Friday, July 21, 2006

Open Democracy on Lebanon

There are a number of good articles on today about Lebanon - here's a quick synopsis.

Paul Rogers, Prof. of Peace Studies at Bradford and OD's regular security analyst, argues that Israel had essentially no other choice to do what they have done because of the limits of their current strategic worldview. He argues that whilst in the short-term this might work, it can't work in the longer term because of two factors: 1) firstly the tactics necessary only further radicalise others against Israel meaning that, at best, more trouble is just pushed further into future; and 2) because of the increasing availability of hi-tech weapons from the Chinese and Russian arms markets will limit how successful these military responses are anyway. The heavy damage done to Israeli warship by anti-shipping missile plus the targetting of Haifa are indicative of this. So ultimately he argues that Israel will realise that a political solution is only way to gain security. I was quite pleased to read this as this as essentially it's what I have been arguing in various discussion as well. Indeed it looks kind of obvious from where I'm sitting. But of course no one has been trying to kill me with Katushas for the last week and a half.

Fred Halliday, Prof. at LSE, pulls no punches on Hezbollah when reflecting on two days he spent with them in 2004. It's a very interesting and slightly sad personal article - particularly listing a number of fellow leftwing intellectuals and writers, both Middle Eastern and Western, murdered by various Lebanese factions or other foreign governments all connected to the blood letting of the Lebanese Civil War. The article deserves to be read in full but here are some choice snippets from his interview with Sheikh Naim Qassem, deputy leader of Hezbollah:
"On the matter of political relations with Iran, the sheikh was absolutely clear. Hizbollah regards the Iranian spiritual leader, in this case Khamenei, as its ultimate authority; all major political decisions regard Hizbollah are referred to – when not actually taken in – Iran."
[T]here was no margin of doubt in the sheikh's view that Israel was an illegitimate state and that it should be abolished. This position was bolstered, as evident in his book, by the deployment of quotes from the Qu'ran denouncing Jews and calling for a struggle against them. I put it to the sheikh that this use of the Islamic tradition, in a context of modern political conflict, was racist, a point he evidently did not accept."

Finally, after two lefties, arch righty Prof. Roger Scruton of Oxford pertinently writes about how Hezbollah damages the idea of Lebanon as a sovereign state. He includes some interesting information on the Lebanese national army that I had not come across elsewhere:
75% of the Lebanese army is Shi'a. This preponderance is owed less to confessional bias (though that exists) than to the fact that young, unemployed Shi'a from rural districts are by far the easiest recruits – a demographic trend not foreseen when the confessional state was set up. Not surprisingly, the Lebanese army, confronted with the task of disarming Hizbollah, refused to enter into conflict with its co-religionists, and has relinquished the southern border to this heavily armed, and insanely belligerent Islamist faction." He also notes that the current Minister of Defence, a post always traditionally reserved for a representative of the Greek Orthodox community, is now also a Shi'a.


KGS said...

I believe that Fouad Ajami and the JCPA have equally interesting analysis as well.

Negotiations with religious supremists that practice terrorism as an art form will never come to anything. The only way for any kind of return to peaceful borders, is for Lebanon to exert its soveriegnty over all of Lebanon.

That means for the end to Hezbollahstan. It also means for the ability of the lebanese army to deploy to its southern border. That more than anything else, will render the manufacturer and conduit/weigh station for these missiles/rockets a moot issue.

The thought that one can honestly negotiate with racist supremicists whose very existence depends on the destruction of a fellow democracy, is naive.

Fouad Ajami:


Toby - Northern Light Blog said...

"The thought that one can honestly negotiate with racist supremicists whose very existence depends on the destruction of a fellow democracy, is naive." Your presumption is that Hezbollah would somehow win from 'negotiations'. What if negotiations result in them becoming an unarmed political party, with the Lebanese Army with NATO support guarding the blue line? There are small racist supremicist political forces within the Israeli democratic system who believe God gave them the right to settle all the occupied territories - but they do not control a section of the IDF, and the moderate majority of the Israeli political parties stop them from driving policy. Negotiations can be backed up by people carry big sticks - but we don't what outcomes are possible until it tried.

KGS said...

You presume a bit too much Toby :-)

I just view such scenario as folly, and a waste of time. The only negotiations that can result into something positive, are the ones thatg take place after much of the "Hezbollah infrastructure" is taken apart.

Of course negotiations will take place, but only between the sovereign state/government of Lebanon and Israel, upon the ruins of a vastly reduced Hezbollah.

As for the comparison of racists. The vast difference being that they are extremely marginalized and void of independent/unilateral decision making, within a valid working liberal democracy.

The Lebanese version of democracy has a very long way to go before it can marginalize its own extremists. So in the mean time, the extremist elements have to be dealt with militarilly. No political party with the ability to weild over 12 000 missiles can be marginalized through negotiations alone.

Pesonally I like what US Ambassador Bolton had to say recently.

Toby - Northern Light Blog said...

"upon the ruins of a vastly reduced Hezbollah."

The problem is that involves also ruining much of the rest of Lebanon - particularly the economy - and killing many civilians. That just ensures another generation grows up detesting Israel for what it has done, meaning that the threats to Israel's citizens (that these attacks are meant to stop) will just continue at some point in the future.

Petteri said...

Actual body count gives us a very good idea about things to come; 99% of the fatalities have been civilians. If this is the ratio, between regular folks vs. Hezbollah, of dying, then there will not be too many to stand around when the dust settles down. Also, understanding the fact that clensing Lebanon from Hezbollah practically necessitates Israelis to enter every home to take a peek under the bed to see hidden guns and then decide who's the one to get rid of.

There just might be another short term solution with the military option but negotiation is the only way to get Hezbollah onside.

Finally, I like to end with a loose quotation of Moshe Dyan: "You talk to your enemies not to your friends".

KGS said...

If you happen to catch the interview of Finns returning from Lebanon, one guy said that the area he was living was completely untouched, though he saw bombs falling in the distance.

Aske if ´he feared for his father and brother who were still there, he said a bit, but that the situation there is not like what's being reported in the media.

Those living in Hezbollah sectors....are in deed feeling the heat, but the rest of the Sunni, Christianm and Druze.....are not. As far as I am concerned, the Hezbollah and its supporters (for the most part) hate Israelis and therefore cannot be counted on fostering peace and tranquility for the future.

Putting them in their proper place is the most sane response the ISraelis and the rest of the Arab world could hope for....and surprise surprise....the Hezbollah is NOT garnishing any great support from the Arab world. I wonder why.

Petteri said...

kgs, I am somewhat puzzled what is the aim behind this (over) rection by the IDF. Since Hezbollah is more or less ingrained to the Lebanese society, whether you or I like it or not, and since Lebanese Armed Forces are 3/4 Shiite and would never fight against Hezbollah. I am still insisting in a more pain in the ass aka negotiations than in this sort of hammering that hasen't brought solution yet. I also see more radicalization ahead by more and more moderates not only in Lebanon but through out the Arab world. This doesn't serve the Israel's need for security even in a short run. Banging heads against a wall makes no sense, costs in long and short term are too high, and it should end as soon as possible. Unless, of course, the whole question is to neutralize Syria and Iran.

KGS said...

The reaction by Israel is not an "over reaction", but a legitimate response to years of enduring Hezbollah provocations. This was the last straw. Of course Israel understands that it won't be able to get rid of Hezbollah, but its missiles and the sytems that deliver it is another thing entirely.

Negotiations for a ceasefire sounds wonderful to the ear, but hardly realistic, when its only one side that can be trusted to keep it. Terrorist jihadis understand little of what a cease fire is, and therefore can't be trusted to adhere to it....for long.

I don't see any Israeli activity bringing more "believers" into the Hezbollah fold, than Israeli inactivity would. Lack of an Israeli response towards Arab provocations is a strong enlistment advertisment as was Israel's withdrawal from S.Lebanon in 2000, and Gaza 2005. All were viewed as signs of weakness and bolstered those movements popularity.

Usually those who are strongly "anti-military options in the ME" use that canard that it will only increase the level of popularity of these terrorist movements. I say that whether the Israelis do something or nothing, will create the same level of popularity.

The Arab world has NOT rallied to the cause of the Hezbollah, because its seen as serving the Iranians, and the comradery between the two sects is not as tight as some might think. This is one of those situations that exposes the canyon that divides them. One of thereason for the US apporoval over the IDF's action was the Iranian transfer of the Shebab-3 missile into Syrian territory.

This recent conflict has little to do with abducted soldiers, but a power play between US and Iranian interests. I for one would rather see US interests win out over the Iranians'.

KGS said...

An update on the civilian casualties, roughly half have been Hezbollah fighters, the rest civilians. Reports are saying that Hezbollah has even denied civilians an escape route after Israeli leaflets were dropped, that warned of an ensuing attack.

Its a well known that they stash rockets ect. in populated areas, and that puts the onus back on the Hezbollah, for being morally responsible for any civilians killed due to their weapons storage practices.

As for being disproportionate, I would think that an overwhelming response to an unprovoked attack would be validated by past military responses to aggression as well. Why its just the Jewish state held to such rediculous expectations causes me to be suspicious of those making the claims.

Toby - Northern Light Blog said...

As for being disproportionate, I would think that an overwhelming response to an unprovoked attack would be validated by past military responses to aggression as well. Why its just the Jewish state held to such rediculous expectations causes me to be suspicious of those making the claims.

Let's not go down that street thank you. If you believe something that someone writes here is anti-semitic or otherwise racist, tell me and I will probably remove it. Let's not hint darkly at lies behind views that we disagree with.

And I'll tell you why we hold Israel to such high expectations - because it is (as the Israeli government constantly reminds us) a democratic and liberal nation-state, not an extremist-religous, violent, sub-state militia. We expect so much more because Israel, and other democracies, promise so much more; including acting in a way that doesn't end up resembling their enemies.

KGS said...

Toby, that doesn't wash with me, nobody said anything about anti-Semitism, but about tom-foolery dressed up in elitist diplo-speak.

The fact that Israel chooses to defend itself by sending a very clear message to the patrons of the Hezbollah, that the status quo will no longer be acceptable, that no sovereign state will nor should accept a terrorist militia on its border...does not constitute "disproportionate" use of force.

I would expect any state that has been the victim of countless attacks on its borders, to finally say enough is enough and justifiably attack those who threaten its citizens. You better believe I question those who reject any response by Israel when it defends itself, its just that your and the French understanding of "disproportionate" is different from that of the Israelis, the US and my own.

I am tired of hearing that worn out mantra of "we expect more from Israel", you can throw that canard out with yesterday's bath water. When a states' sovereignty is being violated as much as Israel's has been over the past years....this kind of response is to be expected...and applauded.

Toby - Northern Light Blog said...

But most people don't question "any" response, they question "this" response. And large numbers of civilian - not Hezbollah fighters - are getting killed. Whether its justifiable or not, its not something to applaud. I know that your not going to change your position - I'm sure you would happily agree that you are a pro-Israel partisan - but its not "elitist diplo-speak" to think that there is something inherently wrong with dead children regardless of their nationality.

I can accept that Israel can't accept attacks across its borders but then it should look to some of its own activities as well - such sending warplanes to buzz the house of the Syrian president the week previous the start of this fighting. I know they would not accept a Syrian MIG flying over Tel Aviv.

Petteri said...

Toby beat me to punch and did it so well that I have just one item to add.

There is nothing in the region that is "unprovoked". Present problems are historical grievances that have been left to fester to became what they are today. To myobically stare what's right now under our eyes is to simplify complex issues and it doesn't help that the power broker, USA, is completely unable and willing to correct them. Besides, their honesty is, putting it mildly, questionable.

On a personal level, kgs, I find you way too doctrinal to have any give-and-take-type dialoque...the kind of situation that exists between the Arabs and Israelis.

KGS said...

This is interesting, very interesting indeed. Toby's main "kvetch" about the Israeli operation is the toll its taking the civilian population, like he is the only one concerned. I'll let you in on something, the IDF and its government (as well as myself) is as concerned. He says absolutely nothing about the evidence that shows Israel taking extreme measures to minimize that toll, by warning civilians to leave areas intended for strikes.

On the other side of the coin, Toby or you either Petteri, have nothing to say as well, about the Hezbollah's use of the civilian population as human shields, storing their weapons in populated centers and launching rockets from these same areas in much the same way as the Hamas and other terrorist groups do in Gaza.

Just what type of dialogue do you have with people determined not to entertain your existence? Just what kind of verbal exchange does one have with those committed to destroying your state? Its as vain as where the round table talks Chamberlain had with Adolf Hitler, who by the way, talked then of the "cowardice of resorting to the use of war" in confronting that genocidal maniac. Sounds alot like the talk you hear this present day from many within European political elitist circles.

For Petteri to dismiss this latest provocation as just "one of the many" so therefore it doesn't deserve serious consideration, has never known anyone that has lived near the border with Lebanon. There are CONTINUOUS provocations, this one however was one two many, and due to the transfer of the Iranian Shebab-3 type missiles to Syria, all bets are now off.

There is a hell of aa lot of subterfuge going on right now in the region, and in spite of Israeli withdrawals from both of its north and south borders, it hasn't fueled the Arabs for a desire for peace....but for more violence. Its not by accident that at the height of the Oslo years when the Arabs were in control of over 90% of the disputed territories, terrorism was also at its zenith as well.

You figure that only dialogue is the only option to reach peace? I just don't see that as being realistic, especially when Israelis do not have Swedes or Norwegians as neighbors.

KGS said...

UN envoy says the Hezbollah is using its own as shields.

KGS said...

My analysis of how the Arabs have handled the West since 73" war;

1.)Instigate a war

2.)Once the war is well underway and you are in the process of having your ass handed to you --- get a few world powers to force your western opponent into a cease-fire.

3.)Whatever you do, don't surrender or submit to any terms dictated by your enemy. That would ruin everything! All you have to do is wait it out and eventually the world will become sickened at what is being done to your soldiers and civilian population --- and will force a truce.

4.)Once a truce has been called, you can resume your intransigence (which probably cause the conflict in the first place) and even declare victory as your opponent leaves the field of battle.

Hell, I'll even throw in Saddam's eviction from Quwait. He learned well from Nasser. According to Saddam, it was a massive victory over the UN Coalition that drove him out.

Toby - Northern Light Blog said...

"You figure that only dialogue is the only option to reach peace?" I've never said that so I wish you'd stop putting words in people's mouths, but I also don't think that hitting ambulances with the blue flashing lights on is likely to help either.

Petteri said...

kgs, I am aware that you have sort of dedicated your life to issues concerning Israel. I, another hand, stumble on these issues as they flare up and thus there are a lot of unknowns to me. However, basic common sense conclusions surely can be made, and sometimes a person like myself has needed distance to make calm analyses.

I always have my suspisions when I am told what this or that conflict in the Middle East is all about. There are so many paralel and hidden agendas involved by the players of the region and that includes the U.S.. What has always amazed me is the strong and all concuring bond between Israel and the U.S.. I figure that, it has to come down to an American need to have strong, permanent, preferable democratic, and trusted ally in the region to caretake her vital interests and if needed to do some dirty work for her every now and then. Many see America just plainly supporting Israel but, as I see it, they are getting their moneys worth. These days with Bush's Christian fundamentalism has added a religious aspect into the mix. Naturally this type of alliance can have negative impact, too. Everybody, and that certainly includes the Arabs, can see this special relation which goes long way to lessen the U.S.A.'s believability as an honest broker. The possiblity of proxy war is always there,and this latest escalation just might have something to do with sending messages to Syria as well as to Iran. Well, we'll see about that.

The merry band of Hezbollah quite frankly disgust me. All theocratic and fundamental religious movements do. There is no doubt in my mind that, it is in the interest of the whole mankind to rid us from these intolerant fascists. How to go about doing it is a matter of dispute between you and me. Of life of me, I can't see Israel getting any medium or long term security benefits by hammering Lebanon with this blunt instrument. In the other hand Israel is reaping very bad publicity the world wide, punishing too many innocents, destroying the economy and moderate government in Lebanon, turning moderate Lebanese in the hands of Hizbollah, and forcing some Arab countries back to give Hezbollah credit it doesn't deserve. And then there is; what would be the victory to Israel? The complete elimination of Hezbollah is unlikely and, if this will be the case, it's Hezbollah who will claim to be the winner. It's going to play great all over the Arab world.

Sorry, kgs, this doesn't look too great for your beloved Israel!

KGS said...

No matter what Israel does or doesn't do, it will never reap good PR from the Arab street. Many Arab leaders on the other hand do wish for the conflict to end, but they fear for their own necks and the continuation of their regimes more, than peace with Israel.

I believe you have a point when it comes to Israel and the US's relationship, the US does realize it gets more for its buck with the Jewish state, than it ever will from Egypt, Jordan or elsewhere.

From a geo-political persepective, the Arabs better be thankfull that Israel is joined to the hip of the US, for an Israel left to fend exlusively for itself, would make the ME even more dangerous, since the room for error would become that much smaller.

As for Hezbollah being hammered, its in everyone's favor for them to be reduced drastically, it will make them that much easier to disarm. Leaving them alone with over 12 000 missiles and who knows what else more, would be even more dangerous, for ISraelis and elsewhere.