June 10, 2009

No Divine Victory for Hezbollah

Lebanese voters went to the polls on Sunday and gave Hezbollah an unexpected shellacking. The anti-Syrian “March 14” coalition led by Saad Hariri’s Future Movement won 71 seats in the parliament. The Hezbollah-led “March 8” bloc won 57. Hezbollah itself only has ten seats in Beirut out of 128.

Most observers and analysts were surprised by the March 14 victory, but I could never figure out where Hezbollah’s additional support was supposedly coming from. Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah strapped a suicide bomb vest around his own country when he picked a fight with Israel in 2006. Mounting an armed assault against the capital, as he did last May, was no way to win the hearts and minds of new voters. Until recently, I was certain Hezbollah and its allies had no chance of winning, but they grew so sure of their own propaganda that they managed to persuade even their enemies that they might come out on top. The March 14 side was rattled, and some of their analysts convinced even me that Hezbollah might pull it off. But Hezbollah lost, and Nasrallah conceded.

Syrian dictator Bashar Assad also lost big when his most powerful proxy in Lebanon was rejected by the majority. “So much for Bashar’s ‘imaginary majority,’” wrote Lebanese political analyst Tony Badran, “in spite of all his terrorism, bombing, murder, violence, intimidation, coup attempts and information warfare over the last four years.”

“Sanity prevailed,” an unnamed Obama Administration official said after the results were made official. Indeed, it did. The press may be getting slightly carried away with crediting President Barack Obama’s Cairo speech for the March 14 victory, but Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Beirut recently and said everything that needed to be said before voters went to the polls. Biden rightly warned the Lebanese that American aid to their government and military would be reevaluated if the Hezbollah-led coalition emerged victorious.

The president himself said the United States will “continue to support a sovereign and independent Lebanon, committed to peace, including the full implementation of all United Nations Security Council Resolutions.” Everyone in Lebanon knows exactly what this means. A “sovereign and independent” Lebanon cannot be a vassal of Syria and Iran. “Committed to peace” is a slap against Hezbollah’s interminable armed “resistance” against Israel. The relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions demand the disarmament of every militia in Lebanon – including Hezbollah and those in the Palestinian refugee camps.

Some leftists are kvetching about Obama’s explicitly anti-Hezbollah position. I was slightly worried myself about other potential aspects of the president’s Lebanon policy before it developed, but he deserves support here from conservatives as well as from Democrats who understand that the United States can’t support a terrorist army that says, “Death to America is a policy, a strategy, and a vision.”

Read the rest in Commentary Magazine.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at June 10, 2009 10:52 AM

"Most observers and analysts were surprised"

The silent pay attention and vote too (sometimes anyway). Polls can be skewed just by the wording of questions, without even having to cherry pick interviewees.

Posted by: Paul S. Author Profile Page at June 10, 2009 4:42 PM

Michael, this is truly good news. Thanks for keeping us informed.

Posted by: DagneyT Author Profile Page at June 11, 2009 4:41 AM

I think Lebanon stared into the abyss and backed away. The abyss was control by Iranian proxy, along with a total commitment to talky-talk on the part of the U.S. In other words, if the press is crediting the Obama speech for anything that happened in Lebanon, they surely are getting "carried away," and in the superlative.

Posted by: Herschel Smith Author Profile Page at June 11, 2009 12:44 PM

"Most observers and analysts were surprised"

That's because a large number of "observers and analysts" are left-wing propagandists irrevocably committed to promoting whatever faction is most stridently anti-American. Bonus points are awarded if you also have it in for the Jews, a la Hamas and Hezbollah.

Posted by: Gary Rosen Author Profile Page at June 11, 2009 11:18 PM

"if the press is crediting the Obama speech for anything that happened in Lebanon, they surely are getting "carried away," and in the superlative."

Obama is going to make the oceans recede and heal the world. Influencing the outcome of an election in a small country like Lebanon is a mere bag o' shells.

Posted by: Gary Rosen Author Profile Page at June 11, 2009 11:20 PM

The brother of a former student of mine from Lebanon e-mailed me to let me know that everything was all right and not to worry as I hadn't heard from her in weeks. They, a moderately wealthy Maronite with connections via marriage to a Sunni Kurdish clan, had all voted and then sent all the women out of Beirut to the mountains.

There were some very nasty rumors that began in the days before the election that Hezbollah or Michael Aoun would not accept the vote if they lost and would try to seize the entire city. He had been confident of the vote, he is a demographer for the UN, but admitted that the family was ready to flee to the US and Egypt(my former student had been born in Egypt while the family waited out the bloodletting during the civil war) if things turned ugly. I had to ask twice about the violence rumors as the one about Aoun didn't make much sense.

But he couldn't hide the giddiness that some are feeling in Beirut. He is convinced that the next step will be to disarm Hezbollah and completely dismantle all the emplacements in the South. But then he also said that Syrian tanks had been seen crossing the border back into Lebanon. I can't help admire a country that can seriously hold such opposing views at the same time and not become deranged.

Posted by: Pat Patterson Author Profile Page at June 12, 2009 4:20 AM

MJT: Until recently, I was certain Hezbollah and its allies had no chance of winning

I can see now why you don't like to make predictions. It's hard enough for Lebanese analysts to figure out what the hell is going to happen there, let alone a foreigner.

This was a close one, and I wouldn't feel bad about getting it wrong, as so many other people were convinced the March 8 block were going to win too.

Posted by: Edgar Author Profile Page at June 12, 2009 1:30 PM
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