December 7, 2006


Gathering Storm in Lebanon (P. David Hornik, December 7, 2006,

When Jordan’s King Abdullah warned early in 2005 about the formation of a dangerous “Shiite crescent” in the Middle East, many dismissed his words as the fears of a pessimist who did not appreciate the strides democracy was making in the region. Today, with Iran-backed radical Shiites continuing (among other factors) to destabilize the situation in Iraq and the Iran/Syria/Hezbollah axis now making a naked attempt to topple the elected government and grab power in Lebanon, Abdullah’s words emerge more clearly as what they were: the fears of a knowledgeable, realistic Middle Easterner.

The idea that you could have stability in the region, and strides towards democracy, and not empower the Shi'a makes so little sense as to be indecipherable.

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 7, 2006 1:26 PM

95% of the media coverage of Lebanon and Iraq reflects ... or at least aligns with ... an anti-Shia perspective. Curious.

In Iraq, Sunni forces (Baathist and al Qaeda) have indiscriminately slaughtered tens of thousands of Shia, and this savagery was portrayed by the media for over two years as noble resistance. But as soon as the Shia began to avenge their losses by drawing noble Sunni blood, that was portrayed by the media as a disastrous civil war.

Such a bias must have arisen from the fact that the U.S. was attacked by Shia terrorists on 9/11. Yeah, I'm pretty sure that's the explanation.

Posted by: ghostcat at December 7, 2006 2:41 PM

Did you see George Will's latest Realist anti-Shia hit piece?

Posted by: oj at December 7, 2006 3:32 PM

I did. I also note that my favorite conservative bloggers tend to either lump the Shia and Sunni together as our enemy or, more typically, depict Iran ... read, the Shia ... as our "real" enemy. Then they conflate Ahmadinejad with the Iraqi Shia, Al Sadr with Malaki, etc.

It's become clear that a great many conservatives now define "victory" in Iraq as our destruction of Iran's military, nuclear program, and government. And they definitely don't grasp that anything close to democracy in the Middle East means Shia ascendency in much of the region.

Sometimes it seems like our toughest challenge as a nation will be learning how to deal with empowered non-Sunni Muslims. We apparently prefer Sunni despots ... the devil you know and all that.

Posted by: ghostcat at December 7, 2006 4:49 PM


That first post was about as good a summing-up of media incoherence on Iraq as I've ever seen.

Shia ascendency is fine, even unavoidable. A lot of folks can't draw the necessary distinctions between the good guys and the nutcakes, even if they're officially on the "same" side. That's crucial. Me, I'm fine targeting Hezbollah and Syria and Ahmadinejad. Go after the loonybirds and the rest will sort itself out.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at December 7, 2006 7:08 PM

Matt, ghost:

A hearty second (third) to your comments. Also, has anyone else noticed that the level of invective towards the Saudis and Wahabbism has almost disappeared? Even among blog-types with an axe to grind in that direction.

Posted by: jim hamlen at December 8, 2006 12:08 AM

Matt, ghost:

A hearty second (third) to your comments.

Also, has anyone else noticed that invective and even concern towards the Saudis (and Wahabbism) seems to have almost disappeared from the media? And even from blog-types who have been ranting about it for some time?

Posted by: jim hamlen at December 8, 2006 12:30 AM

Follow the (Saudi) money.

Posted by: ghostcat at December 8, 2006 12:53 AM

The error OJ is making is to think "empowering the Shiites" means empowering Hezbollah, but Hezbollah is to the Shiites what the Bolsheviks were to the workers and peasants of Russia: totalitarians enslaving those they claim to liberate.

Posted by: PapayaSF at December 8, 2006 1:39 AM

No, Hezbollah is to the Shi'a what the Founders were to us or the Roundheads to the Brits.

Posted by: oj at December 8, 2006 7:20 AM

Now you're just propagandizing. Nasrallah as a Founding Father? Of what? The uber-man successor to the pseudo-Nazi Ba'athist party?

I don't recall Jefferson, Washington, Henry, Madison, or even any wild 'radical' from Massachusetts living in a cult of personality, murdering foreigners and opponents alike, hiding in bunkers, and being 'controlled' by a power hundreds of miles away.

Likewise, Oliver Cromwell would slice off your head for such thinking (or, at least exile you to France).

Posted by: jim hamlen at December 8, 2006 9:40 AM

You're kidding right? Who has ever benefited more from a cult of personality than George Washington? How many Loyalists were driven out of America? What was Valley Forge but a hideout? How did France then differ from Syria/Iran now? The fanatics who sacrificed 50,000 Americans over a minor point of self-rule are precise doppelgangers for the Shi'a who assert the same right.

You're at least right in noting that Cromwell would have understood the beheaders.

Posted by: oj at December 8, 2006 9:54 AM

Jim: Indeed. I don't recall the Founders ever using suicide bombers or calling for the extermination of any countries or religions.

Posted by: PapayaSF at December 8, 2006 3:15 PM

The Founding was cemented with the blood of aboriginals.

Posted by: oj at December 8, 2006 3:20 PM

Next you'll be comparing George III to the corrupt and complacent Republican Congress (come to think of it, there is a slight resemblance to Denny Hastert).

First, England was trying to maintain an empire. I haven't seen anyone formally push that theory, except for loons like Howard Zinn and Robert Fisk. Although some Arabs issued a paper yesterday saying that America is in full retreat from the Middle East. Second, Washington's 'cult' had precious few members until 1781, and really didn't take hold until after he became President. Your statement is inapt. Third, I doubt if the Continental Army at Valley Forge was camping in the town square, hiding their cannon in local silos, or firing from civilian redoubts. The British knew where they were. Certainly the Hessians knew.

Certainly the French wanted to annoy the British. But they never controlled militias here, certainly not to the extent you imply.

You are probably the only Shi'a evangelist on the web. Please tell them they can kill all the Sunni they want (after reading about Lebanon in USA Today at lunch, it seems unavoidable). But they have quite a ways to go before they are 'exceptional'. Although I will grant that Tom Paine would have fit right into Hezbollah.

Posted by: jim hamlen at December 8, 2006 5:58 PM

Lincoln is the appropriate comparison, not W. He won the same war the Brits lost.

The French had the same level of influence that Syria does.

The Continentals routinely fired on the Brits from civilian turf.

We have a president in our system because of the cult, which was strongest among his lieutenants. If you ever want to see the cultish in action just read about the Newburgh Revolt and how Washington quashed it.

The later Paine would oppose the Shi'a and support the oppresive regime in Beirut. He was a Rationalist, not religious by then.

Posted by: oj at December 8, 2006 6:27 PM

Look, I know you want to be the foremost Shi'a apologist on the web, but this is a bit much.

First, Washington's 'cult' was pretty small until 1781, and really only grew after he became President. Second, the Continental Army at Valley Forge wasn't camped out in private homes and they weren't shuttling their cannon from silo to silo. Third, self-rule in 1776 meant breaking free from an empire that ran the show from thousands of miles away. Self-rule for the Shi'a in Lebanon means winning an election, not killing Israelis.

And the last time I checked, neither the US nor Israel (nor the Saudis for that matter) are trying to build an empire in the Middle East. Finally, the French helped us during the Revolution because they wanted to annoy the English. But, did they really 'control' any militias? I will grant you that Tom Paine probably would make a good Hezbollahite.

Besides, under your analogy, who is going to be George III? Richard Perle? Ahmed Chalabi?

Posted by: jim hamlen at December 8, 2006 8:43 PM

until he became President by acclimation it was small? good one.

Yes, they hid in homes to fire at the Brita, not to winter. OBL likewise hid in a cave not in the cockpit.

The Sunni have oppressed the Shi'a for far longer than the Brits taxed the colonists to pay for the war that saved them. The reason the Nothern Lebanese don't allow that election is because the Shi'a will win.

The French exercised exactly as much control as the Syrians do. None. The Syrians are likewise just trying to annoy Israel.


Posted by: oj at December 9, 2006 7:41 AM