May 25, 2007

War in Lebanon (Again)

By Michael J. Totten

Robert Fisk:
Butchery was the word that came to mind. Twenty-three Lebanese soldiers and police, 17 Sunni Muslim gunmen. How long can Lebanon endure this? Just before he died, one of the armed men - Palestinians? Lebanese? - we still don't know - shot a soldier right beside me. He fell down on his back, crying with pain, and I thought he had slipped on the road until I saw the blood pumping out of his leg and the Red Cross team dragging him desperately out of the line of fire. Not since the war - yes, the Lebanese civil war that we are all still trying to forget - have I heard this many bullets cracking across the streets of a Lebanese city.
NOW Lebanon:
[T]he situation in Lebanon today could easily be taken from a B-movie, so rarely does life provide circumstances where the Good Guys and Bad Guys are this clearly differentiated. One can easily imagine movie goers rolling their eyes at such a simple representation of good versus evil: the under-equipped but terribly brave, multi-faith group of telegenic young soldiers battling evil, murderous terrorists to defend democracy and freedom.

The word terrorist has been devalued and possibly rendered useless by overuse, but there are still those for whom the title applies: groups and individuals whose only discernible ambition is, to put it quite simply, to terrorize. If ever there was an indisputable frontline in the international “war on terror,” it is at the entrance to Nahr el-Bared.

Charles Malik:
Most Lebanese go to work, and return home immediately. Friends, the other day, came over to my place. They said, "We'll go out after the bomb." There has not yet been more than one attack on the same night. Most nightspots are closing early or not opening at all. And the ones that remain open are empty, and the owners are jittery. The other night was the first time that I saw the owners of an unpopular local pub look upset when more patrons arrived. It was as if they thought, "The more popular we are, the more likely it is we will become a target."
David Kenner, filling in for Abu Kais at From Beirut from the Beltway:
People were greeting friends and smiling, in that rueful way that Lebanese smile when they know that something is very wrong but that there is nothing to be done about it. People were scared, but they were still functioning. The bomb broke most of the windows for an approximately 300- foot radius, and totaled four or five cars.

This is what characterized the entire trip, for me. People were calmly repairing the damage. This Vero Moda store was open for business. People were shopping inside, thumbing through clothes..The conversation on the street was uniformly about how quickly everything could be rebuilt, when Aley would be up on its feet again. The cell phone store bragged about reopening on Monday; the bank employee said that he would be doing business again tomorrow.

I thought the citizens of Aley exhibited just the right mix of resolution, self-control, and defiance.
Michael Young:
The Assad regime never reconciled itself with its forced withdrawal from Lebanon, and is now actively seeking to reimpose its hegemony over its neighbor through a network of allies and agents. A return of tens of thousands of Syrian soldiers may not be achievable in the short term, particularly as the main barrier to such a return would, this time, be an outraged Sunni community. This could have severe implications for President Bashar Assad at home. However, the Syrians often operate according to an obsolete template - that of Hafez al-Assad. While it may be easy for them to provoke conflict in Lebanon, as they did throughout the war years between 1975 and 1990, the Syrian leadership might not be able to resist the blowback this time around if new hostilities break out.
Rampurple:
As the battle in Tripoli continues between the Lebanese Army and Fateh El Islam and as another explosion occurs, this time in Aley, the Lebanese seem to be ALMOST united once again. It’s sad how such matters unite us.

On Facebook, groups have been emerging calling for the support of our army, the love of Lebanon, encouraging people to vacation in Lebanon, and much more.

Almost every Lebanese I know, has changed their MSN display picture to some sort of symbol of patriotism such as the flag, or the army’s emblem and almost every one of them have placed a flower (F) before their display name symbolising their support for the Lebanese Army.
Perpetual Refugee:
The Lebanese were collectively punished last summer for not being able to control a mad man who thought that kidnapping the cubs of a lioness was a game. As he hid safely like a pussy behind a chastity belt, over 1,000 Lebanese died. And the dreams of millions along with them. I hated the Israelis then. Even though I knew a lot of them personally who did not hate me back each time a missile hit Haifa.

And as we collectively punished the Palestinians in their camp for not being able to control mad men who thought that killing the kittens of a declawed housecat would demonstrate their power, I felt no remorse. None. Hypocrite. They should have controlled the madmen, I thought.

Then Boom. A bomb in Achrafieh. Again. A dead innocent woman. Again. Boom. Another bomb in another affluent neighborhood. Verdun. Boom. Another bomb in Aley. Here we go. The birthing pangs of our rebirth.

While the mad men of Damascus started softly gloating, my numbness turned to rage. And while we exercised power over the powerless, I thought back to July of 2006. And I realized. Realized that I was guilty. Of hypocricy.

The terrorists need to be eliminated.
Tony Badran:
The bottom line is this: everyone knows that this is a rabid terrorist campaign by a psychopathic murderous thug in Damascus, who will stop at nothing. The tribunal must be established without delay, and Assad must be made to pay a tangible painful price for his murderous policy. It's as simple as that. "Engagement" (I.e. appeasement) will only be seen by Assad as a sign of surrender and encouragement to commit more terrorism. It's telling that the only time the thuggish Assad Sr. was persuaded to back off his terrorism against one of his neighbors (and Syria is guilty of exporting terrorism to all its neighbors) was when Turkey threatened to invade Syria in 1998.
Meanwhile, United States military aid is rushed to Lebanon, as it should be.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at May 25, 2007 12:34 AM

Comments

You said that war was coming, coming like Christmas. Well Christmastime is here, and you don't seem happy for the tidings of the season, Michael.

It is going to get worse long before it gets better. But at least now, the people have a taste of their own power and a desire to hold Lebanon together. In some ways, I wish the US had a similar conviction to survive collectively. Or perhaps a comprehension that some people here at home would cheerfully watch us all suffer for decades.

I had a weird event tonight that we need to talk about when I get back. The world is bigger than you think.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at May 25, 2007 01:23 AM

The really positive thing here is that the army has very high morale and everyone either is really behind it or at least pays lip service to it. Also both Fatah and Hamas distanced themselves as clearly as possible from the terrorists. So on the army vs. terrorists side, all is as good as it can be. Expect the terrorists to be obliterated at whatever cost pretty soon.

Now the larger problem of the bombs and the overall Syrian "influence" would be very clear except that I have no idea at this time as to what game Israel is playing. In the past, Syria has almost always been working with or for Israel. Now I don't know.

We're all resigned to expecting more bombs, and the only clear solution at this time is to mirror that strategy back to its sender. An eye for an eye, it's the only logic Arab leaders can understand.

Posted by: El Hombre at May 25, 2007 02:14 AM

El Hombre: Syria has almost always been working with or for Israel.

Um, no. Syria and Israel are serious enemies.

I understand why you think they work in concert. It really does look that way from Lebanon sometimes. I have written about this before.

But you must know, on some level, that the Syrian regime wouldn't survive without being in a state of cold war or proxy war with Israel. It can't survive peace, and it can't survive hot war.

Many high-level people inside the Israeli government advocated a hot war with Syria last summer. They lost the internal argument, but next time they might not after Olmert and the rest of those losers are out.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at May 25, 2007 02:24 AM

Patrick, Michael and others said that "civil war" was coming...

It's far from being the case,

Regards

Posted by: Lira at May 25, 2007 02:39 AM

Actually, Lira, Partick is very specifically referring to my prediction of another Israeli war with one or more parts of the Hezbollah/Syria/Iran axis in an article I wrote last August. (Whether he remembers it correctly now or not, that was what I was referring to when I wrote "War is coming again, and it's coming like Christmas.")

I never said I am certain Lebanon will see another civil war. And I agree this is not at all a civil war.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at May 25, 2007 02:45 AM

Hey Mike, sorry for sounding like jumping to the ropes, but I was really annoyed by many journalist predictions a few months back about a civil war, plus while I agree that those Fath Al Islam are partly moved by Syrian intelligence, they have also been the pawns of other parties...

Regards

Posted by: Lira at May 25, 2007 03:04 AM

The current situation in Lebanon somewhat mirrors what's taking place in Gaza. Al-Qaida is busy trying to carve out enough mayhem in the region to ensure it's not sticking out like a sore thumb as it enlists more members under its priate flag.

Getting all the major players in Lebanon and in Gaza to participate in a free-for-all fire fight/civil war works to its own advatage, to the deteriment of the local population and the powers that be.

One more interesting note, the inability of the UNRWA to ensure that Palestinian refugee camps (off limits to the Lebanese army) do not become safe havens for terrorists, should give rise to the notion that they need to be dismantled and the people assimilated into their host societies.

After Israeli "Operation Defensive Shield," the refugee camps in the West Bank alone, provided ample proof that the UN is unable to police these camps on their own.

That Fattah al-Islam is repeating this strategy of using the camps as a safe haven and to recruit new members, the issue of the refugee camps need to be placed on the international agenda. It might also remove one major stumbling block for future negotiations to end the conflict.

Posted by: KGS at May 25, 2007 03:13 AM

I am very glad to see Perpetual Refugee come around. I was very disturbed to watch his descent into anti-Semitism, as if the Israelis weren't being bombed too. He was the only Lebanese person I met who seemed to genuinely want peace with Israel (in contrast, for example, to Lira, above, who is willing to condescend to peace since he thinks it's in Lebanon's interest).

Posted by: Yafawi at May 25, 2007 03:51 AM

First, unexploded bombs. Second, bombs exploding away from public places. The third stage is presumably mass-casualty bombings.

Meanwhile, Fatah al-Islam hold off the Lebanese army in the north. Lebanese forces discover bomb-belts in hideouts in Beirut. Interestingly, these Shia-hating al-Qaeda types are yet to blow up a Shia neighbourhood in Beirut. In fact, they targeted a Sunni neighbourhood first.

It isn't reaching to suppose Syria is involved in all of this. The end game is presumably a re-assertion of Syrian control over Lebanon.

But car bombs aren't enough. Setting the Palestinians against the Lebanese was probably the plan with the Fatah al-Islam operation, but in the absence of serious fighting elsewhere, something more drastic may be required.

The other regional goal of Syria is to take control of the Golan Heights from Israel.

All of this crap about giving Syria the Golan Heights in order to convince Assad to break with Iran ignores the fact that it is Lebanon Syria needs to survive - and to have a chance of economic independence from Iran. Syria needs cash, not a few mountains.

Seeing that the West isn't budging over Lebanese independence, the only way Syria can break free of Iran is to seize Lebanon. And the only way to do this is to waeken the Lebanese army internally and provoke another Hezbollah-Israel war. Once again, Syria will need to protect it's Arab brethren against civil strife and Zionist aggression.

Hey, it's possible.

Posted by: MattW at May 25, 2007 05:39 AM

The sad thing is war never left... We may well be forced to meet ruthlessness with ruthlessness in order to ensure a modicum of survival.

But I fear this may well be only the beginning, a dress rehearsal for worse to come.

Posted by: Jeha at May 25, 2007 05:56 AM

...a dress rehearsal for worse to come.

Yep.

I hope the Israelis will be smarter this time around.

Posted by: rosignol at May 25, 2007 06:20 AM

rosignol,

The Gucci Lebanese are arabs by choice, remember? They will the last to make peace with Israel, remember? And Israelis will be the last to again fight their wars for them. Your Gucci bloodsuckers and spongers might as well cash in their Saudi passports now.

Posted by: redaktor at May 25, 2007 06:56 AM

Yafawi, because Lebanon should go to peace in case that is not in its interest?

Perplexing

Posted by: Lira at May 25, 2007 07:27 AM

"The word terrorist has been devalued and possibly rendered useless by overuse, but there are still those for whom the title applies: groups and individuals whose only discernible ambition is, to put it quite simply, to terrorize."

This strikes me as a half truth. It is possible to be quite bad - in your willingness to target civilians, and propagate fear and panic - but also have a clear agenda beyond the terror.

It seems to me that what the radical Sunni Islamists in Lebanon want to accomplish is the destablization of a fragile, fractitious society - a second civil war in which the Siniora government fails and westerners (including the UN force) are driven from the country.

This strikes me as a real possibility even if the endgame for these people - a Sunni-led caliphate from North Africa to Central Asia - is the stuff of fantasy.

The more likely outcome in my view is the breakup of Lebanon along sectarian lines (which didn't happen at the end of the first civil war largely because Syria opposed it), and eventually the breakup of perhaps much of the Arab world and Central Asia along sectarian lines.

Posted by: Linus at May 25, 2007 09:58 AM

Kudos to 'Perpetual Refugee' for his frank honesty.

Posted by: MattW at May 25, 2007 10:04 AM

I agree with Linus' analysis.

What is salient about it is the distinction between short- and long-term goals, which I don't think is recognized nearly enough.

The short-term goals have a decent chance of working.

The long-term goals, not so much.

That doesn't mean the attempt to achieve the long term goals won't cause enormous suffering.

Posted by: Randall at May 25, 2007 10:09 AM

Mike,

>I understand why you think they work in concert. It really does look that way from Lebanon sometimes. I have written about this before.

would you care to elaborate on this?

kgs,

if the arabs have not integrated the "refugees" for sixty years, what makes you think that they will now, when chickens come home to roost? the arabs used the palestinians as a weapon against israel, keeping them in squalor until the problem has become unmanageable and likely unsolvable. that's why the right of return is not something negotiable, but the heart of the problem and the reason "land for peace" has always been an illusion and failure and the conflict intractable.

Posted by: fp at May 25, 2007 10:17 AM

Hi FP,

I agree with what you say, my point was that the international community, namely the US, needs to pressure the UN to finally do away with the funding for the Palestinians' private UN run refugee organization, while the rest of the world's refugees have to share the UNHCR.

They need to be assimilated into the host countries where the reside. Tall order, but the US has enough evidence to prove that the camps are being used to breed terrorism, something the UN is supposed to be policing.

A campaign to close them should be made a top priority, seeing that al-Qaida and ilk are benifiting from their existence. Keeping people in squalor for political reasons is not only inhumane, but in this day and age, strategically insane.

Posted by: KGS at May 25, 2007 10:34 AM

(Deleted)

Posted by: abraham at May 25, 2007 10:37 AM

No abraham. We have him working on a super secret mission to eliminate Noam Chomsky.

Posted by: The Mossad at May 25, 2007 10:48 AM

LMAO!! But I would hope there's higher priorities than Chomsky!

Yes, kudos to Perpetual Refugee -- most of us won't even report on that first awful look in the mirror, and certainly not with as much style.

Posted by: Pam at May 25, 2007 10:55 AM

The other regional goal of Syria is to take control of the Golan Heights from Israel.

I'm no expert and I've never been to the Middle East, but I'd disagree.

I'd argue that Syria needs the Golan Heights to remain a matter of conflict in order to maintain an excuse for Hezbollah and Syrian hostility towards Israel.

Israel would almost certainly hand over the Golan in exchange for peace, but what incentive does Syria or Hezbollah have for making peace with Israel and removing one of Hezbollah's justifications for attacking Iraeli interests while maintaining that they're defending Lebanon?

Posted by: Hollowpoint at May 25, 2007 10:57 AM

kgs,

you cannot possibly believe that the charade called the UN will do anything of the kind.

the west (including the US) and the UN are partly responsible for preserving and developing this monster which is the refugee problem, and there is no way they can or will deal with it.

as to integration, i would be shocked if that were possible at this point. most srveys suggest that the palestinians don't even want to integrate, and i can't say i blame them given how they were treated by the arabs who are so "concerned" about them.

it would have been trivial to integrate 7-800.000 at the time when they left. to deal with zillions of them after they stewed in their own juice and lived on welfare for 60 years is something else.

add to these that they have practically no leadership, but a bunch of corrupt, genocidal thugs, and the notion that the problem can be resolved by integration is quite farfetched.

which is precisely why the right of return is the core of the conflict and is not negotiable.

Posted by: fp at May 25, 2007 11:23 AM

there are so many who out of ignorance, denial, wishful thinking, or acceptance of propaganda keep believing that the conflict is a matter of occupation and land. those are marginal issues, propagated by the arab side for the benefit of the gullible west, in order to have them pressure israel for concessions.

the core of the conflict is the refusal to accept israel's right to exist. the only difference is between "slow jihad" (fatah) and "fast jihad" (hamas).

Posted by: fp at May 25, 2007 11:33 AM

Hollowpoint,

I'd argue that Syria needs the Golan Heights to remain a matter of conflict in order to maintain an excuse for Hezbollah and Syrian hostility towards Israel.

Few relevant people are fooled by that. Those who are would be fooled by an alternative excuse.

Israel would almost certainly hand over the Golan in exchange for peace, but what incentive does Syria or Hezbollah have for making peace with Israel and removing one of Hezbollah's justifications for attacking Iraeli interests while maintaining that they're defending Lebanon?

I may not have made my point clear. Syria wants the Golan Heights, but needs Lebanon. If Assad can seize Lebanon, he'd probably consider losing his given justifications for Syrian and Hezbollah aggression against Israel as a fair swap.

More to the point, there's no reason to think he'd give those things up.

Another way of looking at it is this: given that Syria is not economically viable currently, and seizing Lebanon is the only way to stop becoming entirely reliant on Iran, what to do after seizing Lebanon and justifying further attacks on Israel becomes one of those good problems.

Heh. MJT - 9 year-old simpleton, or member of The World's Most Successful Intelligence Agency ™?

Those cunning Jews sure make things difficult. Fortunately, 'Abraham' has cleared things up for us by identifying mutually exclusive things that add up to... erm. Well.

Posted by: MattW at May 25, 2007 11:40 AM

redaktor: Your Gucci bloodsuckers and spongers might as well cash in their Saudi passports now.

You are way out of line.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at May 25, 2007 11:49 AM

fp,

Read this for your elaboration about the appearance (not reality) of Syrian-Israeli cooperation.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at May 25, 2007 11:52 AM

It always amazes me at how we accept the
concept of perpetual refugees.
Why doesn't the Arab world get together and
agree that they will offer citizenship to
any Palestinian who resides in their country.
In exchange for that, the individual agrees to
give up what is called the "right of return".

How can we have the equivalence of second class
people in come countries. It is like giving the
Palestinian refugees and all of their descendents
a giant yellow star to wear.

Maybe Amnesty Intl or some other NGO will get
behind the idea. (fat chance)

Posted by: TedM at May 25, 2007 12:04 PM

mike,

i actually read it at the time, but do not recall that it contained that appearance. i'll reread it.

it still amazes me that after 60 years of conflict arabs are still consumed by illusions or delusion, rather than knowledge and reason.

Posted by: fp at May 25, 2007 12:14 PM

MJT,

Re: Gucci bloodsuckers and spongers

Ok. So why is it that the poorest Shiia can find the means and the will the fight for themselves, while the best that the Gucci Lebanese can afford themselves, is to drive their Mercedes to a fancy Hotel for their daily tanning session at the pool?

Why should anyone have to fight their battles for them? Why should the French, or the Americans, or the Syrians, the Israelis, the Saudis, or whoever else they manage to sucker and sponge off. Why?

Posted by: redaktor at May 25, 2007 12:47 PM

redaktor: So why is it that the poorest Shiia can find the means and the will the fight for themselves

The Islamic Republic of Iran gives them the money.

Why should anyone have to fight their battles for them?

No one should do it for them. But you must understand that Lebanon can't defeat Syria and Iran by itself any more than Kuwait could defeat Iraq by itself.

Lebanon is a miniscule country, only half the size of Israel. And Israel is incredibly tiny.

The US is bolstering the Lebanese army which, as I said, is as it should be.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at May 25, 2007 12:59 PM

Question: is it possible to find ways to help Syria develop economically?

Posted by: Sophia at May 25, 2007 12:59 PM

Question: is it possible to find ways to help Syria develop economically?

Get rid of Assad and his cronies. Seriously, bad rulers have driven many Middle East countries into the ground, and Syria is a prime example. Nothing good will come of Syria with a mafia-style leadership.

Posted by: Keith at May 25, 2007 01:21 PM

mike,

you must admit that it's not just money that supports one's self defence. there must be more to it than that. indeed, the rich lebanese do not lack money, yet they do not have the will that hezbollah has.

and we both know what that is: the god delusion.

Posted by: fp at May 25, 2007 01:24 PM

keith,

that would be just the precondition. there are many more problems with the arab predicament than just bad leaders. in fact, bad leaders themselves are a consequence of, not a cause of those problems.

is it a coincidence that there is not one arab country that has decent leaders?

Posted by: fp at May 25, 2007 01:26 PM

ted,

if you studied the background of the conflict you would not be amazed. those "refugees" are the main if only card the arabs have against israel.

Posted by: fp at May 25, 2007 01:28 PM

If Syria normalized with Israel - really normalized - they'd be swamped with Israeli tourism money before the ink dried. If they worked out a shared neutrality/development plan with Israel for much of the Golan, as was actually suggested in some opium-drenched diplomatic fantasy last summer, creating the 'fruit-cheese-wine-and-bread basket and environmentally-sound industrial center/nature park' of the Middle East, I suspect they'd be rolling in dough.

All Syria has to do is pull its head out of its Arab ass and grow up.

Posted by: Pam at May 25, 2007 01:32 PM

fp,

What I don't understand is why no one
advocates self determination for each
refugee. Isn't that what everyone wants?

I wonder if there ever was a poll taken in
these long term camps to find out what the
people there really want for themselves and
their families.

Unless they are given a choice they are really
no more than slaves being kept that way through
the inaction of the UN and all the other international humanitarian organizations.

Has anyone ever thought of where they would live and work if they ever had to go back to Palestine?

I know of refugees who are citizens of my country who are prosperous members of the community. Why can't
they have that chance in the Arab lands?? They need someone to advocate that for them

Posted by: TedM at May 25, 2007 01:36 PM

MJT,

No. What "rosignol" has said was, quote: "I hope the Israelis will be smarter this time around." Implying what has often been said, and often demanded explicitly -- That it's for others to give their blood and treasure for "Lebanon". The Gucci Lebanese are too weak to do it themselves. No, Michael. I'm not buying this excuse. The Gucci Lebanese are weak because they would rather live the sweet life prostituting, than apply themselve on defense.

Posted by: redaktor at May 25, 2007 01:38 PM
Why should anyone have to fight their battles for them? Why should the French, or the Americans, or the Syrians, the Israelis, the Saudis, or whoever else they manage to sucker and sponge off. Why?

Because it is in our interest to harm hostile countries (Syria and Iran) and support friendly ones (Israel). And given how many young Lebanese soldiers have been killed in the last few days, it takes some cheek to claim that other countries are fighting battles on behalf of Lebanon.

Posted by: MattW at May 25, 2007 01:43 PM
I wonder if there ever was a poll taken in these long term camps to find out what the people there really want for themselves and their families.

I think I'm right in saying there have been a few. I don't remember numbers, but significant proportions would accept a pay-off and/or citizenship in a Western country.

Posted by: MattW at May 25, 2007 01:49 PM
Get rid of Assad and his cronies. Seriously, bad rulers have driven many Middle East countries into the ground, and Syria is a prime example. Nothing good will come of Syria with a mafia-style leadership.

Bullseye.

"Arab socialism - making a bad idea worse for fifty years."

Posted by: MattW at May 25, 2007 01:50 PM

MJT, you said back in Feb:
"There is no Syrian-Israeli axis, not in the real world. But from a practical Lebanese point of view that doesn’t make any difference. While most Lebanese want regime-change or at least regime-punishment in Syria, the Israeli government openly, categorically, opposes any such thing. The Israelis dread the idea of post-Baathist Syria, and they therefore swear they will do nothing whatsoever to weaken or punish Assad."

Well you're basically saying there's a tacit understanding between Israel and Syria. I'm not saying it has to be more than that. But as long as Israel tries hard not to antagonize Syria, we have a major problem in Lebanon.
The war last year made this very obvious. Any military strategist would tell you that to eradicate a resilient enemy, you have to strike at the heart, not the tail. Well the heart may not be easy to reach at this time (Iran), but the artery can be severed pretty easily. It's wasn't, which was pretty ridiculous, unless Isreal wanted to keep Syria's Assad regime standing.

Now having Assad's regime standing today is in the short term a good strategy (look at what happened when they killed Saddam), but ultimately it's fraught with peril, and I just can't accept that the Jewish braintrust would be that stupid. So either I totally overestimate the geopolitical and strategic jewish thinktank, or they've got a very specific understanding with Assad.

What understanding? One possibility is to have Assad be the manager of an organized chaos in the Near East, where no country manages to develop itself far enough to challenge Israel on any front (economy, tourism, etc...). And maybe ultimately the region becomes a collection of small ethnic countries, similar to Israel but much much weaker.

The other possibility of course is that Israel is being very short-sighted and made a huge mistake, and next time around they'll blow away Assad because the tail always grows back.

Posted by: El Hombre at May 25, 2007 02:00 PM

Michael,

I've seen a few comments eluding to it, but unless I missed it, none of the writers you cited have said anything about the continued existence of Palestinian refugee camps 60 years after the creation of the state of Israel and the 1948 war.

It boggles the mind that these people have not been assimilated into Lebanon... For me, it's like the 800 pound gorilla in the room. Do Lebanese think these people are just going to go away? One day be driven to the border of a future Palestinian state and sent on their merry way? Or are they in such denial that they truly believe this is not a regional problem but only an Israeli one?

Have any thoughts on this, Michael?

It's heartening to see some Lebanese self-reflecting on what it's like to be on the other side of the fence, but I'd sure like to hear more from them.

Happy holiday weekend, USA'ers.

Posted by: Josh at May 25, 2007 02:10 PM

Would hot war between Israel and Syria be good for Lebanon?

"Question: is it possible to find ways to help Syria develop economically?"
Answer: No. Giving money or even food aid to dictators only increases their grip on power in their own country and their menace to others. Robert Mugabe actually uses food aid as a means of starving out his opponents -- thanks to naieve Western aid workers he was able to destroy his own agricultural base and use food aid as a reward for loyalty to his regime.

Posted by: Laika's Last Woof at May 25, 2007 02:11 PM

El Hombre,

Syria keeps "Lebanon" and Israel keeps the Golan. That would be ok by me.

Posted by: redaktor at May 25, 2007 02:14 PM

What a speech by Nasrallah this evening. My comments in [ ].

- We salute all the martyrs of Lebanon: Hezb, Lebanese soldiers, Palestinians, Syrian soldiers. [ SYRIAN and PALESTINIAN???? ]

- We support 100% the Army. Those who attacked the Army must be brought to justice. But the poor palestinian refugees have nothing to do with this. So we are against the Army attacking the camp. [ Pray tell, how do you bring those f***s to justice? ]

- Situation sucks, we're trying to help. Let's make a National Unity gov't so that together we solve problems. Attacking Palestinian camps doesn't help when we've got so much trouble with Israel, 14 march, 8 march, bombs, etc... [ no comment necessary ]

- The US repeatedly said that they didn't want Al Qaeda fighting on US land, so they took the battle to Al Qaeda in Iraq. What happened? The Iraqi people suffered, instead of a few Americans in the US. Is this what they want with Lebanon, now that they are helping the Army so quickly? Last year they not only didn't stop Israel, they encouraged it. So why the help now? These are important questions. [ You start a war with Israel and you expect the US to stop it? Riiiight. And who imported Al Qaeda in Leb? The US? I guess one can always say that's possible ]

Posted by: El Hombre at May 25, 2007 02:15 PM

Even as Syria drops it's pants we still have to endure the anti-Semites attempting to reduce it all to "The Jews run the world".

There are 36 easily located conflicts going on in the world and only one Israel.

So go back to pasting Ron Paul on every ®epublican online poll and worshipping George Soros while reciting the mantras of Chomsky because reality will never penetrate into your deep dank dungeons of self delusion.

Posted by: DANEgerus at May 25, 2007 02:15 PM

Redaktor: Ok by you, not by me. Then you wonder why there's animosity from your northern border.

Posted by: El Hombre at May 25, 2007 02:18 PM

Remember the Lebanese army providing basing for Hezbollah rocketeers and looking the other way while Syria ran Iranian munitions across the border?

How is that working out for Lebanon today?

Lie down with dogs... wake up with fleas.

Posted by: DANEgerus at May 25, 2007 02:20 PM

redaktor: The Gucci Lebanese are weak because they would rather live the sweet life prostituting

Knock it off. You don't have to agree with my opinions about the Lebanese, but these kinds of insults are out of line.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at May 25, 2007 02:20 PM

El Hombre: The other possibility of course is that Israel is being very short-sighted and made a huge mistake

That's the one.

Pretty much everyone in Israel iknows the Israeli government massively screwed up last year.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at May 25, 2007 02:23 PM

pam,

you don't understand.

the arab regimes have indoctrinated and still do generations with hatred for the jews and have relied on this ideology to maintain themselves in power. they cannot one day switch over and contradict all that with "oops, the jews are our neighbors, we must cooperate". if they did, they would lose whatever little credibility they have, and the basis for their dictatorship.

i keep telling people that even if a decision were made to finish the conflict tomorrow, it would take several generations of different education to achieve it. and this is not happening, but rather the jihad indoctrination is getting worse. they even send children to die.

the only way israel should be handling it is to demand a couple of generations without indoctrination. if the arabs did that, it would be the only way to trust them. if not nothing should be conceded, because it would be wishful thinking.

Posted by: fp at May 25, 2007 02:25 PM

ted,

evidence indicates that many wanna go to the west.
what a big surprise.

Posted by: fp at May 25, 2007 02:26 PM

El Hombre,

Yes, Lebanese animosity towards Israel has worked its logic. Here's a toast to greater Syria, and a quiet Syrian/Israeli northern border.

Posted by: redaktor at May 25, 2007 02:30 PM

the problem is that apparently there is no mechanism to remove that idiotic government. even worse, there are no better substitutes. the main two candidates are former failures.

the fact is that there is no leadership on either side and this is extremely dangerous.

Posted by: fp at May 25, 2007 02:33 PM

What is the long-term plan for these Palestinian refugees?

Are they ever going to be integrated into Lebanon?

Posted by: tg at May 25, 2007 02:34 PM

MJT,

What is it that Lebanon produces? Where is the wealth coming from, if not political (and actual) prostitution?

Posted by: redaktor at May 25, 2007 02:34 PM

Syria would have a long term chance to become greater if Assad and his Alawite clique were deposed and Syria were democratized. However, in the short to middle term, it is likely that Syria would become a bit like an Iraqi doppelganger, with a Sunni majority and a Shiite minority (although they have been aggressively proselytizing the Sunni), instead of vice versa, and their own Kurdish minority in the north.

Certainly this configuration is a recipe for some turbulent times, but sometimes temporary turbulence is a regrettably necessary adjunct to an eventual transition to a better state.

One thing that can most definitely be said: the days of the lurching undead regime in Syria keeping its despotic self kicking by vampirizing on Lebanon should never be allowed to return - not only for the sake of the Lebanese, but also for the sake of the Syrians themselves. Martin Luther King once said that it is impossible to hold someone else down in a ditch unless you crawl down in there with them. Being overseers on the domination plantation has to have a corrupting and destructive effect on Syrian ethics and morals. It also acts like an economic crutch that prevents Syria from taking (or even permitting) measures that would contribute to a strengthening of its own economy into eventual self-sufficiency.

Posted by: Salamantis at May 25, 2007 02:48 PM

redaktor: What is it that Lebanon produces? Where is the wealth coming from, if not political (and actual) prostitution?

I am not going to have this discussion with you if you continue insulting the country this way. You know very little about Lebanon beyond the conflict (obviously) and don't seem the slightest bit interested in learning about it. You're becoming a troll.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at May 25, 2007 03:05 PM

redaktor,

You are talking about the only country aside from the US I have actually lived in (and love) and it supremely pisses me off that you're in favor of the terror regime in Syria taking over the country again.

The Syrians murdered a friend of mine, not as collateral damage, but on purpose. They singled him out and car-bombed him while he was on the his way to the apartment of another friend of mine.

My reponse to you is very restrained right now because you have been around here for a while, but I am at the end of my patience.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at May 25, 2007 03:10 PM

Michael,

Ok, I'll quit with the abusive (although I think accurate) language. But the question still stands. Where is the wealth coming from? You say you know the country better than I. Fine. I'm eager to hear your explanation.

Posted by: redaktor at May 25, 2007 03:13 PM

No, fp, I DO understand. I think you know by now I'm not that stupid... an ignorant slut, perhaps, but not stupid.

I was being semi-tongue-in-cheek: That it isn't Assad the individual or his clump of toadies, and it isn't lacking Lebanon or the Golan, because operating as Arab nations seem to do, none of that is sufficient. Give Assad the Golan and he'll fuck it up. Get rid of Assad, and Syria will be in no better economic shape.

Stop thinking like whiny narcissistic tribal Middle Easterners, and all sorts of economic opportunities are likely to emerge.

But the first cash flush would likely be Israeli tourism. They may still be loathed by most Jordanians and Egyptians, but when I left Israel in late March, there was a massive line of Israelis at Royal Jordanian heading off for vacation. I spoke to several Israelis who would love to visit Syria, Lebanon, elsewhere in the region, if only they were allowed to. (They may not be the best-behaved tourists, but that's a different issue.)

Posted by: Pam at May 25, 2007 03:26 PM

redaktor -- your comments advocating the annihilation of an independent lebanon are disgusting, particularly coming from someone whose own country also faces very real existential threats. you should be ashamed.

if michael weren't so polite, he'd have banned you already.

Posted by: carine at May 25, 2007 03:38 PM

to everyone implying that lebanon should absorb the palestinians:

lebanon hasn't given the palestinians citizenship for the exact same two reasons that israel refuses the right of return: firstly, their naturalization would disrupt the very delicate balance of religious groups in the country, which is considered essential for lebanon's continued survival. secondly, while most palestinians are neither terrorists nor criminals, significant elements within the palestinian community have been responsible for numerous terrorist attacks and other crimes, and played a major role in lebanon's civil war. most lebanese would not be comfortable with full palestinian integration, and indeed, few countries would tolerate the continued presence of such a group on their land -- let alone offer them citizenship.

if you think these reasons are bogus (all religious groups should be able to coexist in a democratic, secular society, and do it right now; it's wrong to hold the crimes of a few against a larger population) then you should also support the palestinians' right of return to israel.

but it is important to acknowledge the divide between idealism and reality.

Posted by: carine at May 25, 2007 03:51 PM

Carine,

Apparently you missed my whole argument. Lebanon, independent? I wish it were so. But the Lebanese rather sell their independence to the highest bidder. This is what I'm driving at. There is a word for that. But I promised Michael I'll quit with the abusive language.

Posted by: redaktor at May 25, 2007 03:53 PM

Rather than one of john and prostitute, I see the relationship between Syria and Lebanon as one of rapist and victim. All the benefits of their involuntary (as far as Lebanon is concerned)association accrue to Syria, while all the pain, loss, and degradation is suffered by the Lebanese. I feel confident that a majority of Lebanese would agree with me on this point.

Posted by: Salamantis at May 25, 2007 03:58 PM

redaktor, there's a clear word for you:

generalization.

Posted by: Lira at May 25, 2007 04:04 PM

pam,

wishful thinking.

if that were possible it would have done a long time ago. you've got to stop projecting the western way of thinking on these regimes.

the least assad needs is israeli tourists in syria.

Posted by: fp at May 25, 2007 04:11 PM

Lira,

Not to worry. When the Saudis start their collections, I'm sure you'll find another "vampire" to involuntary give yourselves to.

Posted by: redaktor at May 25, 2007 04:20 PM

MattW

I may not have made my point clear. Syria wants the Golan Heights, but needs Lebanon. If Assad can seize Lebanon, he'd probably consider losing his given justifications for Syrian and Hezbollah aggression against Israel as a fair swap.

I agree that control of Lebanon is an overriding desire of Syria, as is maintaining power. Gaining control of the Golan Heights by Syria actually works against both those goals.

Hezbollah is used by Syria to destabilize Lebanon, as you know. Go back to the hostilities started by HA when they kidnapped Israeli solders- one of their primary excuses was the contention that Israel is occupying Lebanese land in the Golan. If Syria gets the Golan, they lose the "Israel is occupying Lebanese land so we're fighting for Lebanon" propaganda point.

Furthermore, many Lebanese do consider the Golan Heights as belonging to them- if Syria gains control, it generates further hostility towards Syria. Instead they play along with the notion that it's Lebanese in order to help forment opinion for HA and against Israel, without acutally renouncing territorial claims to it.

Lastly, the Syrian regime- much like Cuba and other oppressive regimes- needs an external enemy to justify it's authoritarianism and draw attention from it's own shortcomings. They need conflict with Israel, whether for real or imagined differences. The Golan Heights provides a territorial dispute- and Syria feeds off of unrest and conflict.

I'd suggest that strategically the Golan Heights is far more important as a fabricated source of conflict- confict Syria benefits from- than it's value in terms of land. I doubt that Assad really gives two craps about the land itself.

Posted by: Hollowpoint at May 25, 2007 04:22 PM

redaktor, I think it's time you recused yourself from this conversation.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at May 25, 2007 04:29 PM

carine,

So the basic plan is to just keep them inside those camps and hope they keep quiet?

I understand the reasons you stated as well as the comparisons to Israel, but you of all people should know that going this path will result in the problems Israel is dealing with.

In any this "fragile" balancing act to appease all sects in Lebanon seems to be the root of their problem, and it's silly to think of the place as a state if it continues to define itself in such sectarian terms.

Posted by: tg at May 25, 2007 04:30 PM

fp, don't be so damn concrete (and patronizing). Someone asked what could be done to improve Syria's economy. My answer -- a seismic attitude shift. A culture transplant. Nothing less.

I'm not saying it can happen. I hold next to zero hope for a sanity virus to infect the ME. Or the US, for that matter.

Posted by: Pam at May 25, 2007 04:34 PM

Ok, Michael. I appreciate your patience. I wish I had more positive things to say. Good night.

Posted by: redaktor at May 25, 2007 04:38 PM

pam,

i see no reason to talk about what cannot possibly happen.

people have been doing this about the conflict ever since 1948.

Posted by: fp at May 25, 2007 06:23 PM

Josh and others wondering why the Palestinians are not assimilated: Jordan tried it - see Black September.

BTW Michael, thanks for all you do.

Posted by: Jack Okie at May 25, 2007 07:48 PM

Do the Palestinian refugees get to vote in Lebanese elections?

400,000 refugees in a country of 4,000,000 should be a powerful voting bloc.

Posted by: alphie at May 25, 2007 08:07 PM

Robert Fisk:

"Butchery was the word that came to mind. Twenty-three Lebanese soldiers and police, 17 Sunni Muslim gunmen. How long can Lebanon endure this? Just before he died, one of the armed men - Palestinians? Lebanese? - we still don't know - shot a soldier right beside me."

Robert Fisk almost got shot?

Posted by: alan at May 25, 2007 08:14 PM

Thanks to all who commented about Syria's economy.

I think there's a lot of truth in the statements that acceptance of Israel would help Syria economically - other states would benefit too of course.

But that will take time; the only real hope I see is to stop the incitement. So much of the Arab/Israeli conflict is pychological - ironically, in a way, I think that shows the path forward. People are driven by what they've been told. A few years without bigoted incitement might work wonders.

Beyond that I was thinking of a UN Report prepared by some Arab scholars, who were looking at the problems confronting the entire region. The creation of Israel did play a role in that report as well, it continues to somehow provide humiliation just by existing, and is blamed for limiting the development of the Arab world - again, this is purely psychological. And that being the case the cure, perhaps, is gradually introducing some rationality into the argument?

The regional meeting in Jordan showed that at least, leaders are aware of the threats of climate change/desertization, terrorism and perhaps, a decreasing reliance on petrochemicals as the West fights both environmental damage and the geopolitical nightmare of economic reliance on the Persian Gulf. Peres has a lot of ideas for enterprise development and he's working with Jordan and Palestinians too - a step at a time, rational forces are trying to move forward I think - unfortunately dodging bullets!

The reason I asked about Syria's economy is because it's hard to avoid thinking there's an economic component to the whole Syria/Lebanon situation (and the revolutionary Left which also influenced the Palestinians came in part I think from Syria.) Of course this was during the Cold War years. (But yet I can see just reading this thread there's a lot of anger apparently at the aristocratic or wealthy Lebanese - yet - aren't these the cosmopolitans who link East and West, who can trade with Ankara, Hong Kong, Paris, Tel Aviv?)

Syria has a low per capita income relative to Kuwait, but then so does Algeria, which has great resources. Poverty is an awful problem throughout the Middle East/North Africa in spite of huge land masses and resources and potential, and that's got to be causing at least some of the trouble?

It seems, maybe at least as importantly than somehow making a transition to better government, there's a need to jumpstart creativity in the region. The sense of humiliation that Israel's very existence seems to have created is frequently cited as a problem preventing greater Arab prosperity and development but maybe the best cure for that is simply more books, more connection to the outside world?

Isn't Lebanon a critical element of this bridge, and probably Dubai and the Emirates as well? Is religion working against this? A friend of mine told me he thinks all the troubles in the MENA reflect a slow civil war within Saudi Arabia.

Is he wrong in thinking there's a slow internal struggle going on between ancient and modern in the Middle East, between sacred and secular, and that much of the trouble is simply (or not so simply) caused by a reaction against change?

If so is there any way to soften the process?

Posted by: sophia at May 25, 2007 08:24 PM

In the US forestry service the goal for the last 50 years has been to extinguish fires as soon as they erupt. Smokey the Bear, save the forest and all that.

However in the last decade or so there has been a realization that maybe the worse thing is not a fire. Maybe worse is keeping a status quo that allows more kindling to develop by suppressing the fire, making for a more horrendous fire when it finally does come.

Maybe the same can be said for the prevention of violent conflicts in places like Lebanon. For decades the powers both in and out of the region have tried to contain the war. Nothing can be worse than war, especially civil war. Right?

But maybe that's not right either. Lebanon's course of precise division of power, governing responsibility shared by a multitude of armed groups, bargaining for power with a shower of bullets or a well timed blast seems to put a limit on its asperations of being a nation. Is the horror of all out war with the hope of forging a real nation worse than generations of the current stalemate? Is there any coalition that can lend enough guns and manpower to form a central force able to create a nation with a single, centralized control of the territory?

Probably not, especially in a neighborhood that doesn't want bad things to upset the carefully crafted status quo.

Civil wars are horrible things. However one that plays out in slow motion for half a century with no end in sight may not be any better than the more compact, more immediately violent ones. The American Civil War lasted ony 4 years and killed well over half a million people. But at the end the country was ready to reassume its place of soverignty. Would that choice were open to the land of the cedars.

Posted by: Buckland at May 25, 2007 08:35 PM

Your point is that, in endeavoring to soften the transition to peaceful stability, people may actually be lengthening it, and unintentionally, and with the best of motives, increasing its total cost in blood and treasure.

This very well could be the case. However, the only way to find out if it is, is an exceedingly painful one.

Posted by: Salamantis at May 25, 2007 10:02 PM

sophia,

you're right about indoctrination, but psychology in the arab world is almost everything. so it's not a trivial issue.

the fact of the matter is that zillions of dollars have been pumped by eu, us and the arab countries even into syria and it has not been able to overcome the psychology on the one hand, and the survival strategy of the assad regime.

economic development requires some measure of freedom and the syrian regime tightly controls everything. it exists only due to this control and the slightest relaxation is risky.

lebanon as an economic source relieves them from having to relax control and it's much preferrable.
they have always managed to fool and manipulate the west (see pelosi visit), they are using the methods that proved effective in the past.

Posted by: fp at May 25, 2007 10:03 PM

buckland,

my guess is that if there were some sort of coalition who could develop such a consensus as to eliminate the rest from any power, chances are it would have happened by now.

the problem is that if such a scenario were to play out, you would have on the one hand hezbollah supported by iran and syria, and on the other the rest supported by lip service by the west. who do you think is likely to win?

keep in mind that the army has probably the same ethnic configuration as the population, so it may split.

and in any case, as sal points out the cost would be exorbitant, which is remembered from the previous civil war. it's psychologically easier to cope with small conflagrations over time, then with a huge one.

Posted by: fp at May 25, 2007 10:11 PM

"Pretty much everyone in Israel iknows the Israeli government massively screwed up last year. "

As far as Israelis are concerned, the "massive screw-up" was in the way the war was prosecuted, and in particular the lack of proper military decision-making. Not that Israel had the wrong strategy in attacking Lebanon and not Syria. I think Perpetual Refugee has it right that at least part of the unspoken strategy was a limited bombing of Beirut that would alienate Hizbollah from the rest of the population, and this may have worked better than the actual military campaign. AT the time, Nasrallah seemed genuinely sobered by the Israeli response, and I remember MJT reporting on Sunni muslims in Beirut seething mad and calling for death to Hizbollah. This must have some constraining influence on them. How far Nasrallah is willing to risk his own survival by allowing himself to be a cat's paw for Syria and Iran is anyone's guess.

I remember the question of whether Israel should have attacked Syria was extensively discussed on an earlier thread. My own opinion is that such an attack would have been just as likely to end in a costly stalemate which would benefit Syria and especially Iran. I'm not a pacifist by any means, but I believe Iraq taught us that in the war against the terrorists, you need to choose your battles correctly. Iran is the bullfighter, and so far we look like a not very intelligent bull charging the same cape.

Posted by: MarkC at May 25, 2007 11:12 PM

The billions dumped into the ME have NEVER been aimed at forcing educational modernization, or even building decent physical or social infrastructure. So -- the money was indeed dumped, and the strings attached had to do, usually, with making sure it got spent back on US military gear.

The social psychology of the region has gotten almost zippo serious Western attention. What does that have to do with oil or the cold war? I believe it's premature to say nothing can be done. Hell, the only person (besides me) I have heard say that our billions in aid to ME allies must be tied to modernized, non-jihadist educational curricula is Bill Richardson.

I went looking last summer for books on the cultural psychology of Arabs, and the book that is still recommended, and one of the few broad discussions in English that exists, is The Arab Mind, 1976, by Israeli-American Raphael Patai. The Forward to the 2002 edition indicates this is still considered a useful book by military educators on how Arabs think and how they got that way, although rarely offered now in formal coursework. It is non-polemic, somewhat sympathetic, and an interesting and fairly useful read, but as a psychologist, have to say it seems rather simple, almost primitive in terms of the demands of modern scholarship.

It's reasonable to ask if Islam, or being Arab, is somehow incompatible with creativity or innovative scientific and technical thought. Not, obviously, on the micro level of the individual mind, but in the cultural appreciation or acceptance of creativity and innovation. Patai would say that Arab society is so powerfully a patriarchal family-clan-tribal organization, that it deliberately diminishes and subverts the value and importance of the individual, even overtly suppressing and punishing individuality or ambition (cf., Honor Murders). In that sense a bit similar to previous generations of Japanese culture -- who, like Arabs, were then better at assimilating and refining than innovating and developing.

In Israel, some individual Israeli Arab students and scientists have found cultural and individual social support for their ideas and ambitions but what double-odds-against those men and women must overcome. (btw, IMO Israel should slap itself upside the head, hard, for ever allowing separate educational systems, texts, curricula for Israeli Arabs. Trying to preserve Judaic educational purity has backfired in the worst possible way.)

Arab Islamic nations refusing to encourage and even punishing the brains of 50% of their population must also hurt them. It is often the independent, curious mother who nurtured and inspired our Western innovators. Arabs have, indeed, probably been killing off the creative, independent, ambitious genes in the female half of the population for 50 generations. Serves the fuckers right that they remain backwards.

Posted by: Pam at May 25, 2007 11:16 PM

Michael gently corrected someone about Israel and Syria working in a concerted effort to destablize Lebanon a few posts above. I guess when you have bombs dropping all around you, such as it was between 1975-1990, it is as understandable as it can be from someone living in Alaska.
However, the time is right, as it was last summer, to align with the hated Israelis in an effort to root out terrorism not only emulating from the refugee camps, but from Hizbollah (Iran's proxy).
This is the only path to true freedom for the Druze, Sunnis, Maronites, and the Shia who wish to live in peace with one another and establish a 21st Century Arab state. A true model for the rest of Middle East. I pray every day to Jesus Christ that this can be done. God bless all of the freedom-seeking Lebanese.

Posted by: Elroy Jetson at May 25, 2007 11:30 PM

Pam,

I thought it was generally agreed that the bad guys have been using technolgy far better than our side for both fighting and spreading propaganda.

And it seems to me that cronyism and team-playerism is now the best way to advance in Western societies, not by being creative and innovative.

Posted by: alphie at May 25, 2007 11:36 PM

FP,

I hold no false assumptions about the UN or the US State Dept's deeply entrenched arabist attitude/line of thinking, with the latter explaining in part, why the US appears to speak from both sides of its mouth concerning US ME policies.

What I am driving at is, if anything is to be done, the US needs to be the main force behind any push to get the UN to end these camps. The first step is to deny an US funding to the UNWRA, and integrate it into the only UN refugee organization whose sole purpose is to assimilate misplaced people into host states or elsewhere.

I believe that you are in agreement that these camps need to be dismantled, and the people assimilated. I doubt seriously that the Arabs in these camps see it as a great social paradise, most hate being a second class people in these Arab states and want to end their refugee status.

I believe that in spite of the Arab states' political clout concerning these refugees, there can be some political muscle applied in pressuring them to end the Palestinian refugees (and offspring) status, and integrate them where they presently live.

The Arab/Israeli conflict rests in great part on the issue of the refugees, the other factor is the Islamization of the conflict which supercedes any nationalist aspirations the Palestinians may have. The fight is now for the Ummah, not for an individual Palestinian state.

The US/Europe and international community has the solution to the whole problem ass backwards. Removal of the refugee problem will also remove the breeding grounds for future terrorists, while eliminating a key trump card of the intransigent Palestinian "leadership".

One has to think "long term" when trying to understand and problem solve this conflict. That the Arabs have done just that, by keeping 400 000 actual Palestinian refugees and their offspring in squalid camps, proves that they are "one up in the game" with the West.

The US led West needs to do the same (thinking long term), and exploit the current situation to highlight just how much a threat these camps have become due to local and al-Qaida terrorist influences and create a long term campaign to end them once and for all.

By forcing the Arab states (through a long term strategy) to give these people full citizenship with the right to immigrate to a future Palestinian state if they so choose, only then can an eventual settlement of the conflict be hopefully achieved.

Posted by: KGS at May 25, 2007 11:53 PM

PR is not creativity -- it is understanding group psychology, which one would assume group-thinkers WOULD excel at. Making funkier bombs out of old refrigerator parts and betadine is not technological creativity -- it is precisely the assimilation and refinement I referred to.

Technological innovation and scientific creativity is stuff like firewalls, antivirus software, instant messaging, VOIP, WIFI, search engines, flash-based mini-storage, serial nanobatteries, drip irrigation, seedless watermelons, DNA-based nanocomputers... all from one tiny Middle Eastern country.

And 'getting ahead' is not what I'm talking about here, alphie. I'm talking about why ME nations seem unable to generate the kind of wholly new or drastically revised medical, industrial, technical, or scientific ideas, techniques, and inventions that other, often smaller nations are able to generate. Why no really important Arab start-ups?

You have, btw, shifted the topic to suit yourself, which you often do. I don't think you are doing that deliberately to 'deflect and derail' necessarily -- I think you just lose track of the point someone is trying to make, or thoughtlessly re-cast it (like fp) in comfortable ruts -- in terms of your own agenda rather than step out and engage on the point someone is actually trying to present.

That is not to say it isn't cronyism and team playing that lets Western people in existing corporate and political organizations get more status and money -- to a large extent it is. That's nothing new, always been like that. But are you trying to tell me that Arabs aren't every bit as invested in cronyism, connections, and team-playing?

Posted by: Pam at May 26, 2007 12:02 AM

Pam,

I guess I see things in terms of power and how it is acquired.

Religious education and the military seem to be the routes to power in Islamic arab countries for those who aren't born into wealth.

That's where their best and brightest go.

We're not going to beat these guys by building smaller cell phones.

Posted by: alphie at May 26, 2007 12:29 AM

I feel this debate about "Gucci" Lebanese or otherwise; wars are a matter of logistics, not tactics. This time, the logistics are not on Nasrallah's side, "Gucci" or otherwise.

With all the Arab support the Lebanese mainstream is getting, and with Nasrallah's retreat into his won sectarian barracks, the elements are there for another "blowback"

So, what I meant by "dress rehearsal" does not necessarily involve the US or Israel. It looks like we're being dragged on another sectarian war. Nasrallah's last speech clearly demonstrates that he does not consider himself concerned with the fate of Lebanon, and he prepares the ground for acting on the behalf of Fath Al-Islam. Him and Syria both risk a "blowback", as Michael Young warned in his piece; the "players" are all marking their territory, gearing up for a wider fight, but the "game" will not turn out to be the one they are preparing for.

Posted by: Jeha at May 26, 2007 12:40 AM

Jeha writes

"Nasrallah's last speech clearly demonstrates that he does not consider himself concerned with the fate of Lebanon, and he prepares the ground for acting on the behalf of Fath Al-Islam..."

Did you even read the speech? Nasrallah said that he was worried about Lebanon becoming another front in the anti al Qeada War on Terror, and that Lebanese would end up doing America's dirty work for it.

I can't see any point in it where Nasrallah suggests Hezbollah would act on behalf of Fatah-Al Islam.... it seems most unlikely, considering that Takfiri Salafism hates Shia Islam with a vengance...

As I recall, there was an article by Seymour Hersh not so long ago in which he suggested -- rightly or wrongly -- that this Fatah al Islam crew had actually received some weapons and funding from the Future Movement and Govt. supporters who had initially hoped they might provide a sort of Sunni counterweight to Hezbollah power in lebanon....

.... If this is true, Jeha et al.... I'd say this is a rather more obvious case of Blowback.

I could be wrong, but it seems to me that since 9/11 and since Harriri died, many observers of the Lebanese situation have lost all sense of nuance.... everything is clear cut and firmly partisan: a "With Us or Against Us" type mentality...

I think no-one's hands are completely clean in that country.... and intelligent analysts would do well to remember that...

In my opinion Lebanese poli-tricks are far too convaluted and opaque for that sort of simplistic good guy-bad guy analysis. I reckon a group like Fatah al Idslam will take money and support from whoever they can get it: Syrian Mukhabarrat maybe, Sa'ad Harriri's mistaken patronage maybe, wealthy Saudis maybe, bank robberies maybe.... these sorts of groups may even be working for outside agendas without even realising who is calling the shots....

The important thing in this scenario is to try and talk (or take) this group down without a horrible massacre of Palestinian civilians who are stuck in Nahr el Bard, because if that happens things might spiral out of control.... and Lebanon could well become a charnel house again.

Lastly, Pam, howevber you couch your argument, suggesting that Muslims or Arabs are basically culturally incapable of original thought is simply a racist type comment. Looking at your use of language, you are clearly an educated person, so I think you ought to know better than to write things like that.

Posted by: Microraptor at May 26, 2007 06:16 AM

If Lebanon would make peace with Israel, the Syrians would have nothing in their hands.... The dream of a Greater Syria would go up in smoke, and the area may even turn into Greater Lebanon dream. Lebanon and Israel would make a tremendous economic impact in the area with tourism, banking, agriculture..........

Posted by: diana at May 26, 2007 08:18 AM

microraptor,

do you mean to say that culture and religion does not have ANY influence on arabs? do you mean that whenever one describes such a culture and its effects, one is automatically racist? you can't be serious.

what pam was decsribing was not a race, but a culture and she was not emphasizing religion enough. anybody who understands that culture and religion understands that it is not compatible with individual freedoms and rights and, therefore, imcompatible with democrarcy. it is not a coincidence that no arab state is ruled by dictators.

this is particularly true of those who lived with arabs, or even those few westernized arabs who left islam or arab societies and have become critics of the culture and religion. are they racist too?

when one points out to barbaric indoctrination of children with hatred and martyrdom instead of math, physics, history, logic, literature, is one being racist? does the literal interpretations of 7th century primitive nonsense with which youth are indoctrinated have anything to do, you think, with modernity and democracy? and if it doesn't, is it racist to express it?

http://chromatism.net/fjordman/islamdemocracy.htm

Posted by: fp at May 26, 2007 09:04 AM

kgs,

you gotta distinguish between what is reasonable to do to solve problems, and whether the structure of the power configuration and interests will permit it. heck, if that were not the case, we wouldn't have the conflict in the first place.

the un is currently a joke. nothing happens if china, russia and sometimes even france don't want it to, and the assembly has focused on israel to the exclusion of all major problems of the world and has appointed mugabe's country on taking care of human rights. and through stupid policies the us has brought decline on itself.

as i see it, things are getting worse, not better.

i suggest you check out some of the articles and books i link to in my blog and see if they suggest hope or pessimism.

fp
http://fallofknowledgeandreason.blogspot.com/

Posted by: fp at May 26, 2007 09:15 AM

to clarify: the point is that racially arabs are as capable of creativity, modernity, and creativity. but their culture and religion does not let them.

that is why i say that as long as they do not change their education (or, more correctly, introduce some) they won't get anywhere. that is precisely why the islamists have emerged to stop any such process.

Posted by: fp at May 26, 2007 09:23 AM

Microraptor, losing the nuance is not unique to observers of Lebanon. You take umbrage at something I didn't say.

One question asked a few times here is why Syria and other Arab ME countries can't pull themselves out of the prolonged economic slump. Some is the value placed on religious-military education, as alphie correctly points out; creative, scientific, and technical education is not esteemed or available as it is in the West.

But some of the problem is a culture that DOES NOT SUPPORT OR HIGHLY VALUE innovation in economically beneficial domains: A cultural milieu that largely eliminates creativity and praise for exploration from the early child-rearing and developmental environment. How can you claim ME Arab culture in general has done otherwise? It is reinforced by Islam, btw, and seems a bit less problematic among Christian Arabs PER SOCIOLOGICAL RESEARCH.

It isn't me saying that individuality and the value placed on individual achievement is subordinated to patriarchal family rule and child-rearing that reinforces conformity -- it's Patai (pp39-42) and other cultural anthropologists.
Don't blame the messenger.

I specifically excluded the level of individual analysis, and pointed out that Arabs living in a Jewish culture that prizes education, innovation, and independence DO more often produce creative and novel, useful science/technology, despite other types of cultural obstacles. Older studies of Lebanese Christian vs. Sunni Muslim economic achievement show a similar pattern.

Where ever observers have studied child-rearing, developmental, and motivation/achievement, they typically see that a culture that places conformity and subservience to family or clan as the highest value, and actively discourages entrepreneurial and unusual thinking and ambition typically correlates with society-wide lower adult economic and innovative achievement.

I said the same about the Japanese, who have had a similar long-standing culture of submission to group that is only more recently changing. Confucian China likewise. (Interesting parallels are that all of these became shame-based, not guilt-based, cultures; also the status of females was totally, destructively repressive.) You didn't fly off half-cocked and accuse me of racism about the Japanese, curiously.

Political correctness that makes us tell lies may be political, but it is not correct, and it invites cultural suicide.

Posted by: Pam at May 26, 2007 09:37 AM

alphie, no, making a smaller cell phone won't beat these guys. A truly renewable source of energy would help a hell of a lot, though. That won't happen without tremendously creative science/technology.

I'm waiting for the presidential candidate who declares a 'Manhattan project' for alternative fuel.Unless it's a radical Christian, got my vote.

It's unfortunate that the Israelis who created IM, VOIP, WIFI, etc etc can't somehow program all this stuff so it self-destructs at the use of Arabic. Now THAT would be an innovation that might just slow the terrorists down. Or maybe the ultra-nano bio-robotics being developed is the key -- get the nanoMossad into the bad guy's bloodstream, spy through his own eyes, then explode into a nice little brainstem stroke at the right time. Too far-fetched? They have experimental nano-bio-robots travelling the inside of the spinal column to remove paralyzing scar tissue.

Posted by: Pam at May 26, 2007 09:50 AM

it is perhaps important to point out that islamists, obl in particular, emphasize spartan living which they lead by example. this is not a coincidence, as economic improvement, a core objective in the west is, to his mind, the root of arab/muslim failures -- materialism.

that is why they want to abolish western way of life, because it is a source of corruption.

consequently, the notion that islamist terror can be appeased into co-existence, or defeated by economic development is wishful thinking.

Posted by: fp at May 26, 2007 10:06 AM

interesting:

http://www.jihadwatch.org/archives/016626.php

Posted by: fp at May 26, 2007 10:20 AM

Pam: creative, scientific, and technical education is not esteemed or available as it is in the West.

It is in Lebanon, but not in Hezbollah school.

The teach democracy in schools in Lebanon. But, again, not in Hezbollah school.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at May 26, 2007 10:31 AM

FP,

Somehow you have come to believe that I am championing the UN when I'm not, I'm actually pointing out the failures in that org, and want changes. How can changes be made if the are not addressed? And I also realize that there is an incredible mountain that stands in the way of getting anything done.

Since the problem is within the UN itself as you correctly observed as well as the organizations that keep perpetuating the crisis by keeping these people locked up in an endless limbo, the only solution is to do away with the UNWRA, and place the Palestinians within the other UN run refugee org. UNRHC, that services the rest of the world's refugees.

Since the problem is with the UN, the focus must be on the UN and it's cold war policies that are still with us to this day. If the US were to withdraw from the UN, taking its funding with it, or at least the threat of doing so the UN would be forced to change.

My sole point is, is that these camps have to be dismantled way before any comprehensive peace settlement is even thought of or intitiated. That al-Qaida is using the UN camps in both Gaza and in Lebanon is solid enough evidence for the US to pressure the UN to end the camps.

At least if I had any influence, that is what I would be encouraging the US to do. Other than that, if you still disagree with me, we'll just have to agree to disagree. KGS

Posted by: KGS at May 26, 2007 10:34 AM

I think in answer to Pam and FP that perhaps societies which are either run as military dictatorships -- or in which a religious fundamentalist "right wing" hold sway probably do not make for societies that foster innovation...

Do you think that Israel would be producing quite so many Nano-bots or innovative square watermelons if the country were actually run by (and for) the ultra-religious right? Or if it were run by, say, the Golani Brigade to the exclusion of everyone else.... I'd say probably not....

Would the United States be the country it is today if Christian Fundamentalists actually ran the place 100% to their liking?

So perhaps a question also worth asking is what are the circumstances and conditions that have given rise to such a preponderence of oppressive states in the Middle East.... is it that the Arabs love to have a "strongman" in charge of these places.... or that the rest of the world does -- or a bit of both?

I don't think that cultural analysis per se is racist... but it can start to smell that way when coupled with somenthing like Pam's rather smug self-congratulatory back slapping about Israel's remarkable achievements in the fields of science...

She has quite a flowery turn of phrase for an under-grad student (I am assuming this, as no normal, sane human being page references anthropologists when chatting on the internet) but I still think she is at best a cultural chauvenist and at worst a closet racist. The recent puerile post about hi-tech items "self destructing" if they come into contact with the Arabic language makes this plain.

Posted by: Microraptor at May 26, 2007 10:55 AM

kgs,

no, you don't understand me.

the steps that you recommend would have to be taken by the un itself, which it won't do.

the us can withdraw from the un, but whether it then can achieve what you suggest by itself is highly questionable.

Posted by: fp at May 26, 2007 11:01 AM

microraptor,

it smacks of nothing but the truth.

israel has many achievements because it is a modern, democratic society. and the arabs are an utter failure because of their culture and religion. these are FACTS. facts cannot be racist.

to repeat: racism would be a claim that arabs as a RACE CANNOT achieve the same, which is not made.

Posted by: fp at May 26, 2007 11:06 AM

For what it's worth, I think Pam, Microraptor, and FP are all making some valid points here. See if you can continue the dicussion without getting nasty about it.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at May 26, 2007 11:13 AM

microraptor, I agree the religious fundamentalism is a key factor -- and if our culture still labored under an authoritarian, ultra-patriarchal form of Christianity, we would never have developed the science and technology we have -- but that's one part of what is usually subsumed under 'cultural milieu.' Tribal culture predated and shaped Islam, so perhaps they are inseparable, at least in the ME.

As to your other comments, isn't it nice that on the internet we are invisible? You can picture me as a frothing Zionist racist undergrad (can you make me statuesque, naturally blonde, and in stunningly good shape while you're at it?) and I can picture you as an uptight mid-life fitness-nut pedant, and we can both feel nice and smug.

It is becoming clear to me that nothing tongue-in-cheek (at least not my sorry attempts) flies on this blog's comments, so I'll just resign myself to being taken too literally by the concretely-disposed.

Posted by: Pam at May 26, 2007 11:17 AM

FP,

But your "low balling" the role of the US within that international body. A significant move by the US (too bad Bolton is no longer there) in making these camps an issue vis-a-vis future funding, due to the al-Qaida factor, would have an effect.

At any rate, it's worth a try.

Posted by: KGS at May 26, 2007 11:23 AM

good discussion.

The elephant in the room is theocracy.

The history of the ME is replete with attempts
to modernize and secularize. Each attempt ultimately failed as the ulema regained its
power.
Even in Turkey which is the model for the future(?)after 80 odds years the secular state just
hangs on through the backing of the army.

Where are the Ataturks of today?

Posted by: TedM at May 26, 2007 11:31 AM

Rather than one of john and prostitute, I see the relationship between Syria and Lebanon as one of rapist and victim.

Yes, but the thing is, the victim has refused to be rescued because she thinks her rescuer, who wants nothing illicit from her whatsoever, is even more vile than her rapist.

Michael,

You keep coming back to the fact that Iran is financing Hizballah, but the good-guys in Lebanon could get all the financing they need from Israel, if not the US or France, if they just had the cojones to fight for their freedom. Yes, I know that they are (rightly) afraid of civil war - which means that this time they have to win.

Posted by: Yafawi at May 26, 2007 11:41 AM

pam,

maybe this video for a bit of relaxation, even though it still has concrete aspects (that's what it makes it entertaining):

http://www.jihadwatch.org/dhimmiwatch/archives/016621.php

gks,

i would not be against it. in fact, i would even stop the defense umbrella over europe and force them to defend themselves and see how they like it. whether that will achieve what you desire, or bring us advantages other than savings, however, i doubt.

ted,

it seems that ataturk was the first and last secularizer in turkey. i hope i am wrong, but the trend is not with him.

yafawi,

if they had the cojones you would not have a situation today where everybody has disarmed except hezbollah, would you?

Posted by: fp at May 26, 2007 12:17 PM

fp, THANK YOU! Now that was indeed entertaining, and since it left me grinning, it's a good time to bow out and do my weekend chores.

Posted by: Pam at May 26, 2007 01:36 PM

Yafawi:

The problem is that one segment of Lebanese society, Hezbollah, is highly armed and financed by, and thus in financial and armaments thrall to, the Tehran/Damascus nexus, while its other collectively more numerous population-wise segments are not so highly armed. The March 14 inspired Siniora government is indeed willing to accept help from the US; it just received an expedited shipment of US arms that - and pause to let this fact register - were already in the pipeline, to help the Lebanese Army more easily deal with the Nahr el-Bared terrorists of Fatah al-Islam.

Posted by: Salamantis at May 26, 2007 01:52 PM

I was doing some reading just now on the UN reports, and although important factors like the role of women in society were mentioned, one critique did relate more to government: to the key issues of money and power - and those apparently haven't been sufficiently addressed.

Here, pressure from the bottom up (women's groups, pressure from the young, from political or religious grassroots organizations) seems to be playing a role in some societies. Morocco was cited as an example where progress is being made in the elimination of absolute poverty, creation of opportunity, social progress, etc. However, the disturbing situation with Egyptian bloggers and the jailing of Syrian dissidents and Iranian morality and dress police seem to be examples of governments doing all they can to suppress creativity and that can't bode well for future economic development, can it? Is creativity and openness being suppressed in the name of law and order?

Or is it a matter of maintaining power?

Maybe the key really is better government. The question is how to get there. Better Government Through Bombing doesn't seem to be working too well in Iraq, at least not so far - and the human cost is so terribly high -

Also, in regard to the problem of long slow wars vs. little short ones, if a key component is psychological, and that represents deep and long held world-views, then it can't be changed overnight or by force.

The US civil war, an example given above, was relatively short, though horrible, and then the Union pulled back together, because the basic differences were economic and philosophical, not cultural or religious. I think this is one thing the US totally misunderstood about Iraq: the sectarian stress under the surface. It's a huge problem vis a vis Israel and within Lebanon (understatement).

I wonder too, how media outlets like al Jazeera, al Manar, so forth, are undercutting the ability of people to connect?

Posted by: Sophia at May 26, 2007 01:53 PM

It is a shame that the Lebanese Army can't just dial up some airstrikes from the US so more Lebanese soldiers wouldn't die rooting out these criminals.

Posted by: Yahoub at May 26, 2007 02:04 PM

Solzhenitsyn's Gulag Archipelago provides a vivid example of how totalitarian societies crush creative minds:

Here is one vignette from those years as it actually occurred. A district Party conference was under way in Moscow Province. It was presided over by a new secretary of the District Party Committee, replacing one recently arrested. At the conclusion of the conference, a tribute to Comrade Stalin was called for. Of course, everyone stood up (just as everyone had leaped to his feet during the conference at every mention of his name). The small hall echoed with "stormy applause, rising to an ovation." For three minutes, four minutes, five minutes, the "stormy applause, rising to an ovation," continued. But palms were getting sore and raised arms were already aching. And the older people were panting from exhaustion. It was becoming insufferably silly even those who really adored Stalin. However, who would dare be the first to stop? The secretary of the District Party Committee could have done it. He was standing on the platform, and it was he who had just called for the ovation. But he was a newcomer. He had taken the place of a man who'd been arrested. He was afraid! After all, NKVD men were standing in the hall applauding and watching to see who quit first! And in that obscure, small hall, unknown to the Leader, the applause went on-six, seven, eight minutes! They were done for! Their goose was cooked! They couldn't stop now till they collapsed with heart attacks! At the rear of the hall, which was crowded, they could of course cheat a bit, clap less frequently, less vigorously, not so eagerly-but up there with the presidium where everyone could see them? The director of the local paper factory, an independent and strong-minded man, stood with the presidium. Aware of all the falsity and all the impossibility of the situation, he still kept on applauding! Nine minutes! Ten! In anguish he watched the secretary of the District Party Committee, but the latter dared not stop. Insanity! To the last man! With make-believe enthusiasm on their faces, looking at each other with faint hope, the district leaders were just going to go on and on applauding till they fell where they stood, till they were carried out of the hall on stretchers! And even then those who were left would not falter... . Then, after eleven minutes, the director of the paper factory assumed a businesslike expression and sat down in his seat. And, oh, a miracle took place! Where had the universal, uninhibited, indescribable enthusiasm gone? To a man, everyone else stopped dead and sat down. They had been saved! The squirrel had been smart enough to jump off his revolving wheel.

That, however, was how they discovered who the independent people were. And that was how they went about eliminating them. That same night the factory director was arrested. They easily pasted ten years on him on the pretext of something quite different. But after he had signed Form 206, the final document of the interrogation, his interrogator reminded him:

"Don't ever be the first to stop applauding!"

Innovation requires challenging orthodoxy and convention. The less safe the environment for dissenters, the less innovation that environment will foster.

Posted by: Creamy Goodness at May 26, 2007 02:21 PM

Because U.S. airtrikes have worked so well in the cities of Iraq and Afghanistan, Yahoub?

I think it would be for the best if the soldiers went in.

Posted by: alphie at May 26, 2007 02:22 PM

I get a certain degree of vindication seeing that other random people misinterpret you the same way I do, Pam (taking your word for the misinterpretation).

I have a certain degree of sympathy for your argument that facts are facts, political correctness won't hide them, etc, etc, but the truth is that when attempting to discuss sweeping topics like the pace of modernization or industrial development, the line between making an accurate observation of differences and between making assumptions on an inherent basis is a small line. There's not much difference, linguistically, between "those arabs don't have democracy because they're savages" and "those arabs don't have democracy because they've been misgoverned by tyrants over-relying on natural resource exports".
But there's a very significant difference in the implications of the argument.

So you should make an effort to be careful, if only to avoid getting in needless trouble with people who bristle at human-deterministic arguments on hearing them. like microraptor. or me!

No hard feelings. (It's a good day for the medication, ha ha.)

Posted by: glasnost at May 26, 2007 02:38 PM

sophia,

there is considerable evidence that multiculturalism and political correctness -- which are in essence paternalistic and racist -- contribute to and reinforce failure of the arab/muslim world to modernize and progress.

this is true for policies towards the ME as well as within europe itself.

http://the-hermeneutic-of-continuity.blogspot.com/2007/05/cathedral-in-eye.html

it's been different in the us, yet we are beginning to see the beginning of the same "grievance" culture in the us too

http://www.kron4.com/Global/story.asp?S=6571397
http://www.jihadwatch.org/dhimmiwatch/archives/016612.php

going down this path of acquiescence will have the same regressive effects.

the west is doing everything it can not only to inhibit modernization and progress of the arab world, but also to kill its own.

Posted by: fp at May 26, 2007 02:50 PM

FP writes: "... the arabs are an utter failure because of their culture and religion. these are FACTS. facts cannot be racist."

I am sorry, but those are opinions, not facts, Sir. And facts - if facts they are - can be racist. It depends on how and in what way they are used.

It is a fact that sub-Saharan Africa is far more underdeveloped than nearly everywhere else in the world despite having an abundance of natural mineral wealth and some extremely fertile land.... it is a fact that in the USA there are a disproportionatley high number of men of African-Carribbean origins in prison, it is a fact that most Motown musicians were black too.... and it is a fact that Justin Gatlin, Donovan Bailey and Asafa Powell have all recently held the 100 metres world sprinting speed record...

These are FACTS.

Can you see where this is heading FP?

Taking all of my above listed FACTS together, are we then to assume that black people are lazy and uncivilised by nature, prone to excessive criminality when exposed to the modern world, but fortunatley able to seek redemption though the fields of sport and entertainment?!?!

Of course not. Anyone who said that would be a racist in the minds of most right thinking people.... and yet... FP.... and yet....

Posted by: Microraptor at May 26, 2007 03:15 PM

Well, Alphie, US airstrikes worked pretty well against Zarqawi in Iraq, Atef in Afghanistan, and various and sundry other high-value targets; whether they'd work as well against a bunch of terrorists in a high-rise refugee camp surrounded by innocent civilians, however, is another manner entirely. I think that what is happening now is basically a softening up shelling that will be followed in due course by a boots-on-the-ground room-by-room terrorist elimination operation, with the perimeter sealed so none of the bad guys can escape. This plan of operation should work, but at the cost of significant Lebanese Army casualties (which would be much greater without the preliminary 'softening up' barrages).

I expect collateral casualties. I expect them to be unavoidable given the circumstances. I also expect that the terrorists are insisting upon this, seeing as they have been reported as firing upon departing civilians, supposedly in order to force them to stick around and die as unwilling and ineffective human shields for propaganda purposes. The fact that the terrorists would do such a thing should tell you all you need to know about them, and what and who they really do and do not care about.

Posted by: Salamantis at May 26, 2007 03:32 PM

By the way and back on the main subject - if this really is Syrian work, it's more short-term profoundly counterproductive than usual. From Mike's roundup, it appears this conflict is creating cross-sectarian support for the Lebanese behind the Lebanese army. Which demonstrates how little support Fateh Al-Islam has among the populace and, concurrently, how little chance this particular conflict has of translating into broader sectarian warfare. In fact, this fight with palestinian-based criminals is pushing Lebanon away from broad sectarian conflict- not towards it.

Of course, I don't have any reliable mass data on what the average, non-connected Lebanese Sunni thinks.

That's one reason why I'm still not convinced that Syria is behind it. Not because Syria is above using these methods, not denying the track record, but specifically considering it, it's their MO and that's why it's natural (and completely supportable) to see them as involved. But to me, it seems too amateur, too unfocused, too desynchronized from the political realities, too generally random and too ineffective. Maybe I'm giving Syria too much credit for competent maevolence, rather than incompetent maevolence.

I wouldn't be terribly surprised if I was wrong, and I'd be open to contrary evidence, but to me this still smells like Al-Zarqawi copycats plus local criminal racketeering.

Either way, this is a good time for the US to be sending military aid. There's not much blowback.

Posted by: glasnost at May 26, 2007 03:34 PM

If anyone is in London, England on Monday.... please come to this preview screening at the good ol' Frontline Club... it's something I'm sure will prove interesting to everyone here (although I think most of ya'll are in the States)... Once it is on the BBC Website there may be a link to download the film or stream it.

http://www.frontlineclub.com/club_events.php?event=515

Back onto topic... If the Lebanese Army storm this camp and there is a lot of "collatoral damage" (ie. loads of totally innocent Palestinian civilians get killed) there is every chance that other palestinian capms could go up in smoke and the violence spread.... if you know your history you'll remember it was an attack on a buslaod of Palestinian gunmen that sparked the 1975 - 90 civil war...

If there is any way to talk these guys down, or to empty the camp before attacking it, then this must be done. The temporary filip to Siniora's sense of authority that any excessively violent victorious attack causes, might be short lived.

And there are other dangerous Salafist groups in other camps that sound just as awkward as this outfit. A Hezbollah military contact of mine in the south mentioned a group calling itself "Jund al Shams" (sp?) basedf in the Ein el Hilweh camp in Saida (Sidon) who sound almsot identical to Fatah al Islam in terms of ideology and motivation etc.

Lastly in terms of giving the Palestinians Lebanese citizenship, it's just a non-starter. Many of the small ethno-religious groups just wouldn't ever go for that....

Take the Druze, for example. "Bush's favourite" Mr Jumblatt, leads a grouping about 200,000 - 250,000 strong. There are about 350,000 Palestinians in Lebanon... so I think it highly unlikely that Mr Waleed J will ever be handing out Cedar Passports to the Pallies anytime soon... especially not in the name of national unity and stability.

Posted by: Microraptor at May 26, 2007 03:56 PM

If anyone is in London, England on Monday.... please come to this preview screening at the good ol' Frontline Club... it's something I'm sure will prove interesting to everyone here (although I think most of ya'll are in the States)... Once it is on the BBC Website there may be a link to download the film or stream it.

http://www.frontlineclub.com/club_events.php?event=515

Back onto topic... If the Lebanese Army storm this camp and there is a lot of "collatoral damage" (ie. loads of totally innocent Palestinian civilians get killed) there is every chance that other palestinian capms could go up in smoke and the violence spread.... if you know your history you'll remember it was an attack on a buslaod of Palestinian gunmen that sparked the 1975 - 90 civil war...

If there is any way to talk these guys down, or to empty the camp before attacking it, then this must be done. The temporary filip to Siniora's sense of authority that any excessively violent victorious attack causes, might be short lived.

And there are other dangerous Salafist groups in other camps that sound just as awkward as this outfit. A Hezbollah military contact of mine in the south mentioned a group calling itself "Jund al Shams" (sp?) basedf in the Ein el Hilweh camp in Saida (Sidon) who sound almsot identical to Fatah al Islam in terms of ideology and motivation etc.

Lastly in terms of giving the Palestinians Lebanese citizenship, it's just a non-starter. Many of the small ethno-religious groups just wouldn't ever go for that....

Take the Druze, for example. "Bush's favourite" Mr Jumblatt, leads a grouping about 200,000 - 250,000 strong. There are about 350,000 Palestinians in Lebanon... so I think it highly unlikely that Mr Waleed J will ever be handing out Cedar Passports to the Pallies anytime soon... especially not in the name of national unity and stability.

Posted by: Microraptor at May 26, 2007 03:57 PM

Oooops.

Posted by: microraptor at May 26, 2007 03:58 PM

Hezbollah is now saying that the Lebanese Army should NOT enter the Nahr el-Bared refugee camp; this heightens my suspicion that, although Syria perhaps did not order this particular spat to occur (it began as a pursuit of some bank robbers, after all), they are not above attempting to capitalize upon it via proxy in order to get as much destabilization and schism mileage out of it as possible; at this point, they'll use anything that happens along, to any degree that they can, in order to stir up trouble in the service of trying to forestall the coming UN Hariri assassination tribunal. That being said, I agree with glasnost that, considering the widespread support for the Lebanese Army action from most segments of the country's populace, including most Palestinian refugees in Nahr el-Bared and other camps in Lebanon, there isn't a whole lot of mileage available here for Syria to gain.

Posted by: Salamantis at May 26, 2007 04:01 PM

microraptor,

you are entitled to your position. we must agree to disagree.

africa is as tribal and sectarian set of societies as the arab ones. they do have their own form of religion.

i see where you are heading, but i won't follow you there. to the extent that your statistics are correct, they are a result of lack of assimiliation of some cultures into others.

is there racism in the us? you bet. as much as there was racism in the colonialism in africa. but does it mean that any analysis which connects progress or lack thereof with culture and religion is racis? BS.

islam and the arab culture inhibit modernization. and it does it explicitly, via education and often elimination of those who promote it. to say that such observation is racist is precisely one of the mechanisms that preserve and reinforce the problem, rather than allow it to be resolved.

Posted by: fp at May 26, 2007 04:04 PM

microraptor,

the notion that you must always talk yourself out of such problems is what incentivizes these problems in the first place.

yes, you should do your best to avoid bloodshed. but if you are facing murderous nihilist maniacs whose only intention is to create havoc and don't care shit about who gets hurt, sometimes you gota take the beast by the horns. peace AT ANY PRICE, unwillingness to EVER fight to win is no less dangerous.

Posted by: fp at May 26, 2007 04:13 PM

one more thing: brute force is not the the only way to win. there are cunning ways to fight and in the past israel has shown significant talent in that.

but just when that kind of fighting has become more critical given what terror requires, both the israeli and the us army have reverted to massive air and land forces which not only plays into the hand of terrorists, who are exploiting the innocent loss of life, but also ineffective.

iraq and the the war with hezbollah are clear examples of what i'm talking about.

Posted by: fp at May 26, 2007 04:42 PM

The US conquered Saddam's Iraq in three weeks. They could not use the Afghan model, as there was no militarily significant indigenous opposition force that they could have used in this endeavor. Their problem has been keeping the peace while incubating a fledgling democracy in the face of Iranian-sponsored Shia militias, Baathist remnants, and Al Qaedan jihadi infiltrators.

There were also no indigenous forces in Lebanon upon which the Israelis could rely. Taking this fact into acount, if I were to have run the Lebanon campaign, I would have massed significant forces along the Israel-Lebanon border while aerially softening up Hezbollah positions, then, in an double Inchon maneuver, simultaneously landed forces north of the mouth of the Litani River to travel east, and launched an incursion at Israel's northeastern tip towards the Litani there, and then to travel west along it, with an eye to taking control of both banks of the east-west flowing section of the Litani in a pincers operation while also detaching a contingent northward from the Golan, to sweep the Golan Heights-Lebanon border. Then I would have the band of linked up forces push south in a hammer and anvil technique, trapping the Hezbollah fighters between the advancing forces and the fortified Lebanese-Israeli border, and progressing until all intervening territory had been cleared of them, keeping an eye to the north for any possible rear guard attacks. Once the area was cleared of Hezbollah fighters, and their bunkers and other fortifications and arms caches were destroyed, I would have had the Israeli forces return to Israel across its northern border.

But that's just me...

Posted by: Salamantis at May 26, 2007 05:17 PM

I am sorry, but those are opinions, not facts.

These sounds like facts to me. And what would make them facts, facts to you? Arabs lived on the moon? Arabs are what they are because that of their culture/religion. Their culture is what defines them. But if you want to argue that it's their ethnicity that defines them as utter failures and sadistic megalomaniacs, you would not be the first to argue them facts.

Of course, Tosk will argue that blue skies are not really blue skies, and when force is needed to move a donkey, Newtonian physics will not suffice. You see, Tosk is really an Einstein!

Posted by: redaktor at May 26, 2007 05:22 PM

Somehow the first paragraph escaped my edits, so here it is again:

And what would make them facts, facts to you? Arabs living on the moon? Arabs are what they are because of their culture/religion. Their culture is what defines them. But if you want to argue that it's their ethnicity that defines them as utter failures and sadistic megalomaniacs, you would not be the first to argue them facts.

Posted by: redaktor at May 26, 2007 05:32 PM

Failures, red?

If the "bad" guys were actualy losing in the Middle East, nobody would bother to write about it, would they?

Posted by: alphie at May 26, 2007 05:44 PM

Oh alphie, I have no doubt that in their own eyes the arabs are a great success.

Posted by: redaktor at May 26, 2007 05:49 PM

As I recall, alphie, the Cedar Revolution got quite a lot of press, as did Qaddafi relinquishing his nuke program, the roll-up of the A. Q. Khan network, the fall of the Taliban and the defeat of Saddam.

Posted by: Salamantis at May 26, 2007 05:53 PM

Come to think of it, the ouster of the Islamic Courts in Somalia by the Ethiopians got a fair share of press, too.

Posted by: Salamantis at May 26, 2007 05:57 PM

sal,

I don't think you understood what i meant by cunning. think entebbe.

tanks, airforce, huge logistics. doomed against insurgencies or guerilla.

http://globalguerrillas.typepad.com/

Posted by: fp at May 26, 2007 05:57 PM

The Israelis knew exactly where the Entebbe hostages were, and they were not secured by a significant, well-armed, or well-trained force. They still don't know where their kidnapped soldiers are, and the general area to which they were first taken has been dug in and fortified over a period of years, and Hezbollah there had been training and arming for years, in preparation for an Israeli incursion. It's hard to imagine how an Entebbe-type operation could have been effected in that circumstance. The extent of Israel's response has been called disproportionate, but a proportionate response would have achieved little, and the very disproportionateness of Israel's response may well serve to deter Hezbollah from engaging in any repetitions of that particular provocation. Remember that other kidnapping attempts had been made by Hexbollah prior to their successful one, and Nasrallah himself stated, after the Israeli forces withdrew, that had he known in advance what the extent of Israel's response would be to a successful kidnapping, he never would have countenanced the attempts. Well, he knows now, so I doubt if another such kidnapping attempt is in the immediate offing.

Posted by: Salamantis at May 26, 2007 06:17 PM

you don't get it.

nothing comes to you. you have to find and figure things out.

read the details of entebbe. initially they knew less about it than what can be known about the refugee camp. they had to invest brains to solve the problems and the decision was made at the last possible moment.

i wonder what's the thinking of the lebanese army, but whatever it is, i can bet you it's not anything like the one at entebbe.

Posted by: fp at May 26, 2007 06:35 PM

What the Lebanese Army needs for the Nahr el-Bared situation are elite and highly trained special ops hunter-killer teams well versed in night hunting, counterinsurgency and urban warfare. While the US, France, Britain, Germany, Australia, Russia and Israel have such personnel, somehow I doubt that the Lebanese Army does, nor do I think that the Lebanese government would be politically able to accept them from other countries for the job.

Posted by: Salamantis at May 26, 2007 06:44 PM

Salamantis,

If every Palestinian camp explodes like this one, I expect the Lebaense government probably would accept Special Forces from other countries. Who would want to send send combat soldiers to Lebanon, though?

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at May 26, 2007 06:53 PM

The point fp is making is the same point I was making, and which MJT rejects. Namely, that these defense capabilities require an investment. The Lebanese reject making this investment and instead con others to make the sacrifice in treasure and blood for them. My question to Michael is why should we?

Posted by: redaktor at May 26, 2007 07:04 PM

From what I understand, Michael, Fatah al-Islam membership is overwhelmingly confined to the Nahr el-Bared camp. I'm sure that the refugees from that camp will have no problem telling Palestinians in other camps what kind of thugs they are, and the Palestinians can see what is happening in Nahr el-Bared, so, because of both distaste and self-preservation, I doubt if we'll see such explosions, at least not to nearly such an extent, in other refugee camps in Lebanon.

And redaktor, the Lebanese Army are now indeed fighting for their government and their people against foreign terrorists (Fatah al-Islam is heavily comprised of non-Lebanese). However, they are understandably reluctant to engage in another 15 year civil war with Hezbollah as of yet, although if Hezbollah keeps pushing things there, the day may come.

Posted by: Salamantis at May 26, 2007 07:31 PM

I think that another reason that the Lebanese government hasn't been more forceful in answer to Hezbollah's continued provocations is that the Lebanese know that that is precisely what Syria wants, and the Lebanese are loathe to give it to them.

Posted by: Salamantis at May 26, 2007 07:36 PM

Salamantis,

It's a start. But if the Lebanese government is unwilling to make the investment necessary to enforce its sovereignty, then it shouldn't have any pretensions towards claiming its sovereignty.

Posted by: redaktor at May 26, 2007 07:43 PM

redaktor, such a move would most probably cause Lebanon to lose their sovereignty all over again. The Syrians would use a widespread government-Hezbollah conflict as an excuse to invade Lebanon, claiming such a move as necessary in order to reimpose the very peace which their proxy Hezbollah had shattered, and they would thus both kill the Hariri tribunal and get to reoccupy Lebanon, gaining their two most desirable goals simultaneously. The Lebanese know this, and do not want to give Syria a pretext for such action.

Posted by: Salamantis at May 26, 2007 07:49 PM

Implying what has often been said, and often demanded explicitly -- That it's for others to give their blood and treasure for "Lebanon".

Ah, no.

I am quite capable of speaking for myself. Please do not try to decide what I mean, if you want clarification, my email address is valid.

What I meant was that I hoped the Israelis would be smarter this time around. Last time, they tried to apply pressure to Lebanon, expecting that factions inside Lebanon would compel Hezbollah to back off. All that came of it was dead civilians- the Israelis did not realize that if there is another civil war in Lebanon, Hizbullah is the strongest and best-prepared faction, and everyone else in Lebanon knows it.

I don't expect the Israelis to do the job of the Lebanese government. I do expect the Israelis to know that the Lebanese government is not capable of disarming Hizbullah, and that it is not reasonable to expect them to be capable of doing this right after the Syrian withdrawal, at a time when the military and government are riddled with Syrian and Hizbullah agents.

I'm several thousand miles away from Lebanon, and I know these things. I thought it was reasonable to expect the government of Israel- or at least the people in the Israeli government who's job is to know these things- would be aware of them.

Of course, it's possible that they did, and the people in charge ignored them.

Posted by: rosignol at May 26, 2007 07:55 PM

rosignol,

I totally reject your dhimmi argument.

Lebanon is either a dhimmi vessel of Syria, or it's not. As I said earlier, if the Lebanese government is unwilling to make the investment necessary to enforce its sovereignty, then it shouldn't have any pretensions towards claiming sovereignty. And there's nothing unreasonable in this minimal expectation.

Posted by: redaktor at May 26, 2007 08:05 PM

My idea of Siniora's thinking is that, if the Lebanses government can only hang on and avoid giving Syria a pretext to reoccupy until the Hariri tribunal is held and individuals in the upper echelons of Syrian government are found guilty (as it seems they most likely will be), after that the international community would not stand for Syria reoccupying Lebanon under ANY circumstances. Then, with the threat of a Syrian incursion removed, Lebanon can begin the process of improving and expanding the Lebanese military, securing their shared border with Syria, blocking Hezbollah-bound cross-border arms shipments, and then, when there's a good probability of success and possibly in concert with UN forces, truly secure their sovereignty long term, disarm Hezbollah, and disband their military wing, forcefully if necessary. But it's going to be a long and delicately balanced road, fraught with many various dangers. Trying to achieve too much too soon, and especially trying to achieve a lot before the completion of the Hariri tribunal, could conceivably cost the Lebanese everything, including the possibility of achieving sovereignty in the forseeable future.

Posted by: Salamantis at May 26, 2007 09:32 PM

i am sure there are knowledgeable and smart people in israel who know what's going on in lebanon. whether they are the ones making decisions or influencing them is another matter. based on what's visible, it does not look like it.

one of the things that came out of winograd was that the PM and DM did not act based on input and analysis from anybody and neither of them have military experience. in fact, when i heard that halutz was appointed chief of staff, i raised my eyebrows; when peretz became DM i raised my hands.
anybody with real knowledge of israel would understand why.

there is a crisis of leadership all around -- in israel, the territories and lebanon. this is extremely dangerous because it invites of syria and iran to make moves. and we may be looking at it.

Posted by: fp at May 26, 2007 09:42 PM

if i had to bet, i would not bet on a hariri tribunal. there are already signs of hesitation.
let's hope i am wrong.

Posted by: fp at May 26, 2007 09:44 PM

With Olmert's approval ratings running at a statistical 0%, it looks like Livni or Netanyahu will be Israel's next prime minister. What are the ramifications of each, for Israel, for the West Bank and Gaza, and especially for Lebanon?

Posted by: Salamantis at May 26, 2007 09:57 PM

I'm with redaktor. In fact, the argument that Israel shouldn't have, or was somehow stupid to attack Lebanon, makes absolutely no sense whatsoever, and is even mildly repugnant. It is similar to other arguments against Israel's right to defend itself. "Don't you dare attack those cute, cuddly Lebanese. They can't help it. You go attack Syria, if you want to attack somebody." Bullshit. The PA also dodged responsibility for terrorist attacks by claiming it had no control over Hamas. What's the diff?

In a terror war, no response is immediately effective, so the argument that Israel's action didn't accomplish its goal of eradicating Hizbollah is irrelevant. It did have a deterrent effect, even if it is not easily measurable. Hizbollah is trying to cast itself as a respectable political party, and as such, they are sensitive to how the rest of the country views them. I guarantee you they will not be trying these same shenanigans anytime soon, and it will be a direct result of the Lebanese War. Furthermore, and it's only speculation on my part, but I would surprised if the armed response to the Fatah al Islam doesn't reflect changes in attitude on the part of the Lebanese government that came about as a result of the war.

Posted by: MarkC at May 26, 2007 10:16 PM

A thought on the racism piece ... we're into nature/nurture basically. I am saying it's predominantly nurture that determines how innovation, creativity, individuality and self-confidence, etc. are typically manifested in groups of people, and those are some of the critical pieces underlying scientific, artistic, literary, and technological advances.

Racism by definition is irrational hatred based on physical characteristics, usually presumed to be genetic, innate, and fairly unalterable.
I do not for one minute believe in genetic determinism at a broad population level.

To attribute a population's problems succeeding in the world to its historic cultural context is actually quite the opposite of racism. To credit or blame culture is to say things CAN be different. Societies do learn and evolve (or devolve), and a lot more easily and quickly than genes.

It's hard to argue against the observation that some societies tend to promote or discourage different social and individual behaviors than others, resulting in different cultural norms and strengths... OR that these things can shift substantially in a culture over historical periods.

If you really think the prevailing ME Arab tribal-religious culture (as reified in Sharia) is not a problem then you definitely aren't female, and I don't see where you are leaving any possibility for change or improvement.

If you say the religion may change or evolve under pressure from the population -- that's cultural, and that's my point. If you say the emphasis on educational achievement or gender equality might change, or that a younger generation influenced by the global exchange of information may finally reject despotic leadership styles -- those are all cultural shifts.

Just because I believe nurture is the main player at macro levels doesn't mean I am a determinist, as you apparently assumed -- I probably believe more than most people here in the possibility of large-scale positive social change, and get called a pie-eyed liberal optimist for it.

So -- since you certainly don't think biology determines the economic and political problems in ME nations, and you don't think the culture shapes those things, what are you proposing? Luck?

Posted by: Pam at May 26, 2007 11:35 PM

Pam,

Aren't you conflating the internal things you don't care for about Islamic societies with the external?

Would you even care if you didn't see them as a threat?

Posted by: alphie at May 26, 2007 11:54 PM

Here's something interesting:

A Quiet Revolution in Algeria: Gains by Women

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/26/world/africa/26algeria.html?_r=1&th&emc=th&oref=slogin

ALGIERS, May 25 — In this tradition-bound nation scarred by a brutal Islamist-led civil war that killed more than 100,000, a quiet revolution is under way: women are emerging as an economic and political force unheard of in the rest of the Arab world.

Women make up 70 percent of Algeria’s lawyers and 60 percent of its judges. Women dominate medicine. Increasingly, women contribute more to household income than men. Sixty percent of university students are women, university researchers say.

In a region where women have a decidedly low public profile, Algerian women are visible everywhere. They are starting to drive buses and taxicabs. They pump gas and wait on tables.

snip

You know what else is interesting about this? These women are also more apparently religious.

I don't think any one mechanism limits cultures. I think it's obvious many things limit individuals.

But I also think we have to be careful when we judge entire cultures by our standards and say, well they're backward - when in fact industrialized societies may exhibit great scientific and technological innovations but have perhaps sacrified expertise in craftsmanship, animal husbandry, music and poetry.

It's always bothered me that we have placed a premium on certain profitable and expedient and easily marketable inventions or items, but fail to stress the arts, in fact a lot of schools have cut funding for music training, painting, and few ever did teach dance. Yet, that kind of skill and training is the essence of creativity. And the time constraints we face in our culture argue against our ever learning to weave, for example -

Anyhow - I also wanted to say that Christopher Hitchens spoke about multiculturalism thus:

"No, I'm in favor of multiculturalism. I'm defending it against the hideous challenge from political Islam. As I say in the article, you cannot defend multiculturalism and also have people who want to kill all the Jews and Indians in the country. I would have thought that would be axiomatic for a multiculturalist. The official multiculturalists, whose view is that you mustn't make distinctions between cultures, would thus be uneasy making the simple point I've just made."

http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/features/2007/06/hitchensqanda200706

Posted by: Sophia at May 27, 2007 12:35 AM

Algeria is a such a fascinating place. It shows how utterly self-destructive Islamism is. It spectacularly fails everywhere it seriously even tries to succeed. That's why I'm a long-term optimist, but it will be a while before every place resembles Algeria.

Waiting for Iran to get a new government...

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at May 27, 2007 12:54 AM

Here are a couple of connected articles on how the internal can indeed affect the external:

Marriage and the Terror War
Better learn up on your anthropology if you want to understand the war.
By Stanley Kurtz

http://article.nationalreview.com/?q=OWYyMDhkOWYwOWU4YWZlMTkwMWEzMDY0MTA0MGM0YmY=

Marriage and the Terror War, Part II
Protecting the honor of the family; protecting the honor of Islam.
By Stanley Kurtz

http://article.nationalreview.com/?q=M2RhZTg4ZWM4ZTI0MzkzOWE5MjJkZGMzZTE3ZDllZmM\
=

Posted by: |Salamantis at May 27, 2007 01:11 AM

Yikes, mantis.

Lacking the mental shielding this evening to surf over to Nat Rev, I'll just point out that every form of society, from worker's paradise to totalitarian toilet, has launched an unjustified war in the last hundred years or so, including the good ol' U.S. of A.

Posted by: alphie at May 27, 2007 01:43 AM

Mr. Salamantis writes: "...if I were to have run the Lebanon campaign, I would have massed significant forces along the Israel-Lebanon border while aerially softening up Hezbollah positions, then, in an double Inchon maneuver, simultaneously landed forces north of the mouth of the Litani River to travel east, and launched an incursion at Israel's northeastern tip towards the Litani there, and then to travel west along it, with an eye to taking control of both banks of the east-west flowing section of the Litani in a pincers operation while also detaching a contingent northward from the Golan, to sweep the Golan Heights-Lebanon border....."

and there's more wishful thinking....

Have you ever been to southern Lebanon in your life Sal? I would suggest you get out of your armchair and go buy a map of the area -- not a tourist map -- a military style map with all the topogrophy on it. The areas around the Litani in which your imaginary IDF "sweeps" through doing a "double inchon" (which sounds like a wrestling move from WWF) are an endless chain of sheer valleys, cliffs, narrow roads with numerous ambush points, misty seemingly endless mountains.... Basically a hellish deathtrap for an invading force fighting dug in and commited fighters with excellent local knowledge. I have been in this area many, many times -- I have been arersted by Hezbollah for filming up there, and I have been deep underground in some of the really elaborate Hezbollah bunker networks. We are not talking about the little foxholes the IDF found in the south or that CNN went in... We are talking about systems hundreds of feet under mountains, with reinforced steel walls and ceilings, hot/cold running water, bathrooms, kitchens, blast doors, air-con, electricity, linked to Beirut by fibre-optic comm lines.... you could live in these places for weeks with bunker-busters landing right on top of you... and these things were built by hand... piece by piece... without Israel, the UN or the US spotting them.

You armchair/laptop generals have to drop the idea that Hezbollah are just a bunch of beardy Islamo-rednecks with a few AK-47s and start to accept that their best fighters are a definite match for anything on the Israeli side.

I have friends on both sides of this sorry conflict and I have to say that Hezbollah's reservists put in more time "in uniform"/with weapons than my Jewish chums do: 50 days a year... in extremely tough conditions. The Hezbollah reservists come back battered and bloody after their training stints... Israeli reservists are complete softies by comparison... because Isrealis for the most part (understandably) want to live a comfortable, materialistic European style life -- and Hezbollah fighters, for the most part, have sacrificed any chance of a "fun" or "enjoyable" life that most Lebanese youngsters have, because they (rightly or wrongly) believe they have a higher purpose. They believe in God and that Paradise is waiting for them. They actually believe in it all.

I know of an 18 year old Israeli lad who was pulled out of military service in Gaza and sent to walk into Lebanon towards the end of the war. He hated it and was scared witless -- his family were nervouys wrecks. I know the mother of an 18 year old Hezbollah rocketeer who encouraged her son to stay at the frontline, he got hit by an airstrike and lost both legs, but got on the radio and called another fighter in to finish launching the Katyushas... then he bled to death... and this Shia woman was smiling and laughing when I met her in the graveyard.... she thinks her son is alive in Paradise. It's not a just "faith"... she is sure of it, she said she could smell him, and that he knew I was inetrviewing her...

Israelis don't want to fight Hezbollah -- they will if they have to. Hezbollah fighters dream of fighting Israelis... they are keen to engage them...

Now... if this Fatah-al-Islam bunch are as well dug in to that camp as they now claim, then the Lebanese Army will have one hell of a task on its hands. The best fighters on the "Lebanese defensive strategy" side are Hezbollah's commandos and I don't think they will get involved in this scrap because Iran doesn't want them to be seen as formenting sectarian civil war. So the battle for Nahr al Bared could be a long and bloody one, with a very unpredictable outcome for th country as a whole... I am with Nasrallah on this one, actually. If there is a way of talking these guys down and sparing massive civilian casualties, then that is probably the ebst solution for Lebanese stability.

Posted by: Microraptor at May 27, 2007 03:50 AM

Pam, everything you say in that context makes sense to me. I don't put it down to luck. On the other hand, I do not think that what's written in the Quran, specifically, is a critical part of the mix of influences, habit, social organization, power structure, etc, that keeps some of the backwards aspects of the area backwards. I don't think this is based on hope, either, but on the variances in observable behavior by Quran-reading-people across time and space.

I did assume you were deterministic, or at least that you hadn't, or wouldn't ever systematically diassociate from it. Perhaps it's only my poor reading comprehension.. or perhaps you weren't including those important qualifiers like this:

If you say the religion may change or evolve under pressure from the population -- that's cultural, and that's my point. If you say the emphasis on educational achievement or gender equality might change, or that a younger generation influenced by the global exchange of information may finally reject despotic leadership styles -- those are all cultural shifts.

previously.

This makes you different from, in my opinion, Josh Scholar or redaktor, who appear to think that change will only occur when Muslims are killed by the millions.

Some might defend that an evaluation that ought to be permissible, like all predictions of future behavior. Thinking critically, that's a prediction that even 'liberals' make about Iraq. But it's one thing to estimate that and another to guarantee it or rule it a certainty. Some things don't change until mass violence demands it, and other things change without it. Neither scenario is beyond possibility for any huamn social system. We're already judging Arab culture as effectively inferior, something I reach beyond my multiculturalist instincts to do, and which I still regard as an idea more prone to prompt the end of critical thinking than the beginning, but to judge it as a permanent state of being is to effectively judge it as an inherent state of being, and thus cross the line into racism.

And "permanent except in the case of overwhelming violence being directed to make them stop" can be lumped in with "permanent". There's something very nasty about predicting the mass slaughter of others when it's not obviously imminent. Supposedly that doesn't mean endorsing it, but it can reveal the attitude of the one making the prediction as less than horrified and saddened about it.

Posted by: glasnost at May 27, 2007 05:43 AM

Ever since the summer of 2006, I was painted as an anti-semite by all those who disagreed with what I wrote.

There is a difference between speaking out against Israeli policies and anti-semitism. Judaism has nothing to do with it.

It's a shame people don't know how to (or don't want to) differentiate.

Posted by: The Perpetual Refugee at May 27, 2007 05:45 AM

Microraptor,

Your voice sounds very familiar. Anyho, Israeli fighters have little to prove against Hezzbbollah. These Iranians aren't even in their class. But you're right about Israelis being softies. Not all of them, though. Some of them are starting to get real hungry for Jihadi blood. And when some of them fellows start moving into government positions, there will be only one kind of medical care provided to Jihadis by Israel. I'll leave it to you to imagine what it might be.

Posted by: redaktor at May 27, 2007 06:05 AM

My idea of Siniora's thinking is that, if the Lebanses government can only hang on and avoid giving Syria a pretext to reoccupy until the Hariri tribunal is held and individuals in the upper echelons of Syrian government are found guilty (as it seems they most likely will be), after that the international community would not stand for Syria reoccupying Lebanon under ANY circumstance
Unfortunately, that probably is Siniora's thinking. Perhaps he can be excused for it; anything more rigorous would have him staring right into the abyss.

Posted by: Joel Rosenberg at May 27, 2007 07:56 AM

Yeah, glasnost, when you said the word 'determinism' is when I realized where the disconnect might be. I was not saying 'how things will always be' -- merely saying I thought this was 'how things got this way,' since someone mentioned trying to change the ME psychology... which we have made no sane effort to do anywhere, and which invariably means social psych aka culture in all its pleats and folds.

Elsewhere we had a discussion regarding the malleability of Islam -- personally, I don't hold great hope for Islam becoming moderate or progressive, because of the way it is written (recall, I am not a person of the Book, so my status is doubly-screwed by the Quran), but it is conceivable that it will evolve substantially. Algeria reinforces that ember of optimism. If not -- well, then the 'millions dead' guys may be right. I hope not.

alphie, I don't understand your distinction of internal/external. I can tell you that I have felt much the same way about Islam and Islamic culture for 35 years, ever since I was a rape counselor to a young Pakistani girl, and long before anyone, me included, saw it as a cultural threat.

(BTW -- how is citing text and pages that different from attaching a weblink when such link doesn't exist because the material is too old?)

Posted by: Pam at May 27, 2007 08:00 AM

for islam to change in a way that will reverse muslim society's failures, it must drop the core claim that the quran is the word of god and must guide every aspect of life, including politics; it must drop jihad, mysoginy and the notion that there is no causality, only the will of allah;
and much more. iow, it must no longer be islam.

any attempt to even minor changes faces takfir, apostasy, fatwas and death.

christianity has fought for 100 years for the reformation, and even that was not as fundamental a change as this, particularly since christianity did not originate with an epileptic with mental illness.

the originator assigned every success to allah (incentivizing jihad) and any failure to impure faith (which produces islamism rather than solutions as a response). iow, it has self-destruction built-in.

Posted by: fp at May 27, 2007 08:50 AM

refugee,

you got it.

as i already explained in another thread here, anti-semitism is rooted in the christian hijack of judaism, but at some point it turned racist.
today there is a distinction between jewishness (based on mother's blood) and judaism (religion).
hence, a vast majority of jews are secular.

the only reason religion enters into israeli politics is the proportional representation system, in which religious parties can be pivotal in governing coalitions and impose religion on the population, but generally only in internal, not foreign policy. this has created serious, sometimes violent conflicts over the years, part. over who is a jew.

even the educated anti-theists like dawkins do not know/understand this and they criticize israel as jewish thinking judaic. iow, they erroneously believes that whatever israel does, it is compelled by religion, just like the islamists.

Posted by: fp at May 27, 2007 09:04 AM

Glasnost,

I think your intense discomfort with cultural comparison and critique is unfortunate.

There's moral relativism in it's pure philosophical form, where "good" and "bad" are held to be abstract terms fabricated by egocentric hairless apes.

Then there's moral relativism which is so preoccupied with rejecting moral absolutism that it turns "good" and "bad" into beasts which cannot be named.

We need to be able to have rich discussions about the characteristics of different cultures if we're going to have a shot at defusing the tensions between them with minimal violence.

Posted by: Creamy Goodness at May 27, 2007 09:14 AM

Glasnost, you seem to support Nasrallah's call to just leave Fatah al-Islam alone to continue to terrorize those Palestinians still trapped by them in the Nahr el-Bared refugee camp; I guess that means you also support his denunciation of Siniora's acceptance of four planeloads of bullets, helmets, body armor and night vision goggles from the US?

Sometimes, ya gotta just kill the bad guys. And these are VERY bad guys, who have no intention of leaving that camp except horizontally, while taking as many people with them as they can manage. It can be painful to lance such a boil, but it can be much worse to just leave it to fester and infect, and spread its poison.

Posted by: Salamantis at May 27, 2007 09:53 AM

Apologies, glasnost; it was microraptor, not you, who was endorsing Nasrallah's position.

Posted by: Salamantis at May 27, 2007 10:00 AM

Here's how religion does "not" have an effect on society and its failure:

http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3405037,00.html

Posted by: fp at May 27, 2007 10:38 AM

and more:

http://memri.org/bin/latestnews.cgi?ID=SD159907

Posted by: fp at May 27, 2007 10:39 AM

http://www.naharnet.com/domino/tn/NewsDesk.nsf/0/C4C4DBE371B92970C22572E60034A8B1?OpenDocument

Posted by: fp at May 27, 2007 10:56 AM

lebanon hasn't given the palestinians citizenship for the exact same two reasons that israel refuses

Actually, Israel has offerred palestinians citizenship in the past.

Posted by: Solomon2 at May 27, 2007 11:11 AM

Interesting set of photos from Gaza:

http://tinyurl.com/yracsk

No political comment intended, just an amazing picture.

Posted by: alphie at May 27, 2007 01:44 PM

How do you reform this?

http://littlegreenfootballs.com/weblog/?entry=25646_Video-_Death_Cult_Childrens_Theater&only

Posted by: fp at May 27, 2007 02:07 PM

or this?

http://www.debbieschlussel.com/archives/2007/05/when_your_docto.html

Contrast this to israeli hospitals treating wounded palestinian terrorists.

Now, who said religion/culture does not affect failure?

Posted by: fp at May 27, 2007 02:27 PM

Microraptor's comments regarding the purported skill and ferocity of the Hezbollah fighter and the forbidding terrain of southern Lebanon remind me of what an anti-US-war-of-any-kind fellow repeatedly said to me shortly before the US went into Afghanistan after the Al Qaedan perpetrators of the 9/11 attack and their Taliban hosts and shielders. He compared the Taliban fighters favorably to the Nepalese Ghurkas, contended that they had broken the will of the hardfened and feared Soviets and would likewise break ours, but much more easily, pointed out that they had never been successfully occupied, called the Afghan landscape a deathtrap in which the US would lose tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of troops, and quoted approvingly the following snippet by Rudyard Kipling:

When you're wounded and left on Afghanistan's plains, and the women come out to cut up what remains, jest roll to your rifle and blow out your brains and go to your gawd like a soldier.

Well, we all know how the soft, weak Americans dealt with the twelve-foot-tall Taliban Spartans in their unmanageable moonscape. Now, any time he tries to prognosticate Western military failure, I just mention his Afghanistan prophecies, and he falls into an embarrassed silence.

Posted by: Salamantis at May 27, 2007 03:24 PM

Aren't we still fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan almost six years after we "defeated" them, Sal?

Spartans indeed.

Posted by: alphie at May 27, 2007 06:16 PM

Jeez alphie, you think our good friends over in Pakiland have anything to do with that?

Posted by: redaktor at May 27, 2007 06:35 PM

The Taliban who were not killed fled to a safe haven in the tribal areas of West Pakistan. They launch cross-border raids from there, in which they typically lose meny more people than they kill, then the surviving remnants flee back. They hold no ground in Afghanistan, nor can they.

In recent weeks, two of Mullah Omar's three main lieutenants have been killed, including his chief of military operations, Dadullah. The lieutenant who is left is more of a media and theory person, and useless in military operations. Their promised spring offensive has failed to materialize because most of their mid-level commanders are dead, and their green recruits have few left alive to lead them.

They are waging less jihad against the Afghan government and its Coalition defenders lately, and more against each other in West Pakistan, as the Pashtun locals increasingly demand that the foreign contingent, comprised mainly of Uzbeks and Uighurs and attempting to assert control over a resentful local populace, leave.

It doesn't seem as though they're doing too well; they are looking more and more like a spent force.

Posted by: Salamantis at May 27, 2007 06:35 PM

A spent force?

Then why have coalition casualties increased every year since we "won" in Afghanistan, Sal?

http://icasualties.org/oef/

Posted by: alphie at May 27, 2007 06:51 PM

Alphie, two years out of five does not constitute "every year."

The first year doesn't count because the war started at the end of the year. It's a shockingly low number even so.

The highest number is also shockingly low compared with casualties in Iraq and -- especially -- with every other long war the US has ever fought in its history.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at May 27, 2007 07:03 PM

General Wesley Clark said the Taliban are the most incompetent enemy the US has faced since the Barbary Pirates. This is not a figure of speech. It is literally true.

Fierce Afghan Warrior, my ass.

I'm going to Afghanistan later this year. Guess how scared I am?

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at May 27, 2007 07:05 PM

For comparison, even if we combine all Coalition casualties, those of the US and those of its allies, to date, we still lost more than twice as many in Hurricane Katrina, and more than five times as many on 9/11.

Posted by: Salamantis at May 27, 2007 07:08 PM

well, yes, but we lost unnecesarily and out of political incompetence in both cases.

the afghan and iraqi wars are different. the latter is urban warfare, the latter is not. and the insurgents in iraq are well funded and supported by iran and the saudis.

Posted by: fp at May 27, 2007 07:36 PM

Michael,

Clark made that statement about the Taliban over 5 years ago.

If they're so incompetent, why are we still there?

Why are we now begging our allies to send more troops to Afghanistan?

Posted by: alphie at May 27, 2007 09:11 PM

You see, Alphie, this is why people say you're immature and a troll. If you aren't 12 years old, don't ask such ridiculous questions, really. I am not going to explain Afghanistan 101 to you.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at May 27, 2007 09:17 PM

Michael,

America spends more on its military than the rest of the world combined.

Explain to me how a poorly funded group that has withstoood a constant onslaught from the U.S. military and its allies for 5 1/2 years and is now on the offensive once again could possibly be called "incompetent" at war.

Posted by: alphie at May 27, 2007 09:25 PM

why this troll is still cluttering these threads is beyond me.

Posted by: fp at May 27, 2007 09:30 PM

Is the Taliban winning? Would you like to switch places with them? Do you have any other questions?

Let's talk about Iraq for a second, where the insurgents have killed ten times as many of our guys as the Taliban has been able to kill. Then let's remember that the Taliban is only at 10 percent of their strength. (My God, how pathetic does an enemy have to be before you finally admit that they suck?)

Here is Bill Whittle:

---

Let’s see if we want to switch sides with them. Let’s imagine the war where the insurgents have our cards and we hold theirs.

Imagine the US completely occupied by Al Qaeda forces, subject to Sharia law. We are able to take pot shots at a few of them, and we manage to murder a few dozen of our own people every day in an attempt to stop the population from collaborating with the hated invader. But more and more Americans seem to be turning to Sharia and want to get on with their lives. We find sixty percent of the population wants Al-Qaeda to leave, but hatred for the US insurgent forces – the Wolverines – is at about 98%. The people hate the occupiers, but they despise the Wolverines.

Now imagine that a year into the occupation of America, George Bush’s two daughters were killed in a firefight with the enemy, which had surrounded the college sorority house where they were hiding. A year after that, President Bush was pulled out of a septic tank in Crawford by the Fedayeen, then put on trial and sentenced to hang, which he did on national television to widespread cheering. Condi Rice, captured in an early morning raid several years ago, has been a great source of useful information to target the American resistance, and Donald Rumsfeld was killed by a suicide bomber this last summer.

Everywhere you turn – in every street and every city in America – Al Qaeda forces run security patrols, training Americans to do this for themselves. The only way to stop this is by killing our own people, which further alienates us from a populace that already despises us.

Does that feel like winning to you? Me neither. Welcome to the insurgency.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at May 27, 2007 09:35 PM

Kind of an odd thought experiemnt, Michael.

Saying the imaginary Taliban occupiers of America have imposed Sharia law presumes that, in the real world, we have imposed American law on Afghanistan, doesn't it?

Check the new Afghanistan constitution to see otherwise.

Article 3, for example:

"In Afghanistan, no law can be contrary to the beliefs and provisions of the sacred religion of Islam."

Ditto with Bush being captured...Mullah Omar is still at large and directing his soldiers.

And as for "Everywhere you turn – in every street and every city in America – Al Qaeda forces run security patrols...", there are cities in Afghanistan that the Taliban control and move about in freely:

"Despite NATO's positive assessment of the offensive so far, Afghan Defense Minister Rahim Wardak warns that Taliban fighters continue to control about one-third of the territory in northern Helmand Province. That includes positions in the districts of Kajaki, Musa Qala, Nawzad, Baghran, and Sangin."

http://tinyurl.com/ywyyq5

Whittle's fairy tale doesn't seem like a very good allegory for Afghanistan today.

Posted by: alphie at May 27, 2007 10:25 PM

Whittle's "fairy tale" is an inverse of the Iraqi insurgency, not the Taliban, as I said.

And the Iraqi insurgency has killed ten times as many of our soldiers as the Taliban has.

The Taliban kill fewer of our soldiers per year than any continuously engaged enemy in American history.

They are pathetic, Alphie, and there's no getting around it. You really should read some military history and get some perspective.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at May 27, 2007 11:38 PM

I have not seen any news sources depicting the Taliban as a spent force. See this:
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=9833660

Triumphalism in Afghanistan seems way out of place. A quick perusal of recent news shows a spreading and resilient insurgency, NATO and US troops spread too thin, leading to excessive reliance on air strikes, with resulting massive civilian casualties and disaffection with western presence there, and tepid commitment by European countries who are questioning their continued involvement (big surprise there).

This is not to be defeatist. Western troops have racked up some successes recently, and this is definitely not a conflict we should lose, but complacency is definitely not called for either.

As an aside, anybody who wants to be seriously grossed out, take a look at this: http://www.debka.com/article.php?aid=1278

Posted by: MarkC at May 27, 2007 11:39 PM

It's not triumphalism, Marc, to point out that the Taliban kill fewer American soldiers per year than any enemy in our history.

I said they are incompetent, not that they have ceased to exist.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at May 27, 2007 11:56 PM

We're going to be fighting people like this for years and years and years and years and years. You guys need to get used to it because they are not going away any time soon. Bush will, but they won't.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at May 27, 2007 11:57 PM

I don't doubt they won't go away, Michael, but I question whether America will be fighting them once Bush goes back to cutting brush.

I think Americans will want to turn their backs on Asia's problems like they did after Vietnam.

And as for the Taliban's low rate of kills, we have no way of knowing whether they are trying their hardest or not, do we?

Posted by: alphie at May 28, 2007 12:06 AM

MJT -

The problem is that we are not playing to win, not in Afghanistan and not in Iraq. The Americans have to go begging for others to donate a few troops to the Afghan war effort. Did you know that Donald Rumsfeld actually went to Montenegro to ask for troops? They turned him down. I'm on the same side as you are, and I'm very concerned the war effort against world jihad will not be sustained.

Posted by: MarkC at May 28, 2007 12:55 AM

Last comment. People on this thread like to point to what they see as relatively low casualty figures in Iraq and Afghanistan to refute suggestions of "Vietnam" syndrome". You will see that this is a false indicator. The issue is not quantitative but qualitative - are we winning the war, and is this a war that can be won? Are we fighting a war for our survival, or are we caught up in a regional war that needn't involve us? The more Americans start to answer these questions in the negative, than even relatively low casualties become unacceptable.

Posted by: MarkC at May 28, 2007 02:15 AM

>>"...we have no way of knowing whether they are trying their hardest or not, do we?"<<

Shame on all who actually want to debate the above absurdity.

Shame on me for quoting and commenting on said absurdity.

Posted by: anuts at May 28, 2007 03:26 AM

Yeah, right, sure...the Taliban's top military commander was killed in Afghanistan by Coalition forces because he was taking it too easy on us...

Posted by: Salamantis at May 28, 2007 03:47 AM

We thought once before that Afghanistan was in a regional war that needn't involve us, so we allowed a power vacuum caused by the Soviet withdrawal to be filled by the Taliban, who invited in Al Qaeda...and we all know how that ended up involving us...if you have forgotten, try asking a New Yorker. Nor do we want the same thing to happen in Iraq's Sunni areas. Zawahiri already sent a letter to Zarqawi, which we intercepted, instructing him to plan and perpetrate attacks on US interests outside Iraq, including within the US, and sent a top-level Al Qaeda commander to assist him...luckily, we were able to both kill Zarqawi and capture the commander that Al Qaeda sent to him before they could bring any of their vicious ideas to fruition. But give them a chance, and they'll try it again from there...remember, they failed to topple the WTC in 1993, and went back and tried it again, with a different, successful tactic, in 2001.

Posted by: Salamantis at May 28, 2007 03:55 AM

Not "taking it easy on us," Sal.

Rationing his forces so he can sustain attacks against us indefinitely.

Subtle difference.

Don't forget, for the Taliban, America is just the fourth enemy they have had to fight for control of Afghanistan, and, so far, they are 3-0.

The last guys to have a record like that were...the Viet Minh (Japan, France, America, then South Vietnam).

I'm not saying the Taliban are likeable, just that it serves no purpose to underestimate them.

Posted by: alphie at May 28, 2007 04:05 AM

I agree with you, Salamantis, but saying it won't make it so. Wars like this are not lost on the battlefield, but on the home front. To say that the Iraq War has become deeply unpopular is simply stating a fact. So far, the democrats have not mustered a veto-proof majority for ending the war, but how much longer can it last? And now we're having talks with the Iranians in Baghdad (barf city!). Doesn't sound like someone taking a long term view of this conflict. (I lied. this is my last comment).

Posted by: MarkC at May 28, 2007 05:38 AM

MarkC,

We can fight this war directly at a cost of wasted trillions or we can fight this war thru proxy at a fraction of the cost. It doesn't matter. Technically, this war is already won. Alternatives $60/bbl oil are here. And soon enough they will be making their ascension to dominance.

Posted by: redaktor at May 28, 2007 08:58 AM

Alternatives ^to $60/bbl oil..

http://biopact.com

Posted by: redaktor at May 28, 2007 09:01 AM

i'm with mark on this one.

Posted by: fp at May 28, 2007 10:04 AM

So you think that the Taliban are rationing their jihadis for the long haul, ayy, alphie? Well then, considering that they've lost so many of their mid-level commanders that they don't have enough to lead their green recruits in cross-border raids for their sputtering spring offensive, they must be the most incompetent force rationers on the planet.

Posted by: Salamantis at May 28, 2007 01:37 PM

Sorry to continue the off topic part of this thread here, but I couldn't resist:

"Don't forget, for the Taliban, America is just the fourth enemy they have had to fight for control of Afghanistan, and, so far, they are 3-0."

And counting America, they're 3-1. They don't control Afghanistan anymore.

"Clark made that statement about the Taliban over 5 years ago.

If they're so incompetent, why are we still there?

Why are we now begging our allies to send more troops to Afghanistan?"

If we're wrong about their competence, why do they have to hide in Pakistan? Why aren't they in control of Afghanistan? The fact they can still commit acts of terror and havoc does not contradict the fact they're a spent force.

And the fact the US and other western forces are there isn't any indication of the Taliban's competence; rather, it's a validation of the concept of guerillas' needing sanctuary to survive. Outside that sanctuary in Pakistan, they're hunted and killed.

And why are we "begging" our allies for troops? Knowing we're in Iraq, you still ask that question? I'll give you this, Alphie, you know how to ask a disingenuous question.

Posted by: ElMondoHummus at May 28, 2007 03:59 PM

I'm with redaktor. In fact, the argument that Israel shouldn't have, or was somehow stupid to attack Lebanon, makes absolutely no sense whatsoever, and is even mildly repugnant. It is similar to other arguments against Israel's right to defend itself.

I am NOT saying Israel was wrong to hit Hizbullah. I am saying that the way Israel tried to do it was far from optimal.

The main thing I think the Israelis did incorrectly was try to take on an insurgent group like you would take on a regular military, hitting militarily-useful infrastructure via airstrikes. Unfortunately, insugencies require different things than a regular military. One of the things I've seen in Iraq is that the main thing that comes of that style of fighting is the insurgent propagandists don't have to work as hard to manufacture propaganda.

If you want to wipe out insurgents, you need to contain the zone to be controlled to prevent resupply and reinforcements, and send in lots of infantry- if there's a better way to do it, I don't know what it is. Israel didn't do this, and did not achieve it's objectives.

If anyone disagrees, please be so kind as to point out exactly what particular you disagree with, instead of making blanket statements and trying to put words in my mouth.

-----

ps: They are pathetic, Alphie, and there's no getting around it. You really should read some military history and get some perspective.

Not just Alphie.

Posted by: rosignol at May 29, 2007 05:22 AM

rosignol,

of course you are correct. and winograd agrees with you. olmert and peretz had no clue what they were doing. and they were ill served by an airforce general who should have never been chief of staff.

both us and iraq still fight armies, hence the consequences for both. as long as they don't adjust to insurgencies, they'll keep losing.

Posted by: fp at May 29, 2007 08:52 AM
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