May 9, 2008


The War for Lebanon: It's on, again. (David Kenner, 05/09/2008, Weekly Standard)

[W]hat we have witnessed, in the span of barely more than 24 hours, is the routing of pro-government forces at the hands of Hezbollah and its allies. West Beirut, a mixed Sunni and Shia area of the city, is nearly completely under the control of Hezbollah and its allies. Primarily Sunni areas such as Hamra and Verdun, where virtually no Hezbollah supporters actually live, have nevertheless been invaded by militiamen loyal to the opposition. They are currently stationed at checkpoints throughout the area, stopping incoming cars and civilians. All reports indicate that they are better equipped and better trained than the Lebanese army. They have been careful not to antagonize the local population, and a fragile sense of order has been re-established. However, nobody doubts who is really in control of these large swathes of Beirut.

The Lebanese army seems to be employing a "see no evil, hear no evil" strategy. Soldiers have largely refrained from confronting the gangs of militiamen roving the city, though there have been scattered cases across the country of soldiers clearing obstacles set up to block major roads. They are clearly outgunned by Hezbollah, and probably by the other militias as well. Furthermore, using force against the supporters of one faction risks splitting the army, which is made up of soldiers loyal to both the government and the opposition.

Nevertheless, the impotence of the Lebanese Army--long considered the last functioning national institution in Lebanon--has been one of the most heartbreaking developments. The army continues to maintain a presence in West Beirut, though with little effect. Army tanks rumble through the neighborhood of Hamra--but only pause at the checkpoints of Hezbollah and its allies to chat, before continuing on their way.

The situation is grim, and while the government is still refusing to back down, this is largely a technicality if they cannot enforce their will on the street.

The political confrontation in Lebanon has been clarified: it is a struggle between those who want to build a democratic nation with control over all regions within its borders, and supporters of Hezbollah. Now more than ever, the Sunni, Druze and Christian communities are firmly aligned on the side of the central government.

They support the central government precisely because it isn't democratic. The reality is that if they had free and fair elections for all offices the Shi'a would win them all. It is the side we're backing that can't afford democracy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 9, 2008 2:57 PM

Majoritarianism isn't democracy

Posted by: mike in europe at May 9, 2008 5:12 PM

They support the central government because the alternative is to support violent anti-American terrorists. If Hezbollah were a peaceful group having peaceful demonstrations for democratic rights, that would be fine. Too bad they just want power to better kill Jews and impose Islamic law (which, despite your protests, also isn't democratic).

Posted by: PapayaSF at May 9, 2008 6:29 PM

It is democracy. Which is why democracy is so dangerous.

Posted by: oj at May 9, 2008 6:45 PM

If they were a peaceful group the Shi'a would still be catching crap from all the two-bit minorities in the region. You have to fight for your rights when folks won't honor them otherwise.

They don't need to impose Islamic law. It's an Islamic nation.

Posted by: oj at May 9, 2008 6:48 PM

The Shi'a (i.e., Hezbollah) are a clear majority in the South. It is also clear that there is no clear majority within the entire nation. Fine - break it up. But even you have to acknowledge that the recent surge of the Hezbos is due entirely to the backing of Syria, and ultimately, Iran. Overthrow Baby Assad, and Hezbollah would be in big trouble.

Lebanon is a fool's game. Backing the Sunni is undemocratic and corrupt. Backing the Christians is too Crusaderish, especially given their ties to Israel. Backing the Druze has proven to be way too Mafia-like. There are the Palestinians, who are treated like dogs. Then there is Hezbollah, which exists to terrorize, not to govern. What to do? There are no good guys.

Posted by: jim hamlen at May 9, 2008 8:52 PM

No, the surge is due to the minority trying to dictate to the majority. Once they could. No longer. Now self-determination time is coming. The American Way always destabilizes.

Posted by: oj at May 9, 2008 10:58 PM