Monday, July 17

Tell me how this ends.

Does anyone remember the "Cedar Revolution" in Lebanon? Does anyone remember how, in the wake of the assassination of Rafiq al-Hariri, thousands of Lebanese people took to the streets in protest and -- almost completely on their own -- worked their way out from under the oppressive thumb of Syria? Does anyone remember how happy everybody was about that, these average Lebanese Joes and Josephines rising up to prove that democracy could exist in the Middle East? That all happened in February and March of last year. Based on the events of the past few days, though, I'd have thought it was a lot longer.

I don't want to be seen as a knee-jerk pessimistic Eeyore, immediately jumping to the worst-case scenario no matter what, but it looks like all that progress is currently in the process of being blown into oblivion. If there's even a Lebanon left after the Israel-Hezbollah war is over with, who knows what it's going to look like? Maybe some Lebanese George Washington will magically rise up to rebuild the country into something beautiful again, but it seems just as likely that Syria or Iran will find a way to take advantage of the chaos and weasel another puppet regime back in there. Whatever kind of government emerges from the ashes, it's hard to imagine the people of Lebanon having many kind feelings toward Israel after the IDF blows their country to bits.

That, I think, is what makes me the most angry about all of this. Here's a country, once called "the Paris of the Middle East" for its culture and intellectual openness, that survived a brutal 15-year civil war and another 15 years of Syrian oppression to emerge as perhaps the best hope for actual democracy in the Middle East -- and both Hezbollah and Israel have evidently decided that all that progress and all that hope are worth erasing if it means they get to continue blasting the hell out of each other.

Obviously Hezbollah carries the lion's share of the blame in all this. They knew exactly what they were doing by kidnapping those two Israeli soldiers last month, and probably knew full well how much the conflict was going to widen itself over the ensuing weeks. Which meant that they had a good idea just how much destruction was going to be rained down on Lebanon from both sides, and were willing to allow that to happen just so that they could start an unwinnable war with the Israelis.

But Israel, for their part, obediently fell for the Hezbollah trap hook, line, and sinker: For want of two kidnapped soldiers, they gave Hezbollah the war it wanted. Look, I'm one of the last people who's going to sit here and argue that Israel doesn't have a right to defend itself, and I'm certainly not going to say that the kidnapping of two citizens is something Israel should've ignored. But look, I'm just going to come out and say it -- is reducing entire cities to rubble their idea of a proportional response to two kidnappings? And can the Israelis hold their heads high and feel like they haven't been drawn into something terribly pointless in all this?

For all we know, the kidnappings were all a plan hatched by Syria to goad Israel into a conflict that would sow chaos in Lebanon and create an environment in which Syria could sneak back in and re-install a friendly puppet government. Is that what Israel, or anyone else, wants?

Meanwhile, aside from dropping four-letter words in front of fellow world leaders and saying they're not going to tell the Israelis how to run their country, the U.S. government appears to be doing nothing. And back here in America, some of the same people who self-righteously hailed the sweep of democracy through Lebanon 17 months ago are now shrugging their shoulders and insinuating that the Lebanese should just shut up and take what's coming to them. So that's as long as your attention span lasted re the Cedar Revolution, huh? Seventeen months ago you were chiding us liberals for not being happy enough for the Lebanese, and now you're blasting us for supposedly being too concerned with their welfare. Seventeen months ago you hailed Lebanon's progress as a vindication for Bush's pro-democracy policies, and now you cheer as that progress is reduced to dust.

I don't want to beat a dead horse (or a dead Arab) here, but I think it bears repeating: Eventually the neo-con kill-'em-all-let-God-sort-'em-out right-wing cheerleaders are going to have to decide whether they want freedom for the poor benighted Arabs or whether they just want to bomb the shit out of 'em. If you want freedom and democracy for Lebanon, you probably shouldn't cheer as innocents are caught in the crossfire of this war; if you want freedom and democracy for Iraq, it seems poor form for you to fantasize about turning entire cities into parking lots, etc. etc. etc. Be a freedom-lover or be a bloodthirsty warmonger, but pick one, stick with it, and be honest and upfront about your choice. (Or as Bill Maher might say: "New rule -- you're officially banned from going ga-ga over pictures of hot women if you're only going to call them all terrorists later.")

But I'm not going to spend a lot of time sitting around and waiting for them to make up their minds. Right now I'm trying to make up my own mind -- whether to continue to hope that this whole thing can be resolved before Lebanon is completely wiped off the map, or to just give up on humanity entirely, move to Tahiti, and never pick up another newspaper or watch CNN ever again. I gotta tell you, at this point the latter's looking more and more attractive by the second.

A friend of mine summed it up best as we glumly hashed out this topic over drinks on Saturday. He said this crisis made him think back to a line spoken during an episode of "The West Wing" during similar circumstances: "Tell me how this ends!"

Leo McGarry: Mr. President, please -- Congress, the Joint Chiefs, the American Public, your own staff, everyone disagrees with your assessment of the situation.
President Bartlet: Killing Palestinians isn't going to make us feel safer. They'll kill more of us and we'll have to kill more of them. It's Russian Roulette with a fully loaded gun.
McGarry: We can't allow terrorists to murder our citizens without . . .
President Josiah Bartlet: Why would Palestinians murder American government officials? They never have before. They're deliberately provoking us, Leo. They know that we have to retaliate. They've studied us, they want us to overreact.
Leo McGarry: This isn't overreacting, this is the appropriate, balanced . . .
President Josiah Bartlet: Tell me how this ends, Leo! You want me to start something that may have serious repercussions on American foreign policy for decades, but you don't know how this ends!

My friend said that what he'd like to do more than anything is to sit down with Israel and ask them what they want the outcome of this whole thing to be, and then work backwards from there. Maybe that'd help in this case, because it seems like both sides in this conflict did a really good job early on of getting enraged but not a good job at all of pondering where that rage is likely to get them.

Not anywhere good would be my guess. I hope somebody figures that out before it's too late.

ADDED: Boy, it just gets better. What does Rush Limbaugh have in common with the Rapture fetishists of the evangelical right? They both think all this violence in Lebanon is a good thing. Read it and weep.


Anonymous said...

I applaud your ability to cut through the miasma and get straight to the point(s).

My concern is that the Iraelis have a very specific goal in mind: US bombs falling on Iranian nuclear sites.

That's my paranoid fear that this is where "this ends."


How's the sushi in Tahiti?

Anonymous said...

I would assume that the Israelis want to live in peace. Their action of giving Gaza to the Palestinians speaks volumes to this desire. I also assume that Hamas and Hezbullah don't want them to live in Hamas' charter that calls for the eradication of Israel. Hence, the fucking rag heads should be bombed to 72 virgin heaven. The sooner, the better.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure a lot of you have read the article about Bush and his use of a dirty word to describe the current Middle East situation in talks w/Tony Blair. While people are dying and things are going to hell in the middle east and even in the US, this is what our fearless leader does to continue to make us proud(NY Times article):

In the taped conversation, Mr. Bush, clearly eager to get home to the White House after six days in Europe, is heard saying, apparently to a counterpart, possibly President Hu Jintao of China, who was sitting next to him, possibly President Validimir V. Putin of Russia, his host, ?Good job, gotta keep this thing moving ? I gotta leave at 2:15 ? you?ll want me out of town so to free up your security forces.? His counterpart agrees, ?Ya,? and he laughs along with Mr. Bush?s trademark giggle.

But Mr. Bush sighs, and explains, ?Gotta go home, got something to do.?

Then, more likely to Mr. Hu, he asks: ?Where you going? Home? This is your neighborhood; it won?t take you long to get home.?

The response cannot be heard, but Mr. Bush exclaims, ?You get home in 8 hours? Me too! Russia is a big country, and you?re a big country.?

Anonymous said...

Hezbollah runs Lebanon, not the Lebanese government or people, that's the problem. They're terrorist with their main goal being the destruction of Israel.

No negotiating, treaties, etc. will solve this problem. It never has. Israel gives and gives and gives and never receives anything in return, specifically peace.

Iran and Syria are the root problem here, not Israel.

No tready, UN resolution, etc. will ever work. These terrorist have never and will never comply.

You liberals are such pussys!

Anonymous said...

Here's the problems I have with your arguement Doug:

"But look, I'm just going to come out and say it -- is reducing entire cities to rubble their idea of a proportional response to two kidnappings?"

Response to two kidnappings? As I remember Hezbollah has been launching rockets from territory just outside of Israel's borders causing Israel to react in kind. Its not Israel's fault that a militant group/party uses the entire state of Lebanon for their weapon caches and missle launchpads. If the country of Lebanon would stand up to such militants, as Israel has asked (they've asked Lebanon to deploy their army along the border so the militant group can't rain missles onto their population centers, I believe that's pretty reasonable) then Israel wouldn't feel the need to disarm the militants themselves.

My friend said that what he'd like to do more than anything is to sit down with Israel and ask them what they want the outcome of this whole thing to be, and then work backwards from there.

From a statement released by Israel they asked: the two soldiers, who were kidnapped from territory they gave back on the promise it would not be used to conduct raids/attacks into Israel's territory, they also asked for Hezbollah to lay down their weapons, and for the Lebanese to deploy their military on the border to stop this militant group from attacking. I think that's pretty clear, but I guess not clear enough for some people.

I just find it hilarious that groups/nations such as Hezbollah and Iran don't recgonize Israel's right to exist, as a country or as a people, yet many people sympathize with their "plight" and blame Israel for protecting themselves (and yes, blowing up power plants, airfields, and missle implacements before they can be used against them is defending one's self).

Anonymous said...

I would assume that the Israelis want to live in peace. Their action of giving Gaza to the Palestinians speaks volumes to this desire. I also assume that Hamas and Hezbullah don't want them to live in Hamas' charter that calls for the eradication of Israel. Hence, the fucking rag heads should be bombed to 72 virgin heaven. The sooner, the better.

I agree. The only reason Israel had the Palestinians under their control in the first place is to use the land as buffer from further attacks. Doug and others might understand and sympathize, but when you live in a region where the entire population wants you dead, because they believe you don't have the right to exist, you have to take precuation to protect yourself. The Arabs tried to attack Israel numerous times, lost, and so they lost territory. You think Israel wanted to rule a million angry Palenstinians who don't believe Jews have a right to exist? Of course not, but it was necessary for them to have the buffer zones so a sudden attack by the Arabs wouldn't reach their main population centers. Now when they give this territory back, having only taking the territory when attacked, militant groups use that territory to stage attacks once again.

Israel wants to live in peace, this has been seen, yet its hard to when your neighbor's list in their charters/consitution the wanton destruction of Israel and the Jewish race. Where was the outrage by the liberal community when the President of Iran spoke of Israel not having the right to existence (or Jews). Yet Bush stumbles over a word and you're all over that -- this self-hatred, we owe everyone shit must be depressing.

Astronaut Mike Dexter said...

Direct quote from the post: I'm one of the last people who's going to sit here and argue that Israel doesn't have a right to defend itself . . . I really love how right-wingers can selectively ignore whatever they want to as long as it'll make it easier to lay into liberals for being "pussys."

Yes, Israel has the right to defend itself. But does that automatically mean they have to reduce Lebanon to rubble to do so? Never mind the fact that this course of action might not even be a good long-term strategic move in the first place for Israel -- a democratic, non-Syria-ruled Lebanon could've been one of their biggest allies in rooting terrorism out those "buffer areas," but with the entire country being reduced to a smoldering heap, conditions are ripe for Syria to move right back in and install another terrorist-coddling puppet regime. But hey, I'm sure everyone in Haifa will be cool with that, right?

Until you guys on the right wing discover an outlook more mature than "Let's blow some shit up, that'll solve everything," you're going to keep having the kind of foreign-policy disasters that have pretty much typified the Bush administration for the past five years.

Anonymous said...

"Where was the outrage by the liberal community when the President of Iran spoke of Israel not having the right to existence (or Jews). Yet Bush stumbles over a word and you're all over that -- this self-hatred, we owe everyone shit must be depressing. "

You know what? The Iranian president is an evil douchebag. Everyone knows it, esp. those of us on the left. We don't feel the need to carp on it.

Criticism of Bush isn't self-hatred. It's a desire to have someone in charge of this country who's not a moron. Loving your country starts with wanting competent leadership.

Anonymous said...


I wouldn't worry about the jackasses that call us "pussys" (sic) while hiding behind the label of anonymous. It seems someone who likely imagines himself the anti-thesis of "pussys" (sic) would have the courage to leave a name or identifying monicker, but alas.

I also started to write a post regarding the Israeli security situation, and how a Lebanese government purely controlled by Hezbollah (as opposed to one intimidated by the organization) would be opposite of what the Israelies would want (with the corollary being that Israel's overreaching, rather than a measured response, would hasten such a development instead of preventing it).

That's why Israel has to be cautious in its end, or they're going to end up in a worse situation than before.

On a side note, I suppose that's why diplomacy is such hard work. It'd just be easier to take the position of the idiot asshole from above and indiscriminately bomb Arabs - after all, it certainly appears it would make him feel better, though it wouldn't help a damn thing. His position, oddly, is one that mirrors Osama bin Laden and other terrorists - one that advocates just killing civilians in the name of the war, regardless of their innocence.

And somehow, by wanting a moral highground that increases our national security while giving us (or in this case, Israel) a degree of moral authority to broke a better solution, we're "pussys" (sic).

I stand amazed that such morons graduated from an American school system.

Anonymous said...

Since you have to have a pseudonym to have any standing in this discussion, I'll use "righttoexist." Does that work for you "joe joe?"

For the record, two IDF soldiers were kidnapped but EIGHT IDF SOLDIERS WERE KILLED by Hizbollah terrorists attacks inside Israel's northern territory. We don't hear about the EIGHT IDF SOLDIERS KILLED anymore, do we?

The Lebanese people are not innocent victims in this latest flashpoint. The people of Lebanon have given Hizbollah safe haven and political standing. If you lie down with dogs, you're going to get some fleas. If you lie down with terrorists, you're going to get your butts bombed. If you let terrorists stash their weapons next to you, you stand a good chance of getting caught in the crossfire. If you let terrorists launch attacks from your backyard, you're in jeopardy. If you tolerate terrorism, you must tolerate its consequences.

Now the lefies are getting in touch with their terrorist inner-self and are calling for a "measured," responsible, humane response. Sounds like British appeasement rhetoric during the Nazi blitzkrieg on Poland.

That's why Israel has to be cautious in its end, or they're going to end up in a worse situation than before.


More of the old liberal logic: if you piss them off, it's just going to make things worse. How can "drive the Jews into the sea" get any worse for Israel? How can a 58 year siege get any worse?

Now the media is playing-up Hizbollah's humanitarian side. They provide social services to the poor in Lebanon. They also use these same people as human shields. Not the first time the poor have been used for political ends - sounds like something out of the Dems playbook. Clever.

Then there's the libs ace in the hole. The "moral high ground" card.

More bullshit!

Do you really think that Islamic terrorists understand or can relate to your sense of morality? They start from a position that death is a good thing. Death of an innocent is better. Remember how they shot 10 year-old kids in the back as they tried to escape from their Islamic jihad kidnappers in Beslan? The children that weren't shot on the run were killed in the subsequent blast triggered by the terrorists using it to cover their escape. That's their morality.

Joe joe, you must have graduated from our failed public school system.

ACG said...

righttoexist, do you really think that there are a whole bunch of Lebanese villagers welcoming Hezbollah with open arms? What are they saying? "Why, yes, masked terrorist! Please, come live in the house next to mine, so that when Israel comes after us, I can get just as blown up as you do!" Or maybe, "Why, yes, I'd love it if you'd store your bomb in a garage next to the yard where my children play! I think it sounds like a great idea, and a learning opportunity to boot!"

Or maybe, just maybe, might they be saying, "I know I saw these guys with automatic weapons moving into the big house across the street, but I'm not about to say anything about it, because they have freaking automatic weapons and I fear for my life." Could that be it, righttoexist? Could it be that they'd rather ensure the safety of their families than try to kick Hezbollah out of their neighborhood like some over-armed Little Rascals?

How about you? If the FBI blew up your neighbor's house, and you just happened to lose both legs in the process, would you just shake your head and say, "Well, I guess that's what I get for living next door to a suspected kidnapper and pedophile. You lie down with dogs..."?

Anonymous said...

Looks like that's the case, acg:

Minister of Energy & Water
Mohammad Fneish: A Shiite Moslem and a member of Hezbollah. He served as an MP since 1992.

Mohammad Fneish, he has a name and I'm sure he has a home address. Mohammad Fneish, Hezbollah member, Member of Parliament and, now, cabinet member. Mohammad Fneish, Hezbollah member, embraced by his fellow villagers, elected to parliament and elevated to a cabinet level position. Mohammad Fneish, Hezbollah member, legitimized by his fellow villagers and the Lebanese government.

Your when Israel comes after us scenario is flawed. It really goes like this: when you and your fellow noble terrorists venture into Israel to kidnap and kill infidel Israeli soldiers, I'll act like I don't know you so that when my ass gets bombed I'll look like an innocent victim - now, go get 'em!

Now, acg, tell us that Hamas terrorists aren't embraced by Palestinians. Or do I have to explain that to you, also?

Anonymous said...

See, the problem with righttoexist is that he/she thinks any argument that opposes his/hers is a liberal getting in touch with its inner terrorist, or some bullshit like that.

Fucking hell - I refuse to debate assholes like this because they debase debate, accuse people with opposing views as terrorists, and are just general assholes. I stopped banging my head against the wall a long time ago, and I've learned you can't reason with idiots.

But, on a parting thought, you're right. Your black and white worldview is so superior to a nuanced understanding of a gray world, and I surely feel educated now.

You want to have a real debate on foreign policy? You want to have a real discussion on security and anti-terrorism strategy? I'm in favor of it. But grow up first, and let's have a discussion like civilized people.

Anonymous said...

joe joe,

You set the tenor for this discussion:

I stand amazed that such morons graduated from an American school system.

I refuse to debate assholes like this

Debasing the debate? Certainly. Grow-up? You could use a dose of your own advice.

On another note, I see where the Lebanese army is going to team-up with Hezbollah against the IDF. The Lebanese government when confronted with the opportunity of ridding their country of the Hezbollah terrorists have chosen to join them. The last vestige of Lebanese innocence in this matter is gone. How unfortunate for the truly innocent, peace-loving Lebanese caught in the middle.

Have you noticed that almost every conflict in the world today has a muslim on one side or the other? Sometimes on both!

Anonymous said...

There is a simple solution to this crisis:

Hezbullah returns the IDF soldiers and Hezbullah complies with UN resolution 1559:

Anonymous said...

Actually, the tone of the debate was set when someone labeled we liberals as "pussys" (sic). Sorry if that inconvenient truth escapes you. I only respond in kind. You want to say I have an inner terrorist when you don't know a damn thing about me? Uh, yeah - it makes you an asshole and a dipshit.

I actually haven't seen where the Lebanese army is joining with Hezbollah. What I have read is the defense minister saying the military will defend Lebanon if Israel launches a ground invasion into their sovreign territory. Don't conflate the two.

To use an analogy (which doesn't exactly fit, but will work for this instance), do you think the U.S. would let Mexico just waltz into Texas with its army because some of the right-wing nutjobs like the minute men or the KKK kidnapped and killed some Mexican soldiers? (Note: the analogy is imperfect because the U.S. would have likely taken its own action, but imagine that it didn't. Do you think we would let them do that, regardless of whether we agreed with the aims of the Mexican government or not? We wouldn't even let foreign countries help us following Katrine, for Pete's sake...)

Anonymous said...

Short time listener, first time caller here...

I don't have a dog in this fight but...golly, joe joe with you throwing a hissy fit and blabbering some incoherent hypothetical that even you admit doesn't fit(?!), it's no wonder someone considers you to be a pussy. Besides, you call yourself "joe joe." What do you expect?

Here's what you're looking for:

If there were a gang of outlaws on the US side of the US-Mexico border and they were kidnapping Mexicans for ransom, I would expect the US to work with the Mexican authorities to free their hostages and prosecute the kidnappers. If the US didn't assist, I would expect the Mexican authorities to act unilaterally to protect their citizens - wherever they had to. And you would too.

I like acg's pussy. I wonder if she/he would let me rub it? LOL

Anon's got it right. The UN needs to enforce 1559 and 1680.

Anonymous said...

Oh, come on now. A little civility, please.

It now appears that the conflict is headed to the next level. Israel is going to inflict as much damage as possible on Hezbollah. Hopefully, the Lebanese forces will not side with the terrorists and will use this as an opportunity to rid their country of Hezbollah.

Anonymous said...

I suspect it will end with the enforcement of UN SC Res 1559 and 1680. The UN will have to put a serious peacekeeping team into southern Lebanon and defang the Hezbollah. The question is, what will happen in the meantime. I don't see the Israeli government standing still while missiles rain on its civilians.

Anonymous said...

A good read: