November 23, 2006

Shove Your Civil War

Gemayel Funeral.jpg

Hezbollah called off today’s scheduled “festivities” in downtown Beirut as Lebanon mourns the latest victim of assassination, Pierre Gemayel.

Shove Your Civil War.jpg

Lebanon’s hostility to the Syrian-Iranian-Hezbollah axis has been re-energized. March 14 is still a force to be reckoned with.

Photos courtesy of the BBC.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at November 23, 2006 11:58 AM
Comments

This is sad. As our influence ebbs in Iraq the Democracy tide in Lebanon recedes as well. Anyone not caught up in emotion can see where Lebanon will land.

Posted by: Mike at November 23, 2006 02:05 PM

I'm not quite reading it that way, Mike. The latest act of terrorism in Lebanon gave March 14 a shot in the arm and convinced Hezbollah they had better stay home -- at least for a while.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at November 23, 2006 02:25 PM

I agree. But that awhile looms large. Nothing has changed. Iraq complicates everything. If history repeats itself, Lebanon is a chip that will be thrown in the pot. I hope I'm wrong.

Posted by: mike at November 23, 2006 02:34 PM

My guess is that if James Baker keeps threatening to feed Lebanon to the Syrian wolf, George W Bush will shitcan him.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at November 23, 2006 02:37 PM

Michael and others - What do you see happening to the UNIFIL force if Lebanon explodes into civil war? In theory, there's a sufficient force on the ground to actually step in and do something.

Of course, as far as I can tell they're not doing anything even in their current limited capacity, so perhaps hoping for them to provide some leverage is a joke.

Posted by: Akiva at November 23, 2006 02:37 PM

I read somewhere yesterday (sorry, I forget where) that the Pentagon is drawing up a strategy for the Bush Administration to use against Syria and Iran in case Bush decides to reject Baker's Iraq Study Group recommendations.

After the Cedar Revolution and the July war, I rather doubt the American government is going to tolerate Syrian overlordship in Lebanon again.

Baker is gross, he has no actual power, and no one elected him to do anything.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at November 23, 2006 02:41 PM

I saw an interview with a lebanese journalist last night on pbs, and he was saying that Syria is more keen on getting the Lebanon back than they are on getting the Golan back.

Posted by: jonny at November 23, 2006 02:43 PM

I sort of over-stated what Baker is doing. He's not threatening to green-light Syria's redomination of Lebanon. His recent foolish behavior implies it, though, since he did it before and he wants to cut yet another "deal" with Syria for "help" in Iraq.

Syria thinks that means the U.S. will "give" them Lebanon a second time.

He needs to go away now.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at November 23, 2006 02:45 PM

Akiva: Michael and others - What do you see happening to the UNIFIL force if Lebanon explodes into civil war?

They will stand there with their dicks in their hands, or they will run away.

Sorry for being crude, but that's what they always do in situations like that. See Somalia, Bosnia, and Rwanda.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at November 23, 2006 02:47 PM

MJT,
So are you at least willing to accept the remote possibility that Hezballah or someone trying help them are not being behind it? Just this time? Just a small possibility?

I mean it was obvious to some of us from the second this happened that it was a blow to the opposition's plans. (you comment section of the announcementshows it)

I am not saying syria is not suspect number one, but don't you think it is at least possible that it was someone else, or even syria against the wish of Hezballah?

I mean the silly conspiracy theory of assassinating the government one by one was fun while it lasted but you know killing one and stopping defeats the whole purpose, no?

And I say it again, it may be Syria or Hizballah I have no problem with that, but it also may be someone else ( al-quaida ? some other fundementalists in lebanon?) working against Hizballah's plans ... Who are not concerned at all about the national unity government issue and just want to cause trouble.

Just a small possibility ... that does not prevent anyone from hating Hizballah and syria.

Posted by: Anonymous Leb at November 23, 2006 02:55 PM

Anonymous Leb,

I doubt it. Syria's assassination of Rafik Hariri was extremely counterproductive for them, but that doesn't mean they didn't do it.

Governments make huge mistakes all the time. Israel's invasion of Lebanon was counterproductive. But we all know it wasn't the Syrians!

or even syria against the wish of Hezballah?

That is certainly possible.

I mean the silly conspiracy theory of assassinating the government one by one was fun while it lasted but you know killing one and stopping defeats the whole purpose, no?

They didn't stop. They tried to kill two that day. And more assassinations are probably coming.

it also may be someone else ( al-quaida ? some other fundementalists in lebanon?) working against Hizballah's plans ... Who are not concerned at all about the national unity government issue and just want to cause trouble.

I doubt it, but it's more plausible than blaming the U.S., Israel, or France as some crackpots seem to enjoy doing.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at November 23, 2006 03:01 PM

Here are my thoughts of who had a double motive.
Mossad via druze agents did it:
1) to prevent Hizbollah's putch that was planned today.
2) to break Syria-US talks that started to bear fruits as Syria opened embassy in Iraq 2 days ago...

Posted by: ross at November 23, 2006 03:42 PM

(eyeroll) directed at Ross.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at November 23, 2006 03:44 PM

Hizballah and their pro-Syrian allies tried to hijack the surge in panick and despair caused by Pierre Gemayel's death, by decending into the streets today and blocking off the road to the airport - at least for a short while. While this was happening, a gun (and possibly rocket) fight broke out in Tripoli between Lebanese security services and Palestinian factions (undoubtedly allied to Syria).

For more info and commentary check:
http://blacksmithsoflebanon.blogspot.com

Posted by: Blacksmith Jade at November 23, 2006 03:45 PM

In theory, there's a sufficient force on the ground to actually step in and do something.

Probably they won't do anything. I suspect the French will try to align themselves with the winning side, whoever that looks to be. Their original motivation in creating a Christian Lebanon is history.

Posted by: chuck at November 23, 2006 03:54 PM

MJT, jonny

The next step for the ever devious Mossad is to start killing its own agents, maybe even its head.

They can then blame it all on poor Syria and tarnish its image (like its image is not in the toilet already.)

BTW it's self evident: not only does Syria prefer Lebanon over the Golan (billions of dollars versus a few gallons of goat milk) but they actually DO NOT WANT the Golan. They'd rather use it as a sticking point, as peace would be the end of the Baath regime.

In the 1990's Papa Assad's peace deal with Israel fell through over a patch of land 150m2 (1300 sq. feet). How seriously can they want peace or the Golan?

The latter is reminescent of their (Syria and allies) yelling and screaming in 2000, that Israel had no right to pull out just like that from (occupied) South Lebanon. For those unfamiliar with this, it is no mistake, yes you read right.

Posted by: JoseyWales at November 23, 2006 04:54 PM

Depose Assad: email, phone, mail, blog post, asking US (Bush, Rice) to: Drop 12 small GPS guided bombs 30 metres from Assad’s bedroom, on his palace grounds. Give him 24 hrs notice before hand. Then drop the 12 bombs, 2 minutes apart, all in exactly the same grassy spot. Then give Assad 24 hrs to be in Tunisia, where he can live the rest of his life. Something similar worked for Khadaffy (because psychopaths fear only for themselves). Ask big blogs to help.

Posted by: DemocracyRules at November 23, 2006 05:14 PM

I read somewhere yesterday (sorry, I forget where) that the Pentagon is drawing up a strategy for the Bush Administration to use against Syria and Iran in case Bush decides to reject Baker's Iraq Study Group recommendations.

Here?

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at November 23, 2006 05:33 PM

In the 1990's Papa Assad's peace deal with Israel fell through over a patch of land 150m2 (1300 sq. feet).

My house is bigger than that.

It might be fun to watch the Israelis just hand over the Golan one day without notice and say "Here."

If Assad acts out again, they can just take it back and say "See!"

Only trouble is there are people who live there and they don't deserve to be pawns.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at November 23, 2006 05:38 PM

James Baker is the Chamberlain of our time, speaking of "realism" and "engaging" our enemies. "Realism" and "engaging" don't work when the guy on the other side is determined to kill you, or at least invade and dominate you. Realism just delays the inevitable conflict while giving the enemy more time to arm.

I seriously doubt that Bush will embrace the Baker plan. Bush gets it, Baker doesn't, and more importantly, Bush knows that Baker doesn't get it.

Posted by: NoSleep at November 23, 2006 05:41 PM

I seriously doubt that Bush will embrace the Baker plan. Bush gets it, Baker doesn't, and more importantly, Bush knows that Baker doesn't get it.

I think the opposite may happen. From here:
According to White House officials and commission members, Mr. Baker has been talking to President Bush and his national security adviser, Stephen J. Hadley, on a regular basis. Those colleagues say he is unlikely to issue suggestions that the president has not tacitly approved in advance.

“He’s a very loyal Republican, and you won’t see him go against Bush,” said a colleague of Mr. Baker, who asked not to be identified because the study group is keeping a low profile before it formally issues recommendations. “But he feels that the yearning for some responsible way out which would not damage American interests is palpable, and the frustration level is exceedingly high.”

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at November 23, 2006 05:53 PM

At the bloodshed level in Iraq, I think Bush would be lucky to have the Baker option.
New Middle East ecosystem. Al Qaeda's sunni or the mullah's shia.
I personnaly prefer the Iran's Shias. At least they have not invaded other countries....

Posted by: ross the realist at November 23, 2006 06:22 PM

Ross: At least they have not invaded other countries....

Not in the usual way, no, but through proxies, yes. See Lebanon, Iraq, and -- in a different way -- Israel.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at November 23, 2006 06:31 PM

Ross: At the bloodshed level in Iraq, I think Bush would be lucky to have the Baker option.

Do the Lebanese and Iraqis count in your world?

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at November 23, 2006 06:32 PM

It is a matter of minimizing the bloodshed.

For the Syria US thing, just a reminder of the October 13, 1990 events, (and the shamoon slaughter shortly after).
This would tell you that the US is willing to pay the price today to have Syria's dictator use his iron fist to stop the "foreign" insurgents and stabilize the situation in Iraq. Soft style democracies do not work for heterogeneous "nations" like Lebanon or Iraq. Look at the leadership or lack thereof in Iraq...
Look at other example like ex-Yugslavia, where splitting the country was the only solution...

Posted by: ross at November 23, 2006 06:57 PM

If this is civil war it's the right way to do it. Next week hezbollah sould have a giant rally in the square, then go home. Tensions would decline and things would be back to normal until the next murder, then meet in the square agian...

Posted by: mikek at November 23, 2006 07:01 PM

Thanks for your analysis Ross, so far I've managed to understand that:

  • Its all a big conspiracy, with the evil J-O-O-Z behind the assassination of Pierre Gemayel
  • The US should support dictatorships and not democracy in Lebanon and Iraq.
  • The middle east consists of only Mullah's Shia or Al-Qaeda Sunni. Forget about March 14 and the cedar revolution, forget about the Kurds, forget about the moderate Iraqis.

Thanks Ross, we are all so much wiser for listening to these pearls of knowledge.

[gag]

Posted by: Jono at November 23, 2006 07:17 PM

I seriously doubt that Bush will embrace the Baker plan.

I seriously hope you voted for people who will support Bush in this.

Posted by: chuck at November 23, 2006 07:56 PM

Chuck maybe you should start a "Baker is a Dick" internet group similar to "Pork Busters".

Posted by: mikek at November 23, 2006 08:03 PM

Chuck maybe you should start a "Baker is a Dick"

Not bad for a first attempt. With hard work and practice you could soon be snarking with with best.

Posted by: chuck at November 23, 2006 08:15 PM

I would join. After all, Baker is a dick.

Posted by: mikek at November 23, 2006 09:47 PM

mikek,

My apologies if I misunderstood your tone. Even so, I don't think dividing the world into dicks and twats is a productive way to look at it. Baker isn't a stupid man, nor is he evil. One can make a perfectly good case for staying out of other people's problems, indeed, it is an American tradition, that is why we were late to enter both world wars. The Bush, or perhaps neo-con, thesis is that more liberal and democratic governments in the mid east are the least bloody way to deal with the attacks we have suffered. Maybe so, but it is expensive and will take a long time and the country is too divided to make maintaining that policy easy. Nor is Bush sufficiently charismatic as a leader to bring the majority of the American people along with him. An alternative approach is to let local tyrannies suppress our enemies so long as our own interests in the region are served, in this case the supply of oil. Yet another approach would be to take off the gloves and use a greater level of violence. After all, there are time tested methods of suppressing rebellion and bringing difficult small countries into line. I have the impression that Michael is favoring more direct threats against Syria, I also have the impression that some Iraqis think we are altogether too nice to the Jihadists, and maybe they are right.

So I think all these arguments have merit. Being a somewhat foolish idealist, I prefer the first approach, and one can argue that the realist approach merely postpones the problem and therefore isn't realistic. Unfortunately, few have the true gift of prophecy so it isn't easy to make these sorts of decisions. However high we may hold our ideals the costs need to be part of our decisions. That is why most Lebanese are rightly loath to start another civil war. So let us see what Baker proposes, and let us discuss it on the merits and not based on our distaste for Baker. And after all, we don't yet know what the proposal is. All we have are some leaks, and leaks always serve someone's interest. It could well be that the leak we got was intended to take accomodation with Syria and Iran off the table.

Posted by: chuck at November 24, 2006 12:10 AM

Chuck, this may be the worst response ever, but it's thanksgiving and I have been boozin:)

Baker's a dick, not evil.

We showed up late, liberted Europe and all we got was this crappy Marshall plan?

Our oil interests don't really apply to the mid-east. We would be fine if the supply came only from shale oil, Mexico and Canada. Maybe it's time to enlarge the problem and let China, India and the E.U. deal with their own supply issues.

Bush, his leadership problem and "sufficiently charismatic" fit well together.

"few have the true gift of prophecy so it isn't easy to make these sorts of decisions"

If the damn imam would get out of the well everything would start clicking.

btw, I don't have a suggestion for the future regarding Iraq, the M.E., or national healthcare. I am not going to pretend to know what we should or shouldn't do.

Posted by: mikek at November 24, 2006 12:54 AM

“He’s a very loyal Republican, and you won’t see him go against Bush,” said a colleague of Mr. Baker, who asked not to be identified because the study group is keeping a low profile before it formally issues recommendations. “But he feels that the yearning for some responsible way out which would not damage American interests is palpable, and the frustration level is exceedingly high.”

To me, that strongly implies that Baker is making suggestions that President Bush is rejecting.

Considering what Baker's suggestions have been in the past, I am inclined to think this reflects well on President Bush.

Posted by: rosignol at November 24, 2006 01:17 AM
[url=http://bluecrabboulevard.com/2006/11/23/estimated-800000-at-gemayel-funeral/]Blue Crab Boulevard[/url] sums up the sentiment of Middle East observers:
Given that the leaders of Hezbollah showed a complete lack of understanding of what the response of Israel would be earlier this year, it is doubtful they really thought the fallout from this assassination out properly, either.
Almost everyone with an active cerebral cortex, except for the ultra-rad left whack-jobs noted by [url=http://beirut2bayside.blogspot.com/2006/11/words-of-wisdom.html]Across the Bay,[/url] agree that, once again, the Syrians and their allies have a lot to answer for. Posted by: daveinboca at November 24, 2006 05:07 AM

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