July 23, 2008

Lebanon's Blood Holiday

Lee Smith (who sometimes pens guest columns for this Web site) just published a strong piece in the new British foreign policy magazine Standpoint about Lebanon's celebration of the return of child-killer Samir Kuntar from the prisons of Israel. The whole sordid episode besmirches Lebanon, but, as he demonstrates, plenty of Lebanese are rightly disgusted. More importantly he shows that while Lebanon is in real trouble right now, Hezbollah is doomed in the long run.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at July 23, 2008 9:37 PM
Comments

All those who resort to the constant use of violence are doomed in the long run. One of the things that fell the massive Roman Empire is its constant warmongering. Americans should take note. Hezbollah should take note. Hamas should take note. Al-Qaeda should take note.

Posted by: The Good Democrat Author Profile Page at July 24, 2008 6:55 AM

If the "good" Democrats are equating America with Hamas, Hezbollah and al-Qaeda I don't even want to think about the bad Democrats. That pretty much sums up why I left that party after 35 years.

Posted by: Gary Rosen Author Profile Page at July 24, 2008 7:38 AM

Gary Rosen,

I only equate them because we use violence to "solve" our problems just like they do. Clearly America is a far better country, environment, ideology, and so on. However, in terms of the use of force, we're not that different.

Posted by: The Good Democrat Author Profile Page at July 24, 2008 7:56 AM

Good Democrat;

What would you have done about the Nazis? Let them take over the world in order to avoid using violent force to stop them?

Posted by: Boojum Author Profile Page at July 24, 2008 8:13 AM

Boojum,

Are you stuck in 1939 too? Dude, you're living in 2008 now. Leave 1939 to the past.

Posted by: The Good Democrat Author Profile Page at July 24, 2008 8:46 AM

Leave 1939 to the past.

Actually, I think you should answer that question. Are you a pacifist? Do you really believe force should not be used against Al Qaeda? And do you feel the same way about the yse of force against Nazis?

Most Democrats I know think pacifism is stupid. Are they they "bad" ones?

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at July 24, 2008 10:40 AM

Sigh

It gets depressing to constantly hear the "well, would you have fought the Nazis" bit. Let me first answer Boojum's silly question:

What would you have done about the Nazis?

I would have destroyed them just as we ended up doing.

Now, what does that have to do with my earlier point? I stated:

All those who resort to the constant use of violence are doomed in the long run

Taking on the Nazis wasn't applying a "constant use of violence." But for someone like Boojum who is traumatically stuck on 1939, anything that even comes close to the whiff of "appeasement" and the traumatized psyche screams "Nazi! Nazi! Oh what would you have done about the Nazis!"

Now, Michael, to your questions:

Are you a pacifist?

I'm neither here nor there.

Do you really believe force should not be used against Al Qaeda?

It depends on the kind of force you are talking about. If you mistakenly drop bombs on wedding parties (as we've done on several occasions now in Afghanistan) and kill innocent civilians, you've just given Al-Qaeda a huge prize. Al-Qaeda is our current enemy and they deserve to be hunted down to the last man. But alas, that's not what we did by going into Iraq. By going into a wholly different place, we diverted not only our resources, but everybody's attention away from taking on the enemy of the free world. Everybody lost their attention on our real enemy, allowing them a chance to regroup. Full force should have been applied right from the start until our enemy existed no more.

However, now that is no longer possible. Al-Qaeda has regrouped in Pakistan, a nation we cannot invade, a nation we cannot undermine because they have nuclear weapons. Now we have to be more circumspect and apply the harder to use, but more effective in the long run, soft power. We have to convince the peoples of those regions that Al-Qaeda is their enemy and we are not. Military force is of no use in this battlefield. This is a battlefield of ideologies. Force should be applied, but very carefully.

And do you feel the same way about the use of force against Nazis?

Just have to add here (though I answered earlier), that Al-Qaeda and Nazi Germany have little at all in common. Nazi Germany was the most powerful nation on the planet in 1939. Al-Qaeda's strength (even in 2001) was minimal. Their only real capability to do damage is in using our own technology against us. If not for our technology, what exactly do they have that could match us strength for strength? Anything?

They have NO POWER over us. They have no influence over us. They are utterly weak. They cannot even control a state, even the weakest state in the world. They are abysmal. They overplay their hands and lose the support of people who would normally support them. Why the hell would ANYONE even consider comparing Al-Qaeda to Nazi Germany? the stupidity!

Posted by: The Good Democrat Author Profile Page at July 24, 2008 12:13 PM

Good Democrat,

Obviously Al Qaeda can't compete with Nazi Germany in the strength and power department. The Nazis were raised as an enemy that obviously (for most people) required the use of force to dispatch. Gary Rosen was just trying to figure out how far you were willing to follow your line of reasoning. Thanks for answering and clarifying.

I agree, of course, that a "constant" use of force to solve problems is idiotic. I can list more than a dozen hostile countries and groups off the top of my head that we aren't using force against now. So can you.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at July 24, 2008 12:30 PM

Michael,

My point is that since World War II, how many years have gone by where we, America, have NOT been in some kind of military conflict with another nation? Can you number them? That's why I place America on that list. We rely on violence far too often, far more than is actually needed, to solve our conflicts.

Posted by: The Good Democrat Author Profile Page at July 24, 2008 12:37 PM

We rely on violence far too often, far more than is actually needed, to solve our conflicts.

Which past wars, other than Vietnam, do you wish we didn't fight? Should we have stood by and let South Korea, Kuwait, and Kosovo be massacred? Is that your idea of a better world?

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at July 24, 2008 12:42 PM

Michael,

I cannot speak for what would have happened if we didn't get involved in this or that place. It would be mere speculation. The problem (as highlighted by Boojum so eloquently) is that when it comes to speculation over a particular conflict, too many cannot get past the exception to the rule. Nazi Germany was an exception to the rule of warfare. This rancid 1939 speculation attempts to maintain a particular balance of some kind, as if the world would collapse if we don't get involved. The world, does actually move on. Civilization doesn't collapse. In fact, as with the example of the Roman Empire, civilization collapsed because of too much military involvement with neighboring powers, and not the lack thereof!

Take the instance of the 2006 Israel-Lebanon War. Did Israel really need to respond with such force over the bold move by Hezbollah? Didn't Israel just recently trade bodies for bodies? Why could they not have done that in July (or later that year) of 2006 and avoided the deaths of over 1000 on both sides? What exactly was the point? Israel lost a lot of its aura of near invincibility because of it. Was it worth it for them? No, not really. Was it not better to have done as they had previously done with such kidnappings and negotiate releases? Who knows, they may have gotten those poor soldiers back alive!

The point is that the current mindset of too many Americans, Israelis, Lebanese, Iraqis, Saudis, and on and on, is wrong and in the end counterproductive. We don't need to resort to violence to get our way. There are times when violence is justified. But for the most part, there are better ways to get what you want out of others.

Posted by: The Good Democrat Author Profile Page at July 24, 2008 1:13 PM

Actually by bringing up the example of Rome The Good Democrat essentially proves just the opposite of what he intended. Any country that can create and then sustain its conquests for over 500 years and maintiain local, Latium and the Italian peninsulla, borders for over 800 years must have been doing something right. And it had a lot do to with the 25-35 standing legions spread out all over the Roman world fighting campaigns every spring. Or in the case of the Greeks burning a city to the ground every 5 years because the Greeks had longer attention spans then say the Dalmations or Gauls.

But compared to the Soviet Union in its short existence the US comes across as a bunch of pansies. First the Revolution, then a Civil War, then the so-called Polar Bear Expedition against the Allies in the Archangel area. A war in Siberia against Japan in 1918, an invasion of Georgia in 1921 as well as the first war against Finland in 1921. A border war against Nationalist China in 1929 and then another one forty years later in 1969. And another war against Finland in 1939. And then after World War II a reinvasion of Hungary in 1956, a reinvasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968, the War of Attrition in the ME from 1967-1970.

And one war that was so obscure at the time that I had forgotten about it was the sending of Soviet forces to aid Ethiopia against Somalia in 1977. Plus innumerable butcheries in Chechnya continuing till this day past the Soviets absolute debacle in Afghanistan. Hindisght may prove the province of missed opportunities but to assume that the US has always relied first on military prowess only since the last world war is to simply ignore all the small wars and how many more wars the Soviets engaged. Odd but the US was generally successful and the Soviets were generally unsuccesful for pursuing the same strategy.

The question the well-meaning often ask is what has war solved? And the answer is that through the centuries war has solved everything.

Posted by: Pat Patterson Author Profile Page at July 24, 2008 1:46 PM

The good democrat is back pedaling pretty fast!

All those who resort to the constant use of violence are doomed in the long run

Yes, I suppose one could say that is what happened to Europe in the 19th and 20th centuries. Unfortunately, Europeans never stopped resorting to violence to solve their problems even after they fell from prominence on the world stage. If Russia should decide to make their resurgence militarily and not just economically, do you feel that the US should stay out of it next time, GD? Or should we participate in Cold War II and defend our allies (who seem to loathe us)? You seem to object to the US engaging the USSR the first time around...

Posted by: programmmer_craig Author Profile Page at July 24, 2008 2:02 PM

Good Democrat;

The organized slaughter in Darfur has been ongoing for over five years. Harsh language has not worked Do you think the situation calls for violent intervention or would you use the logic of they’re-not-Nazis–so-the-world-should-just-move-on?

Israel has been taking rockets from south Lebanon for quite some time before the kidnapping. Since the Lebanese government did nothing about it, the Israelis were forced to respond. No country would reasonably tolerate a constant barrage of rockets.

Considering that there are over 190 countries in the world and probably over a dozen hotspots in any given year, the US has been quite restrained in its involvement.

Posted by: Boojum Author Profile Page at July 24, 2008 2:06 PM

Good Democrat-

We could not, and cannot under any circumtances clear Afghanistan of Al Queda until Pakistan takes on AQ in the Aghani border, or allows us to do it. In Afghanistan, the US military is like a dog tied to a chain, and Pakistan is the master. AQ has measured the chain and knows how far they have to go to be out of our reach. Furthermore, Pakistan controls our "food and water bowl" in Afghanistan, with something like 3/4 of our supplies to Afghanistan coming through Pakistan. Afghanistan is not a place to use our "full force."

On the other hand, Iraq is a much better field of battle for America. Al Queda decided to fight us there, repeatedly calling Iraq the most important battle. And they lost, badly.

We can't kill the AQ snake because it is in its hole in the wilds of Pakistan. What we can do is try to draw it out and kill whatever is exposed. Iraq was great for doing that.

Posted by: MartyH Author Profile Page at July 24, 2008 2:08 PM

Just a sideline nitpick. The Nazis are often brought up in discussions like this about the morality of use of force, and the implication is that historically force was used against the Nazis because they were an evil political force in the world that needed to be crushed.

That fits in well with our neatly structured moral model of history, but it is largely inaccurate. Germany was attacked because of a network of treaty obligations that triggered a response, and was specifically attacked by the US only after Germany declared war on them.

Had Hitler just spent his time merrily murdering his own citizens within his own evil borders, it's likely he would have died of old age.

Just wanted to mention that. Carry on.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood Author Profile Page at July 24, 2008 3:51 PM

DPU: Had Hitler just spent his time merrily murdering his own citizens within his own evil borders, it's likely he would have died of old age.

Almost certainly.

Invading other countries and exporting your own genocide is still worse, though. Dictators like that need to be violently put down. Hitler is often brought up in convesations like this to remind certain people why pacifism is stupid and that it's a good idea to step away from it at least a little once in a while. It just isn't true that war never solves any problems.

My friend Sean (who went to the Balkans with me) was in Ireland a few years ago. He got into a friendly argument with a German guy in a bar who said "War never solved any problems." Sean said "It solved you twice." The German guy had to admit Sean had a point.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at July 24, 2008 4:01 PM

Sean said "It solved you twice."

I can see it solving something once (WWII). But the first time? It didn't solve a damn thing as far as I can tell.

Hitler is often brought up in convesations like this to remind certain people why pacifism is stupid and that it's a good idea to step away from it at least a little once in a while. It just isn't true that war never solves any problems.

I think that North Americans are quicker to think that way then those who have had bombs falling on them or who have lost friends and family members to the meat grinder. War should be a very last resort.

The fact that I regularly see pacifists being beaten on because they express that opinion speaks pretty loudly to the love of war in many.

Eventually, when most if not all nations are armed with substantial weapons, we'll see an end to war, one way or the other. As Orwell put it in Homage to Catalonia, "It is sometimes a comfort to me to think that the aeroplane is changing the conditions of warfare. In the next great war, we may see that sight unprecedented in all history, a jingo with a bullet-hole in him."

In the meantime, I'd ask that pacifists be respected for at least their idealism. Hating war is certainly a more moral standpoint than always picking it as a first solution.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood Author Profile Page at July 24, 2008 4:55 PM

Oops. To head off a criticism of the above, my reference to the meat grinder above meant civilians killed by war, not soldiers. North American nations contributed heavily in the way of lives to the war effort.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood Author Profile Page at July 24, 2008 5:00 PM

DPU: Hating war is certainly a more moral standpoint than always picking it as a first solution.

Obviously. But hating war does not equal pacifism. And no one I know, not even Hezbollah, picks war as a first solution.

And while we're quoting the always quotable George Orwell, here's another.

All through the critical years many left-wingers were chipping away at English morale, trying to spread an outlook that was sometimes squashily pacifist, sometimes violently pro-Russian, but always anti-British. It is questionable how much effect this had, but it certainly had some. If the English people suffered for several years a real weakening of morale, so that the Fascist nations judged that they were ‘decadent’ and that it was safe to plunge into war, the intellectual sabotage from the Left was partly responsible.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at July 24, 2008 5:06 PM

If the English people suffered for several years a real weakening of morale, so that the Fascist nations judged that they were ‘decadent’ and that it was safe to plunge into war, the intellectual sabotage from the Left was partly responsible.

Not to dump too much on George, but one of the favorite occupations of the left is thinking they are much more influential than they really are. Another is attacking other leftists. Orwell was certainly not immune from those ailments.

Whatever small influence the left had on a lack of military action against Franco, Mussolini, and Hitler for political reasons, I'm pretty sure that the public adulation of those Fascists from influential right-wingers like Churchill had a much greater effect.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood Author Profile Page at July 24, 2008 6:16 PM

And no one I know, not even Hezbollah, picks war as a first solution.

What would be a realistic non-military solution to the Syrian issue?

I've seen hundreds of comments here that advocate invasion or assassination. When suggestions are made that negotiations or sanctions might be an option, they are roundly condemned by the usual suspects as being soft on dictatorship.

I think war is the automatic first choice of many of your readership.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood Author Profile Page at July 24, 2008 6:23 PM

DPU: I think war is the automatic first choice of many of your readership.

With Hezbollah and the Syrians? You say that as if nothing else has ever been tried.

Does anyone around here want war with North Korea or Russia? How about Pakistan? China? Don't forget France and Canada. (ducking)

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at July 24, 2008 6:33 PM

With Hezbollah and the Syrians? You say that as if nothing else has ever been tried.

One could have said that same thing to those advocating negotiations with Red China in 1970.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood Author Profile Page at July 24, 2008 6:46 PM

DPU,

One could have said that same thing to those advocating negotiations with Red China in 1970.

I don't really see the similarities. And we fought Red China to a bitter stalemate in Korea during the 1950s. The negotiations that ended the Korean War were successful, and were honored by both sides. To this day. There is no similar history of successful negotiations with Lebanon/Syria/Iran. There is instead a long history of deception and betrayal. At this point in time, somebody would have to be the world's biggest fool to think any agreement between the US and those 3 countries was worth the paper it was written on.

Posted by: programmmer_craig Author Profile Page at July 24, 2008 7:28 PM

At this point in time, somebody would have to be the world's biggest fool to think any agreement between the US and those 3 countries was worth the paper it was written on.

Then I take it you think military action is warranted?

Posted by: double-plus-ungood Author Profile Page at July 24, 2008 7:39 PM

One could have said that same thing to those advocating negotiations with Red China in 1970.
If one was interested in ducking the fact that other options had been tried wrt Hezbollah and Syria, and therefore one's claim that war was somebody's "first choice" was asinine, yes, one could say that.

Posted by: bgates Author Profile Page at July 24, 2008 7:47 PM

If one was interested in ducking the fact that other options had been tried wrt Hezbollah and Syria...

You think other options had not been tried with China in 1970?

Posted by: double-plus-ungood Author Profile Page at July 24, 2008 8:22 PM

DPU,

I'm sure it's possible to negotiate with Syria and Iran (I don't mention Hizballah specifically because they're irrelevant if we can talk to their handlers directly).

Both countries are probably very eager to negotiate, in fact. Given the power balance the U.S. obviously has a lot of leverage and could squeeze a few concessions out of them.

The problem is that giving them all (or even part) of what they want will harm our interests. Both countries want the U.S. to stop backing Israel, let them have a freer rein in Lebanon, and arguably, to get out of Iraq.

Maybe less than that. Perhaps Syria and Iran could be convinced to stop supporting Hizballah and Iraqi insurgents if the U.S. lifted all sanctions, normalized relations, and put in a good word for them at the UN once in awhile. Who knows.

That's not the point. There are a lot of things we can do for short-term gain that go against our values, and this is one of them.

I'm against normalizing relations with such countries for the same reason I think the government shouldn't legalize and control the sex trade. Yes, it would offer a practical solution to a series of problems, but just as I'm loath to see the government get involved in pimping, I'm against the idea of our leaders getting friendly with Arab dictators.

Posted by: Edgar Author Profile Page at July 24, 2008 9:53 PM

Then I take it you think military action is warranted?

Nope, DPU. I don't think US military action is warranted in regards to Syria or Lebanon. And not YET with Iran, either.

I take it you live in a world where nothing exists but diplomacy or war?

Posted by: programmmer_craig Author Profile Page at July 24, 2008 10:54 PM

I don't think US military action is warranted in regards to Syria or Lebanon.

But no talking to them either?

What do you suggest?

Posted by: double-plus-ungood Author Profile Page at July 25, 2008 9:35 AM

Edgar: Yes, it would offer a practical solution to a series of problems, but just as I'm loath to see the government get involved in pimping, I'm against the idea of our leaders getting friendly with Arab dictators.

Hmm. Couple of points. I assume that you mean dictators in general, not just Arab ones. Especially as we're also talking about Iran here. The other is that dialog does not necessarily imply "getting friendly".

Posted by: double-plus-ungood Author Profile Page at July 25, 2008 12:20 PM

But no talking to them either?

What do you suggest?

I don't suggest anything, DPU. What's wrong with one nation adopting a hostile (or just unfriendly) stance towards another, without taking any military action? If you have a jackass neighbor, are you over there every day ringing his doorbell to try to figure out why you don't get along with him? Not me.

Posted by: programmmer_craig Author Profile Page at July 25, 2008 12:28 PM

I don't suggest anything, DPU.

The "do nothing" approach. I have to admit, I hadn't thought of that one.

If you have a jackass neighbor, are you over there every day ringing his doorbell to try to figure out why you don't get along with him?

If a jackass neighbor was making moves that indicated that he was trying to dominate the oil-rich Middle East and there was a possibilit that he could do it, I might want to give him a call and have a chat.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood Author Profile Page at July 25, 2008 12:51 PM

The "do nothing" approach. I have to admit, I hadn't thought of that one.

Why not? You really do live in a world where there is nothing but active diplomacy or war, don't you? lol. What is that world called? Utopia?

If a jackass neighbor was making moves that indicated that he was trying to dominate the oil-rich Middle East and there was a possibilit that he could do it, I might want to give him a call and have a chat.

It was a general statement about personal attitudes, DPU. If my jackass neighbor decided to pirate my cable TV, my wireless DSL and tap into my water lines, I'd call the cops and have him arrested. If I caught him sneaking into my house to steal my stuff, I'd shoot him. But as long as he's just talking trash about me with the other people in the neighborhood, giving me evil looks, playing his music too loud, etc... I'd do my best to pretend he doesn't exist. And explain to the other neighbors what is going on with him.

You are different. You'd be on his doorstep every day, trying to pressure him into doing things your way... which would undoubtedly make things worse. Actually, you are probably HIS jackass neighbor, rather than vice versa :P

Posted by: programmmer_craig Author Profile Page at July 25, 2008 1:22 PM

DPU: I assume that you mean dictators in general, not just Arab ones.

Well, you assumed wrong. Talking to non-Arab dictators is just fine in my books.

Dialog does not necessarily imply "getting friendly".

Yeah, you do have a point. I will concede that I'd take no issue with the U.S. initiating an unfriendly dialog, peppered with insults and threats, and accompanied by menacing body language, with the leaders of Syria and Iran.

Posted by: Edgar Author Profile Page at July 25, 2008 1:41 PM

programmer_craig: As long as he's just talking trash about me with the other people in the neighborhood, giving me evil looks, playing his music too loud, etc... I'd do my best to pretend he doesn't exist.

Craig, it's unbelievable that you have the chutzpah to accuse me of "talking trash" when you've just slandered me online.

For the record, I do not ever give you "evil looks." When I'm getting home from work and see you in your front yard I'm usually frowning, but it has nothing to do with you, personally. I'm just not happy, ok? Is it that hard to accept?

Me, I'm tired of paranoid neighbors. Christ, the last thing I need is Craig scaling my wall at night with a dagger and an amulet around his neck because I gave him "the evil eye."

Sheesh.

Posted by: Edgar Author Profile Page at July 25, 2008 1:54 PM

Me, I'm tired of paranoid neighbors. Christ, the last thing I need is Craig scaling my wall at night with a dagger and an amulet around his neck because I gave him "the evil eye."

I'll be around back while DPU is distracting you at the front door :P

Posted by: programmmer_craig Author Profile Page at July 25, 2008 4:14 PM

Christ, the last thing I need is Craig scaling my wall at night with a dagger and an amulet around his neck because I gave him "the evil eye."

Don't worry. Generally speaking, programmers can barely scale a sofa, much less a wall. You're quite safe.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood Author Profile Page at July 25, 2008 5:59 PM

Don't worry. Generally speaking, programmers can barely scale a sofa, much less a wall. You're quite safe.

That's quite true! But generally speaking, most programmers didn't spend 6 years as infantrymen in the USMC, either. Gotta watch those generalities, DPU... they will be your undoing :)

Posted by: programmmer_craig Author Profile Page at July 25, 2008 6:45 PM

That's why I said it was a generalization.

I'm guessing C++?

Posted by: double-plus-ungood Author Profile Page at July 25, 2008 8:23 PM

Good guess! Does it matter, though? :)

Posted by: programmmer_craig Author Profile Page at July 25, 2008 8:59 PM

Does it matter, though?

Yup. I have a theory about personality types and their preferred languages. Generalizations, of course.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood Author Profile Page at July 25, 2008 10:22 PM

Yup. I have a theory about personality types and their preferred languages. Generalizations, of course.

Of course! What is your preferred language, DPU?

I wouldn't say that I have one, myself. I've been working in software development since about 1990 and I just use whatever is best for the job. Didn't really get into C++ until I started doing Windows application programming.

Posted by: programmmer_craig Author Profile Page at July 25, 2008 10:46 PM

Currently doing Eclipse RCP development in Java, but never fear, spent about fifteen years in C++, and OO Pascal for some time before that.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood Author Profile Page at July 26, 2008 7:46 AM

DPU,

I can't believe I'm actually praising someone in an Internet forum, but from what I've seen, DPU, you're a pretty solid writer. Ever considered technical writing in your field?

Posted by: Edgar Author Profile Page at July 26, 2008 1:05 PM

Thank you Edgar, that's nice of you. I did two years as a technical writer. I've also been a technical illustrator, a spec writer, and a QA tester.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood Author Profile Page at July 27, 2008 11:40 AM
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