Sunday, July 16, 2006

There's no light at the end of this tunnel

"Its all a bad dream".

For the past 4 days, I've been trying desperately to convince myself that all what's happening in Lebanon at the moment is just one gigantic nightmare in which I would soon wake up.

I try not to think of how a country like Lebanon, a country that was a beacon of hope to many Arab democrats and moderates has fallen in the current mess its in. With its democratic reforms, its secular nature and booming economy, many of us hoped Lebanon would turn out to be the shining example people around the Arab world would try to emulate for the sake of everyone. This is why the current events have been have been extremely hard to accept as reality. After a long painful 16 years, we were so close, and now were back to square one.

For almost 10 hours a day, I've been desperately trying to think of any feasible, armchair solution to this whole mess. In the past, whenever a military conflict arises, those of us in the west simply listen to the news, and come up with our theories for a peace settlement for both sides. In the Gulf War, the armchair solution was for Iraq to withdraw from Kuwait and mediate the problems between both countries regarding the oil dispute. In the Israel/Palestine conflict, everybody agreed that the Palestinians had to recognize Israel and stop all terrorist activities against her. Israel in return would give back the land it took from the Palestinians in the 1967 war. Land for Peace.

Those solutions may have been easier said than done, they may have even been unrealistic.But (and I hate to say this), they gave us a secure sense of denial in which we thought eventually all parties involved would come to the same conclusion. After all, you can't live in a state of war forever.

But for this conflict, I don't even have that. I can't think of any possible solution that would get all parties involved come to one level of compromise. Not after we add up the different variables and evaluate what's at stake for the different parties involved and take account the history of this god forsaken bloodbath.

Let's evaluate what's at stake here for the different players involved and why they will not back down this time:

Player: Israel
Why is it in this conflict: Two of its soldiers were kidnapped at the border, in which Hezbollah demanded prisoner negotiations.
What's at stake: Israel is now fighting in two areas it thought to be history to them. Southern Lebanon and Gaza. When it withdrew from those lands, it had hoped (naively) that cooler heads would prevail and that the Palestinians and the Lebanese would view it as an extension of an olive branch. Reducing the incentive for young men in those regions to become terrorist and hope to annihilate it and her people. But as I explained, that's not what happened. And the withdrawals backfired making Hamas and Hezbollah more popular, more confidant, and more determined. With that factor considered, Israel will not be fooled again. It will make sure that the infrastructure and determination of both groups to be wiped off before even thinking of coming back to the negotiating table. If It backs down, and accepts Hezbollah's demands, the enemy gets stronger and more determined. Therefore, its a fight to the death as far as its concerned.

Player: Lebanon
Why is it in this conflict: Having negotiated with Hezbollah to include it in its government, it is linked with the terrorist organization in the eyes of the Israelis. So when Hezbollah kidnapped two Israeli soldiers, the Israeli government had no choice but include the country as Hezbollah's accomplice (as they have negotiated to integrate them in their government).
What's at stake: Lebanon is by far the biggest victim in all this mess. Whatever decision it makes, its dammed to destruction. It can either:
a) Ally itself with Hezbollah, provoking an all out war with Israel: Which would lead to its destruction (Socially, economically, politically, everything).
b) Ally itself with Israel: Provoking the ire of its huge Shiite population (which is supportive of Hezbollah) provoking an all out civil war between Shiites and the Rest of the Lebanese. Which would also lead to its destruction economically, socially and politically.
c) Door number three is the worse, it can turn on both sides and have an all out civil war AS WELL AS an all out war with Israel.

Hezbollah and Hamas
Why is it in this conflict: Believes in the destruction of Israel in order to complete their goals of a giant Islamic Caliph to dominate the Middle East. So they kidnapped Israeli soldiers and provoked Israel into war. Knowing fully well Israel will not comply with their demands.
What's at stake: These two organizations suffer from the opposite fate that awaits Lebanon. Its a win-win situation with them. If they press forward with this conflict and eventually (in their eyes) get Israel to agree with their demands, it gains more power and popularity from its people, if they don't, then they will simply keep on fighting, and those that die believe that they would end up in heaven along with 72 virgins for their sexual pleasure. How can you fight that? So in conclusion: They fight and win: They get their lands and wishes back over time, they loose: well...they die as martyrs and enjoy the company of those virgins.

Players: Syria and Iran
Why are they in this conflict: For the supply and support of Hezbollah and Hamas. The incentive is to get both groups to cause as much havoc and destruction distracting the international community of their own totalitarian rule and "behind the scenes" activities.
What's at stake: Very very simple. They keep this conflict going, the international community is distracted and bickering on how to resolve the issue. Should there be a ceasefire, then all eyes are back on them. Its in their survival instincts that this mess prolongs itself as long as humanly possible. As long as Lebanese, Israelis and Palestinians are dying, they're living.


At Monday, 17 July, 2006, Anonymous Anne (happier in Ontario) said...

Knight, when you lay it all out like this I feel your despair, the implications are frightening.

In a perfect world the citizens of all these countries would rise up as one and oust every last one of these hate filled monsters, kill them all and be done with it. Alas, it isn't a perfect world, not even close.

I hope that the leaders of the G8 will bring significant pressure on all sides, don't care if it is done with secret phone calls, meetings, etc. or huge announcements that freak everyone out, SOMETHING.

Can't remember, did Hezbollah actually declare it a war? Has Israel made a statement yet regarding the deaths of the Canadian family? An apology?

I hope you have some friends and family to hang with, someone to share the burden with.

At Monday, 17 July, 2006, Anonymous Yair (israel) said...

Just saw BBC commentator saying that the G8 summit has basically decided to give Israel another 5-6 days window to bomb southern Lebanon. Only after that they will press for a cease-fire and international ground forces.

Has anyone ever seen the G8 in such a militaristic mood before? It's not just the US...

At Monday, 17 July, 2006, Anonymous Anne (happier in Ontario) said...

Listening to the news as I am working heard a snippet of some talking head say that there have been 2000 Peacekeepers (or was it some other peace team?) in the south part of Lebanon for the past six years. I have no idea what he was referring to, never heard any such thing before, have you?

yair, I'm sure there is plenty of strategic stuff going on, god knows what the thinking is anymore.

As our host pointed out, can there really be a ceasefire? Is there really any solution? Peace in the ME seems like some fantasy, the killing will stop when everyone is dead and no one is left to care anymore.

As terrible as it sounds I am now getting the feeling that many in the world would prefer to just let the ME self destruct, stay out of it and let this turmoil take it's course. I am ill at the thought of so many potential civilian deaths coming, I don't know what to say.

At Monday, 17 July, 2006, Blogger Mark said...

Good synopsis, AK.

At Monday, 17 July, 2006, Anonymous Yair (israel) said...

The current force in South Lebanon is Unifil
It is a UN force not an international force. It has no military capabilities and no mandate to actually arrest, search, or shoot anyone or anything. Although they are somehow magically supposed to "help" Lebanon to get a return of its effective authority.

An international force like Afghanistan, Iraq, or Bosnia is actually a fighting force. Not UN troops but US, Russian, etc. with a unified command.

Concerning the "Is there really any solution?" gloomy stuff. The enemy of the better is the best. An ideal peace is not in the horizon. However a few years of quite is something very achievable I think. Why not go there first?

At Monday, 17 July, 2006, Anonymous Yair (israel) said...

concerning Unifil's humble status read this from their website:

The Secretary-General also remained concerned about the restriction of movement on UNIFIL personnel, who must be able to carry out their mandate. In the most serious incident, on 4 April, about 15 Hezbollah personnel forced an Observer Group Lebanon patrol south-west of Kafr Shuba to stop at gunpoint and assaulted the observers with rifle butts, injuring three, one seriously.

Not much of a fighting force...

At Monday, 17 July, 2006, Anonymous Anne (happier in Ontario) said...

yair, thanks for explaining that to me, I had no idea.

I don't see that they served much of a purpose, they are not even able to help themselves. I wonder about their status now, I say this with concern.

I don't mind a few years of some sort of declared peace for starters, don't even know if they can get that now though. How about start with a week, even a few days, let all sides consider where they are headed?

At Monday, 17 July, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Regarding "b) Ally itself with Israel: Provoking the ire of its huge Shiite population...provoking an all out civil war"

If it would actively fight against Hizballah, then civil war is realistic. But, what would happen if it only spoke out against Hizballah and wouldn't try to fight it militarily? Then the lines would be drawn. Hizballah would no longer be able to pretend it's fighting for the people of Lebanon and the people of Lebanon who are indeed against the Hizballah wouldn't be 'forced' to give lip-service to Hizballah, which indirectly strengthens Hizballah.

They could call for the Hizballah to be disarmed and for the Lebanese army to be deployed. Their call could be non-violent yet sharp and strong. It will push Hizballah into the same corner Syria found itself in. After all, Hizballah will almost certainly not wish to start firing on the other Lebanese when they aren't firing on Hizballah!

I've no idea what the likelyhood is of all this happening. A slim chance, I guess. Even so, it's one way in which things can progress and flower, isn't it?

Looking forward to your take on all this!


At Monday, 17 July, 2006, Anonymous Yair (israel) said...


I believe the international community has an obligation for more than a brief cease-fire. There is a real chance to reduce the influence of Hezbolla. This can serve two purposes. It strengthens the Lebanese central government. It reduces tension along the border. That is why bush said to blair (on the open mike incident) that Kofi thinks that if he just sets a cease-fire in place everything else will solve itself.

At Monday, 17 July, 2006, Blogger Canadi-anna said...

This is a great piece. You've laid out what's at stake for everyone and like you, I see no solution.
How is your friend?

At Tuesday, 18 July, 2006, Blogger The Arabian Knight said...

The suggestion of a multinational force stationed in South Lebanon is a very rational one. But alas, that's the problem. Thing is, Hezbollah will view it as another foreign occupying army. And therefore will simply add whatever foreign troops in the region to their list of targets. So, I'm sorry if I sound cynical, but I have a bad feeling about this.


He'll be among those who will be shipped to Cyprus by the ships that were leased by the Canadian Foreign Affaires minstry. He's still alive, he's in an appartment with his brother and sister, with his passport clutched in his hands.

At Tuesday, 18 July, 2006, Blogger Canadi-anna said...

Great news. Let us know when he's safely home.

At Tuesday, 18 July, 2006, Anonymous Anne (happier in Ontario) said...

Good to hear that your friend is still okay and with family.

Look forward to reading your post that he has arrived safely - don't forget to tell us because you are too excited when you see him! :-)

At Tuesday, 18 July, 2006, Anonymous Yair (israel) said...

Here is something I posted elsewhere in hope of starting a discussion:

What the f@ck is going around here?

All the Israeli commentators I heard at the first day of the war were sure about this: Olmert wants to "act crazy" to deter future attacks, and cement his standing in internal politics. Within 48 hrs there will be huge international pressure for an immediate cease fire. HA apparently had the same idea when it started it all... I too confess to have believed that. Indeed, in that first day France, Russia and other countries called for an immediate cease fire and an end to the totally disproportional Israeli response. You all remember that, don't you?

Then they had a talk in the G8 summit and gave their statement. The channel 10 and channel 22 commentators were astounded: No talk of proportionality and no mention of cease fire or any kind of time-line. They are all signed on it. Including Russia and France etc. Lebanese bloggers raised hell.

Here is my theory: Iran broke a sacred international taboo. It's not about respecting the sovereignty of Israel or Lebanon, kidnapping or destabilizing. What is the Worst nightmare of world leaders? It is well defined: Nukes in the hand of "terrorists" i.e. of small non-state players. I think Iran got too close to that with HA. They took a guerrilla group and gave it top-of-the-line nation-state-level weapons. Silkworm ground to sea missiles. Long range ground to ground missiles (like the Zilzal) etc. And now they are developing nukes...

your thoughts?

At Tuesday, 18 July, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't think that's it, or not primarily.

Most everyone realizes there's at least a chance(!) that Hizballah will find itself isolated and incapacitated (through military+political means). If this happens it will be terrific news to Lebanon and Israel and promise long-time peace. If it doesn't happen there'll be more war later.

It's also recognized that a country has to be able to defend itself from an armed militia in its neighbouring country. It's recognized that in general (and this without blaming lebanon) countries Should assert their sovreignity and stop militias from operating within their territory. If Lebanon is allowed to shirk responsibility for Hiz then other countries will feel they can let militias operate while saying "hey, it's not us, it's them".

Finally, a political/military defeat for Hiz will not only be excellent news for Lebanon and Israel but ultimately good news for everyone other than Hiz, Hamas, Al-Qaeda etc.

All of these factors coincide right now and indicate that it's at least worth giving this a chance.


At Wednesday, 19 July, 2006, Anonymous Yair (israel) said...


I guess you are right. It is a kind of "perfect storm". Many factors coincide. Add to that the fear of some people that unchecked HA would have taken control of Lebanon within a relatively short time.

At Sunday, 23 July, 2006, Blogger palestinianphilosopher said...

dude, i understand ur anger, bu u can't blame Hizballah for what is going on in Lebanon. Hizballah is just serving god by fighting israel.

At Friday, 16 July, 2010, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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