June 8, 2009

Hezbollah Concedes Defeat

Hezbollah lost the election in Lebanon, and its Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah conceded defeat.

These guys drank their own Kool-Aid recently. They were so certain they were going to win that they even convinced some "March 14" analysts, who then convinced me. I could never figure out how Hezbollah and its allies supposedly increased their support while starting a war with Israel, attacking Beirut, and lining up with the Syrians and Iranians. And as it turned out, they didn't.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at June 8, 2009 10:36 PM
Comments

1. People like to be with a winner and the strongest. Hizballah is strong and "did not lose" to Israel in 2006.
2. Shiite are more influenced by religious edict "fatwa" than other sects.
3. Shiite outnumber others for people living in Lebanon.

The only thing I hope for is that people will look for a peaceful future with stability and prosperity rather than war and chaos!

Posted by: GK Author Profile Page at June 8, 2009 11:54 PM

I don't understand how anybody, least of all Shiites in Lebanon could believe that Hizbullah did not lose to Israel in 2006.

Didn't their attack on Israel manage to get half of Lebanon destroyed? Is that a huge success? Does that really count as a victory in the Arab world these days?

"Hey, look at us! We managed to get half our country destroyed by the Jews. Aren't you impressed yet?"

To be honest, I can get a better result for Lebanon if I simply eat a chicken sandwich.

The only difficult part in getting Israel to destroy your stuff lies in getting Israel to react to attacks. It takes a few years, but anybody can do it.

Posted by: Leauki Author Profile Page at June 9, 2009 4:46 AM

What happens next?

Was surprised (quite pleasantly) when Hez did not win. Disappointed that so many in the Media are portraying this as proof positive that BHO is influencing the ME with his, well, Power of Positive Thought. And his Cairo speech.

Would like to think that the Lebanese voted in their own best interest even, or perhaps especially, knowing that their path will be a challenging one.

Interesting times.

Posted by: Ron Snyder Author Profile Page at June 9, 2009 4:47 AM

This is a bittersweet election victory.

It is good, because it is fundamentally good that the people of Lebanon choose democracy and the west over Islamism and the Iranian axis.

However, it also leaves the situation in the sticky mess that it has been for the last several years. The March 14th coalition continues to provide political cover for Hizballah (de facto -- without really having much say in the matter), and it continues to make Hizballah harder to deal with.

Leauki:
It fits into their mentality that Israel is an aggressive entity. They consider the destruction of half of Lebanon as par for the course when dealing with Israel (sadly). Therefore, the fact that Hizballah survived is the real "surprise".

I have heard a Palestinian professor at my school argue that the Israeli's provoked Hamas into launching the rockets in the lead up to Cast Lead so that Israel could have an excuse to invade. I asked him why it could not be the other way around, Hamas provoking Israel into attacking for the propaganda value. His response was that my scenario was impossible for "one simple reason"... because nobody in the world at the time could have known that Israel would NOT utterly destroy Hamas.

That is the predominant Arab view... Israel is a goliath that is unstoppable and completely crushes its opponents. Those who are not crushed, must be impressively strong, resilient, and heroic.

Ron Snyder:
I agree 100%. Makes me sick how much the media has been fawning over that speech and has tried to connect it to the results of these elections.

Posted by: jooliz Author Profile Page at June 9, 2009 6:30 AM

"That is the predominant Arab view...Israel is a goliath that is unstoppable and completely crushes its opponents. Those who are not crushed, must be impressively strong, resilient, and heroic."

It strikes me that Arab society doesn't work via laws but rather a balance of brutality. Like a rough public elementary school playground, you make friends for mutual protection against your enemies, and what you are permitted to do depends on your strength and the strength of your buddies vs. your enemies, whom you would utterly crush if you could. Any "peace" that exists depends on time-established customs, not principles.

The blame for all this, of course, lies with the adults, who could intervene at any time if they took the trouble to do so. Unless things get really rowdy teachers generally don't do that - recess is considered part of a child's education. As the kids grow up, they prefer the adult world of rules and laws to fists.

But in much of the Arab world there is rule-by-law, not rule-of-law; the kids grow up to become bullies or boot-lickers. Israel's existence is a pride-damaging rebuke to Arab society, and its military interventions are scarcely comprehensible as they leave the bullies in power and are seen as an outrage because more force is used than the bullies employ - save on rare and little-talked of occasions like leveling a city (Hama) or cleansing territory of one's opponents.

We haven't seen any solution to this twisted state of mind short of at least a temporary colonization, as seen in Iraq. And even there, the effects may be temporary because the fruits of corruption are so much greater to public officials than the rule of law.

And this form of corruption exists throughout the Muslim world, from the top to the bottom. Think of all those utility bills in Lebanon that never get paid, or the illegal electricity taps. Do you really think the beneficiaries want to see a total return to the rule of law?

Posted by: Solomon2 Author Profile Page at June 9, 2009 7:37 AM

If there is one thing that I find striking about the Arab mentality is the selectivity of the outrage. Israel kills a thousand Palestinians and that's an outrage but the upwards of 300,000 victims in Saddam's mass graves or the tens of thousands slaughtered in Hama barely register.

I wonder if Arabs killed by other Arabs are not as dead as those killed by non-Arabs.

Posted by: Boojum Author Profile Page at June 9, 2009 10:28 AM

Boojum, I don't agree. Many non Iraqi Sunni Arabs were viscerally angry about Iranian backed Shia militias killing Sunni Arabs. These same non Iraqi Sunni Arabs condoned or quietly supported Saddam mass murdering hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians.

There was also a lot of anger at the Iraqi Army and Iraqi Police for killing the "wrong" type of people.

Among Palestinian Hamas supporters, there is a lot of anger against Fatah for killing Hamas supporters.

To the Lebonese election results:

I don't see why Harriri's victory is such good news. Many say he is linked to the Saudis. I don't think the Saudis are America's friends, let alone Israel's friend.

Unfortunately, Amal and Hezbollah were running together in the last election.

Would it be possible for Amal to win at the expense of Hezbollah and Harriri? I think a strategic relationship between America and Amal is possible.

Posted by: anand Author Profile Page at June 9, 2009 2:46 PM

Would it be possible for Amal to win at the expense of Hezbollah and Harriri?

I doubt it, anand. Check the last paragraph of page 43, here:

http://books.google.com/books?id=7JqPpyzhMcwC&printsec=frontcover#PPA43,M1

Hezbollah and Amal already had it out (violently) over their differences, and Amal lost. Today, Amal isn't even an armed militia while Hezbollah is, so I would think that for the table's to be turned at this late date is quite unlikely. Hezbollah is far more powerful in Lebanon now than it was then, and Amal much weaker.

I think a strategic relationship between America and Amal is possible.

Possibly. But Amal's desire to have "strategic relationships" with the West are what caused the conflict between Amal and Hezbollah back in the 1980s. I doubt anyone is looking for a repeat performance.

Why are you working so hard at trying to get Lebanese Shia onboard with the US, anand? They made their choices, and the US responded with American choices. Even if Lebanon's Shia reconsidered, what would cause the US to? The US has nothing at stake in Lebanon. And the reason the US has nothing at stake in Lebanon, is Lebanese Shia caused us to lose all our stakes in Lebanon. Now you would have us put something at risk again, on behalf of Lebanese Shia? I can't see any way US policy could ever end up at that place.

Posted by: programmmer_craig Author Profile Page at June 9, 2009 5:07 PM

Anand already has his mind made up.

Posted by: Ron Snyder Author Profile Page at June 9, 2009 6:17 PM

"Hizballah..."did not lose" to Israel in 2006." And Desert Storm did not "defeat" Saddam; from his perspective, left standing = no "loss". Perception creates "reality".

"BHO is influencing the ME". Like living with Hezbollah isn't an education Harvard University couldn't provide? I'd feel insulted if I were Lebanese.

Posted by: Paul S. Author Profile Page at June 9, 2009 9:47 PM

Anand,
I think we'd both agree that Arab outrage to Arab-on-Arab violence isn't on par with that of violence from non-Arabs. Why do you think that is? And perhaps an even better question, why do you think that's the case with the rest of the world?

To Solomon2
The law-of-rule phenomena you’re discussing isn't an Arab phenomena, its a human phenomena, that’s dominated most of history, including much of the world the now; perhaps a difference with these other areas is the presnce of a culture which isn’t entirely focused on immediate material interest of the individual, but which still perpetuates and legitimizes the law-of-rule phenomena; I think something in the culture may see much of the current situation, by some high-order of implication, as just.
Maybe one the reason we in the Western world enjoy the rule-of-law is the somewhat serendipitous correlation between historical timing and the cultural permutations along the development of a culture perpetuating our rule-of-law-ness. Maybe there’s some way to edge forward a similar correlation in the Arab world. I don’t have a particular proposal in mind.
Besides reading Focult or social (read quasi-hippie) theorist which may prove a personal anathema to some, there are some pretty interesting ideas/examples of the way that the same law-of-rule phenomena are still present in the power structures of our society
On that note, check out the show Brotherhood on Showtime... I think it captures some of these concepts

Posted by: A-Squared Author Profile Page at June 9, 2009 10:26 PM

As I see it, at ground level, strength gets respected, weakness gets exploited. And the present and the future live with the consequences. The rest seems like bullshit I heard too often during too many years in academia. Talk is the world's cheapest commodity, particularly when it masquerades as action.

Posted by: Paul S. Author Profile Page at June 9, 2009 11:21 PM

"I wonder if Arabs killed by other Arabs are not as dead as those killed by non-Arabs."

Boojum, for Arabs to get as outraged about Arabs killed by other Arabs, they would have to engage in some reflection and self-criticism. Most of them would rather be bitten by a scorpion. It is much more comforting to blame everything on da Joooos.

Just look at anand.

Posted by: Gary Rosen Author Profile Page at June 10, 2009 1:00 AM

This was an intelligent and well reasoned thread....

...until Gary Rosen popped up with his usual near racist, one dimensional parody of an analysis -- and his curious, patented mis-spelling of the word "Jews."

Metaphorically speaking he's like a skilled limbo dancer: when it comes to intellectual debate, you can always rely on Mr. Rosen to lower the bar.

Posted by: Microraptor Author Profile Page at June 10, 2009 4:26 AM

I don't see why Harriri's victory is such good news. Many say he is linked to the Saudis. I don't think the Saudis are America's friends, let alone Israel's friend

The Saudis are America's enemies. They're Israel's enemies. Their support of sunni terrorist militias worldwide and their export of Wahhabism, a violent, extremist ideology makes them enemies of most of the people on the planet.

However, their actions in Lebanon haven't been entirely malign. Yes, their al Qaeda minions have attacked and murdered Lebanese in Tripoli and they have targeted the Lebanese government, but if the Saudis put a little effort into it, they could probably turn Lebanon into another Mad-Max style Islamist hellhole like Somalia, Sudan or Afghanistan. They haven't done that yet.

By helping the center of Lebanon rebuild, they actually seem to be helping the nation stay on it's feet. Maybe even the worst hate-filled genocidal maniacs need a vacation every once in a while.

The Saudi-allied Sunnis in Lebanon don't appear to be influenced by Wahhabism. Saudi involvement in Lebanon is, for the most part, as benign as it gets.

Posted by: maryatexitzero Author Profile Page at June 10, 2009 10:13 AM

"I think we'd both agree that Arab outrage to Arab-on-Arab violence isn't on par with that of violence from non-Arabs. Why do you think that is?"

Theirs is a tribal culture centred on pride and loyalty, so in addition to the physical harm done, violence always comes with a certain degree of insult directed against a particular group. Anand has a valid point in suggesting that violence between those of the same tribe or clan can create an equal level of outrage amongst the individual families or tribes involved. However, Boojum also makes a valid point in observing that the collective outrage becomes all that much greater when it is an entire sect, religion, or race that feels slighted.

Posted by: johnchen Author Profile Page at June 10, 2009 10:34 AM

Anand,

The Saudis support Hariri in Lebanese because he's the leader of that country's Sunni community and because rich Saudis like having Lebanon as a liberal playground where they can drink booze, play cards, and chase girls without having to travel to Europe. Their influence in Lebanon isn't malicious. It's the one place where American and Saudi foreign policy are actually in alignment.

I've met Hariri. I had dinner at his house. He's the most impressive Arab leader I have yet met. Hezbollah, meanwhile, threatened me personally with physical violence for cracking a joke about them on my blog.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at June 10, 2009 11:20 AM

Hezbollah shouldn't have threatened you MJT.

Craig, PM Maliki and the GoI remain close to Lebanese Shia. For this reason, we "DO" have a stake in Lebanon and the Lebanese Shia.

I hope Obama succeeds at a detente with the Iranian Regime (PM Maliki, Hakim, Talabani, and Karzai are all pushing hard for better US Iranian ties.) I also hope that Obama uses America's outreach to Iranian to reach out to the Lebanese Shia; specifically Amal and more moderate factions within Hezbollah. Many within Hezbollah revere and follow the Najaf Marjeya. It is possible that Nasrallah will succeed in blocking these efforts. But that is no reason not to try.

johnchen, one issue that irritates nonwesteners is how many westeners and Israelis pay less attention to crimes against "darkies" than they do to crimes against Westeners. Anti Shia, anti Sufi, and anti Kurdish bigotry are all as despicable and as dangerous as anti Jewish bigotry.

Israelis aren't the only ones threatened by terrorists and crazies. Thousands of non Iraqi Arabs have mass murdered tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians. Many non Iraqi Sunni Arabs celebrate when they hear about an attack against the Iraqi Army.

Posted by: anand Author Profile Page at June 10, 2009 12:00 PM

How is Harriri's relationship with the GoI? With Iraqi Sunni Arabs? Can Harriri help the GoI with Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and other Arab countries?

Iraqis remain very suspicious of their lovely "Arab neighbors."

Posted by: anand Author Profile Page at June 10, 2009 12:04 PM

Anand: Hezbollah shouldn't have threatened you MJT.

Well, it is a terrorist organization.

I hope Obama succeeds at a detente with the Iranian Regime (PM Maliki, Hakim, Talabani, and Karzai are all pushing hard for better US Iranian ties.)

It would be easy if the government actually reflected the views of the Iranian people. Unfortunately, Ali Khamenei -- the real power in Tehran no matter who is the president-- is a fanatic who doesn't want detente with the United States. The Iranian regime isn't a normal government. It's a cause, a revolution, an ideology. Assad in Syria is easy compared with Khamenei.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at June 10, 2009 12:20 PM

Anand: How is Harriri's relationship with the GoI?

There isn't much there there. Iraq is a bit "outside the box" for Lebanon. Hariri certainly isn't hostile to Iraq, though.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at June 10, 2009 12:25 PM

Craig, PM Maliki and the GoI remain close to Lebanese Shia. For this reason, we "DO" have a stake in Lebanon and the Lebanese Shia.

I disagree, anand. If the connection between the two communities was as close as you imply, it would have been impossible for the US to work closely with Iraqi Shia, these last 6 years. I think the US is mature enough to have a completely different relationship with Shia Arabs in one country than it does with Shia Arabs in another. And I also think that Shia Arabs are mature enough to understand that the US is going to have a different relationship with them, depending on circumstances. To suggest that the US has to try to "get along" with every ally of every ally we have is a totally unmanageable proposition.

Posted by: programmmer_craig Author Profile Page at June 10, 2009 1:38 PM

I hope Obama succeeds at a detente with the Iranian Regime......I also hope that Obama uses America's outreach to Iranian to reach out to the Lebanese Shia; specifically Amal and more moderate factions within Hezbollah...

If Obama succeeds at a detente with the Islamic Republic, they will renounce Hezbollah completely. Anything short of that would not be a "success" from an American perspective. The US cannot and in my view will not ever "reach out" to any so-called "faction" of Hezbollah.

Many within Hezbollah revere and follow the Najaf Marjeya.

So...?

It is possible that Nasrallah will succeed in blocking these efforts. But that is no reason not to try.

The reason not to "try" is that Hezbollah is an international terrorist organization with a lot of American blood on its hands.

Israelis aren't the only ones threatened by terrorists and crazies.

I don't understand how you can advocate playing kissy-face with terrorists in the first part of a comment, and then close with that. I just don't. Sorry. Maybe you've been hanging around at Mojo's place too long or something. It almost seems like you don't think the Shia terror groups are terrorists, while at the same time you take a very hard line against "takfiri" sunni groups. Do you think you are being objective, anand? Serious question.

Posted by: programmmer_craig Author Profile Page at June 10, 2009 1:47 PM

"johnchen, one issue that irritates nonwesteners is how many westeners and Israelis pay less attention to crimes against "darkies" than they do to crimes against Westeners."

This would be a valid complaint if non-Westerners themselves displayed greater concern for the plight of other races, but they don't. However much one wishes to morally equivocate, we're not the ones defending Omar al-Bashir.

Posted by: johnchen Author Profile Page at June 10, 2009 2:19 PM

Would someone please answer this question for me: Why in the world has Michel Aoun thrown his support, and his party, behind Hezzie? I can someone understand a tactical move if Hezzie was on the way to winning anyway, and Aoun wanted to be on the winning side (the usual MO for the Middle East) but it's been since 2007 that Aoun has been supoorting the Persians I mean Lebanonese Shia, and he doesn't have anything to show for it. Why the long term hook up with an Islamic terror group?

Posted by: IK Author Profile Page at June 10, 2009 9:02 PM

IK: Why the long term hook up with an Islamic terror group?

It's a good "starter" marriage.

Posted by: Edgar Author Profile Page at June 11, 2009 10:18 AM

Anand

one issue that irritates nonwesteners is how many westeners and Israelis pay less attention to crimes against "darkies" than they do to crimes against Westeners

Eh? It’s Westerners demanding action against the crimes in Darfur, not non-Westerners. Where is all the non-Western outrage? You don’t hear a peep out of them.

Posted by: Boojum Author Profile Page at June 11, 2009 10:42 AM

If you're an American, then "darkie" can be used to describe (albeit offensively) many of your fellow citizens.

In my office - which I don't think is THAT far out of the ordinary for Southern California, the majority of the employees are Caucasian. But we also have one Pakistani, three Indians, one Nepalese (I think), one Chinese, one Korean, one Filipino, two Blacks, and several Hispanics. I'd estimate off the top of my head that about 40-50 people work in the office.

Accusing Americans of indifference due to skin color is a mistake - albeit a common one. You might as well accuse us of showing indifference based on eye color or hair color.

I can't speak for Europe, but American concern is typically determined by the level of publicity that discriminatory violence gets. As Israel is a sovereign nation, violence and threatened violence against it tends to draw a lot of attention. As violence against, say, Sufis tends to take place within the borders of a country with less outside publicity, it doesn't draw as much of a response from Americans. But sometimes there are exceptions, as is the case with Sudan and as was the case with the Chinese persecution of practicioners of Fallon Gong a few years ago (the publicity, and hence the American outrage, has died down although I don't know if the Chinese government has actually changed its policy).

Posted by: junior Author Profile Page at June 11, 2009 3:55 PM

but American concern is typically determined by the level of publicity that discriminatory violence gets. As Israel is a sovereign nation, violence and threatened violence against it tends to draw a lot of attention. As violence against, say, Sufis tends to take place within the borders of a country with less outside publicity, it doesn't draw as much of a response from Americans.

And the exact same thing applies to Arab societies and Arab civilians. Which why all the whining about how Arabs are only mad about non-Arabs killing them is petty and shortsighted. Israel had actual interstate wars to get people riled up. Seriously, how angry was the American public about all the killing done by Indonesians against Muslims in Aceh province? The killings in Ethiopia? The insurgency in Niger? Short answer, they weren't. Why do we only get angry about white people getting killed?, could the ask. Then I'd be a counterpoint to For the matter, where was the Arab rage about these Muslims getting killed?"

You can't get angry about what you've never heard of. Just like American media, Arab media act as gatekeepers to determine what their citizens think they know. Where local Arabs (or arab states) are targeted by other local arabs, they get very angry indeed. They just don't whine about it to foreign media sources. They go out and get revenge. Seriously, there's a basic myopia at work here.

In real life, you have no idea what "Arabs" are or are not angry about.

Violence along ethnic, racial, and religious fracture lines is more inflammatory than violence not along those lines. That's the revised point of Huntington's "Clash of Civilizations" - which was a crappy prediction and a sloppy argument, but not without a grain of truth.

Posted by: glasnost Author Profile Page at June 11, 2009 10:10 PM

I'd like to see a map of the voting by tribal / ethnic mareup, if Mike is taking requsts.

Posted by: glasnost Author Profile Page at June 11, 2009 10:11 PM

I have spent a few years reading Arab blogs and chatboards. They are hardly ignorant of Saddam’s genocidal spectacles. But it’s always Israel’s injustices that rile them up, even though Israeli actions against the Palestinians are on a vastly smaller scale. When I pointed this out, one poster dismissed inter-Arab violence as unimportant because Arabs were just settling disputes and the means was no business of outsiders. I have no idea how widespread this attitude it.

The perverse obsession with Israel is all out of proportion with what Israel does to the Palestinians. Since Palestinians are treated like second class citizens throughout much of the Arab world, I think the obsession is all about violated honor. The Israelis, unbeatable, prosperous, and militarily competent, keep reminding the once great Arab nation of how weak it now is.

Posted by: Boojum Author Profile Page at June 12, 2009 8:12 AM

It ate my comment :(
Well, will re-type.
Others had intimated at the answer, of why the "Arab mentality" is such that they look at arabs getting killed by non-arabs and ignore other things.
The simple answer isn't that they don't, but that everyone does.
It's basic human tribalism, we care mostly for what is done to our group by others, and that's basic.
The reason Israel is different is two-fold:
1. Israel keeps getting pumped via all media outlets and through politicians 24/7, it can't be ignored, and it's always in one's mind.
2. Also related to the above point, Israel had become a political litmus-test. The "Israeli question" makes up a part of a large number of people's (political) identity, just like abortion or taxes. When the Israeli question gets brought up, people feel like their identities are attacked.

Posted by: Guy Shalev Author Profile Page at June 21, 2009 1:14 PM
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