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Sunday, February 07, 2010

Who thinks Hezbullah is the IRA?

On the JPost blog page, Tony Badran does a masterful job of dismantling a Foreign Affairs article that claims that Hezbullah can be convinced to disarm just as the Irish Republican Army was. After Badran destroys the argument, he comes up with this:
Why is Simon and Stevenson's article riddled with so many errors and misconceptions? Because they assume an affirmative response to a key question that they never bother tackling: Does Hizbullah want to disarm? Without addressing this question convincingly, further misconceptions are inevitable, like the authors' proposition, unsupported by any evidence, that Hizbullah is trying to distance itself from Iran, whose Ruling Jurist (Wali al-Faqih), as Hizbullah itself declares, has final say over all important decisions. The proper answer of course is that Hizbullah does not want to disarm since it makes no sense for it to do so, neither from a pragmatic perspective nor an ideological one.

The issue here is not sloppiness, but a chronic ailment afflicting Western writing on the Middle East, as what appears to be analysis is often something else entirely. Simon (who was recently in Lebanon at the invitation of the New Opinion Group) and Stevenson are not writing about Hizbullah or Lebanon, but Washington.

In 2003 the two co-wrote an essay arguing that the example of Northern Ireland was "a strong argument" against adopting a "lenient" policy with Hamas, so why do they now argue that such treatment will work with Hizbullah? Perhaps it is because there are figures in the Obama administration who are sympathetic to a policy of engagement with Hizbullah, like the NSC staff's counterterrorism czar, John Brennan, who has publicly implied an acceptance of the "political vs. military wing" dichotomy in Hizbullah, claiming that the "political wing" allegedly denounces the violence of the "military wing."

Thankfully, when it comes to Hizbullah, as evident from the State Department's quick rejection of Brennan's views, there is more sobriety in Washington than in the poor Foreign Affairs article, or in the British Foreign Office for that matter.
Well, with respect to that last paragraph, I can only say "maybe." You see, the State Department currently has someone shuttling back and forth to this region who may be convinced that Hamas wants to disarm - and that Fatah already has. Those delusions are equally as harmful to the prospects for peace as the article about Hezbullah that Badran describes.


At 7:04 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

The Western delusions about the Middle East have weakened the region's handful of moderates and have strengthened vast numbers of radicals. There is nothing the West can offer to win them over.


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