April 19, 2004


Lessons for US from a Shiite uprising in Lebanon: Observers of Israel's mid-80s occupation see a striking resemblance to the occupation of Iraq. (Nicholas Blanford, 4/20/04, CS Monitor)

Some veteran observers of south Lebanon see parallels between Israel's confrontation with Lebanese Shiites in the 1980s and the US-led coalition's campaign against Sadr in Iraq.

"The similarities between Iraq today and south Lebanon [in the 1980s] are very striking," says Timur Goksel, a university lecturer in Beirut who served with the UN peacekeeping force in south Lebanon from 1979 to 2003. "Even the language of American military commanders is the same as Israeli commanders back in the 1980s, talking of wiping out the enemy. But if you go in to wipe them out, then you will lose."

The US military appears to appreciate the symbolic importance of Najaf. The troop buildup may be geared more toward coercing Sadr to call off the uprising than a preparation for military action.

But a wrong move could reignite the Sadr revolt, analysts say. The coalition should back away, Mr. Goksel says, and allow the Shiite leadership to negotiate with Sadr behind the scenes. "Going in by force only undermines the efforts of the Shiites trying to talk an end to it," he says.

That view was shared by Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi, who warned last week that relying on force "is a big mistake with severe consequences."

The US military has been criticized for adopting counterinsurgency tactics previously used by Israeli forces in Lebanon and more recently in the West Bank and Gaza, such as bulldozing houses of suspected militants, sealing off villages with razor wire, mass detentions, and excessive use of firepower.

It was similar tactics by Israel in the 1980s, coupled with a growing perception that Israeli forces had no intention of a swift departure, that goaded the Lebanese Shiites to turn to armed resistance.

It is making clear our intent to depart that is all important here and the case is not helped by neocons (Bill Kristol, John McCain, etc.) and opponents of the President (John Kerry, etc.) who call for more troops and delaying the handover of sovereignty for their own ulterior motives.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 19, 2004 7:43 PM

Seems clear to me from the article that we do indeed to learn an important lesson from Israel's experience in Lebanon--Syria and Iran are the enemy.

Posted by: brian at April 19, 2004 8:12 PM

Yeah, I'm sure that the Iranian Foreign Minister is giving free, valuable advice to the Coalition, the opponent of the Iranian funded Al-Sadr.

Posted by: Annoying Old Guy at April 19, 2004 8:15 PM

Usually, Orrin is for order first, then self-government.

Perhaps he thinks our departure will magically result in order.

I don't think Lebanon ratifies that idea.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at April 19, 2004 9:43 PM

The strategic goals are different. The US is trying to build a viable democratic muslim state. Israel was just trying to keep Hezbollah out of rocket range of their northern border.

In the 1980s the US Marines sat at the Beruit airport and did nothing and still got their barracks bombed out for their trouble.

The whack-jobs want to kill Americans on principle, and they will attempt to do so regardless of our actions. So why not accommodate their desire to go to paradise as expeditiously as possible?

Posted by: Gideon at April 19, 2004 10:37 PM

The best way to deal with Iran is to set up several American bases right on the Iraqi-Iranian border, and put most of our troops there on July 1. Same for Syria, although a direct overthrow would certainly send a message to Tehran. And Hezbollah would probably implode on its own.

Posted by: jim hamlen at April 19, 2004 11:24 PM

We're not finished with the Sunni and friends in Fallujah yet. They need a drubbing if they don't disarm as we've requested. As with mules, sometimes it takes a 2 by 4.

Posted by: genecis at April 20, 2004 12:17 PM

No question we could overthrow any government we wanted, and as many as we wanted -- Syria, Iran etc.

Problem is, just overturning them does not always, or even usually, get you the result you want.

Unless you have infantry to go in and take control for a while, all you've done is put the governments in play. As Wall Street watchers may know, putting a company in play usually throws the old rascals out, but it doesn't usually end up with the expected group of new rascals in.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at April 21, 2004 2:47 PM

Just keep turning them out--our rascals will inevitably win in the long run. The End of History is not optional.

Posted by: oj at April 21, 2004 2:53 PM

That's a pious hope that history does not support.

Anyway, sometimes the interim costs are pretty high.

If we had an adequate army, we could constrain the range of possibly bad outcomes. If we had . . .

Posted by: Harry Eagar at April 21, 2004 5:48 PM

The army is too large, it deters us from using real weapons.

Posted by: oj at April 21, 2004 6:11 PM