Monday, July 31, 2006

Israeli Attacks Strengthen Hezbollah

Israel has taken the bait. The obvious targeting of civilians in Lebanon has only harmed Hezbollah —if at all —in a very superficial way. In the long, term Hezbollah is strengthened now that it can point to a credible Israeli threat to all of Lebanon.

As recently as April, 2005, Daniel Byman in Foreign Affairs wrote:

Most of Lebanon's ethnic and religious communities want Syria to leave, and even some Lebanese Shiites joined the recent anti-Syrian protests. Hezbollah has always tried to remain above Lebanon's communal fray, portraying itself as a resistance movement that transcends petty politics. But by opposing the cross-communal alliance against Syria, the Party of God has been undercutting its claims as a national organization.


Hezbollah can no longer use its anti-Israel campaign to win broad popular support.

Daniel Byman, Hezbollah's Dilemma

Until now!

Byman pointed out that Hezbollah had enjoyed considerable popularity throughout Lebanon and that no Lebanese government was likely to bring Hezbollah to heel in the foreseeable future. Less so now! Hezbollah seems to be alone in its suprisingly stiff opposition to the Israeli incursion; it's position is, therefore, strengthened. With more to lose on this gamble, Israel is weakened.

Byman stated, in 2005, that "...U.S. attempts to compel an independent Lebanese government to crack down on the party would likely backfire. " Had anyone considered what kind of "backfire" might be caused by a disproportionate attack on Lebanon by Israel?

By 1985, Lebanon —the most peaceful of Mediterranean countries, the region's best hope for democracy —had become very nearly synonymous with war and violence. Beirut had been called the Paris of the Middle East. Israel's incursion into Lebanon was, we were told, intended to drive out the PLO. But, in that decade, Lebanon suffered a disproportionate share of death, violence and destruction —much more so than it its neighbors Syria and Israel. Mere numbers cannot begin to tell the complete story of Israel's occupation of Lebanon, an occupation of some 20 years, an occupation from which Lebanon was just recently recovering.

Some still hold out hope that Israel will withdraw. Some still hold out hope for peace even as conservatives talk of WWIII and, in the case of George Will on ABC, a "...cascading escalation". But, realistically, there is little hope for a quick return to even the reviled status quo ante short of some acknowledgment of the privations and destruction forced on Lebanon over a period of some 30 years.

Rice visited the war zone with double talk about status quo antes and false hopes of a "lasting peace" amid an on-going crisis. It is too much, therefore, to ask of the nations of the world that they rally behind Bush who lacks a plan to rally 'round.

It is not realistic to expect that Bush —who lied about Iraq in order to attack and invade that nation —can lead the Middle East out of its morass. Bombs and firepower are no substitute for moral authority.

It cannot be hoped, therefore, that Bush's regime can act as an honest broker in the Middle East. Nevertheless, the best hope for the avoidance of a larger war is that —despite Bush, despite Rice —the international community step up to the plate to urge Israel to acknowledge its civilian Lebanese victims.

The Existentialist Cowboy
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