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Hezbollah Cries Uncle?

Too soon to pop any champagne corks, but Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Seniora may have convinced Hezbollah to submit to the government. The better of the two options highlighted by Michael Young (see below) might be kicking in.

More Opinions Than People

I once mentioned offhand in the comments section that Lebanon has more opinions than people. A Lebanese woman I had never met or encountered online before said she thought that remark was hilarious and gave me credit for “finally understanding Lebanon.”

At the time I didn’t feel like explaining what I meant. It didn’t seem important. But now would be a good time.

Lebanon’s bizarre internal political structure creates mental categories in its citizens that do not and never will exist in the West. It’s hard enough to understand how Lebanese think even after living there myself for a while, so I don’t expect casual readers to “get” this. But there are Lebanese (I know several) who are secular and pro-American, who want peace with Israel, and who also suppport Hezbollah.

I’ve been thinking for a while now about writing an essay explaining how this is possible, but Lebanon.Profile over at the Lebanese Political Journal beat me to it. So go read. Only a small minority of Shia think this way, but you should know about them. It means they’re mentally flexible and can be brought around, under the right conditions, to healthier ways of thinking. Things will not always be as they are.

The Stakes for Nasrallah…and Lebanon

Lebanese-American Michael Young in Beirut’s Daily Star:

[H]ow long can Nasrallah last? Much has been made of the secretary general’s celebrated steadfastness and the fact that he has before him only two choices – victory or defeat. If that’s his narrow reading, then he is heading toward heartbreak, because sooner or later the weight of the Lebanese sectarian system is likely to impose defeat on him if he refuses to make necessary concessions. The reason is simple: No Lebanese leader – not Amin Gemayel in 1982, Michel Aoun in 1989, or Emile Lahoud in 2004 – can indefinitely bend the country to the breaking point, or push it toward communal destabilization, without the old sectarian ways kicking in to impose a correction. And in the absence of concessions by maximalist leaders, the system has usually collapsed into war.

Michael is one of the sharpest thinkers in Lebanon. (And he was kind enough to publish an article I wrote some time ago.) Read the whole thing.

Human Shields

Caveman (formerly of Beirut) reports that Hezbollah may be using Druze villagers as human shields (after kidnapping a Druze soldier from Israel). This won’t be over when it’s over…

UPDATE: Hezbollah is doing the same thing to Christians, even shooting civilians who try to flee Israeli fire.

Lebanon’s Premature Liberalism

“This is not Norway here, and it is not Denmark.” — Lebanese Christian militia leader Bashir Gemayel.

Beirut Destruction 2.jpg

Last month I made a terrible mistake.

A reader from Lake Oswego — a suburb of my city of Portland — emailed and asked if he thought he should take his wife and children to Lebanon on their next vacation. I said sure. Just stay out of the Hezbollah areas along the border with Israel and in the suburbs south of Beirut. And make sure your kids understand that Lebanese drivers are considerably more reckless than drivers in Oregon, that they should be more careful than usual when crossing the street.

Needless to say, this was absolutely awful advice.

My friend Sean LaFreniere – who drove with me to Northern Iraq on a whim — was scheduled to be with me in Beirut right now. (I am at home and he is now blogging from Tunisia and Turkey.) He was slightly nervous, but I told him he did not need to worry. Lebanon could become a dangerous country again. There are warning signs to watch out for, I said, and I told him what they were. At the time (and this was only a few weeks ago) those warning signs were not yet flashing red. Who would have thought war could engulf the whole country, and not just the border, in one day with no warning?

I kept my eye on the country, even so, because potential medium-term trouble was quietly brewing. Many Lebanese Christians, Sunnis, and Druze were getting so impatient with the impasse over Hezbollah’s weapons they threatened to reconstitute their own armed militias that were disbanded after the war. Peaceful and diplomatic negotiation over Hezbollah’s role in a sovereign rather than schismatic Lebanon was not going to last very much longer. Once the rest of Lebanon armed itself against Hezbollah, a balance of terror would reign that could explode into war without any warning. That was the danger. That was the nightmare. That’s why Hezbollah had not been disarmed.

Syria’s Bashar Assad threatened to make Lebanon burn if his occupation troops were forced out of the country. Most Lebanese think that’s what last year’s car bombs were about. After former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, a Sunni Muslim, was assassinated downtown, all the car bomb victims were Christian. All the random car bombs exploded in Christian neighborhoods. The idea – or so the Lebanese thought – was to whip up sectarian hatred, to get Christian militias to rearm and retaliate, and to re-ignite the Lebanese war. Assad yearned to burn Lebanon, and he was not shy about saying so. Syria, or so he hoped, might be invited back in to stop the chaos with the soldier’s peace of the Baath.

That plan didn’t work. Hardly anyone wanted a return to civil war. No Christian vigilantes retaliated against Muslims (Sunni or Shia) because they knew it was a trap set by the Baath. That, most likely, is why the siege of the car bombs came to an end.

Sectarian tensions and hatreds run deep in Lebanon, even so, far deeper than those of us in the West can begin to relate to. 32 years ago Beirut was the Paris of the Middle East. But 15 years ago Lebanon was the Somalia of the Middle East. It made the current troubles in Iraq look like a polite debate in a Canadian coffeeshop by comparison. There is no ethnic-religious majority in that country, and every major sect has been, at one time or another, a victim of all the others.

I spent a total of seven months in Lebanon recently, and I never could quite figure out what prevented the country from flying apart into pieces. It barely held together like unstable chemicals in a nitro glycerin vat. The slightest ripple sent Lebanese scattering from the streets and into their homes. They were far more twitchy than I, in part (I think) because they understood better than I just how precarious their civilized anarchy was. Their country needed several more years of careful nurturing during peace time to fully recover from its status as a carved up failed state.

By bombing all of Lebanon rather than merely the concentrated Hezbollah strongholds, Israel is putting extraordinary pressure on Lebanese society at points of extreme vulnerability. The delicate post-war democratic culture has been brutally replaced, overnight, with a culture of rage and terror and war. Lebanon isn’t Gaza, but nor is it Denmark.

Lebanese are temporarily more united than ever. No one is running off to join Hezbollah, but tensions are being smoothed over for now while everyone feels they are under attack by the same enemy. Most Lebanese who had warm feelings for Israel — and there were more of these than you can possibly imagine — no longer do.

This will not last.

My sources and friends in Beirut tell me most Lebanese are going easy on Hezbollah as much as they can while the bombs are still falling. But a terrible reckoning awaits them once this is over.

Some Lebanese can’t wait even that long.

Beirut Mob.jpg

Here a Christian mob smashes a car in Beirut for displaying a Hezbollah logo. My friend Carine says the atomosphere reeks of impending sectarian conflict like never before. Another Lebanese blogger quotes a radical Christian war criminal from the bad old days who says the civil war will resume a month after Israel cools its guns: “Christians, Sunnis and Druze will fight the ‘fucker Shia’, with arms from the US and France.”

Israeli partisans may think this is terrific. The Lebanese may take care of Hezbollah at last! But democratic Lebanon cannot win a war against Hezbollah, not even after Hezbollah is weakened by IAF raids. Hezbollah is the most effective Arab fighting force in the world, and the Lebanese army is the weakest and most divided. The Israelis beat three Arab armies in six days in 1967, but a decade was not enough for the IDF to take down Hezbollah.

The majority of Lebanon’s people were wise and civilized enough to take the gun out of politics after the fifteen year war. Lebanon was the only Arab country to do this, the only Arab country that preferred dialogue, elections, compromise, and debate to the rule of the boot and the rifle. But Hezbollah remained outside that mainstream consensus and did everything it could, with backing from the Syrian Baath and the Iranian Jihad, to strangle Lebanon’s democracy in its cradle.

Disarming Hezbollah through persuasion and consensus was not possible in the first year of Lebanon’s independence. Disarming Hezbollah by force wasn’t possible either. The Lebanese people have been called irresponsible and cowardly by some of their friends in America for refusing to resume the civil war. Unlike Hezbollah, though, most Lebanese know better than to start unwinnable wars. This is wisdom, not cowardice, and it’s sadly rare in the Arab world now. They are being punished entirely too much for what they have done and for what they can’t do.

Israel and Lebanon (especially Lebanon) will continue to burn as long as Hezbollah exists as a terror miltia freed from the leash of the state. The punishment for taking on Hezbollah is war. The punishment for not taking on Hezbollah is war. Lebanese were doomed to suffer war no matter what. Their liberal democratic project could not withstand the threat from within and the assaults from the east, and it could not stave off another assault from the south. War, as it turned out, was inevitable even if the actual shape of it wasn’t. Peace was not in the cards for Lebanon. Its democracy turned out to be neither a strength nor a weakness. It was irrelevant.

Holding up as a democracy in a dictatorial region isn’t easy. Chalk this up as yet another thing Israel and Lebanon have in common with each other that they don’t have in common with anyone else in the Middle East — except, perhaps, for the Kurds in Northern Iraq. Unlike Israeli democracy, though, Lebanese democracy may not have the strength to keep breathing. Already some right-wing American “realists” are suggesting Syria return its forces to Lebanon. (Bashar Assad may be as much a foreign policy genius as his late father.) The March 14 Movement, the Cedar Revolution, may be too weak to survive until the region as a whole is transformed. If the Lebanese, the Americans, and the Israelis are not wise in the coming days, weeks, and months it could die the same death as the Prague Spring in the late 1960s, crushed under the treads of Soviet tanks and smothered until the day the world around it had changed.

When Israel and Hezbollah reach a ceasefire at last, round two of this conflict will commence in short order. No one knows if the Lebanese will be able to keep the gun out of politics after all that has happened. A tiny minority of Lebanese (with help from the remaining Syrian agents) can burn the country to the ground all over again.

“What will become of us?” is the question on everyone’s mind. No one can know what will happen after Israel lifts its siege and the temporary national unity flies apart into pieces. And it will fly apart into pieces. The only question is how far the pieces will fly and how hard they’ll land.

During all seven months I spent in Lebanon the overwhelming majority feared an imminent return to civil war. I always told them they were too pessimistic even while I wondered if I was too naïve. Perhaps I’ve absorbed too much of that Lebanese fatalism by spending so much of my time among them. And perhaps my naivete has finally been washed away. I really don’t know. It’s an old question that I don’t know how to answer.

Either way, the odds are quite a lot grimmer than they recently were. Lebanon could, indeed, become a free fire zone even if most Lebanese do everything they can to make it not so. Just a few thousand Hezbollah fighters set two countries on fire all by themselves. Don’t discount what bloody mayhem and hell a few thousand armed Druze, Christians, and Sunni can do if they decide to go hunting Shia in revenge for destroying their country. Don’t forget, also, that Lebanon is now surging with tens of thousands of furious, displaced, homeless, unemployed, and undisciplined young Shia men enthralled with Iranian-style jihad.

Insha Allah, Lebanon might be okay. Perhaps the status quo ante will return, only with a weaker and even more marginalized Hezbollah seething in its corner and thrown off the border. There may be scattered acts of sectarian violence that threaten to ignite into war and never quite do. Kidnappings could come back in style. Al Qaeda may finally have its turn at the Israeli border if their Hezbollah enemy is no longer there to keep them away. I do not know. The Lebanese themselves do not know. But one thing I do know is that after the first war ends there really could be another.

Don’t take your kids. Stay out until further notice.

Post-script: I was planning a trip to Iran in the near future, but of course I did not see this coming. Iran will have to wait. I’m returning to Lebanon as soon as the airport re-opens. Please hit the Pay Pal button and help me buy airfare.

If you would like to donate money for travel expenses and you don’t want to use Pay Pal, you can send a check or money order to:

Michael Totten

P.O. Box 312

Portland, OR 97207-0312

Many thanks in advance.

Please Be Patient

I’m still recovering from jet lag and general exhaustion while scrambling to catch up on everything that got put on hold while I went to Iraq on short notice. (I didn’t tell you this before, but I was scheduled to be in Lebanon right now before the Iraq gig came up. Looks like I would not have made it in any case.)

I don’t want to get into the quick response style of blogging just yet. First I’m composing a longish essay, a more careful and measured response than what I banged out in haste from Suleimaniya, Iraq, when I didn’t really have time.

More soon.

What Now?

by Michael J. Totten

I find myself unsure what to write about now that I’m back and can blog again. I worked in tranquil Northern Iraq — the Kurdistan region — for two weeks. I also visited Amman, Jordan, and Tel Aviv, Israel for about 24 hours each during a time of chaos and war.

Because I signed a confidentiality agreement before starting my consulting job in Northern Iraq, there is little I can write about. But of course I learned some things unreleated to my job while I was there, and I took over 1,000 photographs with my spiffy new professional photojournalist camera. There isn’t anything stricly newsy out of Iraqi Kurdistan right now, but it’s an interesting part of the world all the same.

I’ll get to everything in due time, but what do you want first? Posts from Northern Iraq? Brief dispatches from Amman and Tel Aviv? Or my armchair reaction to events in Lebanon and Israel?

Many of you hit my Pal Pay donations button recently, so you tell me what you want most and when you want it.

What do you want me to write about first?
Northern Iraq
Amman and Tel Aviv
Armchair response to Lebanon/Israel conflict
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I’m Back

by Michael J. Totten

Me and Sign to Baghdad.jpg

I’m back from my consulting job. As you can see from the photograph I spent most of my time in Iraq, in the Kurdistan region. (Jeez, it is hot there in July!) I wasn’t misleading you when I said my work was non-writing related. I don’t have nearly as many stories as I would have had if I went there as a journalist. Unfortunately I can’t tell you what I was doing or who I was working for. For now, though, I will say that I was not there working for any government. My gig was a temporary private sector one, and maybe (I don’t know yet) I’ll be able to explain it sometime in the future.

Getting out of the Middle East during the Lebanon/Israeli conflict was a lot more…interesting than being in Iraq. War and the flow of refugees put the kibosh on my travel plans home, and I had to route through Tel Aviv at a time of war to get back. This was totally unexpected and — I imagine this goes without saying — unpleasant. I will explain when I recover from exhaustion and jet lag.

Many thanks again to Callimachus for filling in for me when blogging just wasn’t possible. Many thanks also to those of you who sent Pay Pal donations while I was away from regular email access. I will try to send individual thank you notes as soon as I can, late though they may be.

Quick Hits

By Callimachus:

A few bytes from around the Web today:

Emergency relief aid should start reaching Lebanon soon.

France mobilized Friday to send urgent aid to Lebanon, the Red Cross managed to get relief supplies to the south — and Israel agreed to allow a safe corridor crucial to ensuring that food and medicine reaches those in need.

We can only hope. But if you’re tired of feeling helpless on the sidelines, Beirut Spring has got a donations board up, listing places you can give to help.

Abu Aardvark has a telling piece on the images that the Arab world is seeing in its media. If you want to understand popular reactions, this always is a good place to start.

There’s no such thing as a clean war. A nasty oil slick is fouling Beirut’s beaches. Doha has a picture.

Shadows

By Callimachus:

This John Kifner piece is on the New York Times wire tonight:

The Hezbollah guerrilla campaign that ended Israel’s 18-year occupation of southern Lebanon in 2000 was in many ways a precursor to the kind of asymmetrical warfare U.S. troops are facing in Iraq — and Israeli troops would face again if they entered Lebanon in large numbers.

Suicide bombers, roadside explosives and ambushes were the weapons the shadowy force that called itself the resistance used to drive out a superior conventional army.

“By limiting the firing, we were able to keep the cards in our hands,” said Sheik Nabil Qaouk, then and now the Hezbollah commander in the south, in a rare interview six years ago, shortly after the Israeli withdrawal.

“We were able to do small, little battles where we had the advantage,” the sheik, a Shiite imam who is also referred to as a general, said at the time in Tyre, Lebanon.

Now, as Israel contemplates the possibility of another land invasion of Lebanon, its commando reconnaissance teams are meeting stiff fighting as they discover that Hezbollah has spent much of the past six years constructing networks of fortified bunkers and tunnels and amassing stores of thousands of rockets.

This article, “Why the Strong Lose,” by Jeffrey Record, turned up in the winter 2005 edition of “Parameters.” It might be worth a re-visit.

[A]ll major failed US uses of force since 1945 — in Vietnam, Lebanon, and Somalia — have been against materially weaker enemies. In wars both hot and cold, the United States has fared consistently well against such powerful enemies as Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan, and the Soviet Union, but the record against lesser foes is decidedly mixed. … In each case the American Goliath was militarily stalemated or politically defeated by the local David.

The phenomenon of the weak defeating the strong, though exceptional, is as old as war itself. Sparta finally beat Athens; Frederick the Great always punched well above his weight; American rebels overturned British rule in the Thirteen Colonies; the Spanish guerrilla bled Napoleon white; Jewish terrorists forced the British out of Palestine; Vietnamese communists drove France and then the United States out of Indochina; and mujahideen handed the Soviet Union its own “Vietnam” in Afghanistan. Relative military power is hardly a reliable predictor of war outcomes.

Record’s piece summarizes observations that others have made — tentatively, perhaps because they are so disturbing to us. Democracies are particularly vulnerable to losing “protracted conflicts against irregular foes.” He cites Gil Merom’s observation that “democracies fail in small wars because they find it extremely difficult to escalate the level of violence and brutality to that which can secure victory.”

True. And an honorable military tradition in a free people, even when they face defeat, also recoils from such brutality. The Confederate generals in the Civil War, West Pointers, deliberately rejected the option of guerrilla warfare, though many saw it as their best chance for independence. Forrest, a private man with no military education, proved how effective insurgency could be against the Yankees in Mississippi in 1862. But Lee did not follow his path. After the war, Forrest proved it again by founding the Klan. Americans today routinely list him among the nation’s 10 greatest villains.

But the cruel truth is, barbarism works — if by “works” you means defeats the insurgents at a horrific cost in innocent human lives. The French learned that in Algeria, and they also learned the consequence; a free and democratic state with an civilized population simply cannot sustain such a war.

By 1955, the revolutionary FLN was pursuing a policy of open genocide in Algeria: Kill all the French. Civilians of all ages and conditions were hacked to pieces, infants ripped from the womb and dashed to pieces in front of dying mothers, all the depths of depravity of terrorism. If it managed to kill a French official, it then tried to bomb his funeral, too.

The violence spiraled in 1956. The French got tough. In January 1957, Gen. Jacques Massu and his 4,600 men got carte blanche to clean the insurgents out of Algiers. Torture, which had been banned to French soldiers since the Revolution, crept back into use.

The argument was that successful interrogation saved lives, chiefly of Arabs; that Arabs who gave information would be tortured to death, without restraint, by the FLN, and it was vital for the French to make themselves feared more. It was the Arab belief that Massu operated without restraint, as much as the torture itself, which caused prisoners to talk. [Paul Johnson, "Modern Times"]

Torture was not the end of it. According to one French official in a position to know, some 3,000 prisoners “disappeared” during the Algiers battle.

It was the one battle in the insurgency that the French clearly won. Fighting the FLN near its own level, with matching weapons of terror, Massu won the fight for Algiers. But civilized France all but tore itself to pieces in the process.

On the one hand, by freeing army units from political control and stressing the personalities of commanders, it encouraged private armies: colonels increasingly regarded themselves as proprietors of their regiments, as under the monarchy, and began to manipulate their generals into disobedience. In the moral confusion, officers began to see their primary obligation as towards their own men rather than the state.

At the same time, news leaking out of what the army had done in Algiers began to turn French liberal and centre opinion against the war. From 1957 onward, many Frenchmen came to regard Algerian independence, however distasteful, as preferable to the total corruption of the French public conscience. Thus the demand for the restoration of political control of the war — including negotiations with the FLN — intensified just as the French army was, as it believed, winning by asserting its independence.

This irreconcilable conflict produced the explosion of May 1958 which collapsed the Fourth Republic and returned de Gaulle to power.

Record adds:

For democracies, the strategy of “barbarism” against the weaker side’s noncombatant social and political support base is neither morally acceptable nor, over time, politically sustainable. Since 1945, wars against colonial or ex-colonial peoples have become increasingly unacceptable to most democratic states’ political and moral sensibilities. Merom says that “what fails democracies in small wars is the interaction of sensitivity to casualties, repugnance to brutal military behavior, and commitment to democratic life.”

Democracies fail in small wars because, more specifically, they are unable to resolve three related dilemmas: “how to reconcile the humanitarian values of a portion of the educated class with the brutal requirements of counterinsurgency warfare, … how to find a domestically acceptable trade-off between brutality and sacrifice, [and] how to preserve support for the war without undermining the democratic order.”

Dictatorships, of course, have no such constraint. And insurgents seem instinctively to grasp this weakness in their democratic foes. Record introduces Robert Pape’s landmark study of suicide terrorism from 1980 through 2003, which speculated that suicide terrorism, like guerrilla warfare, is “a strategy of coercion, a means to compel a target government to change policy.” It is felt to be especially effective against democracies, Record notes, for three reasons:

First, democracies “are thought to be especially vulnerable to coercive punishment.” Their threshold of intolerable pain is lower than that of dictatorships. Second, democracies are believed to be more restrained than authoritarian regimes in their use of force, especially against noncombatants. “Democracies are widely perceived as less likely to harm civilians, and no democratic regime has committed genocide in the twentieth century.” Third, “suicide attacks may also be harder to organize or publicize in authoritarian police states.”

Do you think Israel has learned all this? They could teach us the lessons. Every time the Americans make a military display then pull back rather than bringing down the hammer, as they did in Fallujah in April 2004, the jihadis surge. They make sure the message gets through: We defeated the infidel Marines. We are strong, they are weak. And when they do so they draw power, they suck in thousands of young men with their mirage of victory. And more blood and carnage follows.

The image of America pulling back from a fight is what inspired bin Laden in the first place:

“After leaving Afghanistan, the Muslim fighters headed for Somalia and prepared for a long battle, thinking that the Americans were like the Russians. The youth were surprised at the low morale of the American soldiers and realized more than before that the American soldier was a paper tiger and after a few blows ran in defeat. And America forgot all the hoopla and media propaganda … about being the world leader and the leader of the New World Order, and after a few blows they forgot about this title and left, dragging their corpses and their shameful defeat.”

And … well, I’ll let the interviewer tell the rest of the story:

The Somalia operation, in some ways, made bin Laden. During the Afghan war, the CIA had been very aware of him (although the agency now insists it never “controlled” him), but in Somalia, bin Laden had taken a swing at the biggest kid in the school yard and given him a black eye.

This is no secret. CNN’s Jeff Greenfield, for example, has connect the same three dots:

It began as a peacekeeping mission in March, 1983. U.S. Marines were sent to Lebanon to try to stop a bloody civil war. Seven months later, 20 years ago today, a massive truck bomb blew up the Marine barracks in Beirut, killing 241 U.S. servicemen — the worst single-day loss of life for the American military since Korea.

Grim as the news was, it was, in part, overshadowed by the U.S. invasion of Grenada two days later, to overthrow a hard-left pro-Cuban government.

And when President Reagan ordered the Marines to leave Lebanon in January, 1984, not many Americans paid attention.

But by some accounts, others did pay attention. That terrorist act of 20 years ago may have helped to convince some of America’s adversaries that the United States, for all of its might, was vulnerable, that heavy losses could be inflicted upon it at a relatively low price.

After all, the reasoning went, the U.S. had lost a war in Vietnam, not because it was militarily weak, but because it did not have the political will to bear the costs. And over the years, these adversaries seemed to take heart from what they saw as American weakness, from what the U.S. did not do when it left Saddam Hussein in power after the first Gulf War, when it pulled troops out of Somalia in 1993 after 18 Americans were killed — the Black Hawk down incident — when it failed to strike hard after the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing or the 1998 embassy bombings in Africa that killed 19 Americans, or the attack in 2000 on the USS Cole that left 17 dead.

That history may have been what Osama bin Laden had in mind when he said, three months after 9/11: “When people see a strong horse and a weak horse, by nature they will like the strong horse.” Indeed, one of the principle arguments made for American military action in Afghanistan and in Iraq was that the U.S. had to prove by direct action that America was not a weak horse, that al Qaeda and its allies were misreading America’s resolve. If that’s true, that Beirut bombing of 20 years ago may have been where that miscalculation began.

Viva la Muerte!

By Callimachus:

Hezbollah rockets kill two Arab Israeli boys in Nazareth, but the Arab resident of the town blame Israel, at least when the microphones are turned on.

“It’s war, and we are stuck in the middle,” said his brother, Omar Talussi. “All the world knows the reason, everybody knows.”

Another mourner chimed in: “It’s Israel’s fault.”

“That’s it,” Omar Talussi said, wiping his hands in a motion of disgust.

Many Arabs here, who are Israeli citizens, feel they are involved in their own low-level fight with Israel.

Though they make up about 20 percent of Israel’s population, their towns often get less development money than comparable Jewish areas and their average incomes are usually far less than those of the general population.

For that you feed your children to the missiles?

“Everybody knows it was an accident,” said Afif Zidani, who acted as a translator for the grieving family.

Though Hezbollah offered no public apology for the killings, many here heard rumors of one and that was good enough for them.

It would be morbidly funny if it were’s so sad.

As Amba says:

A supporter of Israel cannot help but writhe in agony at the horrible spectacle of the suffering, death and displacement of Lebanese civilians, their neighborhoods and lives shattered by the wrath of Israeli warplanes hunting down Hezbollah terrorists who hide in their midst.

How do you deal a decisive, clean blow to a terrorist organization that uses its own neighbors as human shields? You don’t. You either grant them an unacceptable kind of immunity, or you go after them, whatever it takes, and become a hated slaughterer yourself. The terrorists are not blamed, because, after all, they were not harming their neighbors; only living and quietly stockpiling arms among them, and even dispensing social services. The death and destruction they call down on their neighbors serves their purposes, and they have proven before that they have no scruples about sacrificing Muslim lives for the cause. (Two Israeli Arab boys were killed by a Hezbollah rocket that struck Nazareth.) But they are not blamed. Even though the catastrophe for their people may prove a perverse victory for them. Because their power feeds on chaos, suffering, and rage.

This is how terrorists have the world by the balls.

What the World Needs Now

By Callimachus:

Tom Friedman, walled up like a Poe character behind the NYT’s Internet subscription jealousies, has thoughts on what Lebanon needs:

Even though it had members in the national cabinet, Hezbollah built up a state-within-a state in Lebanon, and then insisted on the right to launch its own attack on Israel that exposed the entire Lebanese nation to retaliation. Moreover, unprovoked, it violated an international border with Israel that was sanctified by the United Nations.

So this is not just another Arab-Israeli war. It is about some of the most basic foundations of the international order — borders and sovereignty — and the erosion of those foundations would spell disaster for the quality of life all across the globe.

Lebanon, alas, has not been able to produce the internal coherence to control Hezbollah, and is not likely to soon. The only way this war is going to come to some stable conclusion anytime soon is if The World of Order — and I don’t just mean “the West,” but countries like Russia, China, India, Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia too — puts together an international force that can escort the Lebanese army to the Israeli border and remain on hand to protect it against Hezbollah.

I am not talking about a U.N. peacekeeping force. I am talking about an international force, like the one that liberated Kosovo, with robust rules of engagement, heavy weapons and troops from countries like France, Russia, India and China that Iran and its proxies will not want to fight.

Israel does not like international forces on its borders and worries they will not be effective. But it will be better than a war of attrition, and nothing would set back the forces of disorder in Lebanon more than The World of Order helping to extend the power of the democratically elected Lebanese government to its border with Israel.

Back in Three Days

by Michael J. Totten

Once again, I apologize for not being able to write much right now, especially at a time like this.

I am in a Third World country (to be revealed after I leave). I have limited access to telecommunications, and I have little or no time to write. I also have little or no time to moderate comments, and that is one of the reasons I felt the need to temporarily shut them down earlier. (They’re back now. Please be reasonable. Thanks in advance.) I have not been in a time or place where I can deal with this crisis properly. Please cut me some slack. I’ll be back in three days. Thanks again to Callimachus for helping me out when I really need it.

Some people have emailed and asked if my consulting job is just a ruse, that perhaps I’m in Iran and don’t want to say so. I really am consulting right now, and no I am not in Iran.

I won’t have much material for the blog because I’m not doing journalism work. But I did get a professional photojournalist camera, and I will have lots of better-quality photographs to publish.

The people of both Lebanon and Israel have my deepest sympathies. The Israelis do not deserve to be bombed by Hezbollah, and the Lebanese do not deserve to be bombed because of Hezbollah.

Hezbollah, though, deserves every last bomb that lands on their heads. There is a special circle in Hell dedicated to terrorists who hijack countries and use civilian populations as human shields. Hassan Nasrallah is using some of my personal friends as human shields, and for that I hope he dies twice.

UPDATE: A tiny scrap of good news. Thank you, Lisa.

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