December 26, 2007

A Fresh Look at Hezbollah

I haven’t written much about Lebanon lately, partly because I’ve been working in Iraq, but also because Lebanon has been in a holding pattern for the past year. There isn’t much new to say about the same-old same-old.

But Andrew Exum published a perceptive piece about Hezbollah and makes a point made very rarely, if ever, in the West:
There are several reasons making the fantasy that Hezbollah will ever give up its arms unlikely. The first—and the most understandable—is that the Shia who make up Hezbollah’s constituency think giving up their arms means giving up the hard-won seat at Beirut’s political table earned over the past three decades. The Shia of Lebanon are the country’s historical underclass, and the Shia fear a return to the days when their concerns were largely forgotten by the central government. Without the arms of Hezbollah, they argue, no one in Beirut will care about the concerns of the Shia living in the south, the Bekaa Valley, and the suburbs of Beirut.

The second reason why Hezbollah cannot give up its arms, though, is because so many of the young men who join the organization join to fight. These young men are lured by the promise of fighting Israel, and Hezbollah must worry that if they were to abandon their military campaign against Israel, these young men would simply split from the organization in the same way that so many of the Amal militia’s gunmen left for Hezbollah in the early 1980s. Thus, in order to keep these young men of arms under the same big tent as the rest of the organization, it is necessary to continue some form of armed conflict against Israel. In this way, Hezbollah’s cross-border raids and rocket attacks against Israel after the 2000 withdrawal—while necessary from an internal perspective—ultimately worked against Hezbollah’s overall strategy of deterrence.

Normally keen observers of Israeli politics, Hezbollah misread the dynamics in Jerusalem following the kidnapping of Gilad Shalit in 2006 and attempted their own kidnappings just over the border near Ayta ash-Shab on July 12th. The kidnappings—unlike an attempt a few months earlier in the disputed city of Ghajjar—were successful, but the Israeli response was brutal and unexpected. (The ways in which Israel’s decision-makers similarly misread the dynamics at work within Lebanon in 2006 will have to be the subject of a different post.) The very thing Hezbollah was trying to deter—a massive Israeli assault on Hezbollah and their Shia constituents—was provoked by an act of foolishness along the border. [Emphasis added.]
Westerners, including Israelis, rarely think of Hezbollah as a deterrent force. They think of Hezbollah as an aggressor. Hezbollah's supporters think of it as both. Some support Hezbollah because they want to fight. Others support Hezbollah because they don’t want to fight.

That last point is counter-intuitive, I know, and possibly hard to believe. But I’ve met dozens of Lebanese Shias who think exactly like a man who left the following comment on an old blog post of mine a few days ago:

Michael,

I enjoyed this piece. I've been reading your blogs as of late, and have quite enjoyed them. However, I think you need to get a sense of who or what Hezbollah is from a Lebanese Shi'a, such as myself. Maybe you've talked to many Shi'is about Hezbollah and you know everything there is to know, but I nonetheless would like to make a few comments.

I think it's very clear that if you and I were sitting in a room drafting the constitution of a country, we would both agree that military power should be in the hands of the state exclusively. However, we know that what "should" be the case is not always that simple in Lebanon. The problem is, Hezbollah is still deemed necessary to many people (the military arm of Hezbollah, that is). My mother comes from Bint Jbeil in the South and she gives me numerous accounts of the Resistance and how necessary it was for the people of South Lebanon.

I think the end goal of all Lebanese is to see Hezbollah disarmed. We all need that. But what we need even more is the opportunity for that to happen. What happens if Israel trots through the South again? Are you going to tell me they wouldn't do it? Of course they would. Israeli troops were in Lebanon in the late 70s, years before Lebanon was "officially" occupied. Usually when you hear about Lebanese occupation, you hear about 1982 when the Israelis took Beirut. No one gives a damn about the South. And before we bring up 1559, we should also know that selective morality of this kind has no place in Middle Eastern politics, when Israel itself has defied over 60 U.N. resolutions. Bring up 1559 would be ridiculous under such terms.

That's what Hezbollah is, essentially. They are people from the South who armed themselves against Israel. That's why they exist. Hezbollah is a product of Israeli occupation, and we all need to recognize that. Insinuating that Hezbollah should simply disarm is one thing, but it is only one thing. The Lebanese army cannot defend Lebanon against Israel. As has been seen with strategic wars of South Lebanon, weaponry is important, but so is knowing the territory and knowing how to fight. That's the only explanation for a handful of Hezbollahis effectively resisting Israel last summer.

But who knows, Michael? What happens if America and Iran settle their disputes? Of course, by "settle" I mean Iran bowing down to American pressure. You know as well as I do that America has been the enemy of Iran ever since it had a hand in overthrowing the parliamentary government in 1953 in favour of a dictator... then following that up with military and financial support for Saddam Hussein in his quest to make war with Persia. Since then the United States has been crippling Iran with sanctions.

You can call me crazy, but I'm more likely to believe that there won't be another major war in Lebanon. I don't think Hezbollah can risk it. I don't think we as Lebanese can handle any more. Muslim/Christian really isn't a problem in the streets. When we fled Lebanon for Canada our next door neighbours were Christians - the same Christians that our Muslims were fighting back home. We were best friends for years. In the street, we really have no problems. But for some reason, the schism becomes manifest at the political level. And we all know that the religions themselves have nothing to do with the disagreements; it's more or less people aligning themselves along sectarian lines because that is how they identify themselves.

Anyway, I have rambled. I only ask of you to please consider the Hezbollah question from a different angle, and see that they are part of Lebanon (hopefully their part will be more political and less military in the future). As a Lebanese Shi'a returning to Lebanon in the next year or so, I cannot say I hate Hezbollah. Do I want them disarmed? Yes, in principle. Am I frightened at the concept of Hezbollah being disarmed? Yes. I am frightened because I know what they have done for the South, and fear that losing them will give us nothing to defend ourselves with in the future. Am I pro-Syrian? No. Am I anti-Syrian? No. I think that anyone who makes one of these their political pillars is unhealthy. Those men you spoke to are very smart. We need neutral relations with Syria. We don't need anti-Syrian parties, or pro-Syrian parties.
I’m not publishing this comment because I agree with it. Among other things, he is wrong about the Israelis. Hezbollah is a magnet for the Israeli military because it’s violent and provacative. Perhaps he understands that at some level-- he did say Hezbollah cannot risk another war. Israel is no more likely to invade a theoretically peaceful and quiet Lebanon than peaceful and quiet Jordan. But it would be a stretch, to say the least, to lump this man in ideologically with the hardliners.

Hezbollah will be defeated, marginalized, or integrated into the mainstream when reasonable people like him split from the jihad wing of the party.

POSTSCRIPT: Here is some old-fashioned American Jew-hatred uglier than anything I heard in Lebanon from a supporter of Hezbollah. (Yes, really.) Hatred, like decency, knows no nationality. (Via Callimachus.)

UPDATE: A Daily Kos diarist is appalled at what I just linked to, and is highly recommended reading.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at December 26, 2007 01:05 PM
Comments

You know as well as I do that America has been the enemy of Iran ever since it had a hand in overthrowing the parliamentary government in 1953 in favour of a dictator... then following that up with military and financial support for Saddam Hussein in his quest to make war with Persia. Since then the United States has been crippling Iran with sanctions.

The 1953 actions were in line with the containment strategy against the Warsaw Pact. Iran had a border with the USSR and ceding that strategic a location to the communists was not going to happen. If we had not installed the Pahlevi's Iran would have been a Russian satrapy until the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 at the earliest. As bad as the Shah was, when it comes to dictatorship, he has nothing on the Mullahs of today or whatever Persian Ceauşescu the Soviets would have installed.

As for the actions of the 1980s, what did you expect from the US after the Islamist faction of the Iranian revolution invaded the sovereign soil of the US?

This commenter is wrong about US enmity towards other nations. The US doesn't hate other nations; not even France when they deserve it. We get angry, but abiding hatred is just not part of our national culture. We aren't old or failed enough to waste our energies in pointless hate.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at December 26, 2007 03:03 PM

[...]

And before we bring up 1559, we should also know that selective morality of this kind has no place in Middle Eastern politics, when Israel itself has defied over 60 U.N. resolutions.

[...]

Sigh... time to educate the ignorant.

UN resolutions are either General Assembly resolutions, which are non-binding, or Security Council resolutions, which are binding.

The UN Resolutions Israel is ignoring are non-binding General Assembly resolutions.

UNSC Resolution 1559 is not a General Assembly resolution. Trying to point at the General Assembly resolutions Israel is ignoring as justification for not complying with UNSC resolution 1559 is not a legally valid argument.

It would be nice if people who brought up certain matters had educated themselves before doing so. The reason Israel's disregard for General Assembly resolutions is not considered legally significant has nothing to do with morality, it is because the UN Charter explicitly states that General Assembly resolutions are non-binding.

[...]

But who knows, Michael? What happens if America and Iran settle their disputes? Of course, by "settle" I mean Iran bowing down to American pressure. You know as well as I do that America has been the enemy of Iran ever since it had a hand in overthrowing the parliamentary government in 1953 in favour of a dictator... then following that up with military and financial support for Saddam Hussein in his quest to make war with Persia. Since then the United States has been crippling Iran with sanctions.

I don't know if people who make this argument are simply unaware of the context in which these things happened, or are willfully ignoring it. For example, the fact that Mosaddeq nationalized the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company is not mentioned. Nor is how Mosaddeq manufactured a crisis and proceeded to ask the Shah for emergency powers over the military- students of history will recognize this, and what it leads to. Nor is the fact that the British went to the Americans and told us that Mosaddeq was going to move Iran into the Soviet sphere of influence. Put together all of the above, and it is both logical and reasonable to conclude the man was laying the groundwork for a communist revolution in Iran. Instead, the information presented makes it look like the American and British policies towards Iran are unprovoked and malicious, which is not the case.

[...]

Anyway, I have rambled. I only ask of you to please consider the Hezbollah question from a different angle, [...]

I am willing to re-consider my position if the information presented merits it. I ask that you approach the issue with the same attitude.

Posted by: rosignol at December 26, 2007 03:44 PM

"The 1953 actions were in line with the containment strategy against the Warsaw Pact. Iran had a border with the USSR and ceding that strategic a location to the communists was not going to happen. If we had not installed the Pahlevi's Iran would have been a Russian satrapy until the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 at the earliest. As bad as the Shah was, when it comes to dictatorship, he has nothing on the Mullahs of today or whatever Persian Ceauşescu the Soviets would have installed. "

As an Iranian, I could care less what your rationalization was for meddling in Iranian affairs in the 50's. I actually think the British played a larger role in the coup than the US.

In any case, if you think Mossadaq was a pro-Soviet puppet you simply do not know Iranian history.

Posted by: Nima at December 26, 2007 05:15 PM

Persians are feeling less at home in Iran all the time. With the fanatics in command a person cannot even think freely there. What happened in 1953 is meaningless today--except as one more reason to hate the outsider. But what is Iran without the outsider anymore? Russia and China prop up the murderers who control Iran. Are they not outsiders?

Posted by: Dar at December 26, 2007 05:38 PM

As Nima writes, the Iranians seemed to have viewed the British, not the Americans, with the most ire. That, at least, is what is claimed repeatedly in Death Plus Ten Years by the Briton Roger Cooper (fluent Farsi speaker, nominal Muslim convert), who was arrested and jailed under Khomeini as a "British spy"--even into the late '70s, he claims, there was more concern about British interference and intrigues than American.

Posted by: Roger Godby at December 26, 2007 05:49 PM

As an Iranian, I could care less what your rationalization was for meddling in Iranian affairs in the 50's. I actually think the British played a larger role in the coup than the US.
-Nima

The coup would not have happened if the British had not convinced the US that it was necessary.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Ajax

[...]

The idea of overthrowing Mosaddeq was conceived by the British who asked U.S. President Harry S. Truman for assistance but he refused. The British raised the idea again to Dwight D. Eisenhower who became president in 1953. The new administration agreed to participate in overthrowing the elected government of Iran.

[...]

The current antagonism between the US and Iran is one of those bizarre things that has happened despite the many reasons the US and Iran should have friendly relations.

Posted by: rosignol at December 26, 2007 06:21 PM

Nima,

In any case, if you think Mossadaq was a pro-Soviet puppet you simply do not know Iranian history.

I don't think Mossadaq was a puppet, I am saying that he was vulnerable, making Iran more vulnerable by isolating it from the West, and that Russia has been trying to take over Iran forever. How long Mossadaq would have survived without Western support is mostly speculation, but Iran could have been taken in a matter of weeks by the Soviet Red Army. Iran did not have a strong enough military to resist even a fraction of the Soviet military.

Are you asking me to believe that the Soviet Union would refrain from snapping up a weak neighbor in the 1950's? Or are you asking me to believe that Putin won't?

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at December 26, 2007 06:36 PM

"I don't think Mossadaq was a puppet, I am saying that he was vulnerable, making Iran more vulnerable by isolating it from the West, and that Russia has been trying to take over Iran forever. How long Mossadaq would have survived without Western support is mostly speculation, but Iran could have been taken in a matter of weeks by the Soviet Red Army. Iran did not have a strong enough military to resist even a fraction of the Soviet military.

Are you asking me to believe that the Soviet Union would refrain from snapping up a weak neighbor in the 1950's? Or are you asking me to believe that Putin won't?"

Well, this is a hypothetical scenario that you're asking. I can tell you if the Soviets invaded, than the US would've offered arms to Iran to resist and Iranians would've gladly accepted; having seen that the Soviets were a greater threat to them than the west.

However, as mentioned above, this is a big "what if". I think in actual fact the British played a major role in the initial coup and the motives behind it had far less to do with soviet sympathies than it did with the Iranian government wishing to nationalize oil companies.

Ironically, had Iran been under the yolk of Soviet oppression, it would most likely be as pro-American as many east European states were post 1991.

Incidentally, given that the US, at least for most of the past three decades, has had little influence on the makeup of Iran's government, the population has taken a more positive view of Americans.

Posted by: Nima at December 26, 2007 06:52 PM

I just wanted to add my voice to the folks thanking you for posting that comment; and for your work generally.

Posted by: Robert at December 26, 2007 07:34 PM

Michael -
The Israelis only interest in Lebanon is a quiet border and maybe some increased trade which would benefit the Lebanese more than the Israelis.
The Syrian interest is raping and looting every dollar out of the country they can and bringing it to Syria to continue to prop of their Dictatorship Regime which otherwise could crumble....
But I don't know if I'll ever believe that the average Hezbollah supporting Shiah will "get it" or "get the truth"... propoganda and isolation are powerful things... and they can continue to put Israel in a no win situation with regards to the rest of Lebanon which could eventually be on the whole hate but be sane towards Israel... and the Syrian need to incite intermittent violence whenever they are pressured......
The world is a lonnnng way away from doing what's necessary to change the dynamic in Syria or Lebanon... and the Lebanese eventually have to be the ones to want Hezbollah completely defanged....
Even those that do know its virtually impossible to go down South in Hezbollahland and take away arms from a supportive public and stronger army.....

Nima -
Well, this is a hypothetical scenario that you're asking. I can tell you if the Soviets invaded, than the US would've offered arms to Iran to resist and Iranians would've gladly accepted; having seen that the Soviets were a greater threat to them than the west.

It's pointless to debate the what ifs now... was the Shah a better dictator than the Islamists? depends who you talk to and people have short memories... I betcha if a new more benevolent dictator took over in Iraq that in 5 years Iraqis would be singing about the Saddam glory years... bcs things won't be 'perfect' and a lot of tough decisions will have to be made, and people have short memories in any culture or political environment.

II. And of course the British played a more major role in it.. you have to remember back then the British were at the tail end of their super power world status and the US right at the beginning at being at the top of the mountain.. the British controlled or influenced every part of the Middle East for a lonnnnng time leading up to the 1950s -so naturally they had the better intell, influence and smarts to advise their nascent super power little brother, at that point.

Nima -
Ironically, had Iran been under the yolk of Soviet oppression, it would most likely be as pro-American as many east European states were post 1991. Incidentally, given that the US, at least for most of the past three decades, has had little influence on the makeup of Iran's government, the population has taken a more positive view of Americans.

What if - what if - if the Soviets controlled Iran for 3 decades a whole host of other issues may have arisen....

Apparently, many people think the Iranian youth are more pro American than the European youth, certainly bigger fans Bay Watch.

Who was a worse dictator Castro or the pro American fascist before him? Oliver Stone and Tim Robbins opinions not withstanding....

Posted by: Mike Nargizian at December 26, 2007 08:49 PM

Sure, Poland and Hungary came out pro American and "look" to be becoming Westernized now... many Poles living in the US now or working here...
Wanna talk about the real pulse of East Germany now almost 20 years later? Not such a pretty picture.

Bottom line Nima is right about the US right from an Iranian standpoint to change and alter their future due mainly to Oil Interests and competing with the Soviets... considered a real huge threat to the West at that point..... Western Leftists will wail on about how the US was/is THE EVIL in the world... certainly not perfect but given the circumstances, I don't know if I'd defend our decision to assist as Lasswell would, but certainly wouldn't want to listen to Chomsky or Zinn "lecture" about it....

Posted by: Mike Nargizian at December 26, 2007 08:56 PM

Here is an article i found interesting, written by a Lebanese from Beirut by the name of Gabriel Al Amin:

Why Hezbollah LOST the War in Lebanon!
And the Current 'Present' Situation in Southern Lebanon

By Gabriel al-Amin
Beirut, Lebanon

http://www.lebanonwire.com/0709MLN/07092429MN.asp

On July 12, 2006 Hezbollah kidnapped two Israeli soldiers that led to Israel's war with them and, by extension, Lebanon itself. Hezbollah has been on Israel's fence since the latter's withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000. Israel always requested from the international community and from the Lebanese government to deploy its Lebanese Army there instead of Hezbollah militants. Hezbollah, quite naturally, refused! Hezbollah vowed to NEVER allow any other force other than itself to occupy southern Lebanon. Even during the conflict, Hezbollah said it would never agree to allow either the Lebanese army nor international monitors to patrol southern Lebanon.

Then finally, when two IDF (Israeli Defense Force) soldiers were kidnapped, Israel found the perfect excuse it was looking for to go into Lebanon and push Hezbollah well away from the Lebanese-Israel border. Israel pursued a limited invasion and killed over 500-600 Hezbollah members during the one month war. Additionally, Israel took over every single village in southern Lebanon. During the conflict even though Hezbollah received such a blow and all its members were freaked out and on the run. Yet when the hostilities ended, Hezbollah claimed victory! But did it really win?

Firstly, Israel agreed to a cessation of hostilities NOT because it surrendered and defeated militarily, but because of international pressure from the European Union and the United States. During this conflict Israel endured more international pressure, than it ever did in the past 10 years. Israel was put forth conditions and international agreements, such as the deployment of 15,000 Lebanese soldiers and 15,000 United Nations peace keepers into southern Lebanon, and arms embargo on Hezbollah. "This" proposal which was presented to Israel which EVEN Hezbollah agreed to accept, was something Israel was yearning for for many decades and was a once in a life time opportunity, it was a REAL "golden opportunity," even the far right in Israel said "this is an excellent proposal, so give it a shot." This cessation of hostilities, known as "The August Ceasefire", was initiated by the United Nations and International Community, and was put forward before both parties, Israel and Hezbollah, Hezbollah JUMPED right on the wagon to accept, because they saw it as the only way out of the mess they got themselves into. While at the same time, Israel was more stubborn on accept this ceasefire-agreement, since they were on a winning streak. Ever since then Hezbollah has not been seen or heard from in Southern Lebanon! At long last the frail Lebanese Government has finally had a degree of sovereignty over all of its state and is finally monitoring and guarding its own borders.

Not too long ago, nearly all television and print media images coming out of southern Lebanon were that of armed Hezbollah fighters with their guns, outposts, and banners. Not anymore! Hezbollah is now hiding under rocks in Southern Lebanon, its military might having received a substantial blow. In addition, Hezbollah is no longer enjoying the freedom and luxury of easily transferring Syrian/Iranian weaponry across the Lebanese-Syrian border or via the Beirut seaport. Much of this due to the combined efforts of a stronger Lebanese army and U.N. forces keeping a lid on such transferals.

But even though the International Troops and the Lebanese Army keep Hezbollah in check, isn't there still Hezbollah presence in Southern Lebanon, EVEN THOUGH they are hiding "under rocks?" The same could be said for Al Qaeda presence in the United States, who are also hiding under rocks.

Hezbollah may portray themselves as fearsome "militants" but they are in fact cowards cowering behind Lebanese civilians. Yet, through mostly pin-point targeting, the IDF dealt a heavy blow to Hezbollah. Five to six hundred Hezbollah terrorists were killed and nearly all of their bases, headquarters and tactical infrastructure destroyed.

Some might say, "But didn’t Hezbollah manage to shoot over one hundred rockets into Israel every single day? AND why, during the war, didn't the Israel army/air-force ever manage to stop the Katyusha fire?" Well the answer to that would be "What's so impressive about groups of one or two rag heads pointing and setting off an unguided Katyusha southward into Israel?" In addition to the fact that Hezbollah only needed 1% of their military might in order to shoot Katyushas from their scattered fields and caves, into Israel every day. Plus, the only way to have completely stopped the Katyusha fire would have been to occupy every square inch of South Lebanon, including 20 miles north of the Litani, and to stay there for a few months.

Israel 'BADLY' miscalculated Hezbollah, those past 6 years since it withdrew from Lebanon. Why? Because in 2004, it was estimated that if Israel was to engage in war with Hezbollah, their Katyusha arsenal would result in 100 deaths per day on the Israeli side, but instead only 2 people per day were killed by those rockets. But during the war, Israel came to the realization that 99.9% of all those rocket attacks, mostly result in a lot of noise and broken windows. Prior to the war it was also estimated that if Israel launched a ground invasion, it would result in the deaths of over 70 Israeli soldiers per day, which would have left over 2000 dead on the IDF side at the end of the 34 day conflict. But only 120 soldiers were killed in total, which makes it 3-4 soldiers per day. Also, prior to the war AND during the war, both the ‘poor’ Israeli intelligence and Hezbollah itself even claimed, that the “Mighty Hezbollah Rocket Arsenal” would hit Tel-Aviv, but ‘no rocket ever made it to Tel-Aviv!’ Instead, Hezbollah, tried to send little remote controlled ‘toy’ planes there.

The reason 120 soldiers were killed in the first place, is because what would someone expect if an army deployed 30,000 soldiers squashed together in a small, tight, open space (South Lebanon)! It was amazing that after the war, those soldier didn't all suffer from cluster phobia. But even though Israel deployed so many soldiers in the open, Hezbollah didn't manage to deliver that harsh blow as was estimated before the ground invasion. But after all, Hezbollah didn't fight as courageous as the Egyptians during the Suez Canal invasion, nor as the Syrians during the war in the Golan heights.

It shouldn’t shock the world that Hezbollah bombed a couple Israeli Merkava Tanks, because even the Palestinians have done it in the past too. Blowing up a Merkava Tank is NOT an ‘uncommon’ operation. But at the same time Israel was still advancing and still taking over every village in South Lebanon, bombing every headquarter and outpost, all Hezbollah members were on the run. Even though Israel lost a couple of tanks and didn’t destroy Hezbollah, it still doesn’t mean they (Israel) were defeated militarily. The definition of military defeat, mean: to crush the other side, force it to flee and or be on the run, or force it into surrender. Israel was not defeated militarily!

The same can be said about the Israeli naval ship that was bombed by Hezbollah of the coast of Lebanon, during the first week of the conflict, which caused a tiny bit of damage to the ship and which resulted in the deaths of 4 Israeli naval soldiers. Once again this wasn’t a military defeat, but it was an internal flaw, which meant that; Israel needed a better anti missile naval detector radar, a better anti missile interceptor, and better armor for its ship. But did Hezbollah succeed in sinking the ship and destroying it completely, did they destroy all the Israeli naval ships of the Lebanon Coast, did Israel scurry away with all its ships with its tail in between its legs, or did Israel ask for a cease-fire? NO! Instead, Israel simultaneously the same day, brought the damaged ship back into Israel for repair and sent another ship to the Lebanon Coast to replace it.

During and after the war, Hezbollah regretted starting the war in the first place, by kidnapped the two Israeli soldiers. But Israel on the other hand, didn’t regret going to war with Hezbollah, not even 1%. In fact Israel was ready to go for round two, but Hezbollah, will not dare even consider thinking about it.

During the fighting, many people (both inside and outside Lebanon) finally saw Hezbollah as they really are... a terrorist group. It's strategy had little or no military value. The rockets they launched were intended to cause terror among Israel's citizenry. They were not aimed at Israel military targets.

Israel never managed to destroy Hezbollah. As much as the IDF might have wanted to, the wiping out of Hezbollah was not Israel's goal. Nor could it ever be its goal. It is against the laws of physics to destroy a guerilla/terrorist group (America is learning it the hard way with Al Qaeda) since their operatives and members are always blending in and out of the civilian populations from which they so cowardly operate. In fact NEVER in history has a guerilla group ever been destroyed.

Additionally, rescuing the kidnapped IDF soldiers without a strong intelligence as to exactly where they were hidden, would have been a nearly impossible mission.. assuming they had not already been secreted out of Lebanon into Syria or Iran!

We constantly hear phrases such "Hezbollah emerged stronger," "Hezbollah is now stronger than ever," or "Hezbollah is now seen stronger than before!" There is some truth to that. Since before the Israeli withdrawal of 2000, Hezbollah was seen as more of a small arms, home made explosive, cut and run group, but during this conflict they were able to show off their Iranian made weapons. But they were no match for the Israeli army, whom they bowed down to at the end, by feeling too threatened to attack and provoke ever again.

When the United Nations wanted to impose a 48-hour ceasefire, it was Hezbollah which rushed to accept while Israel had to be pressured. Obviously this was because Israel had the military momentum in her favor. And when the month-long conflict ended, Hezbollah leader, Nasrallah, remained in an underground bunker, no longer enjoying frequent visits to central Beirut, giving daily "Hate Israel" speeches, driving down to his home town of southern Lebanon or enjoying first class flights to Damascus and Tehran. Nasrallah even admitted that had he known that even one percent of this war would have gone as it had, he would have NEVER kidnapped the soldiers and thus started the war!

"We did not think, even 1 percent, that the capture would lead to a war at this time and of this magnitude. You ask me, if I had known on July 11 ... that the operation would lead to such a war, would I do it? I say no, absolutely not.” - Hezbollah Leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, August 27, 2006

In February 2007, there was a skirmish between Israeli troops and the Lebanese army on the Israel/Lebanon border, even though this skirmish that resulted in a shoot out and was unfortunate, the ray of light from all this, was that Israel was confronted and attacked by the Lebanese army and not by Hezbollah. This was one of the first signs that showed that the Lebanese army was doing its job. This was mostly due to the fact that Hezbollah lost its kingdom in Southern Lebanon, and is NOW in constant check by UNIFL, Lebanese Army, and International Troops. At least the Lebanese army was able to stand its ground and take control, unlike BEFORE the August 11 ceasefire! At least Israel finally got its wish, after 40 years, to FINALLY have the Lebanese army in control of the border. Since August 11, 2006 when the Lebanese army began its deployment in Southern Lebanon, not a single Katuysha, let alone a singe bullet was fired toward the Israeli side of the fence by Hezbollah. Unlike after the Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon in May 2000, when Hezbollah would look for any excuse to shoot Katyushas into Israel at least once every three months, but not anymore. No longer will the Israeli citizens of Northern Israel will ever live in fear once again!

People in the Lebanese Government now hate Hezbollah, for bringing destruction to Lebanon. All of Hezbollah's southern Beirut strong posts were destroyed by Israel. Even after the cease fire, Israel stayed in Lebanon for two more months in order to destroy all remaining Hezbollah outposts and bunkers while Hezbollah stood by and did nothing. During the conflict some of the Israel/Lebanon border fence was destroyed and torn down, and Israel was in no rush to fix it, since what's the point? Hezbollah will not want to mess with the IDF again! Even until today some of that fence has not been fixed yet, since the only threat of infiltration, now, is from drug dealers smuggling Hashish across that border.

But what about the Winograd Commission, "which is an independent Israeli government-appointed commission of inquiry, chaired by retired Israeli chief judge Eliyahu Winograd, which is set out to investigate and draw lessons from the failures experienced by Israel during the 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict. Which resulted in a war panel, and even the resignation of high figures such as the Israeli chief of staff Dan Halutz." The reason THIS is currently taking place in Israel, is it goes to show that Israel is a democratic country! If a "Lebanese-Winograd Commission" would be done to Hezbollah; for launching an illogical irresponsible attack on Israel, by kidnapping the two soldiers which led to the war and the destruction of Lebanon. And if a Lebanese Winograd Commission would be done to the Lebanese government; for not controlling its southern border by allowing thuggish armed militias (Hezbollah) to roam free there, allowing illegal weapon shipments via the Lebanese seaport, air port, and Syrian Lebanese border to those armed "non-governmental" militias, and allowing Syria and Iran to meddle in its politics, then Lebanon would crumble to dust! But after all, Lebanon is not a Democracy.

Worst case scenario, the Winograd Commission and some of the failures of this war, prove, that Israel might have been defeated from within, but not militarily.

Furthermore there hasn't been one complaint filed against Hezbollah on behalf of UNIFL and the International Troops since last year's August cease-fire, the only complaint filed, was against the Israeli army for their over flights over Lebanese territory. Speaking about Israeli over flights, even the Israeli army itself, hasn't complained even once, about hostile enemy fire against its planes by Hezbollah. Since Israel withdrew from Lebanon in May 2000, up until the war last summer, they continued their daily over flight and breaches over Lebanese territory, only to find themselves being confronted by Hezbollah anti-aircraft artillery. But after the August cease-fire Israel 'STILL' continued its breaches over Lebanese airspace, but this time, Hezbollah hasn't even shot one pellet at them! Maybe because they are deterred and maybe because UNIFL and the Lebanese army are now in control.

After the war, Hezbollah saw that it could no longer push around and bully Israel, and are therefore now trying to bully the "weak" Lebanese government by; their mass demonstration, camping out in front of the Lebanese Parliament, and political assassinations.

Israel did loose the war last summer, but not in Lebanon, but instead in Gaza. After Gilad Shalit was kidnapped, Israel began a massive military campaign in Gaza, destroying infrastructure, entering towns and cities, going after terrorists, and also trying to stop the Qassam rocket fire. But instead, all it achieved was nothing, and the results of it were, that now, the Palestinians saw even more of a weakness in Israel. After the Israeli military campaign in Lebanon, deterrence was at least achieved, BUT unlike in Gaza, after the massive military campaign took place there (Gaza), the Israeli deterrence was lost for good, and now, the Palestinians are, even, more UNDETERRED from Israel that ever! And therefore have increase their rocket fire into Israel. In addition to the fact that as soon as Israel stopped its military campaign, Hamas and other groups said, "They are now even more determined than ever to kidnap another Israeli Soldier." In April of 2007, they acted on their promise, under the cover of intense rocket fire on the Israel town of Sderot, Hamas terrorists again attempted to infiltrate Israel in order to abduct another soldier, but failed. A month later the militant group Islamic Jihad successfully infiltrated Israel, to also try to kidnap an Israeli soldier, but also failed. At least they weren't afraid to try!

After the war some Arab Governments, including the Palestinians, claimed Hezbollah achieved a divine victory! But hey, lets not forget, that some of those Arab governments and Palestinians which claimed Hezbollah won that "divine victory," are some of those "same" Arab governments who "STILL" until today claim that Syria, Egypt, and the rest of the Arab World won the 1967 War and the 1973 War! That is why after this war Israel lost its deterrence against the Palestinians, Iran, and Syria. BUT gained heavily, its deterrence, against Hezbollah.

Conclusion:

People from around the world, before the August cease-fire, would have never believed nor imagined that the Lebanese army would EVER be in control of its southern border. Nor, people would have never believed Lebanon would EVER be able to establish control over "illegal" arms shipments across its Lebanese/Syrian border, sea ports, and airports, and, well, it finally is!

Hezbollah will most likely never dare kidnap IDF soldiers because they saw the might and strength of the Israeli army, and they now feel threatened. Sure, some Hezbollah sympathizers may throw rocks, wave Hezbollah flags or scream "Allah Akbar" at the Lebanese-Israeli border fence but Hezbollah rank and file are laying low. Very low! And Hezbollah is no longer the imminent threat at that very same border.

Since the 'moment' the two soldiers were kidnapped and even during the war, Israel knew, they would not succeed in getting them back, in addition to the fact that destroying a guerilla group is against the laws of physics! Once people will get those two facts into their heads, then THEY will realize that, the outcomes that were achieved as a result of this conflict, were the best possible "REALISTIC" outcomes that Israel could have achieved.

Obviously this past year, the Northern Israeli border has been the quietest it has ever been over the past 40 years.

By, Gabriel al-Amin
Beirut, Lebanon

Articles and Refernces:

UNIFL: Not 'ONE' complaint filed against Hezbollah since last years cease-fire
(Jerusalem Post 6/14/2007)
http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1181813036239&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull

Again, Israeli gloom is misplaced (First Post - 4/17/2007)
http://www.thefirstpost.co.uk/index.php?menuID=1&subID=688&WT.srch=1

Lebanese army, UNIFIL are keeping Hezbollah in check (Haaretz - 2/21/2007)
http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/828765.html

Hezbollah's 'Victory'? (Washington Post 9/1/2006)
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/08/31/AR2006083101444_pf.html

The Lebanese Winnograd Commission (Thomas Friedman, New York Times 5/10/2007)
http://www.theolympian.com/109/story/104847.html

The Egyptian, 1973 October Victory (Egyptian State Information Service)
http://www.sis.gov.eg/VR/october/english/7.htm

Lebanon’s Army Chief “the Lebanese Army is properly controlling its borders with Syria” (Moqwama.net [Hizbollah’s Official Website])
http://www.moqawama.org/english/_nos.php?filename=20070330111424153

Posted by: Mikey at December 26, 2007 09:54 PM

Here is another Hizbullah article i found interesting which explains the motives behind the July 12 kidnapping of the two Israeli soldiers, which sparked the Israel Lebanon war:

The Murder of Jewish Toddlers!
What HEZBOLLAH is "ALL ABOUT!"

http://www.israelnationalnews.com/Articles/Article.aspx/7487

On July 12, 2006 Lebanese Hezbollah militants crossed the border with Israel in an operation dubbed "Operation Truthful Promise," which was aimed at nabbing Israeli soldiers in exchange for Lebanese prisoners. Hezbollah succeeded in the operation and successfully took hostage two Israeli soldiers, Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser. During the operation, eight Israeli soldiers were killed. This ignited the sequence of events which led to the Israel/Lebanon summer war.

The story goes further back than July of 2006. It really began in April 1979! On Sabbath day, April 22, 1979, Danny and Smadar Haran met up with a monster named Samir Kuntar.

Danny and Smadar were a loving Israeli couple. They had everything they could ever hope for... love, marriage and two precious daughters, Einat, 4 and Yael, 2. That day Smadar was home anticipating Danny's return from work and preparing for the Sabbath. She had just picked up their two toddlers from day care. Danny, on the other hand, was looking forward to nothing more than getting home and spending time with his wife and his two young daughters.
Traditionally, the Sabbath is the most special day of the week, the day the family gets to spend time together and celebrate their bond to Judaism. It was especially important for Danny who, as a young father, had to work extra hard in order to provide for his wife and young children. Little did Smadar know that this would be the last Sabbath she would celebrate with her family because of a man named Samir Kuntar. Around midnight the nightmare began!

(Samir Kuntar; also spelled: Sameer Kuntar, Kantar, Qantar, Kintar, Quntar, Qintar, Cantar)
What's the deal with Samir Kuntar?

Since April 22, 1979 Samir Kuntar has been incarcerated in an Israeli prison. Samir Kuntar, a Druze from the Lebanese mountain village of Aabey , who currently holds the dubious distinction of being the longest held Lebanese prisoner in Israeli jails. Kuntar is currently ONE of THREE Lebanese prisoners still serving time in Israeli jails. Kuntar was convicted and sentenced to a 542 years prison sentence by the state of Israel . Israel even almost tried to pass a bill to have him executed! What did he do? What was his crime? The crime Kuntar committed was one of the most sickest, heinous, barbaric crime ever committed on Israeli soil.

The crime took place on April 22, 1979 when Kuntar led a group of 3 other terrorists, all members of Abu Abbas PLF (Palestinian Liberation Front), infiltrated the Israeli coastal city of Naharya and broke into the Haran family apartment and took Danny Haran and his 4 year old daughter Einat Haran hostage. When Kuntar and his gang broke into the apartment, the wife, Smadar Haran and her 2 year old daughter Yael, were also present in the apartment. Smadar managed to find a crawl space into which she, her younger daughter, 2 year old Yael, and a neighbor all hid. To prevent Yael from crying and giving away their hiding place, Smadar covered the child's mouth with her hand.
Kuntar and his group took Danny and little Einat down to the beach. At the beach Kuntar shot Danny in the back. Danny survived the gun shot but moments later was drowned personally by Kuntar. All this was witnessed by the young daughter. Kuntar forced her to watch her father's murder so that [in Kuntar's words] "his death would be the last sight she would ever see." Kuntar then laid the little toddler down on a rock and smashed her head with the butt of his rifle. She didn’t die right away, so Kuntar beat her with his rifle repeatedly, over and over again (all this done, while she was screaming and crying), to ensure that she was dead.

Meanwhile in the apartment, Smadar's attempt to muffle her daughter's whimpering proved fatal. Yael was accidentally suffocated and died within the hiding space.

And on July 12, 2006, the ONLY reason why Ehud Goldawasser and Eldad Regev were kidnapped by Hezbollah, was to force Israel to release/surrender Samir Kuntar.

Now the dilemma is, should Israel release Samir Kuntar in order to gain the release of Goldwasser and Regev? Unfortunately Kuntar might be freed in the next couple of days in exchange for these two soldiers, or their caskets, since there hasn’t been even one sign of life since their kidnapping on July 12th. For those who didn’t know, Samir Kuntar was the only reason that’s been holding back the release of Goldwasser and Regev, for almost a year and a half.

According to Smadar Haran, her last memories of Danny and Einat, that day, were when they were being led away at gun point by Kuntar. She could hear from her closet space Danny telling Einat, "Don't be scared, my baby, it will be alright" and Einat replied to him in her little voice, "Dad, where is Mommy? I want Mommy." Smadar's last memory of her 2-year-old daughter, Yael, was when her little daughter was taken to the apartment hiding space. Right before Yael had her mouth covered by her mother, she asked her mother "Where is my little pacifier." There was no time to search for the pacifier. Minutes later Smadar covered Yael's mouth to keep her from revealing the hiding space. Smadar soon felt her daughter's tiny tongue licks and lip sucking on the palm of her hand. She didn't know what to make of it at first but hours later was told by doctors and paramedics that the reason Yael was licking her palm while she covered her mouth was because she was gasping for air.

A Sad Gruesome Reality:

After drowning Danny in the sea in front of little Einat, Kuntar, the brave Lebanese freedom fighter, then turned his attention towards the frightened little 4-year old. He took his rifle and then swung it across the little toddler's head, knocking her to the ground. As little Einat was knocked to the ground, she was screaming and crying hysterically "mommy daddy help me," while thrashing her little legs around in the sand. But unfortunately Einat was alone, and no one was there to save her. Kuntar then dragged the little toddler a couple of feet to the closest rock he could find, this was while she was begging him not to hurt her. Kuntar, then laid her head down on a rock, with the intention of crushing it with the butt of his rifle. Einat, instinctively covered her head with her little arms, Kuntar struggled with the little toddler until he finally managed to clear her arms out of the way so that he could aim for her head. Once her arms were out of the way, Kuntar proceeded on beating her on the head over and over with the butt of his rifle, and repeatedly stomping on her little body as hard as he could as well, until blood rushed out of her ears and mouth, and her little cries faded away as she was knocked into unconsciousness. Then, to ensure she was dead, Kuntar continued on beating her over the head, as hard as he could, several more times until her skull was crushed and she was dead.

The nerve of Hezbollah to honor a child killer like Kuntar. The nerve of Hezbollah to kidnap two Israeli soldiers in order to force Israel to release a child murderer from jail! This is what Hezbollah is all about.

The July 12, 2006 abduction was originally named "Operation Freedom Samir Kuntar," by Hezbollah. But days before the kidnapping Hezbollah changed the name of the operation to "Operation Truthful Promise," due to the fact that Nasrallah made a true promise to the family of Samir Kuntar to have him freed from jail.

In September 2000, three Israeli soldiers were kidnapped by Hizbollah, along with an Israeli businessman, Elhanan Tennenbaum. Nasrallah immediately demanded Israel release all its Lebanese prisoners INCLUDING Samir Kuntar. In 2004 Israel was holding a TOTAL of 26 Lebanese prisoners. That same year, 23 out of those 26 prisoners were released, in order to secure the release of those 3 IDF (Israeli Defense Force) soldiers as well and Elhanan Tennenbaum. This prisoner exchange also had a second phase, which involved Hezbollah providing solid evidence on the fate of Ron Arad (the Israeli pilot who went missing in Lebanon in 1986) and in exchange, Israel would release the 24th Lebanese prisoner, Samir Kuntar! Hezbollah failed to deliver the information on Arad, and the deal was off.

In 2006, when Goldwasser and Regev were kidnapped Israel was out of bargain chips, its only choice in order to gain information on the fate of these two soldiers is the release Samir Kuntar. Who even knows if Goldwasser and Regev are alive! Let’s not forget, the four years prior to the "infamous Israel-Hezbollah prisoner exchange of 2004," Israel had no idea on the fate of their soldiers until the day of the exchange. Only on the day of the exchange Israel found out, they would receive 3 caskets instead of 3 soldiers.
It is beyond sickening, a man who beat to death a little toddler is celebrated for his glorious deed. Kuntar has been dubbed by some parts of the Arab world as the "Dean of World Prisoners." Who would imagine? Hezbollah crossing the border into Israel, killing four Israeli soldiers and kidnapping 2 more, going through all this trouble, JUST to free a child killer!

There is another point worth mentioning. Hezbollah has never claimed that Kuntar was innocent or that he may have been framed. They only demand his release as if he were being held unlawfully and that Israel had no right to imprison him.

Kuntar is probably the most hated person by the Israeli public. He is known as the "killer of Nahrya" instead of "terrorist of Nahrya." And to think that this person is being released under the context of threat, extortion, and blackmail! If it wasn’t for kidnapping of soldiers, Kuntar would have continued to serve out his sentence.
Israel has an extensive history of releasing prisoner with blood on their hands, it has been done in the past and most expect that, it would happen again. This time with Kuntar. It is important to keep in mind that prisoners who are in Israeli jails are serving time for something. Israel is not a "gangster" or "lawless" state that imprisons people based solely on a whim. Every prisoner was charged, stood trail, convicted and properly sentenced. They were not kidnapped simply because they were Arabs. Hence, there is no justification in comparing the kidnapped Israeli soldiers to Samir Kuntar.

There is a fine line between a humanitarian release of prisoners or releasing prisoners for the sake of peace AND knuckling under to unadulterated extortion. There is also a huge difference between someone with hatred in his head and he who has blood on his hands! Nobody expects that someone like Kuntar who is released will become Lovers of Israel! But someone and others like Kuntar who have committed murder or collaborated in the planning of that murder should be considered an unacceptable risk. It goes beyond forgiving terrorism. It becomes an abetting in any future terrorism carried out by those released. Israel will viewed as a weak state that can be brought to its knees by extortion.

If Israel was to release Kuntar it would be the biggest thing they ever surrendered! The Sinai Peninsula, Israel gave back under negotiations, the West Bank and Gaza Israel also gave back under negotiations of the Oslo Accords. In 1985 during the famous "Ahmed Jibril Exchange" Israel released 1200 prisoners for the release of 3 IDF soldiers, some of those prisoners who were released had blood on their hands including Kozo Okamoto who killed 22 Israelis. BUT even all those 1200 prisoners put together, cannot compare to the savage murderous act committed by Samir Kuntar. Israel also currently holds 10,000 Palestinian prisoners, some of which have been incarcerated for conspiring, carrying out, and masterminding murderous terrorist attacks (suicide bombings, shootings, etc…), which targeted Jewish civilians in Israel. BUT even all those 10,000 prisoners put together cannot compare to Kuntar.
Kuntar could have shot little Einat or blown her up, but instead he took his loaded gun and just bludgeoned her on the head repeatedly for several minutes until she was dead! Lets not also forget, the fact, that several minutes prior to murdering Einat, Kuntar drowned her father in front of her, and forced her to watch.
Anyone, who reads this article and does not shed a tear, is not a human being.

What kind of country is this to release a child murderer from jail under the context of threat and extortion? If we release Kuntar, we know what message it sends to Hezbollah and other terror groups like Hamas, etc… But what obscene messages does it send to the families of those Israeli murdered, especially Smadar Haran whose daughter was beaten to death by a man who hates Jews. What Kuntar did was not only a terrorist act but should also be considered a criminal act. And what demoralizing message does it send to the Israeli troops and security services who risked their lives in order to capture and arrest the terrorists?

There is no doubt that Goldwasser and Regev need to be unconditionally released from Lebanon, Syria, Iran or from wherever they are now being held. Olmert's "good will gesture" has disaster written all over it. Appeasement didn't work with Hitler and it will not work with Hezbollah. "Negotiations" will not work either for over what exactly is there to negotiate? How far will Israel go to assure its own disappearance?

There will be nothing positive coming out of the release of Kuntar. There is no worst context of releasing prisoners than under the context of threat. But today October 15, 2007 there is chatter within Israel to drop the demand for Ron Arad for the exchange of Kuntar.

The Official Website of Samir Kuntar
http://SamirKuntar.net

Israel moots Kuntar prisoner swap
(AL-JAZEERA 9/17/2006)
http://english.aljazeera.net/News/Archive/Archive?ArchiveID=35918

Free the monster Samir Kuntar
(Haaretz article 09/04/2006)
http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/758531.html

Plot to free terrorist (Kuntar) may have led to fight
(Washington Times 8/8/2006)
http://www.washtimes.com/world/20060807-111009-8857r.htm

Nasrallah says no deal without Samir
(9/12/2006 BBC article "Nasrallah Demands Militant Free")
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/5340364.stm

"Hizballah Wants Israel to Free Child-Killer"
(Cybercast News Service, 7/18/2006)
http://www.cnsnews.com/ViewForeignBureaus.asp?Page=/ForeignBureaus/archive/200607/INT20060718b.html

More than 25 years later, militant still atop Hezbollah's list for swap
(Seattle Times 8/16/2006)
http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/nationworld/2003168928_lebswap02.html?syndication=rss

Why Hezbollah Attacked Israel
(Mens News Daily 8/09/2006)
http://mensnewsdaily.com/2006/08/09/why-hezbollah-attacked-israel

Samir Kuntar to be released very soon
The Jerusalem Post 1/6/2007
http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1167467671390&pagename=JPost/JPArticle/ShowFull

Video of an interview with Smadar Haran on CBC
(RealPlayer required)

Posted by: Mikey at December 26, 2007 09:57 PM

Nima,

I do not think it reasonable to denounce a series of "lesser of two evils" decisions without presenting the alternatives. This is not a matter of speculating on alternative histories, this is a matter of discussing the choices that were made.

I doubt Soviets in 1953 were still so weak that they couldn't invade Iran too fast for the US to assist any resistance meaningfully. Unlike the Soviet involvement in the Greek Civil War, invasion of Iran is a direct land route attack. The US had few tanks that could stop a T-34/85 in 1953, and none in the region. The Soviet Union could throw thousands of effectively unstoppable tanks into any attack of Iran and effectively support them. This is very different from what was faced in Greece. We might as well have shipped arms directly to Moscow as send them to any Iranian resistance.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at December 26, 2007 11:07 PM

American-Israeli military historian Michael Oren told me he thinks the intervention in Iran during the 1950s was the dumbest thing the U.S. has ever done in the Middle East from 1776 until now.

I don't know if I agree with that, but I have to agree it doesn't seem like the right call to me.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at December 26, 2007 11:42 PM

The article makes an interesting point about the difficulty of disarming ignorant, immature young men who suddenly become heroes in their own eyes because they have a gun. This sad dynamic is surely present among the Palestinians as well. How can you ask a pampered "freedom fighter" to go back to digging ditches like his father? This point is seldom commented upon by the "commentators", perhaps because it would be seen as racist, or because it's more interesting to consider complex political and historical factors, then it is depressing human ones.

Posted by: MarkC at December 26, 2007 11:47 PM

Samir Kuntar is a sickening child murderer and I hope they don't release him. He's not even Palestinian, he's a Druze. I've met members of the Kuntar family in Israel. They're a prominent family here, and played a fascinating role in the military and intelligence services in the early days of the state.

Posted by: MarkC at December 26, 2007 11:57 PM

Here is some old-fashioned American Jew-hatred uglier than anything I heard in Lebanon from a supporter of Hezbollah. (Yes, really.)

It rediculous to say that it's "really" worse. It's not possible to be "really" worse than saying that all of the Jews should be killed.

Remember the member of Hezbollah who argued on this web site until you banned him? He wanted to expel Christians from Lebanon. And he went back to his blog and wrote in Arabic something like we have to kill the Jews who defile the Al Asqa mosque. A nicely ambiguous thing (at least according to automatic translation) but I think he meant cleansing Jerusalem of Jews.

I remember talking to one on-line Jihadi on an Israeli board some years back who told Israelis that they all deserved to be tortured to death in front of their families, told an Israeli grandmother that he was glad that her grandson was killed, told them he fantasized about Nigerians with machete's committing genocide in Israel, that he would see Israel nuked.

I'm sorry there's no such thing as hating more than a Jihadi. Clumsy to pretend it's possible. Why did you do that?

Posted by: Josh Scholar at December 27, 2007 04:04 AM

The Lebanese who thinks that Israel would attack if Hezbollah disappeared is an important example.

The Pew polls (here), they asked "Which religion do you think of as the most violent: Christianity Islam Judaism Hinduism None Don't-Know/no-answer"

Lebanon: Christianity=15% Islam=18% Judaism=66% Hinduism=0% none=0% didn't-answer=1%

It's interesting that

Interesting that Christians in Lebanon poll the same as Muslims about Jews: On the question "do you have a favorable or unfavorable view of Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus etc.", some of the crazier Muslim countries had 100% negative view of Jews, and Lebanese Christians do too - 99% of Lebanese say they have a negative impression of Jews.

By the way, on that first question, other countries polled:

Jordan: Christianity=1% Islam=1% Judaism=98% Hinduism=0% none=0% didn't-answer=0%

Pakistan: Christianity=4% Islam=6% Judaism=51% Hinduism=31% none=6% didn't-answer=3%

Morocco: Christianity=5% Islam=3% Judaism=83% Hinduism=5% none=1% didn't-answer=3%

Compare with:

India: Christianity=5% Islam=73% Judaism=2% Hinduism=17% none=1% didn't-answer=2%

France: Christianity=2% Islam=87% Judaism=2% Hinduism=2% none=4% didn't-answer=2%

United States: Christianity=9% Islam=67% Judaism=4% Hinduism=5% none=2% didn't-answer=13%

...

Apparently Muslims, (?and even Christians?) in the middle east believe the Jihadi's invented narrative, more from the Mosque than from the newspaper.

They really all believe that the PLO's attacks from Lebanese territory had nothing to do with Israel occupying Lebanon. They take responsibility for nothing and have no empathy, no ability to see the motivation of the other side.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at December 27, 2007 04:23 AM

Fair play for posting something that covers both sides. The situation is really more complicated than many would let on.

On a side note, the posting of entire articles in the comments is a bit cumbersome. Snippets are one thing, but several thousand words is another. This was done at least a couple of times here and it makes following the comments hard. It would be better to post a small explaination of the article, a small quote, and a link.

I have been in Lebanon on many occassions, but my interactions were mostly with Christians and Sunnis. My opinion is that Hizb'Allah will never be beaten, whether in a military sense or in a political sense. Whether you think the "Summer War" was a victory or a loss for Hizb', it is clear that they can weather any storm the Israelis can unleash.

We must also keep in mind the vast infrastructure that Hizb'allah has built that benefits Shi'a, Christian and Sunni. It is not unusual for Christians in Hizb'Allah areas to vote Hizb'Allah, and they certainly make use of Hizb'Allah backed charities and hospitals. Hizb' makes them available for all Lebanese, regardless of sect.

Of course this all extends far beyond simple matters of sect. If this were not the case Hizb' would not be allied with Maronite Christians following 'Aoun.

I cannot say that Lebanon is my favourite places in the Middle East, it is not, but the people of Lebanon deserve much better than the second rate leaders that they have from all parties.

Posted by: Marc at December 27, 2007 05:25 AM

Benazir Bhutto was killed by a suicide bomber.

http://www.cnn.com/2007/WORLD/asiapcf/12/27/pakistan.sharif/index.html

In itself, this is bad. It is also bad that we are going to have to listen to years of conspiracy theories. It does show that Pakistan is going to need a lot of security for a long time. I really hope that the US doesn't find itself doing the work there, but I don't see anyone else who can.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at December 27, 2007 06:05 AM

"I actually think the British played a larger role in the coup than the US."

Yes. Britain was absolutely broke after WWII, and the prospect of losing billions of capital invested in the Anglo-Iranian oil industry was appalling. It was the same problem as Nasser grabbing the Suez canal.

I suppose the moral is, never invest in another country. For example, investments in mines in Zimbabwe are now under threat.

Note that the British Labour Government of the 1940s nationalised almost all the industry in Britain except the plants belonging to Ford and General Motors. What would have been the US reaction if they had?

Posted by: Don Cox at December 27, 2007 06:08 AM

Josh WB: I'm sorry there's no such thing as hating more than a Jihadi. Clumsy to pretend it's possible. Why did you do that?

Calm down. You're foaming at the mouth.

If the question had been posed differently, i.e. split into two parts, opinion of Jews and opinion of "Zionists," the response would have been much different. Given one choice, they thought "Jewish Israelis." Most Lebanese have never met or had any experience with Jews from other regions.

In America, by contrast, anti-semites focus their hatred on Jews--not Israel--and hate the latter only insamuch as it represents world Jewry.

Posted by: Edgar at December 27, 2007 06:49 AM

It is not clear that Bhutto was actually killed by the blast itself. There are various reports out there.

One says she was shot by a bomber who then killed himself, another says she was shot and killed AFTER the explosion itself as she was getting into her vehicle.

It is too early to know, but the fact that she was killed in what is supposed to be one of the safest cities in Pakistan is a bit worrying.

Posted by: Marc at December 27, 2007 07:00 AM

Josh: It's not possible to be "really" worse than saying that all of the Jews should be killed.

I was referring to people that I actually met in Lebanon. I never once heard anyone in Lebanon say anything that. Some of them must think it, but it's not something you're going to hear over there.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at December 27, 2007 09:09 AM

Benazir Bhutto was killed by a suicide bomber.

Ah, fuck.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at December 27, 2007 09:13 AM

Edgar: If the question had been posed differently, i.e. split into two parts, opinion of Jews and opinion of "Zionists," the response would have been much different. Given one choice, they thought "Jewish Israelis."

I'm sure this is true. Not sure if it means a whole lot, but yes. When I'm in the Middle East and I hear or think of the word "Jew" I think of Israel, but when I'm home, I don't. Proximity to Israel does change the way that question sounds.

Proximity to Israel does not, however, change my opinion of Judaism or Jews.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at December 27, 2007 09:19 AM

While Bhutto appeared to have died from bullet wounds, it was not immediately clear if she was shot or if her wounds were caused by bomb shrapnel.

Yes, a gun is a more precise weapon than a baby with explosives tied to it [yes they tried that!]. Maybe they realize that after the first two failures. Monsters.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at December 27, 2007 12:42 PM

But anyway, you seem to missing my point that Lebanese do not seem to notice that Lebanon was in any way responsible for attacks on Israel that provoked the wars with Israel - it's all the Jews. They don't even notice their responsibility. Same with everyone else in the neighborhood.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at December 27, 2007 12:45 PM

There's a hint of insanity to that.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at December 27, 2007 12:46 PM

And the problem with "really" worse, is that Michael compared one person's anonymous behavior on the internet with other people's polite behavior in person. That's apples to oranges. If he compared Lebanese on-net behavior to westerners' on-net behavior he wouldn't find this disparity.

And if he compared polled attitudes, or the things that politicians say to please the public, he would of course find that Lebanese people are much much more antisemitic than Americans. That should be obvious.

You know, Michel, the one time you ever let someone lie to you and then tried to convince us of the lie was when you let someone try to explain away Sinoria saying that Lebanon will be the last country to make peace with Israel.

Look at those poll numbers again and put 2 and 2 together: 99% of Lebanese people don't like Jews.

Of course he said that, because he's a politician and his public hates Israel.

He meant it exactly the way it sounds, because, as a politician he needs emotion on his side. Period.

If he had ended the state of war with Israel, got rid of the laws making it treason to visit or talk to Israelis etc. then you would have a reason to twist his words to a different meaning... But he hasn't. He won't.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at December 27, 2007 12:54 PM

Josh,

One of Lebanon's biggest problems is that they routinely blame outsiders for most of their problems. (In fairness, though, powerful outside countries really do interfere massively in their affairs, and many Lebanese are aware of this national shortcoming of theirs.)

Even so, most Lebanese know that Hezbollah started the war last year even if they are reluctant to say so explicitly. Even the Hezbollah-supporter I quoted above realizes that, on some level. He did say that Hezbollah can't risk another war and that, therefore, there won't be another. He might even be right about that, but I have my doubts for the reason Andrew Exum stated in the previously quoted excerpt.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at December 27, 2007 12:56 PM

Michael compared one person's anonymous behavior on the internet with other people's polite behavior in person.

The reason I did that was to slap, hard, the anti-semitic leftist goon at that horrible blog. I didn't intend to make any point larger than that.

Lebanese people are much much more antisemitic than Americans. That should be obvious.

In general, yes. Of course. Lebanon is Arabic with all the baggage that entails, and America is probably the least anti-Semitic country in the world other than Israel.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at December 27, 2007 01:00 PM

The reason I did that was to slap, hard, the anti-semitic leftist goon at that horrible blog. I didn't intend to make any point larger than that.

Ok, I accept that that is a good cause.

I reacted because I think that moral equivalence that's based on giving people a distorted sense of perspective is common in the media and completely harmful. And this seemed to hint at that. I'd be horrified if that tactic became one of Michael's mainstays. But I realize that I misinterpreted.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at December 27, 2007 01:15 PM

Even so, most Lebanese know that Hezbollah started the war last year even if they are reluctant to say so explicitly. Even the Hezbollah-supporter I quoted above realizes that, on some level. He did say that Hezbollah can't risk another war and that, therefore, there won't be another...

Yes, that true. But they don't admit that it was the PLO that started the first one - not Israel's lust for water or land.

Otherwise they could admit that they don't need Hezbollah for protection.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at December 27, 2007 01:50 PM

Josh: But they don't admit that it was the PLO that started the first one

Oh, they definitely do. Palestinians are not liked in Lebanon at all. "The cause" gets lip service just like everywhere else, but that's it. Palestinians are almost universally blamed for 1975-1990. (This fits in with blaming foreigners for everything.)

Lebanese aren't happy with the other players in that war either, but they know, or at least believe, that none of it would have happened if it weren't for the PLO. Lebanese were also forced to make peace with all factions to end the conflict -- except the Israelis. A formal peace deal with Israel was not strictly required to end the civil war.

One underreported reason for Lebanese hostility toward Israel is that Israelis are blamed for Lebanon's Palestinian problem, for shoving armed maniacs north.

I'm not excusing anything, just trying to explain it as I see it.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at December 27, 2007 03:04 PM

If you send me to read "Goodbye, Cruel Jews" ... I'll have to mention some issues.
1) I define "racism" pretty broadly, including the idea that if "I don't want my daughter to marry one of them", I'm racist against them. Whoever them is.
2) In fact, I am slightly racist, in an average sense (group averages are different and I want my kids to marry in the above average groups), but very willing to let individuals be judged separately from this mild racism.
3) stronger racists don't allow personal experience with individuals to overcome their pre-judgment of the group
4) Jews have long been, and continue to mostly be, mild to strong "racists" -- not wanting their kids to marry non-Jews.
5) Muslims are even more racist, with less tolerance for Muslims marrying non-Muslims.

So, Jews ARE guilty of racism -- but the Holocaust is unjust excessive punishment. And most groups are about the same racist, with Muslims being even worse.

Oh yeah,
6) "racism" is the biggest sin the PC Left forbids (though Muslim racism is not discussed).

I wish the Israelis could have gotten US support for continued occupation of S. Lebanon until there was an actual Peace Agreement, ending the war that Lebanon started in 1949, 4 years before the oil nationalizing in Iran.

Posted by: Tom Grey at December 27, 2007 07:21 PM

I'm impressed with this post. You're explicitly demonstrating why it is functionally counterproductive to lump groups like this in with Al-Quieda. Call them all terrorist scum or any names you feel like, but Hizballah has a client population that believes its raison d'etre to be legitimate and its methods to be effective, unlike AQ they don't rule their population exclusively by fear, or guys like this wouldn't exist. They're just plain popular, or popular enough, or not without popularity. etc.

Which is why "doves" feel the need to treat the conflict as if it was two population entities at war. Whereas with AQ, it's usually AQ at war with both population entities.

Unlike AQ, reaching an equitable agreement between Israelis and Palestinians really would solve Hizballah. That and/or the collapse of the Syrian government, except that we're the Syrians' friends again, because they're helping us in Iraq. Which is another cost of staying in Iraq: the requirement of working with the Syrians.

I was also impressed with the DKos counterpoint, which allows me to mildly agree, 'yep, those guys are wack jobs', instead of resenting the inevitable implication that said wack jobs are a representative example of the American left, which Mike has courteously already demonstrated to be not accurate.

Posted by: glasnost at December 27, 2007 09:32 PM

Too much elegance.

Border military slap faces and create rage in those who must cross back and forth.

Every person who is unfairly treated tells everyone in his family about the injustice.

Boys throw stones in daytime and make sniper kills at night, sometimes.

One more family becomes enraged and are thus equipped to kill at any opportunity and the hatred grows with a wide spreading poison each day.

When all those wronged people on every side give up the lust for revenge, state their fatigue of conflict and agree to negotiate around the table of reason, only then can there be any hope, not for PEACE, but at least for more calm and a growing practice of fair treatment.

No one can argue the logic, but because so many have been programmed by parents to hate, throw rocks, shoot to kill and much worse, can these young people ever begin to think of talking about a mutual calm and getting back to life without bullets?

How many more years of this mutual unending bashing will it take before some group insists that night clubs and restaurants are more enjoyable if you know they will not explode in your face? = TG

Posted by: TG at December 27, 2007 11:22 PM

Thank God for real world experience. It really helps to eliminate a lot of the crap in print that others think of as fact.

I love to hear people expound about what Muslims/Arabs think based on nothing more than what they have read in books or online. The same goes for Muslims/Arabs that love to talk about Americans, yet have never known one on a personal level.

A lot of the seething and frothing at the mouth going on here against Arabs/Muslims is done by people who have never been to the Middle East, never visited a Muslim country, and are lucky to have known one Arab/Muslim in their entire lives.

This fact does not stop them from expounding on how terrible Arabs/Muslims are, or in some cases, seeming to want to start a new blood libel on them, as in one poster who talked about infants being strapped with explosives.

What nonsense. Real world experience makes ALL THE DIFFERENCE.

In the time I have been reading Michael I even notice the change he has made on how he deals with the subjects at hand. I put a lot of that down to the growing experience he has in the area.

Posted by: Marc at December 28, 2007 06:57 AM

Marc: In the time I have been reading Michael I even notice the change he has made on how he deals with the subjects at hand. I put a lot of that down to the growing experience he has in the area.

Certainly.

However, I do recall reading about a pregnant woman who strapped explosives to herself somewhere, in Palestine I believe, and insurgents who forced a mentally retarded man to blow himself up in Iraq. I don't know of an infant was strapped with a bomb in Pakistan, but some pretty sick stuff really does happen in that part of the world. The quality of character of your average Muslim is irrelevant when we're discussing what the extremists would or wouldn't do.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at December 28, 2007 10:35 AM

The Washington Times (admittedly not the greatest newspaper) does report that a bomb was strapped to a baby during the first assasination attempt against Bhutto.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at December 28, 2007 12:04 PM

I think the Infant-as-Bomb ploy was allegedly used in a previous failed assassination attempt on Bhutto.
I say Allegedly because I have not seen any reported proof of this technique, not because it seems out of character for these terrorists to do such a thing. I have no doubt they would.

Posted by: lindsey at December 28, 2007 12:07 PM

D'oh!!! You beat me to it! :)

Posted by: lindsey at December 28, 2007 12:13 PM

It is interesting that a blog about Hizb. turned to a discussion about Iran. But it is very relevant and true. All the social works excuted to all and every body in Lebanon not withstanding Hizb. is an Iranian paid institution and it will act according to the interests of Iran. All this talk about protecting Lebanon is secondary to the interests of Iran. Syria is involved because it never recognized Lebanon and it is being used as a supply base to the Hizb, like the hunter dog it may get some scraps of meat if and when Iran will decide so, Iran is the boss of the Hizb and right now it is major force in deciding the fate of this poor country, Lebanon. Egypt and KSA can not be very happy about this development, instead of talking about UK and USA involvment in Iran in 1950 one should talk about the invlvment of Iran in Lebanon NOW.
Perhaps Israel won the last war, not many Israelies think so. But some of the missiles used by the Hizb. in this war were modern military missiles that are operated by regular armies. You can not put them in a cave wrapped by grass and expect them to be functional next year. These missiles have very little to do with the resistance and with protecting Lebanon, no sir. Missiles that can hit any spot in Israel can hit the oil port of Iskenerun and much of Cyprus too. The fact that Turkey is thus faced by Iranian missiles from the east and the south can not make the Turkish army jump with joy. In this post-modern world the Turkish army still take seriously small things like flag and borders, as some people in Iraq are being reminded. Make one think about the extreme loud silence when the IDF bombers went over Turkish soil lately on the way to Syria. Talking about the cold war and all that 1950 staff, Iran building such millitary base and missile lanching pads may remind one, in a small not very exact way, about the Cuban crisis. Therefore the innocent hopes about no more war in Labanon are a function of Iranian politics and if I was Lebanese I would be as carefull about such hopes at least as the Israelies are.

Posted by: Hazbani at December 28, 2007 12:33 PM
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