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Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Hostage to Hezbollah

Fouad Ajami's biting analysis in the weekend Wall Street Journal is spot-on:

Pity Lebanon: In a world of states, it has not had a state of its own. A garden without fences, was the way Beirut, its capital city, was once described.

A cleric by the name of Hassan Nasrallah, at the helm of the Hezbollah movement, handed Lebanon a calamity right as the summer tourist season had begun. Beirut had dug its way out of the rubble of a long war: Nasrallah plunged it into a new season of loss and ruin. He presented the country with a fait accompli: the "gift" of two Israeli soldiers kidnapped across an international frontier. Nasrallah never let the Lebanese government in on his venture. He was giddy with triumphalism and defiance when this crisis began. And men and women cooped up in the destitution of the Shiite districts of Beirut were sent out into the streets to celebrate Hezbollah's latest deed.

It did not seem to matter to Nasrallah that the ground that would burn in Lebanon would in the main be Shiite land in the south. Nor was it of great concern to he who lives on the subsidies of the Iranian theocrats that the ordinary Lebanese would pay for his adventure. The cruel and cynical hope was that Nasrallah's rivals would be bullied into submission and false solidarity, and that the man himself would emerge as the master of the game of Lebanon's politics.

The hotels are full in Damascus," read a dispatch in Beirut, as though to underline the swindle of this crisis, its bitter harvest for the Lebanese. History repeats here, endlessly it seems. There was something to Nasrallah's conduct that recalled the performance of Gamal Abdel Nasser in the Six Day War of 1967. That leader, it should be recalled, closed the Straits of Tiran to Israeli shipping, asked for the evacuation of U.N. forces from the Sinai Peninsula-- clear acts of war--but never expected the onset of war. He had only wanted the gains of war.

Nasrallah's brazen deed was, in the man's calculus, an invitation to an exchange of prisoners. Now, the man who triggered this crisis stands exposed as an Iranian proxy, doing the bidding of Tehran and Damascus. He had confidently asserted that "sources" in Israel had confided to Hezbollah that Israel's government would not strike into Lebanon because Hezbollah held northern Israel hostage to its rockets, and that the demand within Israel for an exchange of prisoners would force Ehud Olmert's hand. The time of the "warrior class" in Israel had passed, Nasrallah believed, and this new Israeli government, without decorated soldiers and former generals, was likely to capitulate. Now this knowingness has been exposed for the delusion it was.

There was steel in Israel and determination to be done with Hezbollah's presence on the border. States can't--and don't--share borders with militias. That abnormality on the Lebanese-Israeli border is sure not to survive this crisis. One way or other, the Lebanese army will have to take up its duty on the Lebanon-Israel border. By the time the dust settles, this terrible summer storm will have done what the Lebanese government had been unable to do on its own.

In his cocoon, Nasrallah did not accurately judge the temper of his own country to begin with. No less a figure than the hereditary leader of the Druze community, Walid Jumblatt, was quick to break with Hezbollah, and to read this crisis as it really is. "We had been trying for months," he said, "to spring our country out of the Syrian-Iranian trap, and here we are forcibly pushed into that trap again." In this two-front war--Hamas's in the Palestinian territories and Hezbollah's in Lebanon--Mr. Jumblatt saw the fine hand of the Syrian regime attempting to retrieve its dominion in Lebanon, and to forestall the international investigations of its reign of terror in that country.

In the same vein, a broad coalition of anti-Syrian Lebanese political parties and associations that had come together in the aftermath of the assassination last year of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, called into question the very rationale of this operation, and its timing: "Is it Lebanon's fate to endure the killing of its citizens and the destruction of its economy and its tourist season in order to serve the interests of empty nationalist slogans?"
I'm finding it very hard to resist the temptation to put every last word of this article here. So I'm going to quit while I can still tell you to go run and read the whole thing.


At 5:48 AM, Blogger Kranky (in the civilized world) said...

Hi Carl:

Something has been on my mind for a while now, and while tangential to this topic, is at least worth exploring.

I don't know many people who view the retreat from Gaza as a victory. This may be for ideological reasons, or short term tactical situation points.

I have given this a great deal of thought. I believe now that the Gaza retreat represents a fundamental turning point, in the ages old arab-israeli conflict. I don't think Sharon was given credit for this, but I do believe now that history will stand in awe of this mans last gift to humanity. Let me explain, and no I am not minimizing or ignoring the pain of those who withdrew. I honor their sacrifice. I believe that they had and have a noble goal.

This comes from thoughts I was thinking around the time of the withdrawl, so I will phase it in this temporal context until the end of the text.

In the fundamental calculus of the mideast, a formulae had been in use, whether rightly or wrongly, by leaders attempting to hammer out face saving methods to retreat from disasterous interactions with Israel. The idea is that Israel will give up land and get peace in return. Usually this is associated with a war of aggression waged against Israel.

I am going out on a limb here, reading into his motives and thoughts, but it occurs to me that Sharon may have realized it is time to put this fundamental calculus to the test. Give them enough rope to either hang themselves or peacefully start building a state.

Basically he set it up so that the "palis" would have no possible excuse, whatsoever, for not building a state, for not electing reasonable and pragmatic leaders.

Two possible outcomes could emerge from this.

First: the "palis" could become peaceful and start building a state. (stop rolling your eyes for a moment, and bear with me). In this case they spend their time and efforts building something that could emerge as a prosperous and vital society. Something worthy of trading with, investing in.

Second: the "palis" could go the route of Iran with mad mullahs in charge. No hope of moderation, simply terrorists with huge egos and tiny johnsons, willing to fight to the last one of their own people, but unwilling to get in the fight themselves.

Either one of these are a win for Israel. Here is why. First, if they emerge peaceful and moderate, then they are someone you want as a partner and a neighbor, and they are worth having next door. Israel wins due to a decrease in hostilities, and an ability to focus more energy on living. "Palis" win by getting peace and a nation.

If they emerge as murderous as before and more, something more interesting happens. First, they show that the fundamental calculus is irreparably broken, that there is no possible way that a state of such people could ever live side by side with Israel. This also automatically invalidates any demand an entity might have for "withdrawl" from any land which is strategic for the safety of Israel's citizens. It completely invalidates any perceived right of return for the same reason, that the consequences of such an action would result in substantial risk to life, property, and an increase in tension.

Now back to todays context.

Withdrawl and the great sacrifice by many in Gaza shows that the "palis" are both unable to build a functional government, and will amplify their war against Israel with indiscriminate bombing and rocketing of non-combatants. We have known for a while that they have no problems whacking pregnant mothers and their babies. Now they have a small arsenal of rockets to augment their murderous ways.

Those who lived in Gaza pointed out that they were the front line. Since they retreated, the front line followed them. If the issue was "occupation" (loaded term, and quite meaningless in this context, but this never stopped the "palis"), then as soon as the "occupation" ceased, and Israel surrendered the land to the "palis", the fighting should have stopped. Shouldn't it have? After all, this is what the liberals and moonbats have been telling us?

If the issue was never "occupation", then the front line would move. The "palis" would be too busy trying to attack Israel to try to build a state.

And if "occupation" was never the issue, then negation of occupation, basically a retreat is not a solution to any issue. Since this is the cornerstone of the calculus that has dominated conflict there, it is long past time to flush this particular idea down the commode, where it belongs.

And that gets to the situation today. I have read numerous blogs, and reports and statements claiming that Shebaa farms is the rationale for the murderer Nasrallah and his henchmen launching a war against Israel. Without any further ado, we can put that point of view to rest. We know already that this is false. We know that they simply want to kill jews.

It is time to invent a new and pragmatic calculus to fix the problem. I think the current approach of a 2 state solution side by side in peace is dead, killed by the "palis" not missing an opportunity to miss an opportunity.

Several elements to the calculus are obvious: first, the "palis" are incapable of ruling themselves, self organizing, and becoming a responsible citizen-state. Second they have issue in sharing a common border with Israel. Both of these issues need to be aggressively addressed.

First: All "palis" need to declare themselves to be either Jordanian or Egyptian, or Israel will do this for them. Solves the problem of administration, and the US can help twist the Egyptian and Jordanian rulers arms with an economic carrot/stick approach. Egypt gets $2B US/year. Time to make it $4B (you will see why in a second). Need to up Jordans too (same reason, and you will see why). If they fail to do what is asked of them, it goes to $0 in both cases.

What will be asked of them. Population transfer of the "palis" out of Gaza and Judea/Samaria. "Palis" want nice beachfront property? Fine. Northern Sinai. Let Egypt give it to them as citizens, with the extra $2B for development of that area. Redeploy UN peacekeepers between the "palis" and the Israeli border, and you are done. No nation-states need be built. The "palis" don't get to govern themselves, they have shown themselves to be singularly incapable of doing so. They get to be governed by yet another "friendly" government with a peace treaty with Israel. They get to look like good guys to the rest of the Arabs. They get to handle police matters and troublemakers.

Same thing in Jordan. Population transfer. Move as many out as possible. Same approach there, no beachfront property though. Large investment in developing communities. Defund the UNRWA and use every cent that went into that into helping Jordan adjust.

If they don't go along, their aid goes to 0.

Open up a MidEast free trade zone with Egypt-Israel-Jordan. Create opportunities to invest and grow business. Jordan and Egypt will need to alter some of their laws to deal with letting Jews own property and have full protection of law. As soon as Lebanon is freed from the hezbullah scum-of-the-earth, extend it to them with a large infrastructure investment.

Some of this may be a pipe dream at best, but the solution to the problem no longer entails Israel giving away land. Judea and Samaria need to be annexed now. If "palis" want to stay, they need to become loyal Israeli citizens. It is no longer possible to leave them there if they are hostile.

Either way, Israel now has a short window in which to define the new calculus. It should dictate it, and come up with major features agreed to by relevant powers. Once that is done, its all over but the shouting.
Israel will have imposed its will, the war will be over. Not forever, and yes there will be idiots who want to glorify their names in an orgy of violence, but Israel must put it to bed.

This is what I believe Sharon's gift was. Clarity and reasonable end games. He told the "palis" to put up or shut up. And they didn't put up. Now it is time to get everyone to agree to shut them up.

We all know Sharon was a brilliant general. I am getting a sense that this was his plan from the beginning. And we are seeing the fruit of it emerge. An end game that is survivable and even reasonable.


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