January 02, 2007

New Comments Policy

If I have never heard of you before and you show up in the comments for the first time and start hurling personal insults I will delete your comment and you will be banned from posting future comments. I will no longer issue warnings to newcomers. Babysitting isn't my job. Only people who have proven they have something to contribute deserve warnings. Introducing yourself with an eff-you attitude will get you summarily banned, and that's final.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at January 2, 2007 04:18 PM

Good idea Michael. You shouldn't have to patrol comments 24/7.

Posted by: dawnsblood at January 2, 2007 04:33 PM

I have been reading your blog with some interest and it strikes me that the parts of Lebanon that you find most distasteful -- most "other" - most "foreign," and the Lebanese you most dislike or fear are, at the end of the day, the poorest parts (Beirut Dahiyah, the South) and the poorest people (mainly Hezbollah supporting urban Shia Muslims)...

It would be great if all Lebanon was pretty and chic like Garmayze and Achrafieh - and full of people who could afford to eat where you eat and shop where you shop -- and travel abroad when they feel like it, as you probably do...

But the sad reality is that most Lebanese are poor. The ruling elites who you seem to prefer to rub shoulders with and hang out with in cool/chic bars etc. are the minority. They are noit poor though, are they? They have been asset stripping the country like it was going out of fashion.

The Dahiyah is not a nice place. Not because of the nasty sinister Hezbollahis (as you see them) or the wicked ignorant Shia (as you see them) but because it is dirt poor. It is dirt poor because it has always been ignored by the wonderful, benevolent (as you seem to see it) Lebanese state.

You have argued in many places in your blog that a little graft and corruption is par for the course - preferable indeed to the ascetic idealogies of Hezbollah. But I think that you are being shortsighted. You imagine all Lebanon would mirror the privileged bubble you inhabit were it not for sinister Hezbollah, uppity Shias, peridious Iranians etc. etc.

But it is poverty that spoils lives in that country... and it is the existing system of government as much as anything else, that perpetuates it.

And I think perhaps that the reason you and your colleagtues fear the poor of Lebanon, because thay are MANY and you are FEW. And the many are after a fairer share...

...and all this might ultimately affect the number of plump young men able to zoom about downtown in their Range Rover SE Sports 4 × 4s with their surgically enhanced Levantine Victoria Beckham lookalikes in tow.

Because the Lebanon you know best, it seems to me, is the bubble of privelige these faux Parisien pr*cks selfishly inhabit. But this is not the whole country, or even the real country.

What is happening on the streets of downtown Beirut is in many ways a class struggle, where the poor mainly come from one religious group, because that group has been wedged at the bottom of the sectarian pile for decades.

I aqm new heer and I don;t agree with a lot of what you write.... So am I to be banned for writing this?

Posted by: Microraptor at January 2, 2007 05:42 PM


I deleted your previous comment because you were a jerk. You were, in fact, what finally provoked me to be more ruthless with my comments policy.

Since you seem to have gotten the point (you posted the same comment again with all the insults removed) I will choose not to delete it this time.

I do not oppose Hezbollah because they represent mostly poor people. I oppose them because they keep Lebanon in a perpetual state of war, which only ensures everyone, especially the Shia, will not prosper as they deserve to.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 2, 2007 06:07 PM

Hmmmmm... Well it's nice to have affected someone's Middle Eastern Policy with mere words!! Sorry for winding you up so much.


Actually, I have been pondering this myself for a while (whether or not the HA want a permanent state of war) and I think there is some truth in it.

Talking to their people and supporters and reading up on them, it seems to me Hezbollah are not happy simply to wage their Jihad (meaning struggle rather than military holy war) against inequality or against ignorance or poverty or disease -- all of which are real and deadly enemies for their constituents. But that for some reason they simply must have their weapons and their armed struggle. It's their USP - unique selling point... without it they would feel somehow emasculated.

You may be right on that score. Hezbollah without its guns just ain't Hezbollah.

But, I think that you are also perhaps living in this sort of fantasy world that many middle class (or rather wealthy) Lebanese people live in... ie. that this benighted land would somehow become an Arab(excuse me, Phonecian) Monaco overnight, were it not for Hezbollah and their grumpy humourless follwers.

Not so... the country is where it is in terms of geographical location and that's nothing to do with HA. You can't wish it away from its "tough neighbourhood' - lovely though that would be in theory.

If HA were not poking sharp sticks at Israel then you can be pretty sure armed Paslestinian factions in the south would be... which would lead to yet more Israeli reprisal attacks - as history shows us time and again. There are even reports coming through of small units of Salafist Palestinians appearing in Lebanon fresh form Iraq and getting ready to make their mark. Unifil told me it has ramped up its own security against this threat...

So until the Lebanese state deals with both the Palestinian refugee issue (crushing them in an internal war?! Handing out Lebanese passports???!!!!), and makes lasting peace with its southern neighbour, the state of war would quite likely be ongoing on that southern front. Assuming the Israelis don't also want to steal all of Lebanon's water from the Litani - which they do.

Then we have Syria... think mainland China to Hong Kong as the best relationship Lebanon can ever, ever hope for - one day. The big boys in Damascus just can't be wished away... geography again, history again.

And although perhaps Saad Hariri believes the Ba'ath will be Abracadabra'd into non existance by this hoped for investigation, that is unlikely too...

Assuming Syria remains a unified state, it is and will remain a big regional player. And until it comes to some sort of arrangement with Israel, Lebanon will always be potentially another front for both parties to pressure one another whether or not Hezbollah or Amal or the LF, the PSP or some as yet un-named bunch of camouflaged mooks are the tools employed.

Syria was meddling in little Lebanon even before the Assad clique rose to prominence.. indeed, at first it was supporting the Phalange against the PLO/Leftists in the civil war.

If, as many assume, Damascus' agents blew up Rafiq Hariri what exactly would be served by pursuing this investigation "all the way"?

Truth maybe? Justice perhaps? Revenge? Ah, now you're talking....

Some Lebanese I speak to mention Milosovic's fate at the Hague. But this trial happened after his regime collapsed.

What many in Lebanon are not thinking about when they daydream of regime change in Damascus, is what might happen to Syria if the central figures in a concentric power structure were suddenly and violently removed. You could well see a collapse into the sort of violent chaotic, anarchic free for all we see in Iraq. IMagine if that happened? Lebanon would be sucked into that hellish vortex and pulverised. This could happen even if each and every member of Hezbollah abandoned Jihad tomorrow and took up point needlework and rafia basket making instead.

Many Iraqis who are still alive now realise that in the short term at least, stablity is better than "freedom," if said freedom comes about without security for ordinary people trying to make it through the day.

Anyway, it's my (very) long winded way of saying that Lebanon's problems are far greater and run deeper than whatever you think about the Hezbollah and their love of all things martial. Hezbollah is a manifestation of local and regional historical, political, religious and - critically - economic factors. Even if Hezbollah didn't exist something like them would grow, because the conditions that nurture this group remain in place.

Thanks for the space to exrpess my views.

Posted by: Microraptor at January 2, 2007 06:57 PM

As an aside:

Do Hezbollah supporters support Hezbollah because they are poor and benighted? Or are they poor and benighted because they are in a land ruled by Hezbollah policies?

I see this trend often. Many communist supporters are poor to begin with and, in fact, communism has proven to do little for their plight. Many rich people support free-market societies, but did they start off rich? A poor man who supports and lives within a free-market society is more likely to become rich (and thus dismissed by those who "look out for the poor") than a poor man in a communist country.

It just seems to me that war and paranoia makes for bad business. How can you be wealthy when perpetual struggle destroys your infrastructure and wipes out your factories (and thus jobs). The reasons that Totten's favorite parts of Lebanon are pretty and rich may well have to do with a more open idealogy.

Seriously, where would you rather do business, rather as a foreign investor or as a poor man looking for work? Southern Lebanon or northern? Seems pretty clear to me.

I'm not saying Hezbollah's defeat would instantly cause southern prosperity. These things take time. But it would be a step in the right direction.

Posted by: Mailanka at January 2, 2007 07:31 PM

Well Mailanka, I am not a Lebanese so what I "know" comes from observation and reading.

But from the history books I have read, Hezbollah has become most popular in the parts of Lebanon that were so poor and irrelevent that the traditional political parties - many of which are basically large politicised clan dynasties - simply ignored them.

The Shia have always been the poorest of Lebanons many faiths and Hezbollah's constituency are the poorest of this poor group. The areas thye come from are The Beka'a Valley, southern Lebanon and the slum areas of south Beirut that are now ramshakle suburms called the Dahiya.

Hezbollah is popular in these areas not simply or even because of its military work, or brainwashing - but because it has provided far reaching social services to parts of Lebanese society no-one else gave a sh*t about.

Whether the money comes form Tehran or ex-pat diamond dealers in Sierra Leone matters not a jot to someone who had no clean drinking water before Hezbollah, whose children would die of childhood diseases before Hezbollah built hospitals, whose crops failed before Hezbollah agricultural engineers built irrigation systems or who was illiterate until Hezbollah built schools.

Cynics would say all this good work is done simply to raise support for Jihad activities. But that's the problem with cynics, isn't it?

Posted by: Microraptor at January 2, 2007 08:39 PM

It just dawned on me that an apt comparison can be made between Hezbollah and the Ku Klux Klan. Both parties, as minorities, had insinuated, bullied or killed their way to power. Both exist to defend the "rights" of some minority by taking the rights of another minority away. Most tellingly the areas that both groups control are generally the poorest and least educated parts of either country. Though the South has made remarkable progress, both economically and in race relations after its own 100 year Dark Age. If Americans can rid parts of its own country of the Ku Klux Klan, which was much more entrenched than Hezbollah, then maybe the Lebanese can too.

Posted by: Pat Patterson at January 2, 2007 09:48 PM

Re: Pat's Ku Klux Klan analogy. Where this comparison falls is that the U.S. at least had ideals of being a secular, humanist society as a blueprint (even if those ideals were far from being honored universally). Lebanon is, it seems, a colonial state imposed on a number of tribal cultures. I can't spin the appropriate metaphor, but at least it currently seems to be muddling through better than Iraq. But the same schisms exist, ready to be exploited.

I would love to be proven wrong on this one.

Posted by: Solo at January 2, 2007 10:22 PM

Interesting dialogue between you and the Lebanese Mr Totten. I just wanted to comment on the fact that Hizbollah always portrays itself as being oppressed,as if their perceived sufferings give them the right to declare war on other countries and engage in criminal activity against innocent people who just want to live their lives. Many people in the world are oppressed but you don't see them forming criminal organizations to oppress other people. In fact Hezbollah resembles the Nazi SA brown shirts that seized power in Germany in the 30s and one can see the same events repeating themselves again here in lebanon with the shiites acting as the Nazis. The Nazis started out as social organization too. This all seems due to Iran's interference because in the 60s the shiites were not controlled by a terrorist organization like they are now. Hezbollah is the problem, not the shiites. So now, it appears that nothing short of a major war between Hezbollah and the rest of lebanon is going to ever really solve the Hezbollah problem.

Posted by: James Just at January 2, 2007 11:22 PM

Poor people are poor for a combination of two main reasons: 1) bad gov't (failure to protect private property, enforce contracts, punish law-breakers)(Iraq fails to punish terrorists enough, so far), and 2) poor people NOT changing their own behavior in order to create more wealth.

Poor who want to fight will stay poor (except a few leaders who become two-legged porkers).

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad at January 2, 2007 11:23 PM

Good Policy MJT.

Posted by: Ron Snyder at January 3, 2007 04:12 AM

Hi Mike! Nice blog. I want to be your friend. Will you be my friend?

Posted by: Dee at January 3, 2007 05:18 AM

Two comments for Microraptor:

1) I like the idea of handing out Lebanese passports to Palestinian refugees. I think the UN should institute, as a requisite for membership, a rule that all states must give citizenship to every person born within its borders. That would ease tensions for everyone in the region.
2) Your comment about Phonecia, though expressed facetiously, is amusingly noteworthy. People talk about Israel as a big bad colonizer of a land that, according Saddam's last reported statement, "is Arab," and yet no one comments on the Arab colonization of Phonecia, as if at some point in time, the movements of peoples throughout the earth was frozen in a "natural" order that must be maintained.

Posted by: Abu Nudnik at January 3, 2007 08:50 AM

I think I made the Klan comparison in the evil mutant thread last week - of course, for me it is the white hoods that do it. Of course, the USA still has an acknowledged "former" member of the Klan sitting in its Senate....

Posted by: holdfast at January 3, 2007 12:55 PM

microraptor seems to have a disease common today among what is called "left." He wants to believe that Hizbollah is somehow the vanguard of a "class struggle." Now, if you want to explain why the Shi`ites have been poorer than the other communities in Lebanon, although many of them have prospered in West Africa, as you noted, then you should look at explanations given by previous students of the subject. The most common explanation that I have seen is that their own traditional communal leadership did much to keep them ignorant and poor. I forget the name of that traditional leading Shi`ite family. But I am sure that you can find it if you look. I don't think that you can reasonably blame the other communities for Shi`ite poverty. Anyhow, please explain why the Christians prospered in view of the fact that under Ottoman rule [that is, Sunni Muslim rule], they were a dhimmi community deprived of many rights, although they obtained a certain recognized semi-autonomy in the Ottoman period. But if you as a "leftist" want to see Hizbullah as part of your movement, then I'm grateful that you demonstrate the insane perversity that characterizes much or most of what today is called "left." Further, I see today's Left as a manipulated body of public opinion incapable of rationally considering issues, ignorant of history, imbued with wishful thinking, and in general undeserving of support by any rational, informed, decent person. Moreover, I don't believe that the notion of a "right-left" political "spectrum" has validity any longer. The very notion of "right-left" is mainly useful for confusing people.

Posted by: Eliyahu at January 3, 2007 01:30 PM

I also want to correct microraptor's history. He claims that Syria at first supported the Phalange in the civil war. This is wrong. Syria [under Assad rule since 1967 at least] sent the so-called "palestine liberation army" into Lebanon in 1975. This intervention, at that time on the side of Lebanese Muslims and the PLO, precipitated the collapse of the Lebanese central govt which, by the way, was NOT supported by the Western powers. It was not until the Spring of 1976 that Syria switched sides and acted against the PLO and Lebenese Sunnis, that it could be said to have been on the Phalange's side. The purpose of this switch was probably in line with the initial purpose of the Syrian intervention in Lebanon. That is, Syria wanted to take over Lebanon and believed that switching sides would further at that point in time that original and unchanged goal. Let me repeat again that the West, particularly France and the US, seem to have wanted Syrian control of Lebanon, as well as a free hand there for the PLO.

Posted by: Eliyahu at January 3, 2007 01:49 PM

The Dahiyah is not a nice place. Not because of the nasty sinister Hezbollahis (as you see them) or the wicked ignorant Shia (as you see them) but because it is dirt poor. It is dirt poor because it has always been ignored by the wonderful, benevolent (as you seem to see it) Lebanese state.

Government does not generate wealth. What id does is re-distribute money from those who earned it to those who did not. It does not matter if we are talking about welfare recipients or corrupt politicans.

Do not look to the government to make you rich. At best, all the government will do for you is remove the things that keep you poor- especially ignorance.

Posted by: rosignol at January 3, 2007 07:07 PM

Actually, I am not a leftist or an apologist for Hezbollah.

But anyone who has actually been to Lebanon will know that there is almost no middle class in that country.

You have wealthy elites who live their lives to the max, and then you have neighbourhoods where there is still no running water and people live in 3rd world conditions.

You find Hezbollah is strongest in neighbourhoods where there were for example, no viable medical facilities or no decent schools before they arrived. In my view, it IS the duty of the state to provide such basic infrastructure, but for many, many years the Lebanese state ignored these areas -- and for better or worse - it is this void Hezbollah has filled with its own parallel social services programme, which in turn builds its support base.

I don't think that Hezbollah is a "left wing" organisation per se: some of the poorest people in Lebanon are Sunni Muslim communities living in the slums near Tripoli in the north, and Hezbollah doesn't do much - if anything - for them. But I do think that parts of the Hezbollah umbrella organisation offer an extensive social welfare network to poor people - and this translates into political support. And there are a LOT of poor people in Lebanon.

Anyone who says that it is not the responsibility of the government to make you rich is right -- in theory. But as I am sure Michael would agree, Lebanon, in reality, is a case apart. The entire political system is in many ways a top-down mechanism for distributing patronage and largesse, in the form of jobs or access to state resources or contracts for government projects and so on.

Traditionally it was (and mainly is) the wealthy, powerful families and clans who dominated the Lebanese political scene and they ensured that goods and services were distributed mainly to the communities that delivered them political support.

In 1994 I remember driving down the main coastal road south from Beirut and the road was in a shocking state; potholed and neglected. Then we turned left up into the mountains to visit Beit Edinne (a palace, which is now a tourist site in the Druze areas of the mountains). Suddenly, amazingly, we were on properly tarmac'd 4 lane style, smooth highways with plentiful parking bays overlooking the nicest views. I asked my friends what was going on, how come the roads in the Chouf mountains were of far superior quality to the main caostal highway? They answered was that Walid Jumblat was minister with responsibility for roads and highway construction.

It may well be that those Shia families that did have a measure of political clout did little or nothing for the wider Shia community. This doesn't weaken my argument but strengthen it. It further explains why an organisation like Hezbollah - whose leadership were imbued with a revolutionary, mass mobilization type ideology of the Iranian revolution - has been able to build up the support base it has, because until it came along NO-ONE (emphasis, not shouting!) even traditional Shia leaders with some influence, saw any value in listening to the poorest of the poor.

You are right; the traditional "leadership" among Lebanon's Shia were mainly concerned with maintaining their own families' status within the status quo, not bettering the living conditions of large groups of ill educated and impoverished co-religionists. Hezbollah's success is based on politicizing and mobilizing this previously ignored segment of Lebanese socity.

As for Syria's cynical expediency in the civil war, I stand corrected. But whether Damascus swapped sides in 1975 or 1976 is a technical detail. My point was that a big and interfering neighbour like Syria will continue to act big and to interfere in Lebanon whether Hezbollah is a player or not - and that in the past it has used other political parties to try and further its agenda. Hezbollah may just be the latest in a long line of "clients" of one sort or another.

But Eliyahu... you are a funny guy (yes, "Funny like a clown... you amuse me" - think Joe Pesci in Goodfellahs)... all I did was say that most of Hezbollah's support comes from poor people and that what is happening in Lebanon is "in many ways a class struggle," so you label me a "leftist." Then accuse me of being irrational, ignorant, undeserving of support etc. etc. before rounding off your tirade by saying that the labels "left wing" and "right wing" are no longer valid and actually confuse the issue!

Priceless... you should take that to the stage.

In other parts of his blog Michael once mentioned that going from Achrafieh (a posh shopping district in East Beirut) to the Dahiyah (the southern suburban sprawl where Hezbollah have most support) is like going between 2 worlds. From Michael's point of view it was like going from a free country to a police state...

But perhaps it could also be likened to travelling between the First World and the Third World in a ten minute taxi ride. And until the average poor person there sees ways that they, as individuals, can better the lives of themselves and their families -- ie. that there is a growth of a viable Shia "middle class" in Lebanon -- then mass movements that claim to be able to help them do so are always going to attract support. However, this may be happening: if you visit the Dahiya areas there are many, many small businesses in evidence that didn't exist five or ten years ago.

** Lastly, Michael, I would like to e-mail you directly, but when I click on your name I just get re-directed to the homepage again. Can you post an e-mail address or e-mail me?

Posted by: Microraptor at January 4, 2007 06:40 AM

Thanks for great reporting from the scene MJT.

Seems to me Microrap is writing page-upon-page of what boils down to typical old fashioned non-sequiturs:

There's poverty in Leb? Wage war.

I know that is not his argument and he can pull all the Kerryesque nuances he wants, but "justifying" and "rationalizing" HA actions and existence boils down to supporting that exactly.

Maybe the innocent HA teens have'nt thought out all the consequences of HA actions.

But people who claim thoughtfulness should.

Failed demented ideologies have never helped anyone before. And antipathy toward the westernized (and corrupt) elites is not a good enough reason for collective suicide.

PS Let alone the fact that many of HA's actions are ILLEGAL but, hey, who cares when it's chic class struggle crap.

Posted by: JoseyWales at January 4, 2007 08:41 AM

Thanks to Microraptor for the insightful comments.
It strikes me the in respect to rich-porr-middle class Lebanon might not be very different from other countries - for example Brasil - were the poor are also dirt-poor and numerous. You need to factor in the Arab mentality and neighbourhood to understand the militancy of Hizbollah. Rich-poor does not explain it.

Posted by: Jacob at January 4, 2007 09:06 AM

Jacob, poor Lebanese are not nearly as poor as poor Brazilians or anyone else in Latin America (unless you count the Palestinians in the refugee camps, but that's another subject entirely.)

Egypt is the only Arab country where I've seen that kind of grinding absolute poverty.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 4, 2007 09:11 AM


email me at michaeltotten001 at gmail dot com

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 4, 2007 09:15 AM

Hezbollah is a criminal organization. For ex. : Look how they make money in the northern triangle of S.America. Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina................

Posted by: diana at January 4, 2007 10:00 AM

OK how about this... It's the 12" version re-mixed by my Evil Twin. Perhaps it will prove more popular?!

ahem (clears throat)

Lebanon's Shia' Muslims are well known as the most stupid and gullible type of Arab, who are themselves known as the least educated and most closed minded people on the planet. (Indeed some commentators on this board have suggested that 90% of what Arabs know is just "wrong." Such commentator are fools, everyone knows it's 100%)

Anyway... So stupid are the Lebanese Shia, that they are happy to be bribed and coerced into supporting an evil and perfidious Persian plot manifested in a terroristic commando organisation called Hezbollah, even though it is totally against their best interests.

It is easy to know what the best interests of the Shia are, because you can simply ask helpful people like Condoleeza Rice, who has historically shown herself to be the Shia's friend.

Hezbollah's wicked cabal of beardy-wierdies brings the woefully ignorant Shia masses nothing but pain, war and misery. While the seductive rhetoric of their ill educated, neo-Facist turbanned demagogues blinds the charmless rank and file - who are incapable of independent rational thought - to the obvious benefits of supporting the existing political status quo, in which everyone revels in their rightful place in a Lebanese society.

It's a society in which everyone can get up close and personal with a Mercedes Benz 500 SL. If you are from downtown Beirut you can drive one - and if you are from the Dahiya, you can wash one.

Not only this, but the naive Shia peons have had their hearts turned against their real friend in the region: Israel - a benevolent and peaceful regional state that only wants equal brotherly relations with everyone, but has been forced - much against its own will - to employ "tough love" and invade and batter Lebanon with overwhelming military force on numerous occassions.

The plain facts are these: it is a combination of the existing political system and the Israeli regional vision that offers the Shia of Lebanon the best chance of educational and economic betterment, and the pursuit of happiness and dignity. But these dumb ass, proto-Iranian sand n*ggers just do not get it.

Evil Hezbollah has even had the temerity to suggest that it is possible to defend oneself in the political and military arena and gain a modicum of self respect.

What patent nonsense: Everyone in the Middle East knows that old saying "It is preferable to live on your knees than to die standing up."

Posted by: Microraptor's Evil Twin at January 4, 2007 11:02 AM

holdfast; Sorry I didn't see your original post and certainly would have acknowledged if I had. But great minds sometimes do think alike. Shameless plug.

Posted by: Pat Patterson at January 4, 2007 11:02 AM

MJT; "Jacob, poor Lebanese are not nearly as poor as poor Brazilians or anyone else in Latin America (unless you count the Palestinians in the refugee camps, but that's another subject entirely.)

Egypt is the only Arab country where I've seen that kind of grinding absolute poverty."

That's probably true, but poverty is also relative as well as absolute.

If you came from Maroun al Ras or Burj al Barajneh you don't tell yourself "My life is hard, but at least I don't live in a Rio favella," you wonder why so many people just up the road seem to have it all, and you don't.

Posted by: Microraptor at January 4, 2007 11:58 AM

Micro and Twin,

you wonder why so many people just up the road seem to have it all, and you don't.

Stop it with the poverty/class-struggle idiocy. And stop telling us that every non-Shia in Lebanon owns a Mercedes 500 and travels to Paris 3 times a year. That's plain baloney.

There are many rich Shia, and many poor and middle class Lebanese of all stripes. The whole country is suffering right now.

And sure the guy from Maroun el Ras does not know from favellas but has no reason whatsoever not to have a decent life and school and hospital (and the old system sucked at that).

However, scaring investors and skilled educated Lebanese, and stifling free speech and institutions, and destroying your own infrastructure is not the way to do it.

How difficult is that to comprehend?

Many in Maroun el Ras know better, and know better than you. They will have figured it out long before guys like you move on to the next "chic" cause.


Posted by: JoseyWales at January 4, 2007 01:42 PM

Microraptor: If you came from Maroun al Ras or Burj al Barajneh you don't tell yourself "My life is hard, but at least I don't live in a Rio favella," you wonder why so many people just up the road seem to have it all, and you don't.

Of course. Poverty is always relative. I just don't want people thinking Lebanon is like a Third World Latin American country. It isn't.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 4, 2007 02:27 PM

Micro, to clarify for you what I meant by "left." Note that I usually put quote marks around the word "left." That's because I don't believe that today's "Left" is a real movement, that is, an independent movement. I don't believe in the "left-right spectrum." I do believe that "The Left" today is a manipulated body of public opinion, ignorant and irrational as I said above. You were using an argument ["class struggle"] that used to be called Marxist. Of course, while fighting the rich Lebanese, they are also keeping the whole country back and backwards as best they can. Just incidentally, while conducting their struggle with rich Lebanese, they are also killing poor people in Israel. You do know about that? Now, last summer when Hizb rockets fighting the class struggle were raining down on Qiryat Shmonah and Haifa, etc., many or most of the more prosperous people in northern Israel fled to the center and south, as did people with family in the center and south. The poor [without family in the center and south] were left behind in the bombshelters. And some didn't have bombshelters.
As to the Hizb fighting a "class struggle," recall that the Nazi party called itself National Socialist. That is, they too loved the poor and the workers, as long as they were not Jews.

One of the great problems today is how fascist-like or Nazi-like movements have appropriated "leftist-democratic" slogans like: resistance, racist, colonialist, imperalist, class struggle, blah blah blah. The Hizb as a "resistance" movement does not share the values of the WW2 French resistance, shall we say. But you were using a Marxist term [class struggle] in an inappropriate sense, in my view.

Posted by: Eliyahu at January 7, 2007 04:32 AM

As a socialist Zionist, I must disagree with Eliyahu but even more strongly with Microraptor.

The portion of Elihayu's commentary in which he more or less justifies ignoring the poor violates both humanitarian principles and the principles of Eliyahu haNavi himself. That all it takes is hard work etc to make it out of poverty is a myth used by wealthy to justify their immoral attitude.

But Microraptor's approach is even worse; many a brutal and near-genocidal philosophy, from Nazism to Communism to Peronism, has used "social justice" to justify its crimes.

Hizbullah's is such a (varying) philosophy; it seeks power above all, backing its philosophy with blackmail, implied violence, militarism, oprressive religion, .... What right did an unelected "leader" like Nasrallah have to take Lebanon to war with Israel? Given greater power, how would it treat Maronites, Sunni, Druze, .... ?

Social justice for Shia? Gandhi, King, Eliyahu, Ségolène Royal, Meretz, and Jesse Jackson have all sought social justice without bringing war and mass destruction to their societies.

For this reason, I must in the end agree with Eliyahu about the hypocrisy of the "left", which suddenly supports causes like Hizbullah simply because it is "chic" or because the enemy of my enemy (Israel) is my friend. It is astounding how fast, in the case of Hizbullah (or Respect or CAIR or the Muslim Council or Hizb ut-Tahr) the left so quickly forgets its pet causes of secularity and feminism and gay rights to support some of the most viciously and violently reactionary philosophies.

Posted by: SocialistZionist at January 14, 2007 03:20 PM
Winner, The 2007 Weblog Awards, Best Middle East or Africa Blog

Pajamas Media BlogRoll Member


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

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


Link to Michael J. Totten with the logo button


Tip Jar


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