November 05, 2006

Darkness Everywhere

“This is the new Middle East. Not the new Middle East of Ms [Condoleezza] Rice. Darkness everywhere.” – Lebanese Druze chief Walid Jumblatt, August 2006

Syrian soldiers occupied Lebanon the first time I went to Beirut. They left before I did, as I figured they would. The Lebanese project was the best thing going in the Middle East at the time. Baghdad was burning. But look at Beirut! Modern. Prosperous. Liberal. Arab. And free.

Bashar Assad threatened to “break Lebanon” if his troops were forced out the country. A wave of car bombs, assassinations, terrorism, and sectarian incitement began immediately.

But there was a lull there for a while. Only one person, An Nahar newspaper editor Gebran Tueni, was assassinated during my six month stay. Assad’s terror campaign didn’t work. Little did most of us know that a terrible war hatched in Tehran and Damascus was gearing up at that time. It looked like Israel was the target, but make no mistake: Lebanon was targeted, too. The Syrian-Iranian-Hezbollah war against Israel isn’t over. And the Syrian-Iranian-Hezbollah war against Lebanon is not over either.
BEIRUT: Washington warned of "mounting evidence" Wednesday that Iran, Syria and Hizbullah are "preparing plans to topple" the Lebanese government. White House spokesman Tony Snow said in a statement that "support for a sovereign, democratic and prosperous Lebanon is a key element of US policy in the Middle East."

"We are therefore increasingly concerned by mounting evidence that the Syrian and Iranian governments, Hizbullah and their Lebanese allies are preparing plans to topple Lebanon's democratically elected government, led by Prime Minister [Fouad] Siniora," Snow added.

"Any attempt to destabilize Lebanon's democratically elected government through such tactics as manufactured demonstrations and violence, or by physically threatening its leaders, would, at the very least, be a clear violation of Lebanon's sovereignty" and UN resolutions, he said.

Hizbullah's leader, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, warned late Tuesday that Hizbullah and its allies will take to the streets "for as long as it takes ... to either topple the government or hold early and new parliamentary elections," if consultations to form a national unity government should fail.
The Syrian ambassador to the US said this is “ridiculous.” Pay him no mind. He also said “We, in Syria, respect the sovereignty of Lebanon.” Syria won’t open an embassy in Lebanon. That would force the Baathists to admit that Lebanon does not belong to them.

Street demonstrations by Hezbollah may not sound like that big a deal. Street demonstrations are a part of the democratic process, after all. They certainly are preferable to a coup or a violent insurgency.

Hezbollah, though, is a terrorist army as well as a political party. We’re not talking about a Free Mumia rally or a Million Mom March here.

Nasrallah is threatening "street demonstrations" because the state won’t reward his minority Hezbollah bloc with more power in a “national unity” government. They lost the election, but Nasrallah thinks that shouldn’t count. They “won” against Israel. That’s what he thinks should count.

Most Lebanese fear and loathe Hezbollah precisely because they fear Nasrallah points his guns at Beirut and Tel Aviv at the same time. Nasrallah’s current belligerence proves they’re correct.

Lebanon’s Defense Minister Elias Murr – who luckily survived an assassination attempt last year – takes seriously Nasrallah’s threat to flood downtown with angry Hezbollah supporters from the dahiyeh and the south. He deployed 20,000 troops of his own into the streets of Beirut. Beirut is less than three miles wide. You can walk across downtown in five minutes. Imagine 20,000 troops in that small an area.

Lebanese Forces political party leader Samir Geagea says if protests degenerate into riots "we will be there to back up the security forces anywhere and we put ourselves under their command."

They are right to be worried. Recent "street demonstrators" in Beirut burned the Danish embassy and violently tore apart the U.N. building downtown. Shortly afterward someone fired rockets at a nightclub across the street from the U.N., most likely to demonstrate that even the most “secure” part of the city built and all but owned by the Hariri clan can be assaulted with impunity by shadowy forces. During the war against Israel Nasrallah threatened his political opponents with violence. Defense Minister Murr would be derelict in his duty if he did not send in the army. Even Speaker of Parliament Nabih Berri, Nasrallah’s closest Lebanese ally, is worried now about what Hezbollah will do.

The Israelis may have temporarily depleted Hezbollah’s arsenal stock, but it makes little difference. Syria and Iran are arming them all over again. (For God’s sake, didn’t the Israelis know that would happen?)

Someone most likely from the Syrian-Iranian-Hezbollah axis attacked an army barracks with hand grenades twice in the last three weeks. Charles Malik says sectarian clashes are a routine occurrence and are rarely mentioned in local or international media. I’ve received anecdotal messages by email that suggest this may be the case.

If Israel is almost back to Square One – they’re at Square Two at best -- Lebanon is at Square Negative Three.

British military historian John Keegan says another war in Lebanon is inevitable. I fear he must be right. The last one, in hindsight, was inevitable. I should have known that at the time when I went to the Hezbollah dahiyeh south of Beirut. Their state-within-a-state reeks of fascism, terrorism, and war. The next round is just as inevitable as the last one. Hezbollah was finally thrown off the fence, but none of the war’s principle causes have been resolved.

There’s a case to be made that Lebanon is at war even now, not only with Israel and Syria but with itself. As Bart Hall put it at Winds of Change: “Peace is the absence of threat not the absence of conflict.”

Posted by Michael J. Totten at November 5, 2006 07:24 PM
Comments

Well .. the writing is on the wall. The Lebanese people have to get their affairs in order.

If the UN peacekeeping forces and/or the Lebanese army allow Hezbollah to reoccupy and rearm in Southern Lebanon, so that they can launch another attack on Israel, then they are to blame.

With Hezbollah, its not a matter of if, but when.

Which side would the Lebanese people join ? If they join the international community, the U.N and the Israeli side, they can disarm Hezbollah and face no further threats to their sovereignty.

If they are happy to take the side of Hezbollah, allow them to rearm and run the military, and attack Israel once again, then Lebanon will not be prosperous, it will not be liberal and it will not be secure.

Posted by: Jono at November 5, 2006 07:49 PM

Jono, I will agree with you about the anti-Hezbollah Lebanese being to blame if you can explain, in detail, how the Lebanese army can fight Hezbollah without losing and without breaking into factions just like the last time they tried to resolve the same problem with a Palestinian state-within-a-state in Beirut and in the south.

Please keep in mind that 35 percent of army conscripts are Shia, Syrian occupiers deliberately degraded the army over a 15-year period, and 10 percent of the officer class are Baathist-appointed fifth columnists.

Wise people do not start wars they know they can't win. What the anti-Hezbollah Lebanese should do is get even more help from abroad. That route is fraught with peril, too, though, given Lebanon's history of inviting foreigners in as sectarian proxies.

There is no easy answer, I am sorry to say. The cause of the problem is outside Lebanon. And nobody wants to go there.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at November 5, 2006 08:01 PM

Jono, I have yet to see any evidence that the international community and the U.N. are on the Israeli side for Lebanon to join.

Posted by: AdamX at November 5, 2006 08:07 PM

The Lebanese cried that they are Arab by choice. It's a choice that they made. But it's a choice that will lead them to extinction at hands of and for the cause of Jihad. You only have to look at the sorry state of Christians in Gaza, in Bethlehem, in Nazareth, in Bagdad, in Cairo, etc.

Posted by: mikhael at November 5, 2006 08:22 PM

There are a lot more Christians in Lebanon than in any other Middle Eastern country. Jihad will never rule there.

It won't rule in Nazareth either. Nazareth is part of Israel, not the West Bank.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at November 5, 2006 09:31 PM

The Lebanese cried that they are Arab by choice.

Fouad Seniora said that. Lebanon is sort of Arab and sort of not. It's a never-ending argument in that country.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at November 5, 2006 09:32 PM

Iran-Syria-Hizballah. Iran is the power-broker of that trinity. Go for it.

Posted by: Yafawi at November 6, 2006 02:56 AM

Michael,

I thought that you were quite clear about the coming of the war when you wrote your articles in April: "Everything Could Explode at Any Moment".

The imminent outbreak of war passed beyond doubt a few days later when Iran threatened that 'Hezbollah would launch hundreds of rockets against military and economic targets in Israel in the event that their nuclear installations were attacked' (by the US). - Asharq Al-Awsat

I wonder how the Saudi Arabian and Egyptian governments will respond to this latest threat of an Iranian influenced and Syrian controlled Lebanon. Whatever, I'm sure it won't bode well for Israel.

Posted by: Steve M at November 6, 2006 03:07 AM

Michael J. Totten - 'There are a lot more Christians in Lebanon than in any other Middle Eastern country. Jihad will never rule there.'

Actually Egypt has a much bigger population of Christians in absolute numbers - at least 10% of 70 million = 7 million Christians.

Lebanon has the most Christians as a percentage of the population - between 30 and 40 % of 4 million people = 1.2 to 1.6 million Christians.

Posted by: Observer at November 6, 2006 03:29 AM

The political conflict in Lebanon must remain a political conflict. The state is not viable as a series of ethnic enclaves. The enclaves themselves are not viable as enclaves. The Shiites are the largest and strongest bloc, and they will never be pro-Israel under the current regional environment.

If Hizballah was genuinely comfortable with starting an open war with their countrymen, they would be starting it. The demonstrations are bait for a military overreaction that will delegitimize the government.

Hizb wants a piece in the gov to make sure no one forces it to disarm. A lack of disarmnament would lead to the status quo. Which isn't great. But on the other hand, it's a lot better then a Lebanese civil war. For Lebanon. I'm sure the Lebanese agree. If they didn't, they'd be starting a war.

I wouldn't say boo to rubbing out Bashar Assad, though. Syria is a problem.

Posted by: glasnost at November 6, 2006 07:14 AM

There is an interesting article in the Telegraph on the coming next phase of the war. There's an article in today's Times about Hez's move to take more official power in Lebanon. If Hez were the govt of Lebanon, then any attack on Israel would be an act of war by Lebanon. Of course, Lebanon is at war with Israel, right? And Israel would be within its rights to do whatever it had to, if the government of Lebanon were the attacking party. At least, things would be cleaner.

Posted by: Seymour Paine at November 6, 2006 07:19 AM

I agree with Yafawi: Lebanon's future runs through Tehran. So long as the Islamic Republic continues to fund and arm Hezbollah, there will be no stability in Lebanon.

Posted by: semite1973 at November 6, 2006 08:48 AM

MJT,

Israelis know Christians allied themselves, as well as sheltered Hezbollah Jihadis in their homes. UNIFIL is there to lend support to the central Lebanese government. Israel gave the central government in Beirut a chance to reassert its authority. The Lebanese army is patrolling in the South. It is not up to Israel to disarm Hezbollah. If hostilities are again started from Lebanese side, I see Israel going straight for the Lebanese jugular, their pocket book. It will start targeting the rich cats in Lebanon, their villas, their yacht, their Mercedes Benz, their banks, their fancy hotels, their horse racing stadiums, etc. The Lebanese are turning a blind eye to Hezbollah at their own peril.

Posted by: mikhael at November 6, 2006 09:31 AM

Good write-up, Michael.

I'm afraid I agree with the notion that more war is inevitable for Lebanon. I'm not sure just yet if it's going to be a full out civil war, or yet another Israel-Hezbollah conflict. But it's gonna be one of those two. Something's gotta give.

I'm saddened, every day, when I read the news from Beirut. It's depressing to hear and read the same bullcrap still coming from those so-called "leaders" (both on the March 14 side, and the pro-Syrian side). They sound EXACTLY the same as they did in 1975-1990 (The first Lebanese civil war). They have learned nothing. And what is worse, the people have learned nothing. They continue to allow sectarian loyalties to stunt any true Democratic thought. As long as people continue to blindly allow these so-called leaders to make decisions for them, nothing will change.

Lebanon is not a Democracy. Never was. It masquerades as one. True Democracy starts with the rule of law and the respect of the state's institutions.

It's very telling when this clique of "leaders" bypasses parliament, government and every other state institution, to make decisions in "national dialogue talks"...WTF is that? We elect a parliament for a reason, in Democratic countries.

Imagine if Pat Robertson, John Kerry, Rush Limbaugh and Dick Cheney decided to ignore congress and the white house and conduct "national dialogue talks" and made decisions about how to conduct the war in Iraq and other such decisions. And then imagine if the American people actually FOLLOWED those decisions....That's Lebanon.

Posted by: Bad Vilbel at November 6, 2006 10:15 AM

shrug

Lebanon is not a free state. Iran and Syria operate there with impunity... Lebanon is at their mercy. As the "free world" has shown time and time again, it has no will to do anything to even save itself, much less anyone else. Quite the opposite, really - the "free world" will go to great lengths to hamper its own survival.(while this invites a discussion of Iraq and Afghanistan, one should remember Iran, North Korea, the last war in Lebanon, etc).

Syria can conquer Lebanon tomorrow and nobody will lift a finger to help the Lebanese. Iran can move 2 million troops there and rape every living thing in Lebanon, and this will probably be ignored by the MSM. The only actor that can do anything for Lebanon is Israel, and this won't happen since Israel is, of course, the Little Satan (and has horribly mismanaged its Lebanese allies, to the point of abandoning and betraying them).

I see no hope for Lebanon. It's helpless and at the mercy of the merciless. In the longer run, it'll probably be sacrificed in a nuclear attack on Israel from Lebanese soil.

Mikhael - Israel will do no such thing. Expect more half-measures with cringing at the European and UN anti-semites. Actually, with the UNIFIL (Hizballah auxiliaries) meatshields in place, Israel will probably do pretty much nothing when attacked again.

Another potentially peaceful, prosperous and free state gone down the drain.

Posted by: The Raccoon at November 6, 2006 10:20 AM

Mikhail: The Lebanese are turning a blind eye to Hezbollah at their own peril.

They aren't turning a blind eye. They just put 20,000 troops in a three-mile wide area.

And you still don't get it. Hezbollah is armed and controlled from Tehran. Lebanon cannot win or even start a war with Iran. It just isn't possible.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at November 6, 2006 10:37 AM

Michael,

Excellent synopsis. Given the detail to which you are paying attention to Lebanese politics, I think it is only fitting that you take your next trip there to see how things have changed.

Oddly enough, the clubbing scene is better than ever. People are making up for lost time.

The food shortages have ended, by and large, but the price of chicken is still inflated, and you can't get fresh milk.

De Prague is still a happening place, but new places have opened in Hamra, like Ta Marbouta, and they are very popular.

Many of the leftists are now Hezbollah supporters. Those that don't support Hezbollah are now Hariri supporters, which means their supporting the biggest anti-socialist in Lebanon.

It's gotten quite strange, and I haven't even mentioned what the Syrians in Lebanon are saying.

Posted by: Charles Malik at November 6, 2006 10:50 AM

Charles,

What are the Syrians in Lebanon saying? I haven't heard one word about them from anyone, anywhere.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at November 6, 2006 10:59 AM

MJT,

I don't buy your argument, and neither will any thinking person. The Lebanese, with the help of UNIFIL and a UN mandate, control the supply routes by way Hezbollah gets its arms. Syria and Iran will not intervene because that would invite US and Israeli fireworks in Damascus.

Posted by: mikhael at November 6, 2006 11:29 AM

MJT,

The Lebanese are making the same tragic mistake the dhimmi Jews of Spain have made, when some of them sided with the Jihadis. The Lebanese have Jewish history as hindsight. Hopefully, they will learn from it.

Posted by: mikhael at November 6, 2006 11:46 AM

Mikhael,

The Lebanese army has intercepted lots of Hezbollah arms shipments. But more get through anyway.

If you think Syria and Iran won't intervene against Lebanon, you're completely wrong. Syria has been intervening in that country for 30 years in a row and is still doing so at this very moment. Iran has been doing so since the early 1980s and is doing it right now as I type this.

The Lebanese army plus UNIFIL is not enough to prevent the next war.

And if you think deploying 20,000 troops into Beirut is "turning a blind eye," well, I don't know what to tell you.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at November 6, 2006 12:31 PM

For those who think the Lebanese Army could shut down Hezbollah's supply of arms if they wanted to, consider this: How successful has the US military been over the years at shutting down illegal immigration over our borders? Sure, we have a longer border. We also have a vastly higher portion of our GDP going to the military than Lebanon does.

Think about it. It just isn't as easy to close down a border as you might like to think.

Posted by: wj at November 6, 2006 12:51 PM

For the sake of argument, assume Hezbollah goes on the offensive in Beirut. How many of those 20,000 government troops will fight? Will the non-Hizb blocs back the government, make a separate deal with Nasrallah, or sit on the bench?

And just for fun, in my extremely limited knowledge of Arabic I think Nasrallah sounds like a pseudonym, similar to Stalin. Is it?

Posted by: Stacy at November 6, 2006 12:52 PM

Lebanon is "finito".
Aoun + Berry + Nasralah will make shaaria the law of the land and that little "Christian" will be doning a beard and saying "yes massa" or turn into a cadaver...........

Posted by: diana at November 6, 2006 01:01 PM

Continuation: The enemy is not Israel. The enemy lives within.

Posted by: diana at November 6, 2006 01:03 PM

MJT,

Israelis are tired of hearing excuses. Whether it's Abu Mazen or Fouad Seniora, in practical terms, to the average Israeli they're all the same shit. Not much different than those they often give political cover to.

Posted by: mikhael at November 6, 2006 01:07 PM

WJ,

The same "physics" that apply on the US southern border also apply in Lebanon. Illegal Mexican immigration is profitable to the US, and therefore is allowed to continue. Weapons and other contraband smuggling is profitable for the Lebanese, and therefore is allowed to continue.

That's why I say to MJT, and to the Lebanese in general, be warned! Not everyone is a stupid as you would have them be.

Posted by: mikhael at November 6, 2006 01:13 PM

"Syria and Iran will not intervene because that would invite US and Israeli fireworks in Damascus."
I have a hard time believing this statement at all. Iran will continue to intervene in any situation which it feels it can benefit from in an attempt in becoming the key player in their georgraphic location. Look at the support Tehran gives to those operating in Iraq and what "fireworks" has that brought. Unfortunately, the United States has sent mixed messages to Iran. At times calling for strong sanctions and other times, urging continuing dialogue. Unlike the popular sentiment I have been reading so far, I do not feel Lebanon is a lost cause. During the Cedar Revolution, the comments focused on the real chance of Lebanon to emerge in the Middle East. It is a dark period but there is still potential for Lebanon to regain what it has lost. How to do this, is now the question, and any ideas on how to approach maintaining order, increasing solidarity, improving Israeli relations (if possible), eventually discontinuing the Hezbollah threat by devolopment (again, if possible). Sorry for the altruism of the statement, but it is suprisingly sunny in Michigan today.

Posted by: Mantis at November 6, 2006 01:31 PM

There are 4 US Aircraft Carrier Group surrounding Iran. The Iranian Mullahs will get their, soon enough.

Posted by: mikhael at November 6, 2006 01:40 PM

Mikhail,

Ha-olam asher atah roeh, lo hayah v'lo nivrah.

Do you really think that the United Nations, that august body of do-nothings and cowards, would actually take on Hizbullah? Just like they took on the Serbs, and the Hutus, and the Egyptians in 1967??

It is possible for Israel to retain the option of using military force against Lebanon, without discounting entirely the terrible situation in which the Lebanese are in.

It is absurd to imagine that the UN will be the answer to Lebanon's problems. And it is ludicrous to think that the United States will go to war over Lebanon, especially now given the acrimony over Iraq.

The world is messier than you fondly imagine it is. Deal with it.

Posted by: Mastiff at November 6, 2006 04:57 PM

(Mastiff, ani lo fryer. Vegam ata lo tzarich lehiyot)

Do you really think that the United Nations, that august body of do-nothings and cowards, would actually take on Hizbullah?

The UNIFIL force will not take on Hezbollah, not if they are to follow the Lebanese example. The Lebanese, now have 2 UN SC resolutions as mandate to disarm Hezbollah. They can try and use them.

Security Council resolution 1701 also stipulates the unconditional release of the abducted Israeli soldiers, which the Lebanese have yet to comply with. Yes, remember those abducted soldiers, cause I do. And so does the rest of Israel.

War is coming. And if the Lebanese don't take the situation seriously, their Cappuccino Lifestyle will be over, and over for good.

Posted by: mikhael at November 6, 2006 06:24 PM

There will be war because the Persian Fuhrer wills it, and because his clients in Lebanon, Gaza, and the West Bank need it as well. War serves their interest. For them, war is a way to weaken the hated Jews.

However, this time, the hated Jews will do something unorthodox. The Boy President is jumping in for a piece of the action this time, given his security guarantees from Tehran. The Golani Brigade will cross the frontier and march on Damascus.

The entire Iranian strategy works if Israel stays out of Syria. The Israelis will avoid the Lebanese trap and go around Nasrallah to his source of supply: Damascus.

Posted by: section9 at November 6, 2006 08:18 PM

Michael, as always, it's a really good piece.

I was just wondering, on 10/28/06 you wrote, "Predicting Middle Eastern politics and events is a fool's game. I've learned that the hard way and will try not to forget it." Does that mean that what you wrote in this piece is factual? Or was it just too tempting... No need to answer, I'm just curious.

Bad Vilbel, I can't say that I agree with e/t you say, always, but the analogy at the end of your comment hits home... Good one!

Posted by: Brooklyn at November 6, 2006 08:30 PM

The international community is not on the side of the aggressor Israel. To suggest that Israel is a peaceful neighbour that was provoked by the soldiers kidnapping is revisionism of the highest. For this reason the international community has no trust in Israel and it's used of Uranium depleted bombs and American war fighting hardware against the usual goat herders and women running to defend idiots who fire home made rockets. It is Guy Fawkes night coming up. Remember remember.

Posted by: Wesley Hsu at November 6, 2006 08:44 PM

(For God’s sake, didn’t the Israelis know that would happen?)

What, exactly, was Israel supposed to do different?

Posted by: Solomon2 at November 6, 2006 09:00 PM

What the hell does Guy Fawkes night have to do with anything, Hsu?

Posted by: Keith at November 6, 2006 09:42 PM

What, exactly, was Israel supposed to do different?

Go to the source. Remember your Henry David Thoreau: "There are a thousand striking at the branches of evil for one who strikes at the root."

Hezbollah is going absolutely nowhere while its suppliers and financiers survive intact and unpunished. This will never change. Ever.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at November 6, 2006 10:10 PM

Does that mean that what you wrote in this piece is factual?

Most of it, yes. Whether there will be another war or not...probably!

I could be wrong.

I don't dare try to predict when that war will happen, who will start it, who will win, and what the outcome will look like. But I can make the observation that the causes of the last war are still intact and in place. Like I said at the end of this post, that war is not really over in any case. Predicting that it will continue is not exactly a stretch.

Likewise predicting that Syria and Iran will continue their warmongering behavior until something different happens is also not much of a stretch. At least I don't think so.

The reason this Lebanon/Israel/Hezbollah conflict appears to have no resolution is because the problem is defined too narrowly. Rumsfeld had a point when he said if you find yourself with an unsolvable problem, enlarge it.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at November 6, 2006 10:17 PM

What, exactly, was Israel supposed to do different?

Go to the source. Remember your Henry David Thoreau: "There are a thousand striking at the branches of evil for one who strikes at the root."

Iran is the source. It would be a desperate move - both politically and militarily - if Israel goes there. Only the United States can do it non-desparately.

Posted by: Yafawi at November 7, 2006 01:03 AM

You're right, Yafawi. I don't like it. I don't want a war with Iran, and I'm not advocating one. But the situation is what it is.

Knee-capping Damascus might help, but Hezbollah's capital is Tehran. One of these days, the US, Israel, France, and anyone else who seriously wants to see an end to Shia warmongering in Lebanon and Iraq will have to accept this and deal with it. Lebanon and the UN cannot solve this by themselves. And neither can Israel.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at November 7, 2006 01:13 AM

Dear MJT,

I have been following your blog for quite a while now and am very glad about it, because of the profoundness of your situation analysis.

I have a question about your last comment:
I can absolutely understand the logic of your point of view (having to deal with the roots of the problem). Yet I am wondering, how it could work out.
I am torn between my deep wish, to search for ways besides war to find a possible way of peaceful and respectful coexistence (and following blogs like "Mideast Youth" or others, I feel that I am not alone with that) and now my question if this is possible at all, or if war is part of humankind and - in the end, besides any commitment, thoughts, discussions etc. - it just IS a question of power, who will survive and live in the way he/she chose to.
It is not like I would not fight for my rights, when I see them endangerend. I just wonder, if I can "fight" for them in a way in which I am (at worst) killing people and still claim that my goal is a peaceful, respectful coexistance..

Maybe it is a theoretical question. And with your last comment, I (once more) had the feeling that working for mutual understanding is in vain, because in the end it will be a question of time, who hits first, and it always takes a lot longer and is more difficult to build up understanding than to break it down or start a war.

Still my question is: Could a war (in any form) really lead to a solution in the long run? Or would it (in the best case - seen from a western perspective) rather "postpone" an imminent attack, but in the end will worsen the situation? How would a war have to look like in order to really make this region a more peaceful place?

I am very seriously interested in your point of view about this and would be glad to hear your thoughts.

Posted by: a from berlin at November 7, 2006 03:38 AM

What, exactly, was Israel supposed to do different?

Go to the source. Remember your Henry David Thoreau: "There are a thousand striking at the branches of evil for one who strikes at the root."

I don't want a war with Iran, and I'm not advocating one.

How can you advocate "going to the source" and yet say you do not advocate a war with Iran?

The world desperately needs the US to wage war on Iran, a real war, not a partial, limited, pussy-footing, sensitive, civilian-friendly, politically-correct, JAG-monitored policing action such as we attempted in Iraq -- but a real war precisely like the one the US waged on Imperial Japan in WWII, a war that employs overwhelming force and annihilates the birthplace, homeland and chief sponsor of the global jihad. That is what it takes to put an end to an evil like Japanese Imperialism and German Nazism, and that is what it will take to put an end to the global jihad of Islamic totalitarianism.

But we are so gutless, so disarmed by the left's deadly notions of multiculturalism, self-determination and democracy (just to name a few), that not only do we lack the will to destroy our enemies, we won't even let Israel destroy the enemy's proxy. Instead, as if determined to prove that the US State Department can corrupt anyone assigned there, no matter how intelligent they may be, we send Secretary Rice to the UN to broker a cease fire.

Rice was interviewed after that cease fire and explained that its purpose was to insure the survival of the "moderate, democratically elected government of Lebanon" because, "we need such governments as partners in the fight against terror".

It was obvious to everyone on the planet, with the exception of the west's politicians and their infinite ability to evade reality, that the cease fire would just give Hizbullah time to rearm -- just as it was obvious to everyone that was conscious that the "moderate government" of Lebanon would be of no help in fighting Hizbullah or any other terrorists.

It’s as insane as stopping the chemotherapy of a cancer patient on the grounds that we need the patient to help fight the cancer. What would we say about the judgment of a doctor who proposed such a thing?

So once again we see that international diplomacy and working through the UN is achieving the opposite of the stated goal. The “moderate government” of Lebanon is in greater danger than before, Hizbullah has not been disarmed or even discouraged and Iran continues its march to a nuclear weapon.

And today the voters in America are (apparently) set to throw out the party of our war-mongering, unilateralist, shoot-first-and-ask-questions-later, go-it-alone Cowboy president who thinks military force is the answer to everything. You know, the one currently negotiating with Iran and North Korea.

Posted by: Michael Smith at November 7, 2006 04:03 AM

Sorry Michael, pre-emptive Israeli nukes on Tehran would almost certainly 'solve' the current Iranian sponsored terrorism problem.

But most Israelis feel, as do I, that such a solution would create more and worse problems in the long term.

The Israeli gov't just included a new nationalist:
"Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Avigdor Lieberman has said Israel should separate Jews and Arabs so that Israel can be a homogenous Jewish country."
(BBC) He advocates changing the borders so that current Israeli Arabs become Palestinians.

Is racism bad if it leads to peace where unilateral anti-racism has not? I don't like racism, but also don't like the Palestinian racist hate against Jews and their continued wars.

The box of possible solutions is getting bigger.

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad at November 7, 2006 04:27 AM

So we're back to the solution I first voiced back in January: Nuke Iran. Lebanon is under siege from within, mostly because not one Lebanese politician is willing to put his neck on the line and ask the U.N. troops present to help disarm Hezbollah. Soley because of that, tens of thousands of Iranians and Syrians may die, and vast hatreds and long-lasting hatreds will arise to further poison the Middle East.

Do you see why I find it difficult to respect Lebanese politicians and their constituents?

Posted by: Solomon2 at November 7, 2006 06:32 AM

Michael,
You never really mention Aoun's siding with Hiz and the hatred many Christians have for Samir Geagea. I think many foriegn readers have no clue of the complexity of Lebannese internal strife. but i do think it is worth mentioning to your readers Aoun's support of Hizbollah.

Posted by: matthew at November 7, 2006 06:34 AM

How can you advocate "going to the source" and yet say you do not advocate a war with Iran?

There are options short of war that haven't been tried. Backing a revolution or ginning up a coup, for instance.

There is also the threat of war, which sometimes works. It worked with Libya.

If none of those things work after being tried, then two options remain. Manage the problem until the regime implodes on its own, or war. For me it would depend on how badly Iran acted out whether I would call for war or not.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at November 7, 2006 11:06 AM

a from berlin: And with your last comment, I (once more) had the feeling that working for mutual understanding is in vain, because in the end it will be a question of time, who hits first, and it always takes a lot longer and is more difficult to build up understanding than to break it down or start a war.

It is not at all in vain to try to build mutual understanding between Iranians and Westerners. Most Iranians have warm feelings for America already. I don't know what they think about Germans.

The problem is the government of Iran, and like-minded people in the population who are a minority. Peaceful co-existence with some of them isn't possible. The others in Iran, the ones with whom peaceful co-existence is both possible and desirable, will be a part of the solution in the end.

How would a war have to look like in order to really make this region a more peaceful place?

I wish I knew.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at November 7, 2006 11:13 AM

Solomon, please so not persist believing in the fantasy that the UN can disarm Hezbollah. It doesn't matter if Walid Jumblatt and Fouad Seniora may wish it so.

The Blue Helmets are not a combat force. Disarming Hezbollah will require combat in at least two theaters, if not three.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at November 7, 2006 11:17 AM

MJT,

If the Lebanese, the UN, the Euros, the "international community" can't deliver, then why bother with any of them?

Posted by: mikhael at November 7, 2006 12:27 PM

If the Lebanese, the UN, the Euros, the "international community" can't deliver, then why bother with any of them?

They may be part of the solution. They just can't do it by themselves. No solution that pretends Syria and Iran are not the cause and the source has much chance of success at all. This is a regional problem, not (just) a Lebanese problem.

Look at what the exact same bastards are doing in Iraq. It's huge. No one in the West wants to deal with it. But at some point we'll have to deal with it or the place will explode. And then we'll still have to deal with it anyway.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at November 7, 2006 01:26 PM

'It is not at all in vain to try to build mutual understanding between Iranians and Westerners. Most Iranians have warm feelings for America already'

It's a prevalent assessment and it makes some sense, but how accurate can it be? There is the piece by (I think) Salam Pax that says that before 2003 and up to the parliamentary elections in Iraq there had been the illusion that the country is mainly liberal middle class who are kept down by the Baath regime.

How do we know Iran is different?

Posted by: Disk on Key at November 7, 2006 01:31 PM

Sorry Michael, pre-emptive Israeli nukes on Tehran would almost certainly 'solve' the current Iranian sponsored terrorism problem.

But most Israelis feel, as do I, that such a solution would create more and worse problems in the long term.

What problems?

Posted by: Michael Smith at November 7, 2006 01:32 PM

MJT, I have been a reader (and tiny contributor)since you were a nobody...small joke, there.

I have no hope for any change in Lebanon or the ME, unless whatever has fogged Bush's brain clears up or somehow he can't serve and his VP takes over.

Bush has let his love for mankind, his trust for Rice and his ignorance of the U.S. State Dept. and his undying loyalty to Rummy mire him into a course of doing nothing.

But of course, "staying the course".

I used to admire him and his administration, but those days are long gone. Just as my admiration for the so called "unbeatable Israel" has fell by the wayside.

Everyone here that says the way to peace is through Iran is right, but why is that? Also, the way to peace for the whole of the ME is to defeat terrorism, tribal hatred.

But how do you do all that. Well, everyone here and it seems most world wide, don't see or want to see the basic problem. As you said you have to chop at the root, what is that?

The root that must be destroyed is Islam.

Islam is not just a religion. Islam is a cult, a cult that infects the muslim population and others from the day that they are born.

It's a cancer that must be destroyed, then there might be a chance of peace.

Papa Ray
West Texas
USA

Posted by: Papa Ray at November 7, 2006 01:53 PM

MJT, I have been a reader (and tiny contributor)since you were a nobody...small joke, there.

I have no hope for any change in Lebanon or the ME, unless whatever has fogged Bush's brain clears up or somehow he can't serve and his VP takes over.

Bush has let his love for mankind, his trust for Rice and his ignorance of the U.S. State Dept. and his undying loyalty to Rummy mire him into a course of doing nothing.

But of course, "staying the course".

I used to admire him and his administration, but those days are long gone. Just as my admiration for the so called "unbeatable Israel" has fell by the wayside.

Everyone here that says the way to peace is through Iran is right, but why is that? Also, the way to peace for the whole of the ME is to defeat terrorism, tribal hatred.

But how do you do all that. Well, everyone here and it seems most world wide, don't see or want to see the basic problem. As you said you have to chop at the root, what is that?

The root that must be destroyed is Islam.

Islam is not just a religion. Islam is a cult, a cult that infects the muslim population and others from the day that they are born.

It's a cancer that must be destroyed, then there might be a chance of peace.

Papa Ray
West Texas
USA

Posted by: Papa Ray at November 7, 2006 02:23 PM

Let me see if I've got this right:

Syria and Iran likely won't stop mucking about in Lebanon's business without war and/or regime change.

Nobody has the both the will and ability to win a war or effect regime change.

Neither the "International community", Israel or the Lebanon government has the will and ability to significantly disarm Hezballah.

Hezballah will start a civil war rather than lose power if the Lebanese government tries to marginalize them.

Still war-weary, the people of Lebanon would rather put up with an armed Hezballah than risk civil war, even at the risk of another armed altercation with Israel.

That about cover it?

The only three realistic scenarios left are civil war (again), eventual armed conflict with Isreal (again) or for southern Lebanon to become a fully independant, HA-led state.

All because of the unwillingness to accept the mere existance of Israel, which is there to stay short of nuclear confict.

Posted by: Hollowpoint at November 7, 2006 04:32 PM

This situation and thread distills to . .
**
**
You're right, Yafawi. I don't like it. I don't want a war with Iran, and I'm not advocating one. But the situation is what it is.**

Ahmadinejad and the Mullahs, [the head and the root], feed Hezbollah and Muqtada black bands of Sadr city.

There is no possible negotiation with snakes just as there was none posssible with Arafat.

Only direct and sudden force can begin to stop the madmen*s march.

Precision bunker busting of the twenty-four nuclear plants in Iran to start with. The aim is to give Iranians the opportunity to re-claim their country.

Iranians want a free and democratic way of * IRANIAN * life.

The corrupt army of dictators is a powerful group if unchallanged but nothing special if properly penalized.

We are the problem! Our resolve to principle is diluted or missing.

Yafawi has the courage to say . . .
**
Iran is the source. It would be a desperate move - both politically and militarily - if Israel goes there. Only the United States can do it non-desparately. **

Are we all such shrinking violets that we are afraid to discuss the direct hit?

Not nuclear as someone suggested above but a perfectly logical and justified hit considering all the proxy death and suffering dished out through Hezbollah and Muqtada al Sadr and not a grain of sand damaged in Iran.

Not easy to ask for Iran*s citizens help to depose their dictators. Difficult also to leave their oil and industry assets untouched while selectivly hitting military targets.

If only Secretary Wineberger had not interfered with Reagan*s order to smack down Hezbollah in 1983 for the barracks killing of 241 marines.

Principle should have been taken care of then. Pulling punches through the Carter and Clinton years has allowed this problem grow to the ugly dimensions of today.

I realize multi-Billion$ oil pipelines are under construction for direct supply across Pakistan to China. Putin also sells to and backs Iran, however, those two would never put up with what Iran is getting away with.

We have not earned respect because we have not deserved respect. = TG

Posted by: TG at November 7, 2006 10:11 PM

If only Secretary Wineberger had not interfered with Reagan*s order to smack down Hezbollah in 1983 for the barracks killing of 241 marines.

Principle should have been taken care of then. Pulling punches through the Carter and Clinton years has allowed this problem grow to the ugly dimensions of today.

Yep.

It's amazing just how much of the nastiness in the middle east can be traced back to Tehran. Of course, this shouldn't be a surprise- it is folly to expect a government who's motto might as well be 'Death to America' to play nice with us, or our allies in the middle east.

At this point, Iraq and Lebanon are sideshows- the place that matters is Iran, and you can't win in Iraq or Lebanon without winning in Iran.

...and we don't have enough troops to do it.

That's why the mullahs are acting with impunity... they know we'd have to occupy the place to get rid of them, and we don't have the manpower.

Iran has to be dealt with, one way or another.

Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Rice all know this, so Bush has to know it, too. So why isn't the military growing? The recruiting targets I've heard about seem to be strictly replacement-rates, not growth rates.

If the current admin expected to deal with Iran tactically, they'd be adding divisions. If the current admin expected it's successor to deal with Iran tactically, they'd still be adding divisions.

...uh-oh.

Posted by: rosignol at November 7, 2006 10:55 PM

At this point, Iraq and Lebanon are sideshows- the place that matters is Iran, and you can't win in Iraq or Lebanon without winning in Iran.

...and we don't have enough troops to do it.

That's why the mullahs are acting with impunity... they know we'd have to occupy the place to get rid of them, and we don't have the manpower.

We can turn Iran into a smoking crater tomorrow if we wish. No occupation is necessary.

Posted by: Michael Smith at November 8, 2006 05:48 AM

Oh, just in case anybody was wondering:

AFP: UN says it found no evidence of uranium-based munitions in Lebanon:

"The samples taken by the UNEP scientists show no evidence of penetrators or metal made of DU or other radioactive material," UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said in a statement Tuesday.

"In addition, no DU shrapnel, or other radioactive residue was found. The analysis of all smear samples taken shows no DU, nor enriched uranium nor higher than natural uranium content in the samples."

No war crimes there, at least not by the Israelis. Next time, it's up to people like Hsu to PROVE their accusations; otherwise, we should simply assume, based on the record, that it is just another item in those list of calumnies that "Muslims are supposed to believe" (as Dr. M. over at altmuslim.com once put it to me) about Israel/America/Denmark/non-Muslims/etc.

Posted by: Solomon2 at November 8, 2006 10:31 AM

No war crimes there, at least not by the Israelis.

Using DU munitions is not a war crime.

Posted by: rosignol at November 8, 2006 10:58 PM

Coup? Revolution? Assassinations? Propaganda for Chrissaker? Gee, that's so wrong, much better to fight a ground war. Or to keep feeding the croc.

BTW, Iran is one nexus. How do we lean on Russia or China? thy're not exactly helping.

Posted by: nichevo at November 8, 2006 11:06 PM

Coup? Revolution? Assassinations? Propaganda for Chrissaker? Gee, that's so wrong, much better to fight a ground war. Or to keep feeding the croc.

BTW, Iran is one nexus. How do we lean on Russia or China? thy're not exactly helping.

Posted by: nichevo at November 8, 2006 11:07 PM

Sorry for the double post, a site error. (The typo? Mistakes were made ;>)

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