitimacy and sovereignty of states.

Under that law, stateless paramiitaries who had no official allegiances or citizenship could (and should) be shot on sight. You didn't have to commit a crime, you just had to be a member of the organization to be considered guilty.

If we followed that law, it would at least be difficult for a terrorist organizations to conduct public relations outings - or to be elected to office.

The use of asymetric warfare leaves the supporters of terrorism relatively undefended. Terrorists are hard to hit, but the bureacrats and bankers who support them are fat easy targets. Clinton used this idea, and it worked:

After a bombing killed 19 U.S. airmen at a barracks in Saudi Arabia in 1996, the Clinton administration struck back by unmasking Iranian intelligence officers around the world, significantly disrupting Iranian-backed terrorism, according to a high-level U.S. official and a former top official who was serving at the time of the operation.

Undisclosed until now, Operation Sapphire took place in 1997. Though the bombers who struck the Khobar Towers barracks were mostly Saudis, U.S. investigators quickly determined that Iranian intelligence officials had trained and organized the plotters. The former U.S. official said Iran was intimidated enough by the U.S. counterspy operation that it stopped targeting Americans after the bombing.

The infrastructure of asymetric warfare can be fought by targeting the vulnerable mid-level enemy combatants - and by not treating terrorists as citizens or statesmen. Members of these organizations should have no rights at all. These ideas have worked before..

Posted by: mary at July 30, 2006 10:11 PM

This was the obvious result once you refuse to attack the base of Hezb'allah. Everyone knows they get most of their funding and weapons from Iran through Syria. Everyone. (Just like al-Sadr in Iraq.) We've even seen credible reports of IRGC operatives being killed in the current bombing campaign. By refusing to attack Tehran and allowing them to spread their money around to paramilitary/terrorist organizations that use civilians as human shields, we are in effect condemning those civilans to their deaths. Thus, we shouldn't be surprised when collateral civilian deaths occur. And sadly, the recently reported Israeli cease-fire, viewed to come at least partly from the international condemnation of the Qana bombings, will only make it more likely for para-military groups to use civilians as human shields in the future.

Stop attacking the proxy forces and fight the war that is coming with Iran at the time of our choosing rather than theirs. Or just wait until they get nuclear weapons, because I'm sure Iran having a nuclear shield they can offer Hezb'allah will reduce cross-border attacks.

Posted by: BishopMVP at July 30, 2006 10:37 PM

Michael - thanks for the link! I've been trying to figure out how to express my sympathy with Israel's need to defend itself while criticizing their strategy.

Lebanon's strategy wasn't so great either. It's not just in Israel's and Lebanon's best interests to get rid of Hezbollah, it's in everyone's interests to get rid of them (except for Syria and Iran). Maybe the biggest mistake was for everyone to expect these two small countries to solve the problem for us?

Posted by: mary at July 30, 2006 10:39 PM

Thought you might be interested in this, Michael, from The Guardian:

"The real battle is after the end of this war. We will have to settle score with the Lebanese politicians. We also have the best security and intelligence apparatus in this country, and we can reach any of those people who are speaking against us now. Let's finish with the Israelis and then we will settle scores later."

That does not bode well for Lebanon's future stability as a democracy.

Posted by: Kevin at July 30, 2006 10:53 PM

lol. China? I thought you were going to claim Iran as the new super-power.

"I is a disaster for the Republicans and their bomb everything and everyone strategy"

ha.

"the events in Lebanon may actually be a huge benefit to the United States with just a little over three months to the next election."

Double ha. Back to the kos/dorm room/weird old man who needs to cut his hair and dress like an adult sad situation.

"A small band of fanatical Muslims humbling a powerful democracy"

Pink Hajii Wolverines(sp?)

"For all the money Israel and America have spent on missile defense, they could have built a wall between Israel and Lebanon (and Gaza) ten miles high by now."

I shouldn't have to remind you, but you, mighty progressive oppose the aparthied wall.

Comment at 7:10 is possibly the most idiotic comment anyone has left on the internet. Ever. Seriously, I am saving it for future reference, it's that bad.

Posted by: mike at July 30, 2006 11:56 PM

Michael:

The "attack Syria" strategy is attractive and reasonable in its way, but I'm afraid it also has its flaws.

The Israeli establishment seems to think that however hideous the Baathists in Syria are, what would be likely to succeed them would be either a Sunni fundamentalist regime or...chaos. The kind of chaos in which al-Qaeda and its ilk can operate freely. They prefer Assad. Can Israel occupy Syria? Of course not.

Right now, the Israelis have a peaceful neighbor in Jordan, a peaceful neighbor in Egypt and a peaceful enemy in Syria. For now. Lebanon and the Palestinian territories are the problems.

And Hezbollah are not just Iranian or Syrian puppets. They have much real support within the Shia community as you know. The Iranians and Syrians have much influence over them, but they don't just control them. A Hezbollah attack is a Hezbollah attack and an answering strategy of attacking Hezbollah is reasonable. But it offers very little in the way of possible good outcomes.

Nor does anything else.

I don't think the Israelis know what to do. There just isn't any good answer for them. And I think that they are being outfought and outmaneuvred and would be outfought and outmaneuvred no matter whom they attacked. They just aren't strong enough--despite appearances--to win the wider War they are engaged in. I think the State of Israel is--long-term--a strategic impossibility. It may take twenty to fifty years to wind down, but I can't see it surviving. How long will Israelis stay in Israel with constant rocket attacks? And if more and better rockets start coming from the Territories? The less committed will start bleeding out furiously to America, Europe and elsewhere and, combined with their low birth rate, that will spell their doom.

And how long will the US be strong enough to supply them with the life support of arms and cash infusions?

And I can't see Lebanon surviving either. It was originally intended by the French as a Maronite mini-state, but there weren't enough Maronites and there was too much territory with too many other kinds of folks. It will either become a Hezbollah satrapy or be reabsorbed into Syria. And the Christian element will diminish until it's on a level with the Copts of Egypt...all very, very sad. I love Lebanon and I admire the Israelis. I wish it weren't so, but I don't buy any of the rosy scenarios.

The idea of a Shia empire from Iran through (Shia controlled) Iraq and (Shia governed) Syria through (Shia dominated) Lebanon is no longer a fantasy. And then how hard would it be to take or dominate the weak and underpopulated Sunni states in Jordan and Arabia and the Gulf. Bahrain is majority Shiite. Kuwait has a large Shia population. Egypt and Yemen have lots of people, but no resources.

This is the day of the Shia and they are making the most of their opportunities. That's why the Saudi government is practically allied to Israel in this war. But the PEOPLE! The Sunni PEOPLE don't care about that. They are with Hezbollah.

Posted by: Jeff at July 31, 2006 12:00 AM

Of course, any strategy for countering this has to be aimed at Iran. Bring down the government of Iran, any old way. Bust the place up. Give the Azerbaijanis and the Kurds and the Baluch and the Turkmen and the Arabs of Khuzistan their independence.

But that's too realpolitik and too imperial for us. And it has its own problems. The other option is: call it quits and retreat from the whole shebang.

Posted by: Jeff at July 31, 2006 12:05 AM

Well Sun Tzu also said

“Subdue the enemy’s army without direct battle, capture the enemy’s cities without fierce assaults; and destroy the enemy’s nation without protracted operations.”

For Israel however the gutless world says, don’t use your superior air power to destroy the Hizbollah nation without protracted operations, that is disproportionate or not cricket, or if you must, fly low so that Hizbollah can shoot you down.

Or

“He whose generals are able and not interfered with by the ruler will win.”

In this case an international “community” who refuse to confront the evil that Hizbollah is and the complicity of the Lebanese government.”

And if Sun Tzu is the boy to go with

Of the general
“If over compassionate to the people, he can be easily harassed.”

Hizbollah pulls a spectacular killing of its own people, after all Nasrallah said that the Lebanese would have to be hurt, and the Israelis are forced to adopt a ceasefire in order to allow Hizbollah to regroup, and what’s the bet there is another convoy waiting to come. Hizbollah is not asked to be compassionate, only Israel.

I don’t know why I thought this, but I assumed that Hizbollah had been building up its rockets and missiles over a prolonged period. If the article in the Spectator is right, which confirms the Lebanese governments knowledge of the load in the truck convoy, who it was for, and for which they provided an official transit permit, (March 2006), the load was 12,000 Katyusha rockets. The Israelis knew, and that the range had been substantially extended so they could reach Haifa. And so did Sionora. The new democratic government aided the importation of 12,000 rockets, to do what did they think? If this is correct, what does anyone who considers Israel should have negotiated, think Hizbollah was planning to do with that huge delivery, have a wow of a Guy Fawkes night. No Randy is right, when not if. And that so far only a limited number of Israelis have been killed, but there are thousands to go. Are we to believe that they just wanted that many because it makes them feel good. No they wanted them because they intended to use them.

And the price for Lebanon, Iran sends a message to the US through Hizbollah, a planned attack by Hizbollah, with the pay off for Hizbollah being the conquest of Lebanon.

So don’t attack cities unless you have no alternative, indeed don’t attack if you are not well placed, but what alternative did Israel have exactly. Well they are not actually doing that, don’t think that the Hizbollah centres in South Beirut constitutes putting a city under siege.

Exactly who was it that was going to do something about the bankers etc, not the UN. So option available, wait for Lebanon to facilitate further material support for Hizbollah? I note that the US congress passed resolutions and amendments to acts that substantially reduce funds to Lebanon if they did not deploy the Lebanese army to South Lebanon as they were required to do by 1559, and what happened?

Posted by: Ros at July 31, 2006 12:11 AM

Left leaning Guardian, almost smells the coffee, can’t decide if we are at war or not, but does sense a problem. This article does raise the question I have been exploring – just why are we seemingly unable or unwilling to mobilize more?

If this is the third world war, we’re losing

The idea of the “Islamo-fascist” enemy makes a great soundbite but in reality leaves something to be desired.

Followed by the ‘secularist Baathist’ yada yada.

It is one thing to posit a titanic struggle for existence with a deadly foe. But how does that explain our dilatory, penny-pinching response?

That is the question that troubles me also.

That said, there are some things worth defending: democracy and liberal values. And yes, Israel shares them.

Kill the fatted calf. The prodigal may be coming home.

Author then goes for ‘skill and cunning’ but is soon lost in a muddle of real politik and neocon references. Then the author brings it home:

Blair has called for a war of ideas against fundamentalist ideology, yet the Foreign Office, the intelligence agencies and latterly the Home Office have connived to make London into Londonistan, home to suicide missions abroad and a missionary base for militancy.

Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks? At this rate, they may getting out the ‘tin hats’ just as we are mopping up in Iran.

Posted by: jdwill at July 31, 2006 04:52 AM

Consequently, if it is indeed true that 82% of them now support Hezbollah, it suggest that:

1) they are incredibly politically naive (which is HIGHLY doubtful); or
2) they were secretly supportive of Hezbollah (due to being anti-Israeli) all along and, in their anger, they have now let the charade drop.

Let's put ourselves in their shoes. Say your airport, border crossings and ports are bombed and then one day hundreds of refugees from the south pitch up at your local school.

You're then bombarded with a daily diet of highly emotive TV images showing children being pulled out of the rubble, culminating in what happened yesterday.

The country that carries out the bombings is one that occupied part of your own country ten years ago and is generally despised in neighbouring countries (NB - I'm NOT saying this is fair or right, simply stating a fact).

The satellite TV channels pumping out the news act like cheerleaders for the people we in the West call terrorists.

I think in that sort of atmosphere, you pretty soon lose sight of the complexities of the situation and look at things in pretty black and white terms - however misguided or ultimately counter productive that this might turn out to be.

Posted by: Dirk at July 31, 2006 05:45 AM

The Lebanese are the most progressive of the Arabs. They support an organization that uses them as human shields, builds bunkers under apartment complexes and schools, uses private homes as weapons depots--all as part of a strategy to create casualties among civilians.

The Lebanese also support an organization that provoked a neighboring country into a destructive war, for no reason other than to gain political standing. "Nasrallah will save us," one woman in Qana shrieked, even though Nasrallah is the cause of her child's death.

Finally, the Lebanese are fine with "rescue workers" holding up the splayed, mutilated bodies of their children like road kill, just for propaganda purposes.

A rational person would begin to question whether or not Arabs are capable democratic self rule. If the Lebanese are the best the Arabs have to offer, I think the answer is pretty clear.

Posted by: Tom W. at July 31, 2006 06:39 AM

Israeli money for rebuilding Lebanon infrastructure sounds like a great idea. It would probably have to be give indirectly though. I doubt the government of Lebanon would publically accept Israeli aid, and how could they cash the cheque, given that they don't recognize Israel's existance?

Posted by: Stewart Clamen at July 31, 2006 06:42 AM

The Jews love a bargain - I know, I'm Jewish. So the Israelis tried to do it on the cheap, take on a guerilla ground force from 15,000 in the air - thus saving themselves the cost (they thought) of infantry casualties and an even higher political cost of reminding the electorate that the idiots should never gotten out of Lebanon - at least the way they did - six years ago. So now Israel must really pay the full price. The once-invincible IDF is humiliated, the Arabs, plus Iran, now have the template (and the incentive) to beat Israel again, not one Israeli military or political objective has been met, their true-blue US ally now looks dumb and has to do a 180, and the wolf, stronger than ever, is still at Israel's door. Brilliant. Game, set, match Nasrallah. Now, in a few years, it'll be on to the Championship round for all the marbles.

Sometimes you just can't get it wholesale.

Posted by: Dan Friedman at July 31, 2006 06:53 AM

A large number of people in Lebanon need to grow up and stop acting like children. They are misdirecting their rage. Israel is simply defending its citizens. The blame for all the deaths morally belongs solely to Hezbollah. Of course, these Lebanese people subconsciously realize that Hesbollah will murder them if they vent their frustration towards its leadership. It’s much safer to scream at the Israelis. Hey, what’s new about this? Isn’t it what’s been going on in the Middle East for at least the last sixty years? Yelling and screaming at Israel is essentially risk free. That's why it has become a favorite pastime.

Posted by: David Thomson at July 31, 2006 07:31 AM

IT'S TO LATE TO ATTACK THEIR STRATEGY. WE'VE NOT IMPLEMENTED A REAL COUNTER TO INSURGENCY THAT WE SHOULD OF LEARNED FROM NAM. THAT FAILURE BELONGS TO OUR MILITARY. WE CAN'T ATTACK THEIR ALLIANCES. THEY ARE NOT INTERESTED IN NEGOTIATION. ATTACKING IT'S ARMY INLCUDES ATTACKING IT'S SOILDERS, WOMAN & CHILDREN. AND THEY'RE IN THE CITIES. THERE IS NO ALTERNATIVE. SO, BE IT. NOW, GET ON WITH IT UNTIL THEY'RE ALL DEAD. TED

Posted by: TED at July 31, 2006 07:37 AM

David Thomson,

Maybe you need to look in the mirror, and take a lesson in maturity. Quite frankly, living in my nice condo in Atlanta, if Mexico starts lobbing bombs near where I live or my family lives, the reason why would probably escape me and most of the citizens around. I have empathy for Israel's situation, but as we saw with Sept. 11th, nobody gave two craps about the question WHY?. I understand your willingness to give Israel all of the benifit of the doubt, but if your life or your families was at risk you would just want whoever was dropping bombs near your home to stop.

Posted by: Darone at July 31, 2006 09:14 AM

I live in London, my parents are in Beirut, our flat is off Hamra and I love Lebanon. My heart aches for lebanon... I'm also very angry with Israel for 2 reasons:

1) The price they think Lebanon must pay to acheive their aim of disarming Hizballah shows complete disrespect for us Lebanese, in fact it's pure racism.

2) The strategy is flawed, all it does is increase the legitimacy of Hizballah and their support. Destroying our country will achieve nothing but set the process of integrating hizballah into a democratic Lebanese society back.

Now let me write a little about whether Lebanese must support Hizballah or not>>

Hizballah is not an organisations that non-members need to support or not support. Non-Hizballah members must simply accept and understand the reality>> A political and military vacuum during the war was filled by Hizballah, and they have developed an impressive socio-military organisation to fill this vacuum. What they have done is impressive. Unfortunately the US and Israel seem to have a monopoly on what is legitimate and what is not. They refuse to face reality!

The challenge for lebanon is how to integrate this impressive socio-military organisation with the wider mainstream political system of Lebanon.

1st let's be clear>> This integration of Hizballah into mainstream Lebanon, basically putting their military might under the control of a democratically elected government, is a process. This process cannot happen overnight, to be sure. Asking Hizballah to offer Lebanon the fruits of all its sweat and blood since 1982 is asking Hizballah to TRUST that the Lebanese political system will represent their interests fairly and democratically. The constitution is designed to skew representation, so maybe that's what we need to look at first.

So Hizballah offers an oportunity for Lebanon to look at its constitution, and start the process of tailor-making our political and economic ssyetm to meet the needs and interests of all the Lebanese equally, irrespective of religion.

Israel is not helping this process to say the least, but the good news is that we seem to be more united than ever, with most blogs I've come across as well as sounbites from Lebanese politicians reflecting this. So let's work together to creating a united, democratic and independent lebanon for our children. That by the way is how we can ultimately declare victory over Israel.

peace and love, naji

Posted by: Naji at July 31, 2006 09:36 AM

“I understand your willingness to give Israel all of the benifit of the doubt, but if your life or your families was at risk you would just want whoever was dropping bombs near your home to stop.”

You might also say the same thing about your local police if they were exchanging gun fire with criminals in your neighborhood. The bottom line is this: your response is an emotional one---and grossly immature. You know damn well that Israel has no alternative but to bomb Hezbollah positions. The rage of the Lebanese innocents should be directed towards the Islamic militants. End of story.

Posted by: David Thomson at July 31, 2006 12:54 PM

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

THAT'S SILLY. THERE IS NO ALTERNATIVE! THE MISSILES ARE BEING LAUNCHED INTO ISRAEL FROM THE CITIES, SILLY!

Posted by: JOE at July 31, 2006 01:00 PM

“1st let's be clear>> This integration of Hizballah into mainstream Lebanon, basically putting their military might under the control of a democratically elected government, is a process.”

You have definitely capitulated to the Stockholm Syndrome. Yup, hating Israel is much safer then confronting the nasty folks of Hezbollah.

Posted by: David Thomson at July 31, 2006 01:12 PM

MT: "Lebanon was an almost-democracy"

"Democracy" killed Socrates and handed the reigns of power to Hitler. So much for democracy meaning: a government respecting individual rights. But I digress.

How much time did you spend in southern Lebanon, Michael? The descriptions I read of it describe a military state-within-a-state, with not just a little theocracy mixed in, existing for the purpose of annihilating Israel. Is that what you call "almost-democracy"?

MT: "82 percent of Lebanese now support Hezbollah"

Not that I trust this statistic or its interpretation off-hand, but if true it would make the majority of Lebanese the mortal enemy of Israel, deserving of no protection from Israeli bombs. Those truly innocent -- and not blinded by moral equivocation -- are hoping for a crushing Israeli victory.

MT: "It is a tremendous boon to ... Iran."

In what universe? The entire world is seeing how pathetically weak Hezb'Allah is. How many rockets do they have to launch to kill one Israeli citizen? Whether or not Iran played the Hezb'Allah card just now, it is now nearly played -- and it doesn't appear it will amount to much. Ahmadinejad's options for intimidating the West are decreasing through this war.

Posted by: Brad W at July 31, 2006 01:20 PM

Hezbollah's victory so far in this conflict has been the same as every terrorist and guerilla's in our lifetimes.

They managed to convince a large portion of the world that their victims (Israel, US, etc...) are attacking civilians instead of terrorists.

The strategy that Hezbollah is currently using is not new in Lebanon. It was also used by the PLO in the prelude to the 1982 war. They placed their heavy weaponry outside of Christian homes and fired on Israel, leading to a blood bath.

...Many bloggers and commentators have been eager to pronounce Israel the loser since the first minute these events began.

This is foolish. The fortunes of war are too fickle.

A clear defeat of Hezbollah would change the tide in civilization's battle against terrorism.

Posted by: Freedom Now at July 31, 2006 06:18 PM

I think we are being too pessimistic about the Lebanese. They want the bombing and fighting to stop right now and that's completely understandable. And, for them right now, it's easier to get behind Hezbollah than to condemn it. After all, they are the ones who have to put up with the possible consequences of condemning Hezbollah since, to the Lebanese, the outcome is still uncertain.

Anyway the safest fallback position is always to condemn Israel.

But if Michael can just ask the Hezbollah supporters one question, I would be happy:

Do you need rockets, missiles, and Ak-47's to supply social services?

Posted by: Syl at July 31, 2006 07:43 PM


I fail to see why this is a disaster for the United States.

I is a disaster for the Republicans ... with just a little over three months to the next election.

Here, in one fell swoop, monkeyboy sums up the default position of the American Left. He expresses barely-contained glee at the death and distruction in Lebanon because he thinks it will be good for the Democrats at the polls.

Dis-gusting!

Posted by: Nigel at July 31, 2006 08:11 PM

Well, actually Israel invaded Lebanon the first time long before Hesbollah was a major player. The mistaken assumption that all analysts make is that Israel is a good faith player. It is not, it hasn't been since before there was an Israeli state (see King David Hotel bombing) . It certainly wasn't when it ethnically cleansed hundreds of Palestinian Arab villages. It wasn't during the Suez crisis, if wasn't when it bombed the Liberty. It wasn't in 1982 , it wasn't during the so-called Oslo process. It isn't now

(Speaking of the Liberty, Anyone notice the similarity between the Liberty incident -- an intelligence gathering ship that had the scoop on Israeli actions-- and the bombing of the UN observation post -- an intelligence gathering organization that had the scoop on Israeli actions? )

Israel cares about Israeli Jews. It does not care about Christian Lebanese, Christian Palestinians, American Sailors, or anyone else. That is fine; what I fail to understand is why Americans so blindly support it.

Posted by: stari_momak at July 31, 2006 09:07 PM

i think I finally got it.

I read this:

http://thethinkingleb.blogspot.com/2006/07/sacrificing-lebanon.html

Is this close to what you've meant?

Posted by: OregonGuy at July 31, 2006 10:27 PM

We lost an Arab ally today, and the Arabs are rapidly losing their only democracy.

With allies like the arabs, we'll never want for enemies, and with a democracy like Lebanon, they'd be better off with Saddam Hussein. Arabs are backward, uncivilized savages and only understand crushing brute force. We should turn several major cities to dust, and watch them grovel.

Posted by: Improbulus Maximus at August 1, 2006 09:33 AM

Improbulus Maximus is banned.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at August 1, 2006 09:39 AM

stari_momak
Well, actually Israel invaded Lebanon the first time long before Hesbollah was a major player.

Israel invaded previously because it was being repeatedly attacked by the PLO in cross border raids from Lebanese soil, after the PLO was kicked out of Jordan for insurrections there. At the time there were at first substantial numbers of Lebanese who were glad to see them come because the PLO was attacking other groups and acting as brigands in Lebanon as well. Over time most Lebanese did become united in wanting the Israelis out and Hezbollah grew in strength with Syrian and Iranian weapons and training, and had success in grinding Israel’s forces with a guerilla war of attrition. Israel decided this wasn’t worth it and withdrew in 2000 after Lebanon agreed to disarm all militias. Israel’s calculation was that if it was no longer occupying Lebanese territory to suppress attacks against Israel that most Lebanese would not want to allow Hezbollah to continue to attack an Israel not in occupation or their country.

Syria then essentially gave it’s rights to the Shebba Farms area which Israel took from Syria together with the Golan Heights in the 1967 war, to Lebanon in order to hand Hezbollah an argument for why Israel WAS still in occupation of Lebanese soil and why therefore it needed to keep it’s arms and continue to raid and sometimes rocket attack Israel.

Posted by: dougjnn at August 1, 2006 10:24 AM

Michael—
Monkyboy: I fail to see why this is a disaster for the United States.
Michael: We lost an Arab ally today, and the Arabs are rapidly losing their only democracy.
Michael If you think this is good or even neutral for the US then you definitely don't live in the same mental universe as I do.
So long as Hezbollah doesn’t end up leading or controlling the government, I don’t think we will have permanently lost Lebanon as an ally of sorts. Warm feelings will stay gone. The moderates and for that matter all the non Shiites need our help, as well as that of Saudi Arabia, which will counsel them to mend broken ties with us. We have lost tons of popular good will though and that won’t repair easily or soon.
If we can manage to get the Israelis to give up Shabaa Farms and do a prisoner exchange it will help a lot. What will help the most is if Hezbollah does get disarmed, or mostly disarmed, and folded into the Lebanese army. No more rockets. THAT when combined with Shabba Farms will be seen as at least SOME good outcome of this tragedy by all but the Shi’a, I think.
Having said that, let me also say as I have been saying for the past week on a number of blogs and forums that I think this conflict should have ended more than a week ago, for Israel and America’s own good, as well as Lebanon’s. I think the shock and deterrent effect (against future Hezbollah rocket attacks or cross border raids) of the attack was at it’s height then and has been declining since, as Israel’s ground campaign has proceeded much more slowly and with more Israeli casualties than most people including I think Hezbollah leadership expected. The US let Israel proceed because it thought Israel would do more on the ground by now than it has, but there were early signs and Rice and co should have gotten a better read from Israel as to how small and cautious their invasion was going to continue to be.
The prior paragraph would be wrong if the IDF is actually killing a lot more Hez core fighters than it seems or have taken out a lot more rockets than it seems. I doubt those are the facts though.

Posted by: dougjnn at August 1, 2006 10:44 AM

Well, actually Israel invaded Lebanon the first time long before Hesbollah was a major player.

>>>Israel invaded previously because it was being repeatedly attacked by the PLO in cross border raids from Lebanese soil, after the PLO was kicked out of Jordan for insurrections there

Non-sequiter douginn. I merely pointed out that Hesbollah came into being as a result of Israeli agression against Lebanon. Whether that agression was justifiable or not

Israel always gets a pass. Suez -- what was the justification for that? How about the literal erasure of Palestinian Arab villages? How about the several hours of repeated attacks on the Liberty?

This latest agression really lets the mask slip.

Posted by: stari_momak at August 1, 2006 11:20 AM

Mike - being new to this site - I came to this site from right-wing blogs that I only read to keep an eye on, frankly. This is my first comment or close to it. It's clear that your time in Lebanon has allowed you to do what many here in American can't do - put a human face on Arabs as well as Israelis.

First: How do you feel about the legions of thugs that Little Green Footballs has turned out onto your comment pages, advocating that Israel cross the border and kill everything that moves? That have no grasp whatsoever on the tension between punitive force and building democracy? How's it been to fall from grace with these people?

Second:

Is Mary at Exit Zero advocating a law-enforcement -first based approach to stateless terrorist organizations - the Clinton approach? Your quote suggests yes, her full comment something different.

Third:

I get the impression from your coverage of this crisis that you're discovering the Israeli penchant for the sledgehammer when the rapier would do for the first time. A lot of leftists have been aware of it for a while. Ariel Sharon learned, to an extent, over time as a prime minister, but if Abbas and Yitzhak Rabin had been running their countries at Camp David, or even in 2001, the whole world would be different right now. As they've done several times in Lebanon, Israel took a complex situation in 2000 after the outbreak of infitada 2, and completely and utterly screwed it up. Then they are left to pick up the pieces, and it goes badly. Israel's enemies are disgusting people, but Israel has earned its enemies.

Posted by: glasnost at August 1, 2006 10:29 PM

Tony Badran says "Hezbollah's plan all along was a classic coup d'etat, very similar, as Pierre Akel recently wrote, to the fascisti's takeover in Italy."

... you forgot to mention that tony himself is a right-winger fascist!!

Posted by: MM at August 2, 2006 12:02 PM

runescape money <a href="http://www.vgoldseller.com/runescape-

c-599.html">runescape gold runescape money <a

href="http://www.runescape2store.com">runescape gold wow power leveling <a

href="http://www.vgoldsupply.com">wow powerleveling Warcraft Power Leveling <a

href="http://www.vgoldsupply.com">Warcraft PowerLeveling buy

runescape gold buy runescape money <a

href="http://www.vgoldseller.com/runescape-c-599.html">runescape items <a href="http://www.runescapemoney-

runescapegold.cn">runescape gold runescape money <a

href="http://www.vgoldseller.com/runescape-runescape-accounts-c-599_988.html">runescape accounts <a

href="http://www.vgoldseller.com/runescape-c-599.html">runescape gp <a href="http://www.vgoldsupply.com/dofus-c-

1054.html">dofus kamas buy dofus kamas <a

href="http://www.vgoldseller.com/guild-wars-c-389.html">Guild Wars Gold <a href="http://www.vgoldseller.com/guild-wars-c

-389.html">buy Guild Wars Gold lotro gold <a

href="http://www.buylotrogold.org">buy lotro gold lotro gold <a

href="http://www.buy-lotro-gold.cn">buy lotro gold <a href="http://www.vgoldseller.com/lord-rings-onlineus-c-

975.html">lotro gold buy lotro gold <a

href="http://www.800millions.com">runescape money runescape power leveling <a

href="http://www.runescape2vip.cn">runescape money runescape gold <a

href="http://www.buydofuskamas.com">dofus kamas cheap runescape money <a

href="http://www.runescape4money.net">cheap runescape gold <a href="http://www.vgoldseller.com/hellgate-london-c-

1102.html">Hellgate Palladium Hellgate London

Palladium Hellgate money <a

href="http://www.vgoldseller.com/tabula-rasa-c-1107.html">Tabula Rasa gold <a href="http://www.vgoldseller.com/tabula-

rasa-c-1107.html">tabula rasa money lotro gold

buy lotro gold <a

href="http://www.vgoldseller.com/tabula-rasa-c-1107.html">Tabula Rasa Credit <a href="http://www.vgoldseller.com/tabula-

rasa-c-1107.html">Tabula Rasa Credits Hellgate gold

Hellgate London gold <a

href="http://www.vgoldseller.com/dofus-c-891.html">dofus kamas buy

dofus kamas 血管瘤 肝血管瘤 <a

href=http://www.nncbroadway.com>音乐剧 北京富码电视 富码

电视 富码电视台 7天酒店 <a

href=http://www.innhot.com/7daysinn>7天连锁酒店 7天连锁 <a

href=http://www.filt.cn>自清洗过滤器 过滤器 压力开关 <a

href=http://www.bf-rae.cn>压力传感器 流量开关 流量计 <a

href=http://www.bf-rae.cn>液位计 液位开关 温湿度记录仪

风速仪 可燃气体检测仪 <a href="http://www.wow-power-

leveling.net">wow power leveling wow powerleveling <a

href=http://"www.wow-power-leveling.net">Warcraft PowerLeveling Warcraft

Power Leveling World of Warcraft PowerLeveling <a href=http://"www.wow-

power-leveling.net">World of Warcraft Power Leveling runescape

power leveling runescape powerleveling
runescape money <a href="http://www.vgoldseller.com/runescape-

c-599.html">runescape gold wow power leveling 棕榈树


eve isk
eve online isk
eve isk
eve online isk

Posted by: runescape money at November 30, 2007 07:03 PM
Post a comment













Remember personal info?






Winner, The 2007 Weblog Awards, Best Middle East or Africa Blog

Pajamas Media BlogRoll Member



Testimonials

"I'm flattered such an excellent writer links to my stuff"
Johann Hari
Author of God Save the Queen?

"Terrific"
Andrew Sullivan
Author of Virtually Normal

"Brisk, bracing, sharp and thoughtful"
James Lileks
Author of The Gallery of Regrettable Food

"A hard-headed liberal who thinks and writes superbly"
Roger L. Simon
Author of Director's Cut

"Lively, vivid, and smart"
James Howard Kunstler
Author of The Geography of Nowhere


Contact Me

Send email to michaeltotten001 at gmail dot com


News Feeds




toysforiraq.gif



Link to Michael J. Totten with the logo button

totten_button.jpg


Tip Jar





Essays

Terror and Liberalism
Paul Berman, The American Prospect

The Men Who Would Be Orwell
Ron Rosenbaum, The New York Observer

Looking the World in the Eye
Robert D. Kaplan, The Atlantic Monthly

In the Eigth Circle of Thieves
E.L. Doctorow, The Nation

Against Rationalization
Christopher Hitchens, The Nation

The Wall
Yossi Klein Halevi, The New Republic

Jihad Versus McWorld
Benjamin Barber, The Atlantic Monthly

The Sunshine Warrior
Bill Keller, The New York Times Magazine

Power and Weakness
Robert Kagan, Policy Review

The Coming Anarchy
Robert D. Kaplan, The Atlantic Monthly

England Your England
George Orwell, The Lion and the Unicorn