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August 16, 2006

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And what could we all do to make sure that the next President we elect feels a responsibility to have at least a passing acquaintance with reality?

Electoral reform.

(Well, it would be a start to make sure that the next President you-all elect actually gets into office, wouldn't it?)

Billmon wrote:

Shrub's speechwriters have literally been reduced to babbling, a relentlessly on-message babbling that shows just how ill suited the tools of domestic politics are for conducting a half-way serious foreign policy, much less an extremely serious war.

The sonic results are equally strange: Bush keeps belting the stuff out with his usual gospel fervor, even though it has degenerated into near gibberish. At times it starts to sound almost like accidental poetry, like listening to an old recording of Allen Ginsberg reciting Howl


Maybe Bush is speaking in "tongues" and only his followers can interpret the language of freedom-angels from liberty God.

" The President and his administration allowed a country to be bombed to smithereens because it was unthinkable to accept a mere ceasefire that did not address the root causes of the problem. As a result of our willingness to let Lebanon be flattened, we now have a ceasefire that does not address the root causes of the problem. Hezbollah will not be disarmed by the Lebanese, nor will the international force take action to disarm them, since other countries are understandably reluctant to fight Israel's wars."

Would a day one ceasefire have led to an international force in Lebanon?

George Will made a crack about the necessity for Bush's supporters to be delusional.

On the right there is a huge, deeply hysterical need to feel like a winner. The need to feel like a winner is far more important than the need to know what one is fighting for or how the fighting is done. If the Republican party gets the blame for losing Iraq--and they should--they will be marginalized from American politics for a generation. Hence the desparate scurrying around looking for a scapegoat. Blame the Democrats, blame Bush for not being a real conservative, blame the Iraqis for not supporting us....

Don’t most Iraqis Sunnis, Shia and Kurds, believe the United States encouraged Hussein to go to war with Iran?

To ignore the West’s century of meddling, in the region, really does not bode well for America’s right-wing of freedom spreaders.

You think Bin Ladden banked on our collective denial?

... do you think that Bush actually believes what he says, or that he's lying?

hilzoy,

I thought William Saletan came up with a good answer to this question. I defer to your judgement on whether Plato deserves the blame.

But what I want to know is, what the hell got into Chirac? Is there some benefit to France in putting troops into no-mans-land between belligrents who really don’t keep ceasefires very well?

it's hard to know when he's lying and when he's just demonstrating ignorance. and, it's possible he's doing both at the same time, here.

Hezbollah didn't win, it got beat up, chased around a lot and didn't defeat Israel - Israel is still there and still capable of much more than it gave Hezbollah over the last few weeks. so, maybe in a carefully-tailored binary (lose = opposite of win) sense, Hezbollah lost. and maybe that's enough to convince W that he can just stay on-message and let the nitpickers worry about the details.

it's the same logic that says finding a handful of forgotten, degraded, harmless chemical shells proves "we found the WMD". sure, it's a lie in the bigger sense, but if you phrase the question just right, cross your finers behind your back, and are careful who's around when you say it, you can get away with it.

Typo: Bush's claim that Hezbollah won wasn't part of his prepared remarks.

Bush's claim that Hezbollah won wasn't part of his prepared remarks.

I think this isn't what you meant to say. Either that, or it's contradicted elsewhere in your post.

In any event, I say something almost (but not quite) exactly the opposite: to claim that Hizbollah won anything at all requires a complete redefinition of victory.

Me, I score it as more or less a draw, with both sides vying heavily for loser.

or, shorter me: W's just a mendacious hack

Kevin: But what I want to know is, what the hell got into Chirac? Is there some benefit to France in putting troops into no-mans-land between belligrents who really don’t keep ceasefires very well?

This may offer an answer to that question. The historical/diplomatic ties between Lebanon and France are real and of long standing: France formed the Lebanese Republic in 1926, and the Free French recognised Lebanese independence from France in 1941 (the Vichy government not until 1943). If this comes off, Chirac and France look good and the Lebanese benefit: if it doesn't come off, Chirac may still get points for trying.

So just who are these "speechwriters" who have been putting the happy-babble into President Bush's mouth? Have they hired on Mohammed Said al-Sahaf*?

Sadly, hilzoy, the "tools of domestic politics" seem to be all that the Administration has left to work with, since, as has been long demonstrated, putting on a "tough" front for the home audience and working (or attempting) the news for its maximum political advantage has always been this Adminstration's main, and possible only real strength. Even more sadly, there seem to be so damn few of the "opposition" (or, for that matter, any responsible/non-delusional parties) who will publically call them out out on their apparent separation from reality. Oh, sorry: there's that "reality" thing again....

*a.k.a. "Baghdad Bob" - remember him?

In any event, I say something almost (but not quite) exactly the opposite: to claim that Hizbollah won anything at all requires a complete redefinition of victory.

Depends if you're talking about a football game or not. A better question would be "Is Israel better off today than it was a month ago?" Or Hezbollah? The reports of Hezbollah fighters high-fiving each other a few kilometers from the Israeli border seems to indicate that they're feeling pretty good about life right now.

Both sides were wrong and both sides lost. Well, I hope both sides lost--neither side deserves to feel like it won.

Now which side actually "won" as defined by how they perceive victory isn't clear, but it's probably Hezbollah, because they held up so well against the IDF and this has made them heroes in the Arab world. Though maybe in the long run the (non-Shiite) Lebanese will reflect a bit and start blaming them for causing this stupid war.

That was Thomas Friedman's hope in a recent column. I suspect Friedman believes that this justifies Israel's brutal behavior. I don't agree, but it might still be true that Hezbollah's current high standing in Lebanese public opinion will drop when people start to think about what they want their country to be like. They probably won't come to the point where they thank Israel for killing hundreds of civilians and causing billions of dollars worth of property damage.

And of course "best minds of my generation" doesn't exactly apply either. Aside from that, Mrs. Lincoln...

Chirac is not that different from Bush. A lame duck after a completely failed presidency. Perhaps, the similarity fueled their dislike.

In domestic politics Chirac can no longer manoeuver. An active foreign policy looks mighty good and enhances French status in the UN pecking order.

What troubles me is not the Bush basket case (Europe has survived many a mad king) but the ongoing strong support and ignorance of a sizable portion of the US public. Bush is only a symptom.

And of course "best minds of my generation" doesn't exactly apply either. Aside from that, Mrs. Lincoln...

This was a huge victory for HA.

Israel did not achieve any of it's war objectives. HA did.

To recap, Israel did not get it's soldiers back or dislodge HA from southern lebanon or convince HA not to shoot missiles at them.

There will be no disarming of HA.

How this can be interpreted as anything other than a win for HA is beyond me.

And of course "best minds of my generation" doesn't exactly apply either. Aside from that, Mrs. Lincoln...

The reports of Hezbollah fighters high-fiving each other a few kilometers from the Israeli border seems to indicate that they're feeling pretty good about life right now.

Given that they're alive, still, even I think that's warranted.

And of course "best minds of my generation" doesn't exactly apply either. Aside from that, Mrs. Lincoln...

"Have they hired on Mohammed Said al-Sahaf*?"

Isn't he the one that absolutely, definetly was certainly not the trade envoy to Niger which the former Prime Minister of Niger thought wanted uranium (and who didn't bother trading in anything else once it was clear that uranium was not on the table)?

[backs away slowly]

:)

In any event, I say something almost (but not quite) exactly the opposite: to claim that Hizbollah won anything at all requires a complete redefinition of victory.

Certainly, although the fact that they're still armed, still defiant, still within sight of Israel, still have rockets, and are filled with a sense of dignity and pride may have something to do with it as well.

The anticipation of new recruits, new sources of funding, and the street cred of being the most effecient Arab fighting force in the world may come into play as well.

Oops, that was in response to this by Slarti: Given that they're alive, still, even I think that's warranted.

requires a complete redefinition of victory.

Someone better tell the Vietcong they lost.

"The anticipation of new recruits, new sources of funding, and the street cred of being the most effecient Arab fighting force in the world may come into play as well."

Just effective enough to start a fight, but not effective enough to do anything about it once it started? Hezbollah claims to be the only force that 'protects' Lebanon from Israel. The only protection I saw was Hezbollah trying to protect itself by hiding behind civilians.

You are probably right about how the Arab street redefines winning. But when the only thing you bring to the table is the ability to ruin your country's economy at the drop of a hat, you are really just a thug.

But when the only thing you bring to the table is the ability to ruin your country's economy at the drop of a hat, you are really just a thug.

Just a question: Who rebuilt S. Lebanon after the Israelis withdrew?

Maybe they bring more to the table than you are prepared to acknowledge. Sucks for those who seek comfort in a black and white worldview, but there you go.

Meanwhile, someone travel back in time and tell every resistance group there ever was they're just thugs.

But when the only thing you bring to the table is the ability to ruin your country's economy at the drop of a hat, you are really just a thug.

Irrelevant, since that doesn't apply to Hezbollah. Really should use the view of Hezbollah used by those in Lebanon--world of difference there.

But when the only thing you bring to the table is the ability to ruin your country's economy at the drop of a hat, you are really just a thug.

Wow. I think the chocolate ration just increased from 30 grams to 20. Those weren't Hezbollah bombs levelling the country, Sebastian.

Slarti, in addition to what dpu and Ed Finnerty have said, there's the reality of what constitutes 'winning' for a guerrilla army, which is different from a win for a regular army.

Hezbollah is an anti-occupation guerrilla army, which 'wins' if Israel is unable to reoccupy more of Lebanon and/or suffers significant losses in the effort to do so, without dislodging HA fighters from south Lebanon. It remains to be seen if or when IDF ground troops will withdraw entirely from Lebanon.

The worldwide reputational damage to Israel, from the IDF's assault on civilians and civilian infrastructure far from the rocket-launching sites, is just a bonus for Hezbollah. The Israeli military were not forced by Hezbollah to respond in that way; they planned that response far in advance and had it endorsed by their backers in Washington DC.

The continuing naval and air blockade of Lebanon will inflict similar reputational damage the longer it goes on. France today called for it to end.

Just a question: Who rebuilt S. Lebanon after the Israelis withdrew?

Just to be concise: That would be after the Israelis withdrew the first time.

And it will likely be Hezbollah that will rebuild South Lebanon the second time.

The disclaimer that should be unnecessary: do not mistake this as love of Hezbollah.

Slarti: "Bush's claim that Hezbollah won wasn't part of his prepared remarks.

I think this isn't what you meant to say. Either that, or it's contradicted elsewhere in your post."

-- I don't get this. What I meant to say was: Billmon attributes this to Bush's speechwriters. I, however, do not. The speechwriters presumably wrote the prepared part of his remarks, which he delivered at the beginning. This was not in that prepared part. It seemed to be off the cuff. Thus, I attribute it to Bush himself.

"to claim that Hizbollah won anything at all requires a complete redefinition of victory." -- I think there are things that Hezbollah won. I don't think they won, period. But that's mostly because I don't really think that anyone won here, at least among the actual combatants. (One of the many respects in which war is unlike football: in football, someone has to win. In war, alas, not.)

To my mind, if there has to be a "winner", it's the side that gains the most in terms of its long-term strategic objectives, not the side that comes out ahead militarily. Militarily, the fight between Israel and Hezbollah seems to have been a draw (unlike the fight between Israel and the Lebanese infrastructure and citizenry, which Israel definitely "won".) But in terms of strategic objectives, I think Israel clearly lost a lot, while Hezbollah's gains and losses are a lot less clear.

(Partly this is because its objectives are also less clear. I mean: it gained a lot of prestige. Does it have a plan for what to do with its increased prestige -- how to turn it into some useful result? Its military gained a lot of credibility: again, what does it plan to do with that? What's its objective, and how do these gains work to secure it? I don't know.)

But since I think Israel clearly lost a lot, while it's just unclear how Hezbollah did, and since that unclarity doesn't come from any problem identifying things Hezbollah achieved, but from seeing a strategic vision that they play into, if I had to pick a winner, it would be Hezbollah.

Seb: I think we might well have gotten an international force in there early on. It's not clear what form the international force will take now, but it does seem likely, to me, that they will not be tasked with disarming Hezbollah. That means that if they prevent attacks, it will be by just being there, not by 'attacking the root causes', etc. And since they are unlikely to stay there forever, the basic problem remains.

I really do not see how this was worth it.

do you think that Bush actually believes what he says, or that he's lying?

I've thought they were drinking their own koolaid since it became clear that they hadn't prepared fake WMDs to find in Iraq

Someone better tell the Vietcong they lost.

What'd Hizbollah win, by analogy?

If Bush egged them on May 23, then of course he's going to say they won. Nothing bad can possibly be his fault. Delusion has been a winning strategy for him.

The guys firing the rockets may or may not be thugs, but IMO that's dangerously underestimating the guys on the border taking on Merkavas with old antitank weapons (and occasionally succeeding).

Certainly, although the fact that they're still armed, still defiant, still within sight of Israel, still have rockets, and are filled with a sense of dignity and pride may have something to do with it as well.

And given that Israel is just as well armed, still just as committed, and still has bombs, aircraft and observation drones, I'd say it points more toward preservation of status quo. Which, truth be told, might be Hizbollah's aim, but that they're being bankrolled by Iran certainly got much wider media exposure than was the case before this began.

And of course you might argue this, too, is a victory for Hizbollah.

And a note on ruining the economy. I read an interview with someone from South Lebanon who described Hezbollah trucks loaded with windows, doors, and young men who would appear after Israeli air raids in the past, and quickly do repair work free of charge. Imagine what things like that do in terms of popular support.

Now Iran has announced that it will be pumping some 150 million into South Lebanon to repair the infrastructure. Who do you suppose will be the recipient of the goodwill that will result?

"...willingness to let Lebanon be flattened...."

What's the definition for when a country is "flattened"?

Is it when under one-tenth of one percent of its structures have been "flattened"? More? Less? What's an objective measure?

I don't get this.

Um...Bush didn't claim Hizbollah won, hilzoy.

Slarti:

Oh.

Oh.

Oops.

Pretty remarkable what you can fail to notice when you "know" what you wrote.

Moving right along:

"What'd Hizbollah win, by analogy?" -- Before this started, Hezbollah was facing a problem about its mission. It was supposed to be protecting Lebanon from Israeli aggression, but the Israelis weren't around any more. Moreover, the Syrians, who had backed Hezbollah, had left, and Lebanon was supposed to turn into a normal country in which you don't have armed militias running around. There was basically no reason for their military wing to go on existing, apart from the pretty transparent pretext of the Sheba'a farms. But while parts of Hezbollah (the parts that do the social service work and so forth) seemed to be OK with turning into a political party, the militia part didn't really want to go out of existence. It just had no obvious reason not to.

That was then. Now things are altogether different. The idea that Lebanon doesn't need to be protected from Israel is now laughable. The idea that the Lebanese army can do it -- well, what did they do to protect anyone during the last month or so? Hezbollah now has tons of popular support, and moreover the demand to disarm it has been recast as an external demand to be resisted. It has, moreover, proved its worth to its funders. And it will do a lot better than it would have before in Lebanese elections.

I think it gained a lot.

What'd Hizbollah win, by analogy?

Compare & contrast South Lebanon & Gaza.

Do you think that if Gaza had a militia as well armed, trained and lead as Hizbollah is that the Israelis would get away with this kind of crap?

Oh.

Oh.

Oops.

Pretty remarkable what you can fail to notice when you "know" what you wrote.

FWIW hilzoy, I couldn't figure it out either until Slarti's 1:32.

Is it when under one-tenth of one percent of its structures have been "flattened"? More? Less? What's an objective measure?

Guess it depends on which one-tenth of one percent. While power stations, highway overpasses, bridges, and civic and communication centres may be one billionth of the area of the county, destroying them would be considered "levelling" in my books, even if slightly hyperbolic.

Perhaps we can agree that the infrastructure and economy have been levelled...

Pretty remarkable what you can fail to notice when you "know" what you wrote.

Been there, done that.

Another question: why is the Hezbollah (Party of God) suddenly being referred to as "HA" by some this morning? Does fashion change overnight, or what?

Another question: why is the Hezbollah (Party of God) suddenly being referred to as "HA" by some this morning? Did fashion change overnight, or what?

"What'd Hizbollah win, by analogy?"

That was asked in response to spartikus' comparison of Hizbollah to the Viet Cong.

Don't forget oiling the beaches. That will probably do more damage to Lebanon's economy than anything else.

I see one person referring to Hezbollah as HA, and one person does not a fashion make. Or did I miss some others?

"I see one person referring to Hezbollah as HA, and one person does not a fashion make."

Two, however, does.

I'm just wondering if I missed a memo; I believe you know the feeling.

What's the definition for when a country is "flattened"?

Potential GNP reduced by X per cent, where X is whatever figure you have in mind.

Jes,

Thanks for the link. I thought the most compelling suggestion was: "France wants to avoid the possible emergence, from the Lebanese as from related crises, of a new conflict of civilisations between the west and the Muslim world." That's a worthy aim, but up against Bush and Ahmadinejad it seems far too ambitious for France, or even the entire EU.

"Potential GNP reduced by X per cent, where X is whatever figure you have in mind."

This seems an unhelpful measure of military effect, since GNP can be reduced by a variety of utterly non-military measures, such as embargos and sanctions.

As well, I'm looking for a measure without an "X," but with an actual number or measure that can be applied.

Next?

HA is just a convenient contraction of the name for typing purposes - similar to referring to the IDF.

Sebastian: Would a day one ceasefire have led to an international force in Lebanon?

Would it have led to three quarters of a million homeless and $2.5 billion in damages? Quit reckoning only the positive consequences. I would gladly take a functioning Lebanon over a miniscule international peacekeeping force.

Gary, just what are you trying to measure and why?

That was asked in response to spartikus' comparison of Hizbollah to the Viet Cong.

Which Hilzoy's answer more than adequately answered, and in the spirit of the question to boot. If you don't see or care to see "the analogy", so be it.

"power stations"

Did Israel destroy any power stations?


"The idea that Lebanon doesn't need to be protected from Israel is now laughable."

That seems silly to me. Lebanon is unthreatened by Israel in the absence of Hezbollah attacks - you might as reasonably say "The idea that Lebanon doesn't need to be protected from Hezbollah is now laughable." And it's apparent that Hezbollah was unable to prevent e.g. the airstrikes in southern Beirut.

That seems silly to me. Lebanon is unthreatened by Israel in the absence of Hezbollah attacks

I'm sure those returning to their rubblized homes and neighbourhoods are blaming Hezbollah instead of the Israelis. Or maybe not.

Bush also seems to be under the impression that the international peacekeeping force, rather than being confined to a 20 mile band at the southern border will "secure Syria's borders". And also that the ports around Lebanon will be "sealed off".

I have no idea what he means by this. But I'm wondering: who told him this? Is this an indication of the policy to follow? Will the US interpret the UN resolution as demanding, in effect, a blockade of Lebanon?

"Hezbollah suffered a defeat in this crisis.."

Katrina was defeated, wasn't it? The 13th floor of the World Trade Center won, didn't it? The polar ice caps are winning the melting race, compared to, say, the ice cubes in my freezer, aren't they? The Cubbies suffered a great victory when they lost Derrick Lee. My embalmed grandmother is winning the war on putrefaction.

I'm with Von on this war; it's a stupid little war and who can say yet who won. I'm with Hilzoy on Bush; he's a stupid little man, but he sure is a winner.

Did Israel destroy any power stations?

From The Times:

While insisting that Israel had a right to defend itself against rocket attacks from Hezbollah, Mr Benn said that destroying the country’s infrastructure was unacceptable.

“I have to say, I would find it very hard to describe the bombing of power stations, water treatment plants — indeed two Red Cross vehicles were attacked during the conflict . . . as a proportionate response,” he said.

The Lebanese authorities estimate that Israeli bombing killed more than 1,000 Lebanese and caused $2.2 billion (£1.2 billion) in damage to 70 bridges, power plants, oil storage sites and the runways of the country’s only international airport as well as homes.

"Just a question: Who rebuilt S. Lebanon after the Israelis withdrew?

Maybe they bring more to the table than you are prepared to acknowledge. Sucks for those who seek comfort in a black and white worldview, but there you go."

This is the classic broken window fallacy. If the thing you do is setting up situations to break things so that you can fix them, you aren't really helping things. Of course, I won't deny for a minute that it is an effective fallacy. Capone and the Medellin Cartel did a great job of making neighborhoods very unsafe while also 'protecting' the neighborhoods.

Hilzoy: "I think we might well have gotten an international force in there early on. It's not clear what form the international force will take now, but it does seem likely, to me, that they will not be tasked with disarming Hezbollah. That means that if they prevent attacks, it will be by just being there, not by 'attacking the root causes', etc. And since they are unlikely to stay there forever, the basic problem remains."

I don't really understand this. Do you believe that there was a likelyhood that an international force would have been tasked with disarming Hezbollah before Israel attacked? It seems very unlikely to me. As for "since they are unlikely to stay there forever, the basic problem remains." this is the argument against all ceasefires without destroying the enemy. Like a ceasefire, if the international force keeps things calm for four or five years, perhaps good can come of it.

I'm skeptical that an international force can do such a thing. I see it far more likely to be a chance for Hezbollah to prove (again) what it really is. But that is probably a necessary thing before Hezbollah can be dealt with.

This is the classic broken window fallacy.

Ah...so Hezbollah only rebuilt schools, roads, social services and what not for the expressed purpose of provoking their destruction at some date in the future. Cunning. And telepathic.

"Would it have led to three quarters of a million homeless and $2.5 billion in damages? Quit reckoning only the positive consequences. I would gladly take a functioning Lebanon over a miniscule international peacekeeping force."

I'm sure, as you weren't in Israel living under the rocket attacks before Israel counter-attacked, that seems true for you. I'm sure, that since the IDF is not funded by people who want to wipe Lebanon off the map, that seems true for you.

What is "a functioning Lebanon" from Israel's point of view? I suspect it is a Lebanon that can keep Hezbollah from attacking Israel from within Lebanon's borders. I suspect it is a Lebanon that can keep Hezbollah from being sent weapons from Iran.

There wasn't a functioning Lebanon. And that, is the problem.

If you don't see or care to see "the analogy", so be it.

If you don't care to explain this analogy, so be it. If someone else wants to, please, I'm all ears.

"Ah...so Hezbollah only rebuilt schools, roads, social services and what not for the expressed purpose of provoking their destruction at some date in the future. Cunning. And telepathic."

No. They have social services for the same purpose that Capone and the Medellin cartel do--to derive enough popular support to allow them to have a safe base of operations to carry out their illegal and highly violent activites. Does militant-Hezbollah exist to serve Social Service- Hezbollah? The question can be answered by analyzing which group could survive without the other.

If you don't care to explain this analogy, so be it.

As I said, Hilzoy did very well. If you aren't grokking it, then you will naturally assume it wasn't. As such, it's an impasse.

Honestly, and to no one in particular, I don't see how you can develop a successful strategy for countering Hezbollah if you are not prepared to assess them, as the facts on the ground suggest, as more than simple thugs.

dpu, the quibble is "destroy" vs "damage" - it's been noted here a number of times that Israel had been taking out transformer banks to disable power plants while minimizing the repair time. Whether that was always the case in Lebanon is not known to me.

"I'm sure those returning to their rubblized homes and neighbourhoods are blaming Hezbollah instead of the Israelis."

Different question.


Someone remind me what the Israelis claim the estimated damage to Hezbollah was? I saw a figure of 100s of fighters (10%? 15%?) and a larger proportion of materiel somewhere but can't put my finger on it.

As I said, Hilzoy did very well

Without once paying service to the Vietcong half. If that's better than you could do, I'm guessing you're not prepared to explain it at all.

If you aren't grokking it, then you will naturally assume it wasn't.

It wasn't what?

There wasn't a functioning Lebanon. And that, is the problem.

This is getting tedious. Most of the debators here from both sides of the fence agree that the situation was not a good one. Both seem to agree that a disarmed Hezbollah was a good thing. Pretty much everyone agrees that Israel has a right to protect themselves.

The disagreement rests on the best long term solution to the problem. While it's true to say that Lebanon was not a fully functioning democracy, there were some extremely good indicators that it was going that way, and that there were moderate factions withing Hezbollah that could be encouraged to eventually take power from the extremists. That, and that alone, is the sole hope for peace on Israel's northern border in the long term, and now that is far more distant than it was four weeks ago.

It's astonishing that those who have, for the last few years, supported a doomed US Middle Eastern Policy continue to use the same flawed reasoning that backed that effort.

A miliary solution will. not. work. A political solution is required, and the longer it is sabotaged by what can only be described as an emotional thrashing about with high explosives, on both sides, the worse off we will all be.

There wasn't a functioning Lebanon.

If the status quo was so unsatisfactory, why was the response to proposed negotiations Lebanon can wait?

"No. They have social services for the same purpose that Capone and the Medellin cartel do--to derive enough popular support to allow them to have a safe base of operations to carry out their illegal and highly violent activites. Does militant-Hezbollah exist to serve Social Service- Hezbollah? The question can be answered by analyzing which group could survive without the other."

I don't know how one could know this. And I don't see the survive-alone question as dispositive.

Sebastian Holsclaw: Does militant-Hezbollah exist to serve Social Service- Hezbollah? The question can be answered by analyzing which group could survive without the other.

You mean the same way the public school system and Medicare are simply tools for gaining popular support for the U.S. Army?

It's astonishing that those who have, for the last few years, supported a doomed US Middle Eastern Policy continue to use the same flawed reasoning that backed that effort.

Why would this be a surprise? Once people make a decision, they become emotionally invested in the position and are unlikely to change their views even in the face of rather strong evidence to the contrary.

Seb: "Do you believe that there was a likelyhood that an international force would have been tasked with disarming Hezbollah before Israel attacked? It seems very unlikely to me."

Ah, I see the problem.

Presently, it seems very unlikely to me that the international task force that people are currently trying to put together will be tasked to disarm Hezbollah. As I read the text of the ceasefire agreement, disarming Hezbollah is a long-term goal, not part of the international force's immediate mandate. Moreover, the press has been reporting for a while -- before the ceasefire, at any rate -- that the force under negotiation would not be tasked with disarming Hezbollah.

So, no, I don't think that any international force we had gotten in very early would have disarmed Hezbollah, but I don't think this one will either. If it were tasked with disarming Hezbollah, I don't think anyone would sign up, unless Hezbollah had clearly agreed to disarm, which also strikes me as very unlikely.

I think that what's going to happen, assuming the whole thing doesn't fall apart, is: a multinational force will go in. It will have rules of engagement that permit it to defend itself, and to stop anyone from e.g. firing rockets in its presence. It will keep things under control, though it will not prevent Hezbollah from rearming. Eventually, it will leave, at which point either enough time will have passed for some more permanent solution to have come into view, or we'll be back where we started.

Had Hezbollah in fact agreed to give up its arms, there would be something to show for all this. As it is, I really can't see that there is, other than a lot of damage -- most obviously to Lebanon, but also to the chances for peace in the region, and to our and Israel's interests. I hope there will be no further damage to our troops in Iraq.

Hilzoy is correct, Hezbollah is not to be disarmed. In my view, the ceasefire allows Hezbollah to regroup, and as I believe that Hezbollah's intent all along is to get into a ground engagement with Israel, they will likely utilize the ceasefire to get into an advantageous position to do so.

All speculation on my part, of course. My dedicated phone line to the Tehran leadership seems to be on the fritz.

Seb: Here's Condi Rice on the subject:

"I don't think there is an expectation that this (U.N.) force is going to physically disarm Hezbollah," Rice said. "I think it's a little bit of a misreading about how you disarm a militia. You have to have a plan, first of all, for the disarmament of the militia, and then the hope is that some people lay down their arms voluntarily."

If Hezbollah resists international demands to disarm, Rice said, "one would have to assume that there will be others who are willing to call Hezbollah what we are willing to call it, which is a terrorist organization."

So: we ask them to disarm voluntarily, and if they don't -- well, then we'll call them terrorists. Sounds like a plan to me.

Best headline award goes to 'Aqoul:
Rubenesque Conflict Seeks Single, Professional, Peacekeeping Force

You mean the same way the public school system and Medicare are simply tools for gaining popular support for the U.S. Army?

Hey, keep it down, Gromit. That's not for public consumption.

"Gary, just what are you trying to measure and why?"

What an objective measure of what it is to "flatten" a country.

Why? So as to have an objective measure to discuss, rather than subjective opinion, which isn't useful.

Larger goal: establish facts over impressions.

"So: we ask them to disarm voluntarily, and if they don't -- well, then we'll call them terrorists. Sounds like a plan to me."

Sounds like something worthwhile to me - a high-profile acknowledgement from the world that Hezbollah shouldn't be armed. It should give Israel a bit of a moral boost in future if Hezbollah should attack it again.

I suspect that HA = Hezb'allah. A contraction based on the two parts of the organization's name viewed as separate linguistic entities, instead of concatenated as they usually are in English-language media.

Sounds like something worthwhile to me - a high-profile acknowledgement from the world that Hezbollah shouldn't be armed. It should give Israel a bit of a moral boost in future if Hezbollah should attack it again.

Uh, really? What are they called now?

rilkefan: well, it's worthwhile in the sense of being good in isolation. A small good thing, but good.

But in context: Seb was saying that this war really had achieved something, and asked (as I read it, in support of his claim) whether there would have been an international force tasked to disarm Hezbollah if we'd forced a ceasefire early on. I said 'no', and then adduced the quote from Rice to illustrate that whatever is under discussion, it's not a serious plan to disarm Hezbollah.

Maybe it is a serious plan to get the world to call Hezbollah terrorists, although frankly I don't see who will do this who wasn't already. But it's not a serious plan to disarm Hezbollah.

"Uh, really? What are they called now?"

The defenders of Lebanon? The charity with a sideline in protection? A normal part of the Lebanese govt?

Five years from now there will either be no attacks on Israel from Lebanon, in which case I'd guess the recent unpleasantness worked out better than I expected, or there will be attacks by a non-disarmed Hezbollah clearly flouting the UN's expressed will, and every conversation about it will include "in contravention of UN resolution blah".

"HA is just a convenient contraction of the name for typing purposes - similar to referring to the IDF."

IDF stands for Israel Defense Forces; it's not a "contraction," it's an acronym. What does "HA" stand for?

Ara: "Would it have led to three quarters of a million homeless"

Homeless? As in homes destroyed, rather than "temporarily fled, but are returning today"? (After all, over a million Israelis were also "homeless" if it's the latter definition.)

If it's the former definition, homes destroyed, do you have a cite for that, please?

rilkefan: "Someone remind me what the Israelis claim the estimated damage to Hezbollah was?"

It seems to vary a lot, depending on who is speaking. The strongest claim seems to be that they killed ~500 fighters out of a total active force of ~2000.

Hezbollah, of course, claims far fewer fighters killed.

Then there are quite a few sources who assert that the ~2000 fighters figure is misleading, because Hezbollah has a far larger reserve of possible fighters, perhaps as many as 10,000.

The most frequent estimate I've seen of Hezbollah missiles destroyed or depleted seems to be about 1/3rd or a bit more.

What the facts are, I don't know, and outside Hezbollah's leadership, I doubt anyone really knows.

dpu: "While it's true to say that Lebanon was not a fully functioning democracy, there were some extremely good indicators that it was going that way, and that there were moderate factions withing Hezbollah that could be encouraged to eventually take power from the extremists."

There were? I haven't read anything about such indicators; could you give some pointers, please?

Hilzoy: "Had Hezbollah in fact agreed to give up its arms, there would be something to show for all this."

I assume you realize this could just as well be put forward -- as indeed, many do -- as part of the argument that the Resolution was a bad one, the cease-fire premature, and that that fight should have been allowed to go on for at least several weeks more.

I'm not making that argument, myself. But the point seems worth noting.

"Rubenesque Conflict Seeks Single, Professional, Peacekeeping Force"

It looks to me more like a polyamorous relationship. Probably a somewhat dysfunctional one, I suspect.

The defenders of Lebanon? The charity with a sideline in protection? A normal part of the Lebanese govt?

Therfore your thinking is that those who call them that now will call them terrorists when they fail to disarm?

That'll teach 'em.

...or there will be attacks by a non-disarmed Hezbollah clearly flouting the UN's expressed will, and every conversation about it will include "in contravention of UN resolution blah".

Sounds a lot like what went on for the last month, to be honest.

But it's not a serious plan to disarm Hezbollah.

Got one of those in your back pocket? Or know someone who does?

Got one of those in your back pocket? Or know someone who does?

Hezbollah can be disarmed quite easily if you move them from Column A [Irregular militia] to Column B [Lebanese Army, Southern Brigade]

Gary, try here.

"Uh, really? What are they called now?"

Providers of social welfare, apparently.

Rilkefan: "Five years from now there will either be...."

Or there will be a renewed war long before that, which seems not particularly unlikely.

The "you" in this hypothetical is?

I'm with double-plus-ungood on this one.

Sebastian: I am a bit puzzled that you seriously think that there was nothing to lose in Lebanon from the point of view with Israel, since Lebanon was not "functioning from Israel's point of view", such that Israel had nothing to lose w/r/t Lebanon's function (as opposed to considerations like deterrence). I would be appalled if I thought you considered that to be the only moral consideration.

Hilzoy: is this it for that democratic peace theory?

This is an interesting Lebanon Profile post as well.

Hilzoy is right.

Read the text of the UN resolution.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/4785963.stm

Especially:
11.e. Assist the Lebanese armed forces in taking steps towards the establishment of the area as referred to in paragraph 8;

The UN force is to assist the Lebanese government. So if the Lebanese government doesn´t try to disarm Hezbollah - as media reports indicate - the UN force won´t do anything about it IMO.

Also IIRC I´ve read that this resolution is a "weak" chapter 6 (?) UN resolution and not a (peace-enforcing) chapter 7 resolution. Due to resistance from Russia, China and Arab countries.
(Hope I´ve got the "chapters" right.)

So in a best case it will lead to a (temporary?) truce. In a worst case the UN force will be the scapegoat. They will be blamed if fighting erupts again.

On Gary's question about the use of 'HA' for Hezbollah: I can only speak for myself. I'm not attempting to create or follow any fashion trends; I'm using an acronym of the two words that make up the organization's name (Hezb Allah) to reduce the amount of typing necessary when making repeated references to Hezbollah.

When writing comments or posts, I make an effort to use the full word on the first occurrence. Depending on the length of what I write and the number of occurrences, I'll revert to the full name once or twice more to avoid being too 'acronymmy' (not a word, I'm sure, but I mean by that the kind of thing that's found in a lot of military and and bureaucratic communication).

Though not as long as 'Israeli Defense Forces', 'Hezbollah' is still a longish word to type over and over. I don't want to use a made-up nickname, for the same reasons that I (and you) avoid words like 'Repugs'. Until recently, in the files where I save excerpts and links, I've used 'Hezb' to save time, but have been reluctant to use that in public communication. Recently, though, I have seen the acronym -- at American Footprints and at least one other blog -- and it seemed to me to solve a problem.

If there is a problem with the usage, I'm certainly open to other suggestions.

It's hard enough to decide how to write the group's full name. After reading a discussion of the correct way to spell it in English, I decided that the best thing I could do was to settle on one spelling and stick with it.

I would be eager to hear what the incentive for Hezbollah to disarm would be. I know that if I were in their shoes, the last thing I'd be doing is giving up weaponry. And I'm a peace-loving anti-gun freak.

"Therfore your thinking is that those who call them that now will call them terrorists when they fail to disarm?"

I suspect Nasrallah eating a live puppy on TV wouldn't change perceptions among the committed backers of the PoG, but other groups in Lebanon will find the resolution useful, and people who aren't pro-H but are anti-Israel (e.g. in Europe or the UN) will find this rhetorically limiting. And for those just discussing the issue, the resolution will be a data point, or a meter stick to hold up to Hezbollah's actions.

Certainly the UN resolutions against Israel have been a thorn in her paw. Now Hezbollah has a(nother) thorn.

"Gary, try here."

Thanks; perhaps I've just not been reading the right sources (easily possible; I make no claims to be an expert on the dynamics of the Iranian leadership, or the workings of the Hezbollah leadership), but most of his claims seem to me unique ones that I've not seen from any other source. Do you have any pointers to sources that indicate that his views -- for instance, that Khatami remains -- or ever was, for that matter -- a deeply significant and influential political figure in Iran and Lebanon -- are widespread, or even representative of a significant number of analysts of Iran and Lebanon?

Or even representative of anyone besides himself?

He repeatedly cites Khatami about 485 times; does anyone else think Khatami is a significant power? What's up with that? He makes some bows to acknowledge that Khatami is, in fact, not, but still, the entire post revolves around Khatami this and Khatami that.

So I kinda don't get it, I'm afraid. It's like reading an analysis of American politics based on the doings and plans and desires of Dennis Kucinich.

I would be eager to hear what the incentive for Hezbollah to disarm would be.

I'd imagine, given spartikus' last comment, that they'd give absolutely anything to become part of the Lebanese Army.

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