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Wednesday, August 16, 2006

The path is not clear

In an opinion piece in today's Washington Post, Secretary of State Rice states why she believes that UN Security Council Resolution 1701 will put Lebanon and our entire region on "a path to lasting peace." I wish I could believe her. Unfortunately, I cannot.

Much as Secretary Rice and President Bush want to do the right thing to help Israel, their continued trust in 'democratic elections' and 'economic prosperity' as panaceas in countries like Lebanon and Iraq, and in territories like the 'Palestinian Authority,' is misplaced. People who have lived under the kinds of governments that have dominated this part of the world for the last 150 years (at least) aren't going to make the kind of electoral decisions that we westerners would consider rational. They don't "vote with their pockets" as most westerners do. They vote to empower fanatics who think like they do.

For example, Secretary Rice asserts:
Looking ahead, our most pressing challenge is to help the hundreds of thousands of displaced people within Lebanon to return to their homes and rebuild their lives. This reconstruction effort will be led by the government of Lebanon, but it will demand the generosity of the entire world.


Already, we hear Hezbollah trying to claim victory. But others, in Lebanon and across the region, are asking themselves what Hezbollah's extremism has really achieved: hundreds of thousands of people displaced from their homes. Houses and infrastructure destroyed. Hundreds of innocent lives lost. The blame of the world for causing this war.
Secretary Rice is apparently oblivious to the fact that many Lebanese are not asking what Hezbullah has really achieved. For many Lebanese, Hezbullah has won. Hezbullah has instilled ethnic and religious pride in them. For religious fanatics, losing one's home is a small price to pay for that kind of pride. And now, Hezbullah will rebuild their homes for them.

The challenge is not so much to help displaced people in Lebanon rebuild their lives, but to do so without them becoming any more loyal to Hezbullah than they are already. Even today, we see that the reconstruction effort is not being led by the Lebanese government but by Hezbullah, financed by Iran. This will inevitably result in more Lebanese becoming loyal to Hezbullah and to the growth of Islamist fanaticism in Lebanon. If Hezbullah continues to lead the reconstruction effort, one can assume that the next time there are 'free elections,' Hezbullah will win them handily, and that those who do not want to live in the type of Islamist state that Hezbullah envisions will (try to) vote with their feet. The feckless Lebanese government will not fight Hezbullah unless it is motivated to do so. Thus far, it has no motivation for fighting Hezbullah. Instead, the world community has pandered to Fuad Siniora, demanding nothing of him in return for its support and aid.

Secretary Rice also implies that people who are comfortable economically do not resort to terrorism and murderous religious fanaticism when she says that "To secure the gains of peace, the Lebanese people must emerge from this conflict with more opportunities and greater prosperity." Yet we have been shown time and again that terrorism may also go with economic prosperity. One need look no further than the Saudis who perpetrated the 9/11 terror attacks to see that people who come from economic prosperity are not immune from resorting to extremism. Statements like that show that Secretary Rice - like most westerners - does not understand what an irrational ethnic conflict like we have here is all about. It's that kind of thinking that keeps telling us that if only the 'Palestinian problem' were solved, all would be peaceful in the Middle East. It attributes a rational basis to the conflict that just isn't there. 'Free elections' and 'economic opportunity' do not resolve ethnic conflicts. The goal in an ethnic conflict is not to win, but to destroy the other side.

Before the United States and its allies conducted free elections in post-war (West) Germany and Japan, both those countries had to undergo a military occupation period, during which civil liberties were severely restricted. Only after those countries were 'de-Nazified' were free elections held. If free elections had been held in Germany in 1945, the Nazis might have won. Only after cutting the people off from the propaganda machine could rational decisions be made. For free elections and economic prosperity to work here, the Arab world must first be weaned from the Islamist thought process. The Arab world sees only two possible forms of government: facist, undemocratic rule like that of Hafez Assad, Hosni Mubarak and King Abdullah, and Islamist fanaticism. Israel is opposed by both because its very existence points out the shortcomings of both. But to move the Arab world towards a western-style government, it must first be forced (and it can only be forced) to realize that there are alternatives to facism that are not Islamic fanaticism. Accepting Israel would be a major step in bringing about that realization.

It could well be that the United States no longer has the desire to undertake this kind of 'nation building' that it undertook after the Second World War, and that is fine and well. But if that is the case, it needs to stop paying lip service to the nation building ideal, and start to provide open, partisan and practical backing to its number one ally in the region. That means, for example, that if it is not going to undertake nation building in Lebanon, the United States should have refused to compromise with France on Resolution 1701 and allowed the war to continue until Hezbullah was destroyed. Now that the resolution has been adopted, the United States must see that it is strictly enforced - starting with insistence on disarming Hezbullah and returning Israel's missing soldiers, and backing Israeli military action if either of those things does not happen forthwith. Otherwise, not only will Lebanon fall to Hezbullah - Israel and the United States' interests in the region will be endangered too.


At 1:12 PM, Blogger westbankmama said...

Excellent Carl - right on the money (no pun intended!)

At 4:24 PM, Blogger lila said...

Rice is scary and I have severe doubts that the US will insist on the resolution be enforced.

The very fact we went along speaks volumes.

At 5:57 PM, Blogger Dave in Pa said...

I think the US is being unfairly bashed here. We really went out on a limb for Israel, diplomatically as well as with military aid and intel assistance.

For a whole month, the US acted vigorously to provide diplomatic muscle, to claim the justness of Israel's cause in Lebanon, and to provide military aid, and intel support. Much of this isn't generally known or realized, in Israel and in the US.

The problem is that the PM and his colleagues in Cabinet didn't allow the IDF to do it's job. A golden opportunity for Israel and America to win a huge victory in Lebanon, over Syria AND Iran was stupidly squandered by Olmert & Co.

As I see it, it's really unfair to transfer the blame and responsibility to Pres. Bush and his Administration for the inexcusable deficiencies of Olmert & Co.

Yes, the UN Resolution, as always, is unrealistic and in the long term unsustainable. But after a month of Olmert & Co. playing at war in a Clintonesque manner, the Bush Administration was forced to make the best it could of a bad situation for Israel and for America and the West.

If you don't like that, welcome to the club. Neither do I.

As an American who believes in the reality, necessity and moral imperative of conducting a global War on Terror on the globally interlinked Islamofascist movement, as well as a firm friend of Israel, it leaves a sour taste in my mouth also.

America fully did it's duty as Israel's only true ally.

The people to whom you should address your complaints are your own inept PM and Cabinet. They have failed in their basic duty, to the harm of not only the Israeli people but the US and the West as a whole.

This failure should not and cannot be transferred or projected onto America.

At 6:34 PM, Blogger Dave in Pa said...

A further note on my previous comment:

Caroline Glick has an excellent column in today's Jerusalem Post, entitled "An unmitigated disaster"

I quote an excerpt: "Many sources in Washington told this writer over the weekend that the US decision to seek a cease-fire was the result of Israel's amateurish bungling of the first three weeks of the war. The Bush administration, they argued, was being blamed for the Olmert government's incompetence and so preferred to cut its losses and sue for a cease-fire.

There is no doubt much truth to this assertion. The government's prosecution of this war has been unforgivably inept. At the same time it should be noted that the short-term political gain accrued by the US by forging the cease-fire agreement will come back to haunt the US, Israel and all forces fighting the forces of global jihad in the coming weeks and months.

At 6:43 PM, Blogger Lois Koenig said...

Spot on,ladies and anyone who makes the mistake of trusting Rice is endangering Israel. She is not a friend nor is she a suppporter of Israel and the Jews. She is a standard State Department wonk, but took the job with a prior history re friendship, along with Colin Powell, of powerful arab groups in the US, at whose dinners they would be the featured speaker.

She is a menace to Israel.

At 6:55 PM, Blogger Carl in Jerusalem said...

Dave in Pa,

I think I have said in the past that I blame Israel - and particularly Olmert - for what didn't happen in Lebanon. There is no question that the political level in Israel bungled this war completely, and did not have the courage to do what needed to be done. I don't blame the US for that. I have stated 2-3 times on this blog that I believe that in the end it will come out that Olmert asked for the hudna and not the US.

But having said that, I think the US has to be realistic. You can't waffle on nation building. Either you're willing to make the sacrifices to do it, or you're not. I don't believe the US is willing to make the sacrifices to build other nations, and I think it's totally legitimate for the US to decide not to make those sacrifices. Democracy and economic growth aren't going to suddenly make the Arabs into model citizens of the world. If you're not willing to do what you did in Germany and Japan two generations ago, don't pretend that you are. Stop playing neutral arbitrator and be partisan. In our favor of course. Everyone else is partisan against us.

We're all stuck with this situation now. Given that, the UN resolution at least has to be enforced. Read the last sentence of the Glick article you cited. At the same time it should be noted that the short-term political gain accrued by the US by forging the cease-fire agreement will come back to haunt the US, Israel and all forces fighting the forces of global jihad in the coming weeks and months. Maybe the US should have thought long term? It's too late for that. But it's not too late to think long term now.


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