The Death of Moderation!

What can be said about the current developments in Lebanon except that we might be seeing the prelude to a civil war?What could really be more telling than this?

But yes, I can praise the March 14 forces for showing so much restraint and from refraining to challenge the current show of force by Hezbollah and supporters, the pro-Syria demonstrators, by mounting an equally impressive show of their own. But this will be adding more fuel to the fire, and already several agents provocateurs, some of which reportedly Syrian, have been involved in trying to steer the crowds into doing something stupid such as storming the Serail. The restraint shown by the March 14 forces is indeed wise and commendable.

The challenge, however, lies in the ability to maintain it over the long hold.

Restraint may not prevent violence indefinitely, however, especially if the other side, or at least certain elements in it, is/are intent on provoking it. But restraint could serve to demonstrate clearly to the international community which side needs to be blamed for the violence and, therefore, contained, and which side merits to be supported. Admittedly, however, if civil war should break out, this may not account for much in the overall scheme of things.

Some in the region are begging for huge crisis that can allow them to avert being held accountable for their crimes, and retain their positions, no mater illegitimately gained. This is not about any legitimate demands or concerns; this is more about their abuse by capricious elements on the highest level of governance and society in several states in the region, but mainly, in Lebanon itself, as well as in Syria and Iran.

Yet, there are those who would suggest rewarding the evil-mongers, to ward off the greater evil, as they contend, as though this policy has not been tried for decades now, to no avail. Falling back on more of the same is a sign of weakness on all sides, and will only serve to embolden the worst among us. Let’s not underestimate the mayhem that they could do, that they will be willing to do, if further emboldened. Isnt’ it enough for us to see how willing they are to push things to the brink?

Indeed, in the age of asymmetric warfare, and pure unadulterated thugary, no power will remain unchallenged no matter how technologically superior. Why? I think Marlon Brando put it best in his monologue in Apocalypse Now:

“I remember when I was with Special Forces…Seems a thousand centuries ago…We went into a camp to inoculate the children. We left the camp after we had inoculated the children for Polio, and this old man came running after us and he was crying. He couldn’t see. We went back there and they had come and hacked off every inoculated arm. There they were in a pile…A pile of little arms. And I remember…I…I…I cried… I wept like some grandmother. I wanted to tear my teeth out. I didn’t know what I wanted to do. And I want to remember it. I never want to forget it. I never want to forget. 

And then I realized…like I was shot…Like I was shot with a diamond…a diamond bullet right through my forehead…And I thought: My God…the genius of that. The genius. The will to do that. Perfect, genuine, complete, crystalline, pure.

And then I realized they were stronger than we. Because they could stand that these were not monsters…These were men…trained cadres…these men who fought with their hearts, who had families, who had children, who were filled with love…but they had the strength…the strength…to do that. If I had ten divisions of those men our troubles here would be over very quickly. You have to have men who are moral…and at the same time who are able to utilize their primordial instincts to kill without feeling…without passion…without judgment…without judgment. Because it’s judgment that defeats us.”

Of course Marlon Brando’s character “had” to be killed at the end, as the very idea of civility militates against amorality. Civility does condone at occasions recourse to barbarous behavior, but it will never accept it as a way of life. At one point or another, people have to feel guilty about their barbarism, otherwise they could never be civilized. The lot we are dealing with is not the kind that will feel guilty about anything, otherwise they would not be risking taking things this far. This is not a peaceful protest, this is an act of intimidation, one meant to draw violence in order to unleash greater violence, one that is designed to be Act One of something bigger, much bigger.

Of course, this is an argument in extremis, there is usually much grey involved in most situations. But these are extremist times when extremist agendas are unfolding. You can cut-and-run, or you can face the music. Peacemaking requires teeth, not prayers nor wishful thinking, nor even… realism. Take a bite now, or gnash your teeth later. Moderation has been killed.

88 thoughts on “The Death of Moderation!

  1. I think you are spot on Ammar. As a lebanese, I am quite worried about hte future of my country. Unfortunately I am also quite certain that Lebanon would never be free unless Syria is democratic – Samir Kassir’s famous equation. I am afraid that the tension is too high, already a person has been killed in a clash between Sunnis and Shiites (with the shot fired conveniently from far away – possibly a rooftop)… While I agree with you that restraint on March 14’s side is commendable, I doubt that it will hold. My suggestion was that March 14 should take its crowd and march up to Baabda for two reasons. 1- Psychologically, its crowd would have some goal to achieve, rather than sit around in beirut and clash with the visiting horde. 2- It puts the pressure back on the opposition and forces the equation, prime minister for president… otherwise back down.Well those are my two cents…

  2. Very sad AmmarIs it the death of moderation or the death of lebanon as a concept Its evident now that Nasrallah is using his “devine victory” to impose more power and spread his Iranian entity from south to north and change the whole face of Lebanon.

  3. Ammar-You me you addressing several at least 2 salient issues:a. Morality vs. pragmatismb.Trying to predict human behavior/the futureAnd in this current situation, the two grandly overlap. Do you capitulate or bargin with evil, hoping they will be reasonable and see the error of their ways and try to be fair? Or do you just hope to hold them off for a time and see what happens. Or…do you take a stand, knowing taking a stand will almost certainly lead to horror. One could take the moral argument and say “you should always stand up against evil? Well, if four of the school bullies have you in a corner and demand you lunch money…where will standing up to them get you? And if you give them the lunch money…what is likely to occur tomorrow? If we could look clearly into the future, we could always make good decisions, but of course, we cannot. So ladies and gentlemen…place your bets.I often test myself…”if I were king”Geez…I don’t know what the heck I would do…maybe rob the treasury and head for Tahiti? What would I do in Iraq, what would I do about Iran, how would I try to settle the Israel/Palestinian conflict? Iron fist, olive branch? Both could work, both have failed. As Jackson Browne sang “there are lives in the balance”. My prediction though…the situation has to deteriorate and ain’t nothing gonna stop it.Now if we could find a way to give all combants hemmoroids, maybe they would become preoccupied with other things.

  4. Well to begin with, I don’t accept the word “EVIL”.The notion of ‘evil’ belongs to the religious believers, and I am surprised you would use it.George Bush and company like to use such words. Evangelicals use this word.This word….used about others… reduces them to beings without rationality. but this would be the antithesis of being a human. so, you are saying they are not humans, without human motivations.It seems to me ALL the players here have both irrationality and rationality in their actions.but to call them evil is a rhetorical labeling gesture that means we refuse to consider their possible rational reasons for acting or for possibly resorting to violence.But in this instance, where exactly is the violence in this recent protest/demonstration by the Hezballah crowd? I didn’t hear about any violence at this event.I will be back later with my other complaints…sincerely,zenobia

  5. Zen-I don’t have problem with the word evil and I will tell you exactly why I use it. Your reaction is knee-jerk because you associate it with George Bush’s “access of evil”. I don’t.I think HA ultimately would support some or all of the following that I associate with EVIL:TerrorismRepression of Human RightsRepression of WomenTortureThey associated themselves with movements, like Iran, that support floggings, murder of dissenters, crushing free press and free speech.Shall we approach honor killings, clitoraldectemies? So my guess is that if HA got their way in Lebanon…they would attempt to creat a Taliban-like society so nope I don’t have any problem at all with that word.EVIL EVIL EVIL EVILoh..and EVILAnd you can throw the Assad regime right in there though they don’t pretend to hide behind God to do their dirty work.

  6. dear Howie, give me an f-ing break.”clitororectomies”? the HA is nothing like the Taliban, Mr.And, by the way my point is….there are evil acts, but not evil people in my mind.Israel engages in Torture. Does that make the Israelis evil???

  7. You really have a serious problem accepting the fact that unlike the Taliban, Hezballah is not running across the land weilding weapons at the people., stealing their children,…and demanding that they change their clothes or join up, or submit or otherwise be killed.No, quite the contrary.. HA is actually viewed with gratitude in part because they are quite the humanitarians and represent the only social support system around for the people of south lebanon. So, what are YOU talking about. You cite these things…..backwards practices…all over the middle east and far east, asia, and africa that have to do with women… mutilation, honor killings, oppression of women. I couldn’t agree more that these are unacceptable practices. But this has nothing specifically to do with Hezbollah. They occur in many tribal and traditional cultures across the globe.Maybe patriarchy leads to evil practices, but this isn’t a very compelling argument about the evilness of real people in HA or the islamic religion. I wouldn’t defend Iran. There are plenty of Iranian women who want to challenge the oppression of women there – but they don’t hold their entire religion responsible for the problem.Israel is a huge huge huge Human Rights abusing nation..in most of the world’s eyes right now. The security forces of Israel have engaged in assasinations as well imprisoning people for political purposes, and violent occupation. This is considered state Terrorism. why don’t you take a mirror to your own country’s “evilness”, rather than barking about…what Hezballah might do if they had more power. If they received the political power that the southern lebanese are entitled to…. we don’t know what will happen….but…I think that this would dramatically DECREASE any inclination toward armed conflict. Maybe people should think about what kind of justice in Lebanon would bring about a situation where the Hezbollah leadership didn’t feel the need to receive support or empowerment from Iran. seems like a more productive consideration than who is EVIL and who is Good.

  8. Zenobia-I think HA is a lot like the Taliban…or at least potentially so. They take orders from Iran which; MurdersTorturesRepresses womenKills newspaper reportersFlogsDenies rights Horrifically represses dissentPeople that do evil things are evil. Don’t give ME this f..king “oh..they are just catharting their feelings BS”.Israel? You want to get into that? OK…Free press’Complete women’s rights’Freedom of speechIntegrationNo floggingsNo honor killings (except among Palestinians and Boudoins)Freedom of religionFreedom to vote for women and minoritiesWant to test something…ah..run over to Saudi Arabia with “jew” on your passport and see what’s up. Or just try to go on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem…though Arabs are free to visit the Western Wall. There are differences…but you brought up Israel…not me.Torture? There has been some and it ended up in the courts. Ah…what has the HA or Iranian courts done to prevent torture. So you can react as emotionally as you wish and close your eyes and knee-jerk protect those guys…but me…I think they are up to evil. Let’s watch how this plays out as they help save “Lebanon”.But I love you.

  9. Zen-One last point…if Israel’s ran around with Moral Police (and they have tried in some religious communities) and flogged couples for holding hands in public…I would brand them evil and I would happily turn the key on their jail cell…personally.

  10. Dear howie, i made my point….and I dont’ need to start analyzing your type of responseplease cease and desist from being condescending to me and saying that i am having a “knee jerk” reaction…or “closing my eyes” and I am reacting “emotionally”…..I find these comments..off point and very condescending….why dont’ you just tell me…that I can’t possibly have my opinions from thought or reason.and you aren’t ’emotional’ in your response?give me a break…lets just drop the extra jabs…and stick to your arguments…and I will do the same…otherwise I won’t be responsible for the descent of the conversation.“Torture? There has been some and it ended up in the courts.”thanx, for making me laugh….there are “difference” but not enough to distinguish between good and evil i am afraid.and … again.. my point is not to defend reprehensible practices in the middle east. There has been torture across every country in the region. my point is that.. this isn’t specific to HA or the Iranians for that matter…. and if this is your criteria…then you had better designate the entire area of the world as “Evil.”And this result seems to render the word… meaningless and absurd.

  11. On happier note: why don’t we marvel at Turkey.Turkey is no less complicated and culturally complex, historically troubled, and politically muli-varied … and religious and secular both..How does Turkey do it, I’d like to know?Turkey should be a beacon of light….for the rest of the middle east to follow….seems to me… they have a lot of intellectuals, and the desperate desire for economic participation and inclusion …which is forcing the country to adapt to many things including European expectations.http://www.nytimes.com/2006/12/05/world/europe/05turkey.html?hp&ex=1165294800&en=3af390a071b606d0&ei=5094&partner=homepage

  12. the link didn’t copy right..but front page New York Times….has feature article…”Where Tradition and Modern Meet and Sashay Along” …. about good ol’e Turkey

  13. Ok, I tend not to participate on many of the discussions on this blog because I am Lebanese, but this one hits home. Zenobia, while HA did an arguably commendably thing by liberating the south of Lebanon. They did it over the bodies of many people who had been resisting before them. As a matter of fact, noneother than the Syrian regime cleared the arena of Communists and Syrian Nationalists for them to fight solo… In any case that is not the point. The point is that you are defending Hizballa as if they are some godsend when they are far from it. Many of my Shiite friends live in areas that have become controlled by HA, and when I say controlled, I mean in every possible way. Liquor stores were shut down, and certain tv and satellite channels are banned. Moreover, the areas are saddled with pictures of Khomeini, Khameniei… Add to that, you cannot criticize them in public, because they have informants, literally who will report on you. What else? If you check out the recent demos, tehy have a friggin discipline unit, a proto-police. Now go ahead and couple that with their armed wing, foreign support, funding and training as well as extra-state actions in terms of waging war, and conducting negotiations and presto you have the reason why everything you are saying is – excuse my honesty – irrelevant. You may argue that they have support from a large majority of their constituents, and I say you are right. But so what? If a certain percentage of the population wanted to exist and operate outside the bounds of a state and establish its own set of rules and regulations in the areas it controls that is called independence or self-rule. I am not aware that we have such a system in Lebanon. As such, and until we do, they have to abide by the law which they are not…

  14. Howie,Last week I exceeded my quota here, and … to make a long story short, Ammar asked me to take two weeks off, or to at least refrain form adding my excessively long comments. Which is cool. I understand.Six more days to go.I will not be able to get into the details, but yes it is true that in general (not here) I like 95% of what Zenobia says, and only 70% of what you say… she wins.By the way, are we still getting the Golan back (as we agreed last month) if we “support” our Lebanese friends in their call for a more “balanced” Lebanese government?

  15. Alex-The day the Lebanese kiss and make up you can frekin have Tel Aviv.I think my money is safe on that bet. But how about if they start fighting we keep the Golan?

  16. R-Thank you for your second reply…I am prone to take a little poetic lic. just to get a rise out of Zen or Alex…but I do stick by my basic point.HA and their ilk have a clearly evil side. Am I talking about a 17 year old boy that wants to die for glory and all that…of course not. But what you describe is evil…it is not just misguided good intentions.I have been a psychologist for over 30 years. Some of what Zen seems to be trying to say reminds me of the 70’s. We used to tell some really rotten people, “I know you are good, it is just your behavior that is not nice”. Well…to me…behavior is THE issue. If you want to hate me for being a Jew or an American…fine…I care, but not too much. However, don’t flog me for it. I care much more about what you DO. When people consistently do very bad things, I call that evil. What R described are evil actions and these are actions by a people that have not even obtained much power yet. Did nobody learn anything from Iran? Have you not read books like Reading Lolita in Tehran or Peresoplis. A close Iranian friend of mine just left my house minutes ago and we have talked about this often. Khoemini LIED and mislead his people which was evil and then the things he did were even more evil.Is “evil” a spectrum. Of course it is. I can’t tell you exactly where the line is crossed between bad and evil. But I listed several things I feel are the actions of evil people and I stand by it. Especially when perpetrated against others that merely DISAGREE…or just happen to be Bahai’s, or Christians or Women.Not it is not relative, or in the eyes of a culture. These things at there very essesence are evil.

  17. Howie that was a trick question!Of course I do not want Tel Aviv, even if I won the bet!… we just want the Golan back .. and a “friendly goverment” in Lebanon.Do you know that Zenobia is also a psychologist?Me too! … not really, but I did publish in an applied Psychology journal last year.And I will not get into any serious comments here other than to suggest to you that you, like me and zenobia, are also seeing things from your perspective. For example, I find it rather obvious that an optional war that resulted in the killing of hundereds of thousands of Iraqis is the ultimate evil… much more evil that anything the Syrians, Israelis, and HA did combined.You have done your homework to justify to yourself that you are really not biased in a very obvious way, but you are. We all are. The “truth” is not easy to define, and if it was, it would be some sort of a mix between everything you, and Zenobia said.So nothing beats talking in a civilized way… without calling anyone evil, no matter how convinced we all are.

  18. Alex-I agree with 90 well 80% of what you say, but there is a very significant point of divergence.I talk about this a whole lot and that is the idea of moral relativism. Torture is torture, war is war, it is all bad, it is all the same.I disagree completely and I do believe there are evil people with evil intentions. Let’ take something we might be closer to argeement on…the torture, rape and ethnic cleansing of Muslims in the former Yugoslavian Republic. I believe Melosovic was EVIL…not misguided, misunderstood, just venting his feelings, the product of poor mothering. I believe he was fully evil. Again…I am not referrring to George Bush’s hyperbole about the “Evil Empires”…sounds like frekin Star Wars. But war against the likes of a Melosovic was a battle of good and evil. Does that make all of his solidiers bad and all the soliders on the other side good. Of course not. But I guess we obviously see this MUCH differently. We talk about Iraq too if you like. But I don’t want to take up too much space.

  19. Alex-By the way…of course I know you are an engineer and not a pyscholgist. After all, we have our ways……..

  20. Please don’t accuse me of being a psychologist.i don’t live or work as a psychologist, and i may never, so lets leave it at that.R, I am not trying to paint HA as a ‘godsend’… my choice to describe certain roles they have played and not describe the more negative ones… was in response to the baiting by Howie (who has now admitted that he is deliberately trying to “get a rise out of me”..how mature). I am simply illustrating why HA would never fit any definition I have of ‘Evil’. One cannot ignore that (although maybe there has been the experiences by some that you describe) – there are also the thousands of supporters who cannot all be brainwashed and coerced. Therefore, one has to account for HA’s popularity and the needs that they are fulfilling for that segment of the population. And any solution to the divisions in the country are also going to have to take that into account.In sum, I am not interested in debating – as I am being dragged into it- whose actions are most evil or most defining of evil within this context (middle east/ lebanon etc).I am outright rejecting the use of the term. I think it is a completely counterproductive and demeaning term that dismisses those who it is used to designate, thereby eliminating any need to understand them or their actions. The use of the term has no place in politics. Save it for ethics or religion… and I don’t mean political ethics or law. When i first brought up the word evil…it is true that Howie had just used it in his comment, but truthfully I was not intending to engage Howie on this subject – I was more interested in why Ammar had used it. and i intend to post a different comment about that…

  21. Zenobia …, I understand what you are saying now, and perhaps the use of the word evil is well useless or counterproductive. How about we instead use teh words “cynical”, “with little regard to human free will or life” :). On the other hand, like I said, there is no denying that Hizballa has the support of thousands of people. I am sure many of them make that choice of their own free will. I am also sure that many thousands if not more people supported the likes of stalin and pol pot (not to mention our own arabic brutal ideologies, your own being no exception) of their own free will. That does not make it right or morally justifiable, though it is explainable in context. But there is a difference between explainanble and justifiable. Ok, I am losing coherence so I am gonna stop :).

  22. Howie,ok, I’ll try to get you to agree with the initial 90%, not your later 80% corrected figure.Let’s start with something else we both have in common and will hopefully not disagree on: We both studied research methodology. When you conduct behavioral research, one of the first challenges is to find a theoretically based definition of the relevant constructs. Then you have to demonstrate, through sound statistics the construct validity of the scale.Now “Evil” sounds like a really challenging construct to measure. Its “definition” will vary from one population to the other… you can not have external validity to that construct. It will only apply to the specific population you sampled .. why? because as Zenobia said, the way different people define the word “evil” based on their religion, or cultural background will make it a source of biased analysis. You should not use it to judge others, and others should not use it to judge you.For example, I was NOT being very scientific when I assigned “Evilness” based on the number of those killed by one side or the other … If you want me to develope and test a more scientific (less biased) scale for the term, I’ll think about it and if I come up with something useful I’ll let you know. But honestly, I don’t think it is doable.”Melosovic was EVIL”, Sharon was evil, Bashar is evil, Bush is evil, Shah of Iran was evil, Jumblat was evil … it won’t go anywhere.

  23. R1) “with little regard to human free will or life” :)” … that’s not something we can agree on wither … because everyside will justify their hero’s history of sacrificing human life for the good of the state or the people.And as an example again to Howie … to most Arabs Prime minister Sharon is first name that comes to their mind if you ask them for an example of who “has the least regard to human free will or life” among the political leaders. If it is not Sharon, then it is President Bush.In Israel of course Is is Nasrallah, Khaled Mashaal, Bashar Assad, or the Iranian president.And to me, based on facts, not future projections .. so far it is the neocons who ended more lives than anyone else since … Ruanda? … then there is Darfur (200,000 killed?) …

  24. Alex, You said”with little regard to human free will or life” :)” … that’s not something we can agree on wither … because everyside will justify their hero’s history of sacrificing human life for the good of the state or the people” But you see I didn’t justify any side’s sacrificing human life for the good of the state or the people. I just said that HA did, and by doing so showed little regard to life. Now lets forget about human life for a second (harsh as that may seem) and assume that it is as you justifiably sacrificable (what a word) for the good of the state or the people. What about free will. Does my freedom not end where yours starts? As a trivial example, do I have a right to watch whatever TV channel I choose to in my own home? Because those rights are being taken by Hizballa in the areas that they control. Look, I just think that by being complacent about basic rights, such as freedom of expression, and sanctity of life, we are paving a way for a bleak future. Ten years or twenty years down the line, when it all comes to bite us in the ass, we will pause to wonder what teh hell happened and the answer to that would be “we got complacent”.

  25. R, your comparisons are way off base.of course, popularity is not a sign of the ethicalness of an ideology.but just sticking to the facts….(and I still think only history reveals who the tyrants and liars and ‘villains’ turn out to be), Hezbollah are not exterminating or executing mass numbers of people, nor sending them to death camps. Again, we are just getting caught in relative perspectives of how bad is bad, and who is worse. Every party in Lebanon had their hands covered in blood at one time or another. And this is not the ideology of HA as a normal mode of governing.

  26. But you see I didn’t justify any side’s sacrificing human life for the good of the state or the people. I just said that HA did, and by doing so showed little regard to life.and this statement by R. I simply don’t get it. In what context are you talking about?Unless there is something you are referring to here that I don’t comprehend….. HA’s armed wing is the same as any other army in terms of their attitude toward sacrificing life.What is the difference whether official states have soldiers wearing uniforms recognized by the rest of the world as a those of military force belonging to a nation….therefore they can call themselves soldiers and kill people in war. HA has soldier like anybody else…. killing and being killed.this is no more revealing of a disregard for human life than any other army.I happen to think that all war and killing is despicable and disregarding the value of human life, but then – one might as well.. call the entire human endeavor of war…. EVIL.

  27. I dont understand this debate , are you trying to classify what is evil and what is not?arent you just missing the point?Hizballah doesnt have to be evil to be leading lebanon just to the very wrong direction , to the Mullah country – PERIOD!and Zenobia as a woman you should be the first one to stand against that!!

  28. Ok, Zenobia and Howie, I couldn;t care less which one of you is right or wrong or what is good, evil or in between. What I do care about is my country, and in that context I care about Syria, simply because our fates are intertwined…and to answer your question, the difference between a state army and a militia is vast, in terms of legitimacy and accountability among other things. I really could get into that but I don’t think there is any swaying. I guess its much easier for you to theorize about things when you don’t have to live under the reprecussions of Hizballa’s actions… I do and so do millions of people who get coerced into situations that they did not put themselves in, by the actions of HA. Be it war, or restriction of basic rights and freedoms. Thats all I have to say.

  29. R-Yes you are seeing this clearly. I for one to not see the world as relative. Some things are much worse than others. Ethnic cleansing in Germany or Yugosalvia is certainly worse than turning off your porno. channel (or mine, but close) but this is a distraction from the main point. HA, for example, and this according to your observation, and you seem to be the expert here, is already showing their tendencies. Moral Police, snitches, denial of personal rights, denial of woman’s rights etc. They have a big following? So what? So did Hitler and so do the Oakland Raiders…I mean lots of very bad or worthless ideas have had huge followings.So…I won’t back away from my term evil and I have defined it. Also, Alex, you are really quite sharp and well-informed…sorry you are so often so wrong.If you are talking about definition of constructs and their application, they have to be operationally defined and then applied to a random normative population. However, what is your sample going to be representative of? If you select for Orthodox Synagouge attendees your definition of deviance will be very misleading. Anyhow…that is another story.R- I comlpetly agree with your thinking and you are clearly seeing the writing on the wall. HA will pull basically the same crap that those of their ilk always do, choke off dissent, restrict rights etc. and then talk about how they are protecting Lebanon for Israel or America or whatever. And since they owe their souls to Iran and Syria, you can bet their bosses will be calling the ultimate shots.

  30. R-Considering I used to live in Israel and that half my family still lives there…this argument in more than theoretical to me. HA is a militia because it acts independent of the elected government, including starting a war that was a disaster for Lebanon and once again fired up the tensions in the region. It is not theoretical because their rockets were landing on or very close to my friends and family. The actions of HA are only going to further radicalize the region and blow any chance for some ultimate reconcilation or at least a cold and stable cease fire between Israel and Lebanon. It matters because HA is a proxy of Syria and, moreso, Iran, and will always present a threat to Israel, which ultimately creates an enormous threat to Lebanon. You see…because HA views itself above the law, they feel politically and devinely permitted to take independent action…starting wars, turn off porno channels, blocking blogs or whatever.I cannot see anything but ultimate suffering being caused by them. They are such big heros for passing out Iran’s money to the poor and desprate. Let’s see how much blood ends up on the money.

  31. R,well….you don’t have to vote for HA, thankfully.But the Shia of Lebanon (under the current system) are demanding a larger and proportional share of respresentation in the gov’t. Rightly so.If they get what is a larger share of political power – then in all likelihood, but maybe not always and forever- those votes will go to Hezbollah. then we will see. If this political struggle goes on, and this disenfranchisement goes on….then I think the country may indeed end up back in an armed conflict or civil war situation. But you both can make your predictions and I can make mine.I will predict that if HA wins more political power through negotiated and non-violent processes, then as participants in a unity government or the same system…. I believe they will NOT be leading Lebanon anywhere. i think this will actually diminish the need or desire to be somebody’s proxy… I think the militant aspect of HA will be less important than the political entity and the social entity of HA. And I think this will have a moderating effect on the entire phenomenon. But see…..these kinds of predictions are based on my premise that HA is not a function of pure ideology and even its leadership are not “evil- mongers” only, and above all, driving towards “some thing bigger” much bigger. I believe they have legitimate and rational claims underneath that are only religious, and not only about power-lust.

  32. Zen-Intuitively…what you say makes common sense. My philosohy is that the only thing most folks want is more. Will HA be satisfied with 1/3 of a loaf and give up on imposing their vision of good government for all.Maybe…the few Lebanese I am in contact with don’t seem to think so.

  33. Yummy! Yes! The world can face this threat now, or face it later, at a much cost in human lives.

  34. Howie,Again, I want you to explain to me the reason why most Arabs, when asked to name two evil leaders, will probably select Sharon and Bush.Most Israelis if asked to name today’s two most evil leaders, will select Nasrallah and Ahmadinajad.So where do we go from here? do we accept YOUR selection criteria? Should you accept ours instead? or maybe we can flip a coin?This approach of boycotting, or treating to pre-emptive wars, those we decide to call “evil” is a non-starter.Allow me please to paste here this boring but meaningful story … If you already know it, skip to the conclusion:In 1754 Colonel George Washington stayed in the city of Alexandria. It was the election season for the Virginia state assembly. A man named William Payne was running against a candidate George Washington supported. One day Washington and Payne had a fierce argument regarding election issues. Washington’s remarks made Payne furious. Payne then hit Washington so hard that Washington fell to the ground. The troops rushed from their barracks, and would have made short work of Payne had Washington not pacified them, assuring them that he knew the proper course to take to take care of the problem. The next morning, George Washington sent a note to William Payne asking him to meet Washington at a local hotel. William Payne arrived at the hotel feeling very nervous. He expected another nasty physical fight to take place. When he entered the room, instead of pistols, he saw a decanter of wine and two glasses on a table. “Mr. Payne,” said Washington, “to err is human. I was wrong yesterday, but you had already taken action to preserve your reputation. If you think you have received sufficient payment, let us shake hands and be friends.”After that, William Payne became a very loyal supporter of Washington. Washington’s magnanimity has left us a good example. Those who are narrow-minded always want to revenge on others, thus make hateful feelings grow worse and end up with more enemies. The light of pure kindness is the most effective weapon to disintegrate hatred.translated from this sourceAnd if the above story does not , I will combat your claim that I was often wrong through this other ultimate scientific proof:Google these pairs of words:Ahmadinejad evilsharon evilbush evilassad evilnasrallah evilGuess who wins!!(max number of search hits):) 🙂 :):) 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

  35. Zen, I said: “there are those who would suggest rewarding the evil-mongers, to ward off the greater evil,” which means that I am not speaking about evil in the philosophic or even theological sense, but about actions. As such, I am actually in agreement with what said: “there are evil acts, but not evil people in my mind.”Anyway, the whole term was deployed by means of a poetic license to express a certain frustration, a certain resentment, a certain angst with regard to certain developments that could constitute the first acts in a new round of civil conflict. Indeed, when people are willing to take such risks, to push things to such a brink, the use of the term “evil” gains some justification somehow. It may not be useful in one sense, but it is both useful and necessary in another, for it does reveal the level of our concern vis-à-vis certain issues. It gains attention, and perhaps attention is what we need. Now this may not be the way Bush uses the term “evil,” but this is the way I do. There is still a rather utilitarian element in rhetoric, I hope. Now with regard to Hezbollah, the social services it offers notwithstanding, and the fact that people see in it and its leader a useful and credible institution also notwithstanding after all the majority of the citizens in Germany and Italy were willing to support the Nazis and Fascists for the very same reasons, so people, even they represent the majority, are not always right, as those of us taking part in this discussion might be able to agree, we really have a lot of reasons to question the intentions involved here and to dread the potential consequences. The timing for the protests is curious of course, and while the methods have not turned violence yet, the risk of violence, mass murderous conflict-generating violence is heavily present in every passing moment imbuing every word mouthed by the people involved with a certain murderous quality that is all ominous. Is this really done to address the all too legitimate concerns of the Shia community? Or is it done in part to distract their attention from what has recently been done unto them as a result of actions taken without consulting them by leaders acting in their name? Is this taking place in the interest of the people or their manipulative leaders, and their partners, both at home and abroad?More food for thought: * There is much that is rational and intelligent at work here, but being rational and intelligent does not make you right. * Having legitimate concerns does not automatically justify one’s choice of methods. Have the Shia truly exhausted all available avenues for dialogue before getting to this point? Or, are their leaders demanding certain concessions that have nothing to do with real Shai concerns and everything to do with he specific interests of the ruling elite and their partners in every crime? * Certain peaceful facades can hide many violent intentions. * Ignoring the overall context in which certain developments unfold only serves and empowers the “wrong” side – defined here as that narrow junta that stands to gain more power and more money, even if they ended up lording over a virtual desolation. * There are certain new and repressive social dynamics that get introduced into each and every area that gets incorporated into the expanding Hizbistan that are indeed quite alarming as R suggested. As such, comparison to Taliban may not be scientifically accurate, the Hizb’s definition of useful technology and facades is much wider than that of the Taliban but in essence, but the overall ethos is the same in both cases – the creation of a utopia that in essence serves the interests and corresponds to the desires of a small elite. Indeed, certain aspects of the desires involved here, such as certain patriarchic features, might be endorsed by a larger number than the ruling elite, but that does not justify their imposition on a dissenting minority, nor does it denote a complete acceptance and approval by the majority of all thing done in their name by the ruling elite. The tactics of Hezbollah will hurt its protagonists and antagonists alike.

  36. OK, I know this will be a long comment, but it is not mine .. the Baker ISG recommendations on Syriasyria. Although the U.S.-Syrian relationship is at a low point,both countries have important interests in the region that couldbe enhanced if they were able to establish some commonground on how to move forward. This approach worked effectivelyin the early 1990s. In this context, Syria’s national interestsin the Arab-Israeli dispute are important and can be broughtinto play.Syria can make a major contribution to Iraq’s stability inseveral ways. Accordingly, the Study Group recommends thefollowing:53The Way Forward—A New ApproachRECOMMENDATION 12: The United States and the SupportGroup should encourage and persuade Syria of themerit of such contributions as the following:• Syria can control its border with Iraq to the maximum extentpossible and work together with Iraqis on joint patrolson the border. Doing so will help stem the flow offunding, insurgents, and terrorists in and out of Iraq.• Syria can establish hotlines to exchange information withthe Iraqis.• Syria can increase its political and economic cooperationwith Iraq.4. The Wider Regional ContextThe United States will not be able to achieve its goals in theMiddle East unless the United States deals directly with theArab-Israeli conflict.There must be a renewed and sustained commitment bythe United States to a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace on allfronts: Lebanon, Syria, and President Bush’s June 2002 commitmentto a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine. Thiscommitment must include direct talks with, by, and betweenIsrael, Lebanon, Palestinians (those who accept Israel’s right toexist), and particularly Syria—which is the principal transitpoint for shipments of weapons to Hezbollah, and which supportsradical Palestinian groups.The United States does its ally Israel no favors in avoidingdirect involvement to solve the Arab-Israeli conflict. For severalreasons, we should act boldly:54t h e i r aq study group report• There is no military solution to this conflict.• The vast majority of the Israeli body politic is tired of being anation perpetually at war.• No American administration—Democratic or Republican—will ever abandon Israel.• Political engagement and dialogue are essential in the Arab-Israeli dispute because it is an axiom that when the politicalprocess breaks down there will be violence on the ground.• The only basis on which peace can be achieved is that setforth in UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 andin the principle of “land for peace.”• The only lasting and secure peace will be a negotiated peacesuch as Israel has achieved with Egypt and Jordan.This effort would strongly support moderate Arab governmentsin the region, especially the democratically electedgovernment of Lebanon, and the Palestinian Authority underPresident Mahmoud Abbas.RECOMMENDATION 13: There must be a renewed andsustained commitment by the United States to a comprehensiveArab-Israeli peace on all fronts: Lebanon and Syria, andPresident Bush’s June 2002 commitment to a two-state solutionfor Israel and Palestine.RECOMMENDATION 14: This effort should include—assoon as possible—the unconditional calling and holding of55The Way Forward—A New Approachmeetings, under the auspices of the United States or theQuartet (i.e., the United States, Russia, European Union, andthe United Nations), between Israel and Lebanon and Syriaon the one hand, and Israel and Palestinians (who acknowledgeIsrael’s right to exist) on the other. The purpose of thesemeetings would be to negotiate peace as was done at theMadrid Conference in 1991, and on two separate tracks—one Syrian/Lebanese, and the other Palestinian.RECOMMENDATION 15: Concerning Syria, some elementsof that negotiated peace should be:• Syria’s full adherence to UN Security Council Resolution1701 of August 2006, which provides the framework forLebanon to regain sovereign control over its territory.• Syria’s full cooperation with all investigations into politicalassassinations in Lebanon, especially those of RafikHariri and Pierre Gemayel.• A verifiable cessation of Syrian aid to Hezbollah and the useof Syrian territory for transshipment of Iranian weaponsand aid to Hezbollah. (This step would do much to solve Israel’sproblem with Hezbollah.)• Syria’s use of its influence with Hamas and Hezbollahfor the release of the captured Israeli Defense Forcesoldiers.• A verifiable cessation of Syrian efforts to undermine thedemocratically elected government of Lebanon.56t h e i r aq study group report• A verifiable cessation of arms shipments from or transitingthrough Syria for Hamas and other radical Palestiniangroups.• A Syrian commitment to help obtain from Hamas an acknowledgmentof Israel’s right to exist.• Greater Syrian efforts to seal its border with Iraq.RECOMMENDATION 16: In exchange for these actions andin the context of a full and secure peace agreement, the Israelisshould return the Golan Heights, with a U.S. security guaranteefor Israel that could include an international force on theborder, including U.S. troops if requested by both parties.RECOMMENDATION 17: Concerning the Palestinian issue,elements of that negotiated peace should include:• Adherence to UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and338 and to the principle of land for peace, which are theonly bases for achieving peace.• Strong support for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbasand the Palestinian Authority to take the lead in preparingthe way for negotiations with Israel.• A major effort to move from the current hostilities by consolidatingthe cease-fire reached between the Palestiniansand the Israelis in November 2006.• Support for a Palestinian national unity government.57The Way Forward—A New Approach• Sustainable negotiations leading to a final peace settlementalong the lines of President Bush’s two-state solution, whichwould address the key final status issues of borders, settlements,Jerusalem, the right of return, and the end of conflict.

  37. “Now with regard to Hezbollah, the social services it offers notwithstanding, and the fact that people see in it and its leader a useful and credible institution also notwithstanding after all the majority of the citizens in Germany and Italy were willing to support the Nazis and Fascists for the very same reasons, so people, even they represent the majority, are not always right, as those of us taking part in this discussion might be able to agree, we really have a lot of reasons to question the intentions involved here and to dread the potential consequences.”I think that I already responded to R- who made this similar point – by clarifying that I am not arguing that numerical majority makes ‘right’ somehow. But I find the references to Nazi Germany when making a refutation of my point (which is that you also can’t ignore 40% of a populations preferences) – a kind of unhelpful attempt to trump by taking the most extreme and obvious example. In fact, most situations are not even close to that in terms of clarity about how a majority can be completely deluded and brainwashed. Even in the USA – I argued many times that the left and the liberals cannot simply ignore or write off the fact that half the country voted for GB and is quite conservative and quite religious. There is nothing to be done about it.The Shia exist, and they are religious in a particular way, and just because you or I don’t like it – doesn’t mean we can assume their political aspirations are illegitimate…. And I say that….even IF their recourse to leaders who have their own agendas and sometimes questionable methods – we also disagree with. We can’t pick their leaders for them either.R said that as a woman, somehow – I should be the first to object to Shia ideology or HA ideology… well… I would never project my preferences or my beliefs onto their situation or their context. I don’t live there….and I think they probably know better than me – what way of life they want to have. I am all for enlightenment, broadening horizons, and education (which usually empowers women in a completely organic and self driven way) but that’s the extent of it.“The timing for the protests is curious of course, and while the methods have not turned violence yet, the risk of violence, mass murderous conflict-generating violence is heavily present in every passing moment imbuing every word mouthed by the people involved with a certain murderous quality that is all ominous.Well, maybe because I can’t understand Arabic and therefore tune into Al-Manar… I am oblivious to the ‘murderous tone’…but I heard nothing reported about murderous intonations going on at the demonstration. Also, why is HA solely responsible for the possibility of violence. The entire country was responsible for civil war and violence in the past. Why is their demonstration somehow – indicative of mounting violence? Is there something I am missing? It is a demonstration ! I thought you were an advocate of this sort of thing. How is it that you can be so hypocritical as to immediately assume , as you said in your original post… this is a show of “force”… It is, I believe, a show of strength.. and an assertion of popular power….but where exactly the “force” that you see in this? Why are the demonstrations of March 14th people..a show of democracy in action or ‘unity’ or legitimate civic participation, but anything involving HA has to be a manipulative masquerade?… HA encouraged the demonstrators to wave Lebanese flags as opposed to HA flags, and one could interpret this as a representation of their desire to express that HA is as much Lebanese as any other designation. But your line of thinking (or I should say projecting..not thinking) would interpret this as some false manipulation of imagery… just obscuring their true sentiments of exclusion and superiority.I find this hypocritical. If anything.. ..historically, it has been segments of the March 14th coalition, namely the Christians of Leb – as everybody knows.. who have been the exclusionists and the ‘elite’ (a word you are so fond of)…and it is now the Sunni a la Hariri … who aspire to inclusion in the ruling elite position. The whole damn country – has functioned on competition between ‘elites’ for eons, but somehow – the desire for power – by this underclass…has only a tainted claim in your mind . I don’t get that. I do hear in your words that you are not arguing against those all those claims but principally against the disingenuous (as you see it) leadership. But, no, I don’t think this has been tested out…for years already. You would be correct if you are talking about Syria, or Iran. But the fact that HA has garnered its military capacity and its civic money too through association and sponsorship from these other countries – does not make them illegitimate to my mind. It makes them like everybody else, pragmatic.Why is it ok for the political block of Sunni Lebanese to gain support and rely on the beneficence of Saudis or Americans. Why was it ok for French and American influence to bestow legitimacy on Christian elitism in Lebanon, but now…it is completely unacceptable… that other regional powers have facilitated the ascendancy of power by the Shia. We could argue that all kinds of external influence is destructive, but let us at least be consistent with our condemnations. I would guess that you and others will say it is because the current sponsors are insidious and ‘evil- mongers’, basically you don’t like them. But it seems to me, that is too bad. It doesn’t however make this double standard sound. “Is this really done to address the all too legitimate concerns of the Shia community? Or is it done in part to distract their attention from what has recently been done unto them as a result of actions taken without consulting them by leaders acting in their name? Is this taking place in the interest of the people or their manipulative leaders, and their partners, both at home and abroad? ”Well, the answers to these queries – we will have to wait to know. I understand that you are answering already that NO, none of this is about legitimate concerns of the people. But my assertion is that UNTIL those real concerns are addressed… socially, economically, politically, and responded to in good faith…I mean AS IF, this IS about those needs and civil rights, then WE WILL NEVER KNOW. I think it is precisely so that…the fog can be cleared that HA and the Shia should be treated with respect. I think it will only be then…that the rest of Lebanon and the world can evaluate what the true aims and goals of the people or the leadership are. Until that point, I don’t think one can evaluate anything. The response will simply continue to be provocative and inflaming. That is how all people, not just the ones whose belief systems we disagree with , react to disempowerment or non-recognition. As for this question: “Or is it done in part to distract their attention from what has recently been done unto them as a result of actions taken without consulting them by leaders acting in their name?”REALLY, I don’t think anybody was particularly ‘distracted’ from seeing what happened. The people there had to come home to total destruction of their homes and towns. And you know, for better or worse, I think HA was taking actions that were not dissimilar to ones they had engaged in in the past (guerrilla moves against Israel)… It was Israel who took extraordinary and astounding measures. And so the result, was what you would expect, the people of south Lebanon hate Israel more than ever. More food for thought: “* There is much that is rational and intelligent at work here, but being rational and intelligent does not make you right.”No, but nobody knows what ‘makes’ one ‘right’. And I am not one to figure that I have a lock on it. But I do know that labeling peop
    le ‘evil-mongers’ or using other pejorative abstractions, albeit poetic, simply functions to de-legitimize any reasonableness of claims made by one’s opposition.“* Having legitimate concerns does not automatically justify one’s choice of methods. Have the Shia truly exhausted all available avenues for dialogue before getting to this point? Or, are their leaders demanding certain concessions that have nothing to do with real Shai concerns and everything to do with he specific interests of the ruling elite and their partners in every crime?”I am far from an expert on the social history of South Lebanon or the Shia, and I really don’t know the reality of the transformation of the political landscape over the past forty years. However, what I imagine from what I do know, is that like all other poverty ridden groups of people – they probably did not have sophisticated mode of organizing and political dialoguing developed and available to them prior to recent times. There needs and resentments probably have existed for a long time…far longer than any unholy alliances between HA with the Iranians or Syrians. In fact, I seen it written that plenty of the Shia, although they keep getting described (again I find this very manipulative writing) as “pro-syrian” at every turn…not even as Lebanese people with a complaint, don’t actually support Syrian direct interference/influence in Lebanon anymore than any other Lebanese. I think this is an alliance of convenience. But once again, I will argue that nobody can untangle what are the true nature of these alliances ..until…the demands are addressed in good faith. I mean – the Syria- Iranian alliance has the same issue of murkiness…these are not natural allies at all. It is one born of convenience and only the most superficial sympathetic connection of having both been designated as member of the Axis of Evil.“* Certain peaceful facades can hide many violent intentions.” I couldn’t agree more, but then again, the whole of Lebanon has been guilty of violent betrayals. We just have to wait and see…..“* Ignoring the overall context in which certain developments unfold only serves and empowers the “wrong” side – defined here as that narrow junta that stands to gain more power and more money, even if they ended up lording over a virtual desolation.” By the “overall context” I assume you mean the big world stage and the current American- Syrian/Iranian show down crisis. I don’t think anybody, I mean ANYBODY, has been ignoring this….it is all anybody on the news (including the lame-ass American news)… can talk about. In fact, what is being ignored (as function of focusing constantly on Iran and Syria) are the underlying concerns for the people of South Lebanon, and why the PEOPLE are willing to be under leadership that might put them at peril visa vi armed conflict with Israel or alienated from the majority of the rest of the population of Lebanon (which it is still not clear to me that they are but… things fluctuate constantly). But to my mind, the best way to UNTANGLE the relationship of the people to the leadership and to the external influences is to put all attention on building internal social and political solutions that are going to woo the Shia into the mainstream Lebanese mentality. “that narrow junta that stands to gain more power and more money”Come on, give me a break. I don’t see Nasrallah parading around in fatigues ‘lording’ his wealth over the poor. And, of all things that you can accuse HA of, being materially greedy and leading lives of luxury…isn’t one of them. I think the military wing was living in caves for weeks this summer. Take a good look at the primped up lives of the rest of the leaders of Lebanon…there is no comparison.“* There are certain new and repressive social dynamics that get introduced into each and every area that gets incorporated into the expanding Hizbistan that are indeed quite alarming as R suggested. As such, comparison to Taliban may not be scientifically accurate, the Hizb’s definition of useful technology and facades is much wider than that of the Taliban but in essence, but the overall ethos is the same in both cases – the creation of a utopia that in essence serves the interests and corresponds to the desires of a small elite. Indeed, certain aspects of the desires involved here, such as certain patriarchic features, might be endorsed by a larger number than the ruling elite, but that does not justify their imposition on a dissenting minority, nor does it denote a complete acceptance and approval by the majority of all thing done in their name by the ruling elite.” ‘Hizbistan’…there is a scary word. Designed to scare. You know, maybe I just haven’t had the benefit of reading HA manifestos and such, but….really I have never heard of this thing about the ‘utopia’ of Hizbistan. I haven’t heard it mentioned by anyone, ever, on the news or on the net. Nothing. It must be a big secret. Nor have I heard of an ideology that in “essense serves the interests and corresponds to the desire of a small elite”. I don’t even think that is true of the Taliban, unless you are speaking of a religious elite? I think the question is…whether you have a religious elite, or a capitalist elite, or a corporate elite, or a familial ruling elite, running your country…. What is the end result for the common man. We don’t know in this case, of course. So far, HA is professing to have an agenda of social justice for the Shia, if that happens to coincide with a religious hierarchy – the people may decide that is acceptable to them. I think the best way to prevent any complete control by a religious elite is to ensure that this segment of the population is included and subsumed within a larger government that ensure minority rights and dissent. As we know. Giving HA representation that gives them veto power in the Gov’t is not the same as allowing them to run the gov’t. If the goal of Ha was to have a little country of their own or to run an entire country with no opposition, then why are they participating in the government of Lebanon at all. Why does HA have parliamentary members in a government of Lebanon? If a separate little land of Hizbistan is the true notion of ‘utopia’ of HA or the Shia, would they not just secede now? Why wait….if they don’t care to be part of a larger country of multi-varied people. They don’t need any financing from the rest of Lebanon. I don’t see the problem if this were the true goal. But of course, I don’t think this is the desire of these people at all. “The tactics of Hezbollah will hurt its protagonists and antagonists alike.”‘Tactics’ is such an imprecise word. Would you care to be more clear about what you mean?

  38. Alex-“OK, I know this will be a long comment, but it is not mine .. the Baker ISG recommendations on Syria”I read them all…No problem…we should be able to take care of it all by Tuesday 😉

  39. Alex, there are so many inherent contradictions in the recommendations that I don’t think they have a chance in breaking the stalemate, the best they could do is pave the grounds for more failed talks. Perhaps this is in some ways related to the fact that the Group simply couldn’t ignore certain issues, because they are too public, (the UN resolutions, the inquiry into the Hariri assassination, etc.), and perhaps, our public and private protest campaign did bear some fruits. Be that as it may, the strategy that opposition groups and dissidents should adopt will be to insist on being heard and included in whatever proposed talks, one way or another, as our perspective on things could prove quite useful, and the administration needs to show that it did not turn its back so completely on the democracy agenda. The continuation of the stalemate, however, will probably be bad news for Lebanon. Its economy and social stability may not be able to withstand the increasing strains. This brings us to Zenobia’s points. I think comparing Hezbollah to fascist movement is actually spot on – the message, the mobilization, the organizational structure, almost everything that is being done by it corresponds to an established precedent in this regard. But, of course, at one point the Syrian Social National Party, and the Phalange were also operating along these lines. As such, there is room for evolution here. I am not sure about the SSNP, which remains pretty fractious, but the Phalange seem to have evolved, and among the Islamist parties, Hamas seems to be evolving, albeit much remains to be seen in this regard, while the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood seems to have evolved tremendously. I doubt that Hezbollah will be able to evolve beyond this stage under Nasrallah. Well, maybe because I can’t understand Arabic and therefore tune into Al-Manar… I am oblivious to the ‘murderous tone’…but I heard nothing reported about murderous intonations going on at the demonstration. You should watch al-Mustaqbal, Zenobia, then you will be able to hear some of the more colorful slogans, such as death to Siniora and the like. “why is HA solely responsible for the possibility of violence. The entire country was responsible for civil war and violence in the past”I am blaming Hezbollah for taking to the streets to protests against a government that they helped democratically elect, and while fully aware of the risks of undertaking such a venture once violence breaks out, there will be plenty of blame to go around, of course. But that’s probably what some are counting on – diluting issues, making everybody become equally guilty, so as to avoid accounting for certain crimes. But my assertion is that UNTIL those real concerns are addressed… socially, economically, politically, and responded to in good faith…I mean AS IF, this IS about those needs and civil rights, then WE WILL NEVER KNOW.No, actually, Zenobia, we do know, we do know about Nasrallah’s connections to Syria and Iran, and we do know about the Hariri investigation, and we do know about the stand-off with Tehran, and on the basis of this, we can say with a fair amount of certainty that Hezbollah’s leadership does not seem to be motivated by a desire to have the real concerns of the Shia community addressed, they have a different agenda in mind. The fact that the majority of the Shia in Lebanon do not see that is tragic. In reality, the Siniora government has given to the Shia more than they had before, which was still not enough, but it was a step in the right direction. Tying Shia domestic concerns to the agendas of the Assads and the Iranian rulers was neither smart nor a well-intentioned misstep, it is an indication of the diverging interests that exist between the Hezbollah leadership and the Shia community at large. Let’s hope the Shia will see that before it’s too late, though let’s not hold our breath. We do indeed need to remove the pretexts that get used to justify the kind of tactics and strategies adopted by Hezbollah and the Assads. But we also need to acknowledge the existence of certain figures, actors and regimes whose basic interests make them part and parcel of the problem of instability in the region, and for which they can never be part of the solution. There are losers in peacemaking. For contrary to popular expectations (including at one point my own, because I started out believing in the possibility of win-win solutions, until I was confronted with the reality that some parties of the equation simply want it all and/or are incapable of adapting), peacemaking is inherently no a win-win situation.

  40. By the way Ammar … sorry we were too busy discussing the different “evil” definitions and we forgot the rest of your post. And it’s all Howie’s fault.I agree that the loss of moderation is a big challenge. Two years ago it was the Americans visiting the Syrians and offering them nothing but a list of 15 demands. Today (after the last Lebaon war) I am hearing Lebanese and Syrian and Palestinian friends again saying “but we can defeat Israel, why should we make peace with them”?I am hoping that the United States can, again, lead the world back to wise,practical and logical policies, the same way it participated in leading the world to hostilities and to extremism the past few years. Then win-win outcomes can become possible.It can go both ways of course… But I am more inclined to believe many of the Baker Group’s recommendations will be adopted, and that there are many more hidden “recommendations” that make the public ones more easy to implement.Ammar, I agree with you that the administration need to be constantly reminded that “democracy” was one of its stated objectives when it went into the Middle East.

  41. The administration may try to implement the recommendations concerning american troops in Iraq, but overall – there ARE a million contradictions in these recommendations and especially in the ones regarding regional talks and negotiations.I don’t think there is a chance in hell they will be followed by this administration. it would require a complete 180 degree turn in policy by Bush and Co. and they are not prepared to suffer the political pain of that. Did you see that list of negotiating requirements…in regards to Syria…!!!! there is no way the current US administration or Israel are going to achieve enough in regards to what is needed such that Syria would make all those concessions. the only thing on the list for Syria in trade is the Golan. Do we really think that is going to cut it? (and american troops on the border, no less….laugh!) There is simply no way.For Iran, as well, there is no incentive at all. The region in the palm of their hands…. why she they give the americans anything.

  42. Which brings me back to the original discussion, about which I am not finished.Let me switch ‘tactics’ here…or switch focus…to the ‘context’ as you say.No, actually, Zenobia, we do know, we do know about Nasrallah’s connections to Syria and Iran, and we do know about the Hariri investigation, and we do know about the stand-off with Tehran, and on the basis of this, we can say with a fair amount of certainty that Hezbollah’s leadership does not seem to be motivated by a desire to have the real concerns of the Shia community addressed, they have a different agenda in mind.I wasn’t attempting to say that there is no proof that there is a connection between HA and Syria and Iran, of course there is. I still don’t agree that establishes that Hezbollah leadership has no genuine regard for the Shia community and their needs. I think the proof is in the pudding, as they say, about whether they are have or will meet those needs. If they achieve greater political power, they will either bring social and political benefits to their constituency or not. That is what I mean by…only time will tell here what the primary and overriding concern is for this movement. The other thing I would add is that HA is not some small group of outsiders or some separate entity from the Shia population – they ARE of …one and the same… so it is pretty obvious that if they are benefiting whether that benefit extends to the population at large.Ok, but this in not the point I want to get to.The main thing I wanted to add is that I want to retract or alter my earlier statement that the alliances with the Syrians or Iranians, or between the Syrians and the Iranian are ones of convenience. What I meant to say was that the alliances in both directions with the Syrians are not ones of religion. So to my mind – it is hard to make an argument that what we are witnessing is a religious cabal…and giant Islamo-fascist power conspiracy. Syria and the Syrians are simply not aligned this way.No, I will argue that this is again about the endless problem of relations with Israel. I simply can’t fathom how you can repeatedly minimize this…for example in your prior post when you wrote: Solving the Arab-Israeli Conflict is not a cure-all for the region’s myriad problems and will not denote the end of conflicts therein.However you do go on to say:This is not meant to argue, however, that the AIC should be ignored. On the contrary, like all other conflicts in the region, it begs to be effectively addressed and resolved now. In fact, if regional stability and mounting an effective anti-terrorism campaign are really what is at stake here, the AIC can no longer be treated in isolation from other conflicts and challenges in the region, for these conflicts have now become intermeshed.Of course, solving the AIC is not sufficient to alleviate all the region’s difficulties, but it is certainly necessary .I realize that you made a concession that the AIC must be addressed but then you say there is no possible policy solution or recommendation possible at this time! How can this be? I mean there have been decades of recommendations…and no shortage of solutions. The issue is not lack of understanding about what is needed. The problem is the political will to carry them out. And I don’t think the big sacrifices are ones that Syria and Lebanon have to make…or are unwilling to make. The problem has been that Israel has been unwilling to make those sacrifices and the US unwilling to push them.The reason I go back to this…is that – I feel it is no mystery and perfectly understandable why there is a Syrian – HA alliance. And I think it is soooo unfair to attribute Syria’s relentless stances and practices to the regime’s lust for power. Everybody agrees that they exploit the AIC for its own stranglehold on power and internal suppression of political dissent. There is no question that these regional conflicts are serving their internal interests. However, again, I will argue that without…. solving these problems on the whole in the ‘neighborhood’ (as the Americans like to say ) there will be no way to challenge the Syrian regime’s exploitation of the situation, no way to discern where their true allegiance lie…in a way that the public can really see and evaluate. You claim that the poor Shia can see clearly, but this is a huge issue. But let me go on. The alliance of Syria with HA…putting aside your conviction that it is all about regime power… I would argue is at the heart of the matter about Israel. And this is not just about the Golan. This is why I said in my last comment that offering Syria the Golan in exchange for peace with Israel is not going to work.Syria and the Syrians…(not just the leadership but much more so the people) have a deep-seated marriage with the issue of the Palestinians. Of course it has been a troubled marriage as one can look back and see over a few decades. Asad both championed the Palestinians and checked them, battled for them in Jordan and against PLO. So, nothing was out of deep love and allegiance. But nonetheless, Syria has never been and will still not sit idly by while part of the Lebanese …the government … led on by American and French influence, would make peace agreements with Israel and leave Syria and the Palestinians out in the cold.Therefore, it makes perfect strategic and pragmatic sense for the Syrians to continue to support HA and the Shia in general (as the decided adversaries of the Israelis) in their quest to obtain and retain significant government power such that they will continue to be able to prevent such an outcome. The only way they would ever allow it to happen is if a comprehensive solution comes about, and the demands of the Palestinians (inside and outside) and the Lebanese are met.And this stance is unchanging. It has historical weight. There are 400,000 refugees sitting in Syria and more than that in Lebanon. The Palestinians have caused enormous problems in all the surrounding countries around Israel and the territories. In the Syrian historical mind…this is not about people in some other land…this is about historical Syria. Palestine is Syria. Lebanon is Syria. Not only that…for those evolved minds… even if it is not Syria… it is their backyard. And finally, it is about.. pride, justice, restitution.I am talking about the mentality of the Syrian people here…not the Syrian regime. But no leadership no matter who it was- would be able to ignore this national mindset.So, you can go on and on until hell blows over the earth about how the AIC…is not the issue. But, I think it is critical and essential to every other problem. The problem of occupation for Syria, Palestine, and Lebanon is the bare minimum that has to be addressed or there will never be any possibility of peace in the entire area. As for Syria’s alliance with Iran, well, it also goes fairly far back just cause of their anti- Iraqness. And at this stage…why should Syria – abandoned by the Americans completely- not align itself, pragmatically speaking, with the next empire on the middle-eastern stage. I hate to say it, but everybody knows it already: America is screwed. There is a big poker up America’s ass that cannot be removed. We are so far into a corner…. a miracle would have to happen to get out of it…walking through walls.Forget Hizbistan. I think we need to start acknowledging Iran-Iraqistan.It is time for America to concede. We have no cards left to play in this game. We have no clothes left on. The only trump left is completely going over to the other-side as Colonel Kurts so knowingly explained. Of course, you lose your humanity then, right. That was why he ‘had’ to be killed. Exactly how much do you want to win. What are you willing to do to ‘win’. Nuke them?All out war? You want to point to the dangers of the souls of our enemies…as ones who are wi
    thout conscience…willing to cut hundreds of little arms off potentially. Hell, they are already killing each other with powertools in Iraq. These are not civilized people.But it is America who will have to decide…either walk away…or go down that road to evil.Or bend down to Iran-Iraqistan.

  43. Indeed, Kurtz’s proposed solution was to “exterminate all the brutes!” Not exactly a very practical, not to mention moral course of action. Nonetheless, it is really important for one to know that he is dealing with people that will push things to the brink of disaster and beyond to get what they want. No, while we cannot do the same, you cannot let this mentality prevail. We cannot remain hostage to this amoral dilemma forever.

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