July 18, 2006


The Gumps of August (Spengler, 7/18/06, Asia Times)

Until now, history has given Americans a great dispensation to wander Gump-like through the disasters that befall other folk, with bemused curiosity about the filling of the next piece of chocolate in the box. It will be borne in upon Americans that the destiny of most peoples is tragic, and there is no predicting how Americans will react to the rude awakening out of their complacency.

Only a delusion of surpassing consolation could prompt the extremes of denial that Washington has evinced over the past year. If a stupider idea possessed statesmen than the proposition that democracy could thrive in Lebanon in the presence of an Iranian-controlled military organization more powerful than the Lebanese army, I do not know what it was. Bush believed that drawing Hezbollah into democracy would persuade them to abandon terrorism. In a March 16 press conference he said:

Our policy is this: We want there to be a thriving democracy in Lebanon. We believe that there will be a thriving democracy, but only if - but only if - Syria withdraws ... her troops completely out of Lebanon ... I like the idea of people running for office. There's a positive effect when you run for office. Maybe some will run for office and say, vote for me, I look forward to blowing up America. I don't know, I don't know if that will be their platform or not. But it's - I don't think so. I think people who generally run for office say, vote for me, I'm looking forward to fixing your potholes, or making sure you got bread on the table.

The whole matter was so preposterous that I framed it as a Gilbert and Sullivan spoof, The Jihadis of Penzance (March 22, 2005). Hezbollah fixed the potholes, all right, evidently digging the deeper ones out as missile silos. Syrian troops departed, but Hezbollah remains unassailable by that summer camp for six-month conscripts comically named the Lebanese army. By drawing Hezbollah into the Lebanese parliament, US diplomacy made the Shi'ite militia legitimate. Now it cannot be displaced without tearing apart Shi'ite communities in southern Lebanon, at enormous human cost. That is precisely what the Israelis will do when their ground offensive begins early this week; there is no other way but military to stop the missile attacks.

The problem, rather, is that there is no Lebanon. Hezbollah will be the dominant political party in the Shi'ite state that emerges in at least the southern portion of what was Lebanon and the quicker you help them realize their nationalist aspirations and force them to accept responsibility for their people the better. The emergence of the Shi'a Crescent is obviously in the best interests of Israel, both because the Shi'a are natural democrats and because tensions between Sunni and Shi'a will deflect attention from the jewish state.

Hezbollah and the art of the possible (Sami Moubayed, 7/18/06, Asia Times)

It would be only natural for the Saudis, who are historically at odds with Iran, and tactical allies of Saad al-Hariri, the current leader of Lebanon's Sunni community and a member of parliament, to oppose the adventurism of Nasrallah. Too much Saudi money and investment, from the days of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik al-Hariri, is at stake in Lebanon.

The Saudis are the traditional backers of the Sunni community that is led by the Hariri family, which wants a Westernized, economy-oriented country and not a hotbed for revolutionary warfare. They cannot afford to losing their influence in Lebanon and have it replaced by that of Iran - which is exactly what happens whenever Hezbollah gets the upper hand in Lebanese politics. [...]

Jerusalem is currently asking for the release of the two prisoners and the disarming of Hezbollah. While releasing the prisoners is possible, if Israel offers Hezbollah something in return, getting Nasrallah to disarm is out of the question.

Israel should remember the words of German chancellor Otto von Bismarck: "Politics is the art of the possible, the attainable ..." And Israel forcing Hezbollah to disarm is impossible. Also, continuing this war to force Hezbollah to disarm is impossible for Israel.

Napoleon Bonaparte once said, "I have tasted command. I like it. And I will never give it up." Nasrallah has been in command of the largest armed sect in Lebanon since 1992. He is a highly popular leader who has a wide power base that spreads throughout the Arab and Muslim worlds. He is wholeheartedly backed by Syria and Iran, and the Lebanese Shi'ites (40% of the country's 3.7 million) are overwhelmingly with him.

Disarming Hezbollah, and writing them off the political scene in Lebanon, would be like asking the Shi'ites of Iraq, who now have real power since the downfall of Saddam Hussein, to give it up.

The Shi'ites of Lebanon have the exact same dilemma. They, too, had been the underclass in Lebanon, maltreated by Sunnis and Christians for more than 100 years. They had their day in sun under the leadership of Imam Musa al-Sadr in the 1970s, and Nasrallah from 1990s onward.

They believe that holding on to their arms is a must to protect them from further Israeli atrocities in south Lebanon, or in the case of sectarian violence inside Lebanon, from their opponents in the Lebanese political scene. Or from anybody who tries to disarm them by force, and restore them to the status of inferiors.

For all of these reasons, the Israelis will have to amend their proposal for a ceasefire in Lebanon if they want an end to hostilities. To gain the release of their arrested soldiers, they must talk to Hezbollah.

Posted by Orrin Judd at July 18, 2006 4:28 PM

Advice re Israelis negotiating with Hezbollah et al always reminds me of this exchange from the movie Indendence Day:

President Thomas Whitmore: What do you want us to do?

Captured Alien: Die. Die.

To have negotiations there must be some common ground. I don't see it with these groups. The Israelis are not interested in dying, at least without a fight first.

Posted by: Rick T. at July 18, 2006 5:43 PM

"To gain the release of their arrested soldiers, they must talk to Hezbollah." Terrorists "arrested" soldiers from another country? That is to say that Hizbollah is legitimate, while Israelis are criminals to be "arrested". That is sick.
"To gain the release of their kidnapped soldiers, they must eradicate Hezbollah."

Posted by: ic at July 18, 2006 9:51 PM

Except they can't and it wouldn't get the soldiers.

Posted by: oj at July 18, 2006 9:56 PM

Wouldn't Amal be the recipients of the majority Shia votes, if Hezbollah were neutralized; although I trust Nabih Berri; about as far as
I can throw him. Al Daawa; which is the Iraqi
counterpart to Amal, we don't have a problem
with; SCIRI is more like Hezbollah

Posted by: narciso at July 18, 2006 10:03 PM

The "if" renders the question moot. Even the attempt only strengthens Hezbollah.

Posted by: oj at July 18, 2006 10:09 PM