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November 21, 2006

Comments

What do you mean by "ire". What, exactly, do you advocate the West do?

Details, please.

"International Community" = "West"?

What do *you* think should be done? Plus, define what you mean by international community. Does it include the US? Why do you think it's the work of "Syria and Hezbollah"? Why both?

Not trying to be snarky, just asking for clarification.

Micheal Totten thnks that Lebanon will have a civil war between their Shiites and their Sunnis in the near future. He sees this as the result of outside influence. He also thinks that the Israelis will attack Lebanon again.
So lots to have ire about, if he's right. Other than hopeing he isn't I don't know what we can do. Possibly get that diplomatic outreach to Syria that's part of "going long" underway?

"International Community" = "West"?

Does this matter? Sebastian could break it down by country, perhaps? That would take him some time. For brevity's sake let's narrow it down to just what the United States should do. If the interest is there, we can expand the list.

I checked Totten again and there's been a second assasination attempt, but the target, a Cabinet minister survived.

Yes, this news has made me very unhappy. Hezbollah might be flexing its muscle with a general strike by the end of the week.

I really feel like Lebanese politics will be changed forever, and last summer's war was the transition point.

Why are people jumping on Sebastian for using the word "ire"? There is nothing unclear (or wrong) about it at all.

What do you mean by "ire". What, exactly, do you advocate the West do?

A U.S. led invasion leading to an occupation that follows the slogan: the floggings will continue until morale improves.

Yes, there was all sorts of ire induced by happenings between Israel and Lebanon (with a dash or two of Syria) earlier this year, but the International Community didn't actually do anything, did they?

The sources I trust are predicting 60/40 chances of Civil War. But that is so 80s.

I grew in the era of Nasser and the real Islamofascists with Air Forces and Tank Divisions. I don't believe Lebanon & other ME countries have the centralization and accumulation of authority to wage that kind of war anymore, and we may be a little past even 4G war into anarchy. So Lebanon may look like Iraq and Somalia for a long time.

Blaming Syria and Hezbollah kinda misses the point, even if they are responsible. It is out of control. The point of Iraq is that there is no longer the accumulation of resources available for a state to project and control.

SA is building a wall, Israel building a wall, VDH and others want a wall with Mexico, my own little blue collar neighborhood is surrounded by walls. What does it mean when you build walls instead of building and sending forth armies?

A wall? How about a mile-high fence?

Bob and Slarti -- in the interest of bringing things together:Van Creveld on Building A Wall (2002).

4GW and a wall around Israel. But then I'm inclined to think this is likely what both of you were referring to anyway.

No doubt Slart will back me on recommending "rouse".

Asa'ad Abu Khalil posts:

Pierre Gemayyel is now part of a tiny political movement, and has no influence in Lebanon. Of course, he engendered a lot of resentment among Muslims two years ago when he made a speech in which he talked about "quality versus quantity" which was interpreted by Muslim Lebanese as an indication of his belief in the genetic superiority of Christian Lebanese. Of course, this belief has been a cornerstone of the ideology of the Phalanges Party which was founded by his fascistic grandfather, Pierre, and is now headed by his corrupt father, Amin. Now the method of this assassination is different from the previous assassinations in Lebanon. One wonders whether the assassins are the same, or whether this is somebody who was taking matters in his/her own hands to punish Pierre Gemayyel for his his notorious speech. Of course, the Bush Doctrine and the sudden discovery of Lebanon by the US administration, the Israeli humiliation in Lebanon and the consistent Israeli sabotage in Lebanon, and the desire by Syria to restructure Lebanese politics to reward friends and to punish enemies, all that make the slide of Lebanon into instability more certain. But Lebanon may remain in a state of on-the-verge-of-civil-war for months and years to come without actually getting into civil war. I expect clashes and assassinations, but not an all-out civil war as such.
Apologies to him, that was the bulk of his post, but I thought it worthwhile.

And Passport blog indicates that with this assassination, the Lebanese cabinet cannot make quorum.

There is nothing unclear (or wrong) about it at all.

Ire is an emotional state, not a policy. If SH would like to see something more happen in response to this event beyond the predicted investigations with no point, I would be interested in what that was.

but the International Community didn't actually do anything, did they?

But many people here offered ideas, I remember.

But many people here offered ideas, I remember.

And some predicted that the Israeli response at the time would result in a destabilization of Lebanese politics, and the strengthening of Hezbollah's position. That seems to have come about.

What could we do? We could engage in the classic diplomatic show of extreme immediate displeasure and arrange to have many countries expel Syrian diplomats. We could arrange for Syria to come under sanctions. We could at least organize an joint tut-tutting session among Security Council.

"That seems to have come about."

Passive voice? Do you mean Hezbollah and Syria have acted to assassinate Lebanese ministers and that is [dark voice] the fault of Israel? Or even substantially a fault of Israel?

I rather suspect that Hezbollah was quite capable of assassinations before Israel did anything.

Okay, that's something to build on. But it presumes Syrian guilt. This may very well be the work of Syria, but there are other suspects.

Also, Syrian help is needed in Iraq, no?

We could engage in the classic diplomatic show of extreme immediate displeasure and arrange to have many countries expel Syrian diplomats.

Unlikely. There is not much in the way of diplomatic pull left that the US is able to exert.

We could arrange for Syria to come under sanctions.

Arrange how?

We could at least organize an joint tut-tutting session among Security Council.

This flies in the face of your repeated assertions that the SC is for rubes.

I rather suspect that Hezbollah was quite capable of assassinations before Israel did anything.

Are you really thinking that the summer invasion has had no effect on Lebanese politics?

Do you mean Hezbollah and Syria have acted to assassinate Lebanese ministers and that is [dark voice] the fault of Israel?

If I hit a hornet's nest and the hornet's sting, do I not bear some sort of responsibility for inflaming the situation even though clearly the hornets are the ones inflicting the pain?

Do you mean Hezbollah and Syria have acted to assassinate Lebanese ministers and that is [dark voice] the fault of Israel? Or even substantially a fault of Israel?

Right. And if I kick the ladder out from under someone, it's not my fault if they're hurt. Gravity is to blame.

"Van Creveld on Building A Wall (2002)"

Dude, Marty's one of me homies!

Rise and Decline of the State 1999

Shall I cut-and-paste the last chapter and conclusion? Just reread some. Nah.

Military Channel been doing this re-enactment thing of Rome the last few weeks. (Last night, I finally understood the Battle of Stalingrad...great stuff.) Anyway, they seem to just be skipping from Vespasian to Constantine, and I found myself wondering about the Age of Antonines. Peaceful, properous, efficient, and insufferably dull?
And slow, inexorable decline. Walls.

Don't mind me.

Damn you, Spartikus. That was the one I was hunting for before settling on the imperfect ladder analogy.

What could have been done should have been done last year when they certain people were so eager to let the war-hounds loose on Lebanon. I'm afraid that stopping a sudden slide into chaos is a tough thing for outsiders (or insiders) to do.

"Also, Syrian help is needed in Iraq, no?"

Which is one of the reasons that a cynical person might think that this was a particularly good time for Syria to assassinate another Lebanese politician.

We could engage in the classic diplomatic show of extreme immediate displeasure and arrange to have many countries expel Syrian diplomats.

Unlikely. There is not much in the way of diplomatic pull left that the US is able to exert.

We could arrange for Syria to come under sanctions.

Arrange how?

We could at least organize an joint tut-tutting session among Security Council.

This flies in the face of your repeated assertions that the SC is for rubes.

That is why I said the international community, you were the one who wanted to limit it to the US, weren't you?

"Right. And if I kick the ladder out from under someone, it's not my fault if they're hurt. Gravity is to blame."

Ah yes, Hezbollah that unthinking law of nature that is forced to assassinate people.

Right?

"If I hit a hornet's nest and the hornet's sting, do I not bear some sort of responsibility for inflaming the situation even though clearly the hornets are the ones inflicting the pain?"

Hezbollah, the unthinking hornets? The hornets that were peacefully in their nest before mean Israel forced them to become violent? The hornets that can't help themselves and must 'sting' by assassinating Lebanese ministers?

As Hezbollah felt their power slipping away they decided to stir up violence. They did so first by attacking Israel and now by assassinating ministers to engineer a coup. BOTH were actions of violence, started by Hezbollah, to undermine the power of the Lebanese government.

BOTH.

That is why I said the international community, you were the one who wanted to limit it to the US, weren't you?

Nope.

Ah yes, Hezbollah that unthinking law of nature that is forced to assassinate people.

Let's see. Some people predicted that Israel's invasion would destabilize the precarious political balance in Lebanon, and improve Hezbollah's fortunes. You said nay.

Now the predicted situation has come to be, and you snidely pick holes in analogies.

Okay then.

Some people predicted that Israel's invasion would destabilize the precarious political balance in Lebanon, and improve Hezbollah's fortunes.

Post hoc. You see a causal relationship, please let us know what that is.

FWIW, somebody with better contacts than any of us heard not Hezbollah.

Whodunnit

You see a causal relationship, please let us know what that is.

You're kidding.

Okay, I'm beginning to despair.

You're kidding.

No, I'm serious. What's going on now that connects with events of last June?

You are aware that Hezbollah was acting to destablize the government before it kidnapped Israeli soldiers? Right?

They did so first by attacking Israel and now by assassinating ministers to engineer a coup. BOTH were actions of violence, started by Hezbollah, to undermine the power of the Lebanese government.

if you choose the proper point at which to start all of history, you can often assign full blame to any party you choose. yay.

You are aware of assassinations that predate the incident began by kidnapping the Israeli soldiers? Right?

You are aware that Hezbollah was acting to destablize the government before it kidnapped Israeli soldiers? Right?

Yes. So, you're saying it's more of the same?

if you choose the proper point at which to start all of history, you can often assign full blame to any party you choose. yay.

This is why we should always chose tomorrow.

As Hezbollah felt their power slipping away they decided to stir up violence.

Hornets do as hornets do, but generally speaking it's still not a good idea to wack the nest.

That said, consider me inspired to ire. It's an empty, powerless sort of ire, but ire nevertheless.

I am bowing out of this discussion.

I can't really figure out what you people are actually arguing about.

I can't really figure out what you people are actually arguing about.

Yes you can.

Me, either. I'm only trying to understand what it is that dpu is saying.

Tim, I honestly cannot understand who the author of your link is accusing. He sort of suggests, the prime minister who stands to lose power if he loses one more minister?

Tim beat to the turcopolier post (5:26). That is Pat Lang? Scroll around he has another post.

One of Lang's commenters says that Syria has the most to lose by this; another says it was an attempt to delay new elections; another says the Israelis have the best motives.

I would like to table a motion that we shake our fists impotently in the general direction of the Middle East.

May I have second?

I think impotent fist-shaking is only good for a quick buzz.

"I honestly cannot understand who the author of your link is accusing."

It is a little unclear;here is the text.

"I am told that Pierre Gemayel was not killed by the Aoun/Shia bloc, but rather by those who wish to delay disintegration of the present political system in Lebanon. In other words, this was a "provocation" intended to get the masses out into the streets where noise will overwhelm negotiation. (no irony at all) This may seem fanciful to many, but that really means that you do not know Lebanon." ...Pat Lang

Pat Lang is not necessarily an expert on Lebanon, but he scares the stuff out of me:
About Pat Lang

His long resume is on his site somewhere; uh, "Liason" in Yemen and Riyadh..."attached" to embassies. Like ten years doing mysterious stuff on the Peninsula. He's a uber-spook, dudes.

I need a quick buzz.

I need a quick buzz.

Try this.

It was unclear to me somewhat; possibly because the suspect list is tremendous. On a thread on dKos this morning, Jay Elias, a member of the IDF, and some Lebanese said that just about anybody in Lebanon who was not a Phalangist wouldn't mind Gemayel being hit.

So we have to blame absolutely anyone except the group which has explicitly declared that they would not allow this government to stand?

Why would Israel want the anti-Syrian government to fall? That makes no sense.

The conspiracy theory seems to be that the assassination is to shore up the government that is now Constitutionally much closer to falling with another member eliminated? That is just silly.

Why would Israel want the anti-Syrian government to fall?

It's actually not hard to come up with a theory, in terms of manufacturing a casus belli and somesuch, but I prefer to stick with Occam's Razor myself.

The question remains, what are we going to do about it? Your proposal seems to be that we must first all agree that Hezbollah are Very Bad Guys. Others have no clue whatsoever but see a great chance to take a random swipe at the Left anyway.

We need a ME policy that (1) is proactive rather than reactive, and (2) can conceive of other types of proactive activity besides preemptive war.

Do? There's nothing to do. The proper response is sarcasm and biting internet fighting.

For the pundits, the optimists, and the ever-hopeful -- some will demand action -- careful never to specify what action -- and others will offer ivory tower solutions that stand no chance at being put into place (or working).

It's just like "Winning Iraq". You've got your "Will to fight" guys on one side, you've got your "Send in 100,000 more troops!" guys on the other side and then everyone else just nitpicking because they know there's nothing to do but wait until the powers that be quit the bloody place.

Same here. What can we (the US or the West in general) do? Nothing. Anything we try would just make the situation worse, other than the patient diplomacy of Europe and -- hopefully -- the total disinterest of Bush. (God help us all if he tries to "help" again). And all European diplomacy means here is continuing to try to blow out the matches while hoping to God the people involved decide to get rid of the powderkeg one day.

What can we (the US or the West in general) do? Nothing.

Well, with the benefit of hindsight, some have suggested that we expended too much energy on direct support of the new government in Lebanon, when the emphasis should have been on funding NGOs that sought to improve infrastructure and social services, thus making Hezbollah that much more unnecessary.

We saw from the aftermath of the war with Israel why Hezbollah enjoys any kind of widespread support in Lebanon; when they're the only ones who show up with cash and manpower to help you rebuild your home, you're going to be grateful for Hezbollah. Yes, yes, there never would have been a war in the first place if not for Hezbollah, and maybe folks should smarten up and realize that. The conservative view of the Middle East seems to be that everything would get better if everyone would just start assigning blame where it really belongs.

Why does an outfit like Hamas get elected? Yeah, some people vote for them because they love to see more terrorism against Israel, and that's disgusting. But for many, Hamas gets the votes for the same reason political machines get the votes in democratic regimes everywhere; they're helping people meet their basic needs by putting chickens in pots, while the ruling party is too obsessed with graft and corruption to take care of the people. And so it goes.

There was a time when our foreign policy tried to take into account the reality of things and make the best we could of the situation. Now it all seems to be about unrealistic expectations and assigning blame because the Iraqis don't want peace badly enough, or the Lebanese don't want to disarm the terrorists badly enough, or whatever. There aren't a lot of easy answers, but that doesn't mean there's not plenty of room for us to start acting smarter again.

All sides are equally bad right? Israel = Hezbollah = Syria = US = Iran. Rather than equivocating, just pick a side. Who do you want to see win here?

Maybe we can come up with a slogan and get everyone to sit down and sing Kumbaya. Barring that – come out plainly and clearly on who should win, who should be standing at the end of the day. No holds barred – who should win, period.

Yeah, I have no nuance. I know. I have to go now. I like participating here and I will likely be banned tonight if I don’t just go away. My fault – weak character and a loud mouth. Surely there is something on the idiot box. I'll just shut up now.

We could at least organize an joint tut-tutting session among Security Council.

"Unequivocal" tut-tutting here.

Surely there is something on the idiot box.

I think you might like Big Brother, OCSteve. The audience helps to choose who they want to win.

The Times (of London) adds some nuance to the 'blame Damascus' theory:

How deeply Damascus is implicated is unclear. Mr Gemayel is the third anti-Syrian public figure to be murdered since the Hariri assassination. But Syria is increasingly isolated and its expulsion from Lebanon has made President Assad’s position precarious. He has an incentive at the moment to display reasonableness and moderation, especially at a time when the Americans appear ready to re-engage in a dialogue over Iraq. Not all those around him, however, share such a concern. Those in the army and brutal security agents who were corruptly enriching themselves in Lebanon are determined to avenge their expulsion and intimidate their opponents.

All sides are equally bad right? Israel = Hezbollah = Syria = US = Iran.

Who said that?

Rather than equivocating, just pick a side. Who do you want to see win here?

"Win." Ha ha ha ha ha. Your binary universe amuses me.

All sides are equally bad right?

Um, no. But a lot of the diplomatic solutions proposed just seem to be ignorant, if not downright disdainful, of the real world (i.e., LOCAL) politics going on.

Ah, the moral equivalence card--that one is usually played whenever the Middle East comes up. Some of us think war crimes and atrocities are bad even when committed by Western democracies. If we're choosing teams, I'm choosing the individuals in any given community who favor just solutions and support human rights in a non-hypocritical way and would (somewhat grudgingly) join them in singing Kumbaya.

"But a lot of the diplomatic solutions proposed just seem to be ignorant, if not downright disdainful, of the real world (i.e., LOCAL) politics going on."

That sounds suspiciously close to "let them kill each other". Am I misunderstanding?

Am I misunderstanding?

Yes. I don't see how you could possibly get "just let them kill each other" from that sentence.

"That sounds suspiciously close to "let them kill each other". Am I misunderstanding?"

As I understand you, you have convicted Syria and Hezbollah of this crime, but have proposed no solution other than anathemitizing them. I was glad to see the conversation progress at least far enough to admit evidence of a number of possibilities, given that there is no smoking gun. It should be apparent that none of the actors in the general area are monolithic entities - i.e. even in Syria there factions with diverse aims and ends in mind. Hezbollah, as an umbrella organization, represents the interests of upward of 50% of the poorest least enfranchised members of Lebanese society. Hard to imagine to be monolithic. Without prejudice to any particular vilains, I do admit that my own first thought on hearing of the assassination was that a fascist had been killed in Lebanon, indeed a member of a prominent fascist family, and how much love is there for fascists outside of their own factions?

"There was a time when our foreign policy tried to take into account the reality of things and make the best we could of the situation."

When was that?

Our foreign policy during the Cold War was to support whoever supported us and undermine whoever supported the Soviets. We financed insurgents and terrorists, overthrew democratically elected governments when they didn't suit us, and propped up dictators - including Saddam Hussein and Manuel Noriega (until they became inconvenient embarrassments) - often undermining genuine liberation/democratization movements in the process.

The Soviets, of course, did the same thing. Cold War foreign policy was a global protection racket.

There was a brief time, after the Cold War ended, when foreign policy tried to address the merits of a situation rather than only the geopolitics, but that period began and ended with the Clinton Administration.

It's not at all suprising to see how counterproductive our foreign policy has been ever since. Aside from the corruption and sheer stupidity that's characterized everything Bush has done, it should also be remembered that his foreign policy has been made by people who never outgrew the Cold War mentality.

OCSteve: About moral equivalence, I refer you to my very first post on Lebanon:

"I am less interested in assigning blame than in figuring out what's actually happening. But to get the blame part out of the way: it's almost never the case, in Israeli/Arab confrontations, that one side is wholly to blame, but in the case of the kidnapping of the two Israeli soldiers by Hezbollah, it is. This was Hezbollah's fault, pure and simple. That said, I think that the Israeli response has been disproportionate and in some respects unwise. And that's all I have to say about the blame game, which, in this part of the world, I find a tiresome and pointless exercise."

Also:

"When I first wrote about this, I said that it was Hezbollah's fault. Israel had withdrawn from Lebanese territory, and Hezbollah crossed international boundaries and kidnapped their soldiers without provocation. I also said that Israel had a right to defend itself, which of course it does. My views about the Middle East tend to be complicated, but the one point I am absolutely clear on is that the rejectionists -- the people who would rather provoke a war than countenance some settlement that they view as inadequate -- are completely and utterly wrong. Hezbollah: that means you.

However, the fact the Hezbollah is wrong does not mean that Israel is right; nor does the fact that Hezbollah started this mean that anything Israel does as a result is OK. If someone attacks you, there's a point at which your response crosses a line and stops being mere self-defense and becomes a horror of its own. (There's your attacker, lying limply on the ground, and yet you go on slamming his head into the sidewalk over and over and over.) That's the point at which your friends, if they're around, should pull you off your attacker and say: for God's sake, stop, you're going to kill him! In my opinion, Israel crossed that line after the first couple of days of bombing; and the reason I wrote this post ten days ago was that I thought it was past time for Israel's friends intervene."

I have absolutely no problem saying both (a) that Hezbollah was absolutely in the wrong, and (b) that Israel's bombing of Lebanon (after the first 48 hours or so), and our support for it, were both wrong and incredibly stupid, and one of the reasons they were incredibly stupid were that they were very likely to make Hezbollah much more popular than it had been, and to destabilize the Siniora government, along with destroying any shred of credibility our concern for establishing democracy in the Middle East might ever have had. (See, e.g., here, here, and here for why I thought this.)

I have no clue who killed Jemayel. For all I know, it could have been someone who was ordered to kill him by the little men who send him messages through his fillings. So of course I don't know whether this killing was connected to the bombing.

I do feel a lot more comfortable saying: Lebanon had a fragile democracy. We let Israel bomb it for weeks, giving them cover, sending them advanced weapons, etc. This harmed both Israel and us, by strengthening Hezbollah and destabilizing the government, and, in so doing, making the only lasting solution to this whole problem -- which involves the creation of a reasonably strong, reasonably fair Lebanese government willing and able to make peace with Israel, which in turn involves the sidelining of Hezbollah and other armed rejectionists -- much, much likely. It did the whole region, Israel included, enormous damage, and it also virtually destroyed our ability to act for good there.

Lebanon has been unraveling for weeks now. (I've been meaning to write a post on it .) And while I do not have any idea whether this assassination is the result of what Israel did with our connivance, it seems to me quite clear that Lebanon's constitutional crisis and current instability are in part the result of the bombing.

To the claim that Hezbollah has done similar things before: it's essential to the current crisis that Hezbollah is quite popular, not a bunch of largely discredited thugs making a bid for relevance. Israel, with our help, gave them a decent chunk of their backing (not that they didn't have a base before, but that the bombing made it considerably larger, and made Hezbollah look like a group that was defending Lebanon. Ha ha ha, she chuckled bitterly.) Hezbollah's present power owes a lot to the Israeli bombing campaign.

To the claim that I am treating Hezbollah like a ladder or a hornet or a law of nature or some other non-responsible non-agent: no I'm not. Since I explained this before better than I could now, I'll just quote me again:

"There are lots of situations in which I can blame myself or someone else for putting in place the conditions in which X would happen, even when the actual perpetrator of X is a different person. For instance, suppose a military commander ordered his or her troops to put down their weapons, take off their body armor, put big signs on that said 'American Soldier! Unarmed!' in Arabic, cuff their hands behind their backs, and march through Fallujah. And suppose further that, not surprisingly, a lot of these soldiers were killed. Obviously, it's violent people in Fallujah who actually did the killing. But does that in some way mean that the commander is blameless? Not according to me.

More specifically: who killed the soldiers? Individuals in Fallujah. Did the commander kill them? No. She may have 'as good as killed them', or 'consigned them to their death', but she did not kill them. The Fallujans did that, and are responsible for it. But who was unbelievably stupid, and criminally casual about those soldier's lives? The commander: she did that, and is responsible for what she did. Who is responsible, not for killing them or for stupid deployment orders, but for their deaths? I would say: both the killers in Fallujah and the commander. Both did things they should not have done, given what they knew at the time. Both the orders and the actions contributed to the deaths (if no Fallujans were inclined to kill American soldiers, the soldiers could have marched in this stupid way without being killed; if these orders had not been given, the fact that Fallujans were so inclined would not have led to people being killed.)

The basic view of moral responsibility underlying this is: if you do something which you have every reason to believe could lead to some bad outcome, and if, given what you know at the time, you should not do this thing, and if it does lead to the bad outcome, then you are responsible for that outcome. If you didn't know, and this isn't due to e.g. stupidity but to non-culpable ignorance, you are of course not to blame. If you knew it would lead to the bad outcome but you had a good reason to believe that every other alternative would be worse, you are responsible for choosing to do something that would lead to X, but you should not be blamed for that choice, since it wasn't the wrong one. (E.g., if the reason the commander gave the idiotic orders was that that really was the only way to prevent terrorists from blowing up the whole world, she should not be blamed.)

This general view explains why responsibility is not zero-sum. The fact that some bad decision of mine helped to produce some state of affairs does not imply that no bad decision of anyone else's helped to produce it as well. But if responsibility is not zero-sum, then when someone says, for instance, that some foreign policy mistake of ours contributed to the rise of terrorism, or that our decision to go into Iraq with too few troops contributed to the breakdown of order and the murder of innocent Iraqis, what she says does not imply, in any way, that anyone else is less responsible for those things. Specifically, it doesn't imply that the perpetrators of terrorism are less than fully responsible for terrorism, or that Iraqi insurgents are not fully responsible for what they do."

hilzoy's comment, it should be noted, goes a fair way to answering Slarti's apparently-non-rhetorical question above...

As Hezbollah felt their power slipping away they decided to stir up violence. They did so first by attacking Israel and now by assassinating ministers to engineer a coup. BOTH were actions of violence, started by Hezbollah, to undermine the power of the Lebanese government.

Yes, and until last summer, Hezbollah's attempts to destabilize the government were turning into miserable failures. Since last summer, they have been quite successful.

I wonder what might have happened last summer that changed the equation?

That sounds suspiciously close to "let them kill each other". Am I misunderstanding?

Um, yes.

And I'm not sure how to get from here to there....

You are aware of assassinations that predate the incident began by kidnapping the Israeli soldiers? Right?

luckily for you, nothing predates the kidnapping.

hilzoy's comment, it should be noted, goes a fair way to answering Slarti's apparently-non-rhetorical question above

Yes, of course, and we should all be grateful for hilzoy. However, hilzoy's position in this matter hasn't ever been a question mark, while dpu's is still kind of mysterious.

We let Israel bomb it for weeks, giving them cover, sending them advanced weapons, etc.

Sure, we could have threatened to pull the foreign-aid plug on Israel entirely. But the notion that Israel was able to bomb entirely (or even in part) due to our continuing weapons shipments is just wrong. Possibly you didn't mean that, and it just came out that way.

And while I do not have any idea whether this assassination is the result of what Israel did with our connivance, it seems to me quite clear that Lebanon's constitutional crisis and current instability are in part the result of the bombing.

Now, if we could only get Lebanon to see that there are more immediate enemies to their democracy than Israel.

Slarti: Now, if we could only get Lebanon to see that there are more immediate enemies to their democracy than Israel.

I think that would be difficult when, right now, the most immediate enemy they have to their democracy is Israel. Now, if we could get Israel to see that it's better for Israel to have a peaceful democratic state next door than a wrecked country full of angry people with immediate and personal reasons to hate Israel, that would be good.

Now, if we could only get Lebanon to see that there are more immediate enemies to their democracy than Israel.

To do that, you're probably going to have to get Syria to bomb them for a week or two.

"Now, if we could get Israel to see that it's better for Israel to have a peaceful democratic state next door than a wrecked country full of angry people with immediate and personal reasons to hate Israel, that would be good."

Unfortunately, Israel's choices are not that straigtforward. A better phrasing would be whether it is better to accept a non-wrecked country half-full of angry people trying to kill Israelis, or a wrecked country entirely full of angry people trying to kill Israelis. The choice thereby becomes far less clear than in Jes's fantasy world.

A better phrasing would be whether it is better to accept a non-wrecked country half-full of angry people trying to kill Israelis, or a wrecked country entirely full of angry people trying to kill Israelis.

I'm not sure why that makes the choice any less clear, unless you're positing that a wrecked country makes it much harder for angry people to kill Israelis, despite the fact that there are now twice as many of them.

Ugh,

Yes.

Dantheman: A better phrasing would be whether it is better to accept a non-wrecked country half-full of angry people trying to kill Israelis, or a wrecked country entirely full of angry people trying to kill Israelis.

A more accurate phrasing would be whether it is better to accept a peaceful democratic country with a violent element trying - not very successfully - to kill Israelis, or a wrecked country entirely full of angry people who want, now with some justice, to see Israel as wrecked as Israel has wrecked their country.

My vote would have been for the first, especially as the violent element were being so unsuccessful.

"A more accurate phrasing would be whether it is better to accept a peaceful democratic country with a violent element trying - not very successfully - to kill Israelis"

In other words, a contradiction in terms. If the country is peaceful and democratic, it does not allow an element to attack its neighbors.

Dantheman: If the country is peaceful and democratic, it does not allow an element to attack its neighbors.

By that standard, no country in the world - including the US or Israel - is peaceful or democratic. All countries contain violent elements. In some cases - as with the US support for terrorists and rebels in South America, or Israeli support for settlers attacking Palestinians - the government itself supports and funds the violent element.

Still, it's better for the country's neighbors - usually - for the country to be peaceful and democratic despite the violent element attacking the country's neighbors, than it is for the country to be wrecked and full of justly angry people wanting to attack the country that did this to them.

"By that standard, no country in the world - including the US or Israel - is peaceful or democratic. All countries contain violent elements."

Really? Every country in the world is currently engaging in acts of war against its neighbors? Please give me directions to your world, as it is not the one I live in, and I want to ensure I do not set foot there by mistake.

Dantheman: "If the country is peaceful and democratic, it does not allow an element to attack its neighbors."

That presupposes that the country can control what happens within its borders. Which has not been true of Lebanon since -- I dunno, maybe the time of the Phoenicians.

I would not myself have described Lebanon before the bombing as "a peaceful democratic country with a violent element trying - not very successfully - to kill Israelis". It was not particularly peaceful -- it was a mass of mistrustful factions many of whom had been willing to use violence against one another in the past. The majority of its people seemed to be awfully tired of civil war, but there's quite a distance between that and not having a civil war, as Iraq shows. It was more democratic than it was under Syria, and the tendencies were definitely in that direction, but it was still subject to the Taif agreement, which allocated parliamentary seats and leadership positions by confessional group.

Lebanon was a weak and fractured country, whose people were nonetheless tired of civil war, and whose interests definitely lay in achieving some sort of peace with Israel, both to eliminate that source of conflict and also to acquire a counterweight against Syria. Whether it would act in accordance with these interests was unclear, since it (unlike some other countries about which this sort of thing gets said) genuinely does have Ancient Hatreds that have always gotten in the way of its ability to do what's in its own interests.

Lebanon badly needed to do two things that were very, very delicate: marginalize and constrain Hezbollah and find some way of replacing the Taif agreements. Both operations would, in the best of times, have been fraught with peril, and both would have been best carried out by a government with genuine popular legitimacy, in the face of a discredited Hezbollah that was associated with the violence of the past, and the need for which, as a defender of the Lebanese state, no longer existed.

When Israel decided to "turn Lebanon's clock back 20 years", they made all of that vastly, vastly less likely. Moreover, they did so without gaining much of anything, but at immense cost to people, many of whom had precisely nothing to do with Hezbollah.

And wrecking the country does not make it harder to kill Israelis. The actual means of killing Israelis -- in this case, Katyushas -- do not depend in the slightest on things like intact infrastructure. They do depend on having enough popular support that Hezbollah can operate somewhere without being turned in, but Israel's actions only increased Hezbollah's popular support. And they depend on the weakness of the central government, since a stronger government would have a much better chance of getting Hezbollah under control, or at least interdicting its supplies. But Israel's actions weakened the government.

OF COURSE Hezbollah is to blame for what it does. Personally, I loathe Hezbollah. But Israel is also responsible for its choices, and choosing to kill a lot of people by pursuing a path that harmed rather than enhancing its security, and destroyed whatever positive momentum Lebanon had, is a really bad one. Likewise, we are responsible for our choices, and I think that by deciding not to use our considerable leverage over Israel to get it to stop, we acted neither in our own interests, as a good friend to Israel, nor as a basically decent country.

hilzoy,

"That presupposes that the country can control what happens within its borders."

Exactly, which is why Jes's description of Lebanon as peaceful is somewhere between simply wrong and delusional.

"But Israel is also responsible for its choices, and choosing to kill a lot of people by pursuing a path that harmed rather than enhancing its security"

My mileage varies. Permitting regular shelling, rocket fire, and cross-border incidents to continue without responding is inevitably a path to no security.

Dantheman: Ugh suggested that you were positing that a wrecked country makes it much harder for angry people to kill Israelis, despite the fact that there are now twice as many of them. and you said Yes.

Which would require Israel to keep wrecking Lebanon. Not just every ten years or so: but to wreck the country and keep it wrecked, and wreck any country that gets angry enough at this treatment of Lebanon to want to do the same to Israel. So that to "protect itself", Israel commits regular mass slaughter of anyone angry at Israel's policy of mass slaughter.

This seems to me not only a self-defeating form of foreign policy, but also a deeply immoral one.

To argue, as I suspect you might, that Israel would stop committing mass slaughter and destruction of neighboring countries if only those neighboring countries would stop the people who live there getting angry enough to want to kill Israelis, commits Israel to mass slaughter and destruction in perpetuity, since mass slaughter and destruction will never stop people getting angry.

Dan: Permitting regular shelling, rocket fire, and cross-border incidents to continue without responding is inevitably a path to no security.

Which would suggest that Israel shouldn't have permitted regular shelling, rocket fire, and cross-border incidents on Lebanon, either. But...

(Hilzoy's more detailed description of Lebanon and its relationship with Israel is, yes, far more accurate than my one/two sentence summaries.)

But the notion that Israel was able to bomb entirely (or even in part) due to our continuing weapons shipments is just wrong.

D-P-U didn't say that. He said what he said, which was the United States sent material and diplomatic support for the Israeli bombing campaign. That Israel could have bombed Lebanon without that support is not the point.

"Which would require Israel to keep wrecking Lebanon. Not just every ten years or so: but to wreck the country and keep it wrecked, and wreck any country that gets angry enough at this treatment of Lebanon to want to do the same to Israel. So that to "protect itself", Israel commits regular mass slaughter of anyone angry at Israel's policy of mass slaughter."

Not quite. Merely having people who are angry at Israel's policy does not lead to Israel attacking people. It is when they attack Israel that Israel is compelled to respond. Otherwise, Israel is saying to its enemies who have been attacking Israel before Israel attacked them (and the Jewish settlers before Israel existed) that attacking us has no penalty, and therefore invites more attacks.

In other words, I am saying that Israel has the right of all nations, to defend its own citizens from external attack in a way it deems in its best long term interests. One can argue, as hilzoy does, that Israel is not correctly perceiving what is in its best interests, and I would agree that it is a debatable point.

However, to suggest, as you repeatedly have, that Israel should simply trust Lebanon to decide at some point that Hezbollah killed enough Israelis and will thereafter compel Hezbollah to cease attacks is other-worldly.

"Permitting regular shelling, rocket fire, and cross-border incidents to continue without responding is inevitably a path to no security.

Which would suggest that Israel shouldn't have permitted regular shelling, rocket fire, and cross-border incidents on Lebanon, either."

So it's your contention that Israel shells and commits cross-border incidents with Lebanon out of whole cloth? That it does so outside of the context of responding to incidents by Hezbollah? Now I know that there is no further point discussing this with you, as you simply are too blinded to see the world around you.

D-P-U didn't say that.

And, not coincidentally, I didn't say that in response to anything dpu said. Read again, and note that it was said in response something hilzoy said.

Dan: "Permitting regular shelling, rocket fire, and cross-border incidents to continue without responding is inevitably a path to no security."

I think the key word here is "no", in "no security". That rules out the idea that things can get worse than they were, which I think they plainly can. The level of shelling that preceded Hezbollah's kidnapping of the soldiers, and/or the level that would have followed 48 hours of bombing, are obviously not as bad as things could get.

The part about "a path to" also suggests that "no security" is the end-point; that it isn't the case that "no security" is a waystation en route to some better possibility that it would be wise to leave open.

Slarti: I presume that the reason we were shipping missiles for use in Israel's bombing campaign was that Israel needed them. More importantly, I think that our leverage over Israel is such that we could have forced a halt in the bombing, and that had we tried to do that, and used stripping them of diplomatic cover, as needed, as one of the tools available to us, we would have enhanced their interests and ours.

As I wrote at the time, had it been my call I would have done this, but I would also have called Israel's ambassador and PM and said: look, this is NOT a sign that we do not support you, or are turning our backs on your interests. You need an excuse to stop, and it is very much in your interests that you do so. Being forced to stop is a lot better for you than deciding to stop, since the latter invites questions like: why did you reach this decision? Was it because Hezbollah was too strong for you? Etc. Being forced by us leaves you with your reputation as unstoppable by Arab armies, and also as liable to ferocious response, completely intact.

Plus, we disagree about what your interests are. This is completely different from our not supporting your interests. Feel free to beat up on us domestically, and moan and wail about our fecklessness and lack of real understanding. You're entitled; we don't mind. But understand, between us, what exactly we are doing.

I always enjoy threads about Israel because they all end with everyone in agreement and all of the problems in the Middle East solved.

hilzoy,

I agree that your points are matters which Israel must weigh, and as I said, they are debatable. The Israeli government last year felt differently.

Ugh: I always enjoy threads about Israel because they all end with everyone in agreement and all of the problems in the Middle East solved.

Isn't it great? Now if only the governments in the Middle East and the UN Security Council were as smart as us.

Slarti: I presume that the reason we were shipping missiles for use in Israel's bombing campaign was that Israel needed them.

Eh? We were selling bombs to Israel at the time, sure, but I don't recall any of them being used. We'd recently agreed to supply Israel with bunker-buster bombs, but those aren't the kind of weapon you'd use on aboveground targets. If you're thinking of something else, let me know.

More importantly, I think that our leverage over Israel is such that we could have forced a halt in the bombing, and that had we tried to do that, and used stripping them of diplomatic cover, as needed, as one of the tools available to us, we would have enhanced their interests and ours.

Maybe so, but I think that sort of presumes a national consensus that we actually carry out a threat of no further support for Israel. And I don't think such a consensus exists.

Looks like the rest of your response doesn't exactly match up to this notion, so I ask: has Israel ever stopped on a dime in response to harsh words from the US?

Not that we oughtn't have tried, mind you, but it's not clear that much would have been changed as a result.

I always enjoy threads about Israel because they all end with everyone in agreement and all of the problems in the Middle East solved.

My favorite ones are where we get earnest, serious suggestions to relocate Israel to Nevada, just as an example.

My favorite ones are where we get earnest, serious suggestions to relocate Israel to Nevada, just as an example.

My personal thought is that the only way the problems facing Israel and its neighbors will get solved is if it somehow floated out into the middle of the Mediterranean Sea (not that we should try to make it happen, mind you). Barring that, we'll be having the same discussion 10, 20, 30 years from now unless either (1) something horrifically awful happens; or (2) a miracle occurs.

Somehow you'd have to chisel Gaza loose without setting it adrift as well.

That, and rock has a hard time floating, sometimes.

My absolute favorite suggestion has to be the mile-high fence, held aloft by dirigibles. Not to keep people from crossing the borders, rather, but to keep out those pesky Katushyas.

"My personal thought is that the only way the problems facing Israel and its neighbors will get solved is if it somehow floated out into the middle of the Mediterranean Sea"

And somehow miraculously leaving the Muslim holy sites in place, with exact duplicates made for the sites which are holy to both religions. However, I foresee the two sides still fighting over who got the originals and who got the copies.

Somehow you'd have to chisel Gaza loose without setting it adrift as well.

Well yes, I hadn't quite worked out the details yet. I'm thinking about interviewing India to see how it managed to make it all the way to Asia.

And somehow miraculously leaving the Muslim holy sites in place, with exact duplicates made for the sites which are holy to both religions.

See above. Though that reminds me of Steven Wright's bit about how he woke up one day and all of his stuff had been stolen and replaced with exact replicas.

Slarti: sorry, just having an Okinawa moment (def.: thinking that everyone remembers what I remember. ;) ) The actual article I was referring to (from last July) seems to have vanished behind the TimesSelect wall, so I'll post chunks of it below:

"The Bush administration is rushing a delivery of precision-guided bombs to Israel, which requested the expedited shipment last week after beginning its air campaign against Hezbollah targets in Lebanon, American officials said Friday.

The decision to quickly ship the weapons to Israel was made with relatively little debate within the Bush administration, the officials said. Its disclosure threatens to anger Arab governments and others because of the appearance that the United States is actively aiding the Israeli bombing campaign in a way that could be compared to Iran's efforts to arm and resupply Hezbollah.

The munitions that the United States is sending to Israel are part of a multimillion-dollar arms sale package approved last year that Israel is able to draw on as needed, the officials said. But Israel's request for expedited delivery of the satellite and laser-guided bombs was described as unusual by some military officers, and as an indication that Israel still had a long list of targets in Lebanon to strike. (...)

Israel's need for precision munitions is driven in part by its strategy in Lebanon, which includes destroying hardened underground bunkers where Hezbollah leaders are said to have taken refuge, as well as missile sites and other targets that would be hard to hit without laser and satellite-guided bombs.

Pentagon and military officials declined to describe in detail the size and contents of the shipment to Israel, and they would not say whether the munitions were being shipped by cargo aircraft or some other means. But an arms-sale package approved last year provides authority for Israel to purchase from the United States as many as 100 GBU-28's, which are 5,000-pound laser-guided bombs intended to destroy concrete bunkers. The package also provides for selling satellite-guided munitions.

An announcement in 2005 that Israel was eligible to buy the ''bunker buster'' weapons described the GBU-28 as ''a special weapon that was developed for penetrating hardened command centers located deep underground.'' The document added, ''The Israeli Air Force will use these GBU-28's on their F-15 aircraft.''

American officials said that once a weapons purchase is approved, it is up to the buyer nation to set up a timetable. But one American official said normal procedures usually do not include rushing deliveries within days of a request. That was done because Israel is a close ally in the midst of hostilities, the official said."

Slarti: also, I don't think the threats we could have made were limited to threatening to cut off all aid, which I agree would not be credible. We provide an enormous amount of aid to Israel, in all sorts of different forms, and at least when I was there, some of them were not public. It would astound me if this were not still true. We also provide a lot of other things, like diplomatic cover, vetoing every security council resolution that Israel doesn't like, etc. It would amaze me if, given this enormous toolbox to play with, we couldn't devise some pretty serious threat that wouldn't carry the popular political baggage of actually cutting off aid. Just making sure that that aid, while generous, began to assume all the wrong forms and to arrive at all the wrong times, that inconvenient documents began to be anonymously leaked, -- well, my imagination runs riot. If one were so inclined, one could do lots and lots of bad things, what with so very many levers to use.

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