July 24th, 2006

Hezbollah: entwined and enmeshed in Lebanon

Many–including myself–have used the phrase “hostage” to describe the Lebanese people in the current crisis. And no doubt many of the citizens of that country are in just that position.

But not all. Although it’s difficult to know the true percentages, one cannot deny that Hezbollah has a great deal of support in Lebanon.

Hezbollah, the organization that is driving the present action in Lebanon, was originally a foreign graft from Iran. But over the years it has insinuated itself so deeply and profoundly into Lebanese life that one can say that, if the Lebanese people are being held hostage, it is by an organization that many of them have supported and/or tolerated, and have been the social beneficiaries of, for decades. Lebanon has not only failed to eradicate Hezbollah, the group has grown in power in recent years and is now closely intertwined in Lebanese life and politics.

Take a look at the history of Hezbollah in Lebanon (and yes, it’s from Wikipedia, but it seems to be a fairly straightforward and undisputed article). Originally arriving in Lebanon 1982 as an arm of the mullahs of Iran, devoted to the ideology of Ayatollah Khomeni and aimed at engaging the Shiite majority of Moslems in Lebanon, Hezbollah positioned itself from the start as the potential liberator of Lebanon from the Israeli occupation that began in 1982 and lasted until Israel’s withdrawal in 2000. All the while, Hezbollah has been openly and unabashedly dedicated to the destruction of Israel, rather than any sort of coexistence or negotiation with it.

There is no question that the events of 2000 allowed Hezbollah to claim victory over Israel, and earned it regard throughout Lebanon for this. In 2003, for example, the Maronite Christian President of Lebanon at the time, Emile Lahoud, is quoted as saying [emphasis mine]:

For us Lebanese, and I can tell you the majority of Lebanese, Hezbollah is a national resistance movement. If it wasn’t for them, we couldn’t have liberated our land. And because of that, we have big esteem for the Hezbollah movement.

Like many terrorist organizations, and in the time-honored fashion of other political groups with power agendas, Hezbollah has also won over the people by establishing organizations such as schools and hospitals, filling gaps in the system of social services (much as the decidedly non-terrorist but extremely corrupt Tammany Hall did in New York City of the 1850s through 1930s).

After 2000, Hezbollah made it clear that not only did it take responsibility for the Israeli withdrawal, but that it considered said withdrawal a reflection of Israeli weakness. Ever since, Hezbollah has been consolidating its power in Lebanon and burrowing its way ever deeper into Lebanese political and military life.

The relative calm in Lebanon has enabled Hezbollah, in its role as liberator, to become the de facto army of southern Lebanon, and to seed throughout that area the Syrian- and Iranian-supplied rockets used in the present attacks, storing them in strategic locations–”strategic,” in this case, being (of course!) embedded in the midst of civilians, the better to maximize Lebanese civilian casualties when Israel retaliates.

In the Lebanese election of 2005, Hezbollah increased its representation in Parliament by a multiple of three, going from a previous high of eight representatives to its present twenty- three, as well as gaining, for the first time, ministers in the executive branch of the government.

It’s interesting to speculate whether those Lebanese who supported Hezbollah as liberators and social workers ever thought about the hidden Hezbollah agenda, which was to use the Lebanese people as the aforementioned hostages to score propaganda points with the press and the West when those hostages inevitably become victims. Were they aware of this plan, as well as the very clear statements by Hezbollah that their goal was not peace, but the eradication of the state of Israel? If so, did the supporters of Hezbollah care? Did they see the possible consequences for themselves?

Going back to the bank robber/hostage analogy, one might say that many of the Lebanese people are in the position of having been minor accessories to the crime–roughly analogous to those who might gain prior knowledge of a crime about to be committed but who fail to act or to alert authorities so that it might be prevented–who then find the main actor in the crime (the bank robber), a former trusted friend and accomplice, suddenly grabbing them and placing them between the police and himself. It may be a surprise to the hostage–but should it be?

It’s clear that Hezbollah needs to be rooted out of Lebanon. But it’s very difficult to see how this could happen if the Lebanese people themselves don’t wish it to happen–and even then, it would be far from easy to accomplish at this point. Syria, as Hezbollah’s main supplier, could theoretically be involved, but that has the danger of “inviting” the Syrians back into greater power in a country that’s only recently begun to detangle itself from its nefarious influence.

That word “detangle” is a good one, because excising Hezbollah from Lebanon is not going to be a simple act of surgery. Many metaphors come to mind: Hezbollah in Lebanon is like a tumor without sharp borders or boundaries; a neuroma that’s burrowed itself into the tissue in a deep and complex manner, a family that’s too deeply enmeshed for members to individuate and separate.

This is one of the reasons that Condoleezza Rice’s words at Friday’s news conference were so interesting. If you read the transcript, you’ll find that, over and over, she emphasizes the issue of Lebanese sovereignty, an appeal to Lebanese pride in its own autonomy. Knowing how instrumental Hezbollah was in Lebanese perception of that autonomy from Israel back in 2000, and how pleased the country is to have recently expelled the Syrians, she carefully phrases the eradication of Hezbollah from Lebanon as an issue of Lebanese sovereignty as well.

Whether this will be at all effective is unclear. But it’s the right sort of rhetoric for the occasion, to be followed by tough negotiations that–as Rice herself says–don’t just put into place a meaningless cease-fire that perpetuates business as usual, but some sort of lasting change for the better that damps down Hezbollah’s power in the region.

[Cross-posted at Winds of Change.]

23 Responses to “Hezbollah: entwined and enmeshed in Lebanon”

  1. nyomythus Says:

    The governmental heads at Damascus and Tehran need to roll. I wish Turkey could fulfill this necessity as a duty for World Peace — follow up with an occupation to crush disorder and restore order. But what we are going to get more than likely are more half measures. At this time what needs to be implemented is a Dresden Strategy; quick and deadly is better than slow and ten-thousand times more deadly. I say go for it asap … the choice is only between bad and worse … as always – thanks to the socialist.

  2. dubliner Says:

    Inviting the Turks back into Lebanon? Would that not be like turning the clock back to 1918?

  3. Brad Says:

    I agree with the above, keep the Turks out of it. The biggest mistake of the WWI treaty was not the harsh treatment of the Germans, but the easy treatment of the Turks. Kurditsatn and Armnia shoud have been carved out, and Constantioble shoud have been returned to the Romaians.

  4. nyomythus Says:

    Hmmm I agree with the above too — good point brad

  5. Ballantine Says:

    Ruthless monomaniacs such as Hizbollah and its backers Syria and Iran, have rolled right over the Lebanese, who were tired of war. The Lebanese are mentally and spiritually exhausted from their civil war, like the Europeans have been from World War II and the Cold War. They couldn’t lift a finger to help themselves if they had to. The same thing is unfortunately true of the Iranian people who cannot defend themselves against their tyrannical rulers.

    This is the time of Iran’s theocratic dictators’ greatest strength. If the free people of the world can find it within themselves to stand up to the tyrant mullahs and fanatics who rule Iran, Iran’s theocracy (and its puppets like Hizbollah) will fade away like the old USSR did when the free world stood against it. Iran must not gain nuclear weapons until the mullahs are gone.

  6. camojack Says:

    This whole situation illustrates the truth of those famous words by Edmund Burke: “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”

  7. Don Says:

    Brad,

    The harsh treatment of the Germans was a significant error leading to WW2. The post-WW1 partition of the Middle East is a problem, but of a considerable lower magnitude.

  8. Anonymous Says:

    An excellent documentary on Hezbollah and other extreme groups:

    In The Name Of God: Scenes From The Extreme

    torrent link

    description

  9. Brad Says:

    “It’s clear that Hezbollah needs to be rooted out of Lebanon. But it’s very difficult to see how this could happen if the Lebanese people themselves don’t wish it to happen”

    It is not difficult to imagine at all: the entire state needs to be defeated. That is how wars are won, look at history. The “state” is: the government, its military, *and its civilian supporters*. Until we have smart bullets that only kill bad guys, winning a war will mean defeating the entire state including its civilian population. Any actual innocents who happen to be in the geographical region should not be used as a reason to not win a war — not if the war is worth fighting in the first place. And an innocent is not just any “non-combatant”, it is someone who resists the bad government and WISHES FOR a good government like Israel to come in and wipe out the bad guys and replace them. This means that the masses in Lebanon who hate Israel and wish the Jews didn’t exist are the enemy, they are culpable and don’t deserve any protection from Israeli bombs.

    If this sounds horrible, consider the alternative, which is what we have right now: an endless war in which more Israeli’s and American’s are murdered each year.

  10. Dave the Rabbit Says:

    Brad,

    It seems to follow from what you wrote that you think that (innocent) Israeli and (innocent) American lives are worth more than (innocent) Lebanese lives (going by your definition of “innocent”).

    Because, you seem to be suggesting that the deaths of innocent Lebanese is acceptable, as long as it prevents the deaths of innocent Israelis and Americans.

    But aren’t all innocent human lives equally valuable?

    Furthermore, what makes you think that the problem will be solved once and for all even if Israel/USA scores a decisive victory over Hezbollah this time (manages to kill all current Hezbollah members, in addition to a lot of innocent civilians as collateal damage)? Don’t you realize that the resentment among the relatives and the children of the innocent people killed today will almost certainly lead them to take up arms tomorrow, to create yet another round of violence… leading to a never-ending cycle?

    Think about it. Hezbollah didn’t even exist in 1980. It was resentment at the civilian deaths that occurred during the Israeli/ US war in Lebanon in the eighties, that was the impetus between the rise of Hezbollah, in the first place. What makes you think that history will not repeat itself?

  11. JonBuck Says:

    Dave:

    So… what? Israel should just sit on their hands while Hizbollah rains down thousands of rockets on their cities and hides behind the Lebenese civilian population on purpose?

    They have spent the last six years, ever since the Israel pulled out of Lebanon, building fortified concrete bunkers and supply bases interwoven with civilian popultions.

    In other words, they are using those civilians as a weapon.

    Israel is doing everything it can to minimize civilian deaths. They regularly drop leaflets in places where they’re going to strike. Meanwhile, Israelis in the north live in bomb shelters while rockets rain down on them.

    Cycle of violence! You say. The reason why that cycle continues at all is that the Islamists won’t rest until they’ve killed every last Jew. If they left Israel alone, there *would* be peace.

  12. Brad2 Says:

    Seems we have two Brads now. I’m the old Brad that has been commenting for a long while. Not the last comment though.
    Don, you are right, I should have written “not only was the harsh treatment of the Germans a mistake, but also the …” and I should have used spellcheck. But only time will tell how minor of a mistake that was.
    Brad2

  13. Don Says:

    Because, you seem to be suggesting that the deaths of innocent Lebanese is acceptable, as long as it prevents the deaths of innocent Israelis and Americans.

    The terror strikes originate from Lebanon, that’s the critical difference . . . Lebanese need to root out the terrorists, or expect that someone else will.

    Aside from that, it appears that many ‘innocent’ Lebanese victims were in fact Hez . . .

    Think about it. Hezbollah didn’t even exist in 1980. It was resentment at the civilian deaths that occurred during the Israeli/ US war in Lebanon in the eighties, that was the impetus between the rise of Hezbollah, in the first place.

    Hez is Islamic radical org funded and controlled by Iran. Even without IDF going into Lebanon, the goals of the Iranians in creating Hez would be the same. More significant in Hez success was IDF withdrawl in 2000.

  14. Don Says:

    I meant in my last post that the IDF leaving in 2000 did more to build Hez than IDF going in in ’82; Iranian support was critical.

  15. Anonymous Says:

    Israel is doing everything it can to minimize civilian deaths.

    Apologist.

    “On Sunday, UN High Commissioner Louise Arbour told CNN Israel’s actions in Lebanon could lead to the prosecution of its military commanders. Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch says Israel is shelling civilian areas with cluster bombs.”


    interview
    with Emergencies Director for Human Rights Watch, currently in Beirut.

  16. Tatterdemalian Says:

    Hezbollah didn’t defeal Israel in 2000, Israel pulled the troops out in return for a promise of UN-brokered peace… a promise that was broken within a month.

    Don’t mistake Hezbollah’s propaganda for the truth. The Lebanese government did, and now they’re paying the price.

  17. Don Says:

    Apologist.

    “On Sunday, UN High Commissioner Louise Arbour told CNN Israel’s actions in Lebanon could lead to the prosecution of its military commanders. Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch says Israel is shelling civilian areas with cluster bombs.”

    Who cares what the UN or Human Rights Watch says?

    If the IDF wanted to kill civilians in Lebanon, the death toll would be well above 10,000 now, not in the hundreds. My guess is that the “civilian” death toll has a very high percentage of military age males, and a surprising lack of feamles, elderly, and children . . .

  18. Don Says:

    Hezbollah didn’t defeal Israel in 2000, Israel pulled the troops out in return for a promise of UN-brokered peace… a promise that was broken within a month.

    I know, but Hez capitalized on the pull out, claiming it as a victory. The rapid IDF pull out made the Hez claims appear reasonable.

    It was only a propaganda victory, but it raised Hez’s esteem in Lebanese eyes.

  19. Anonymous Says:

    Ever heard of a little group called the IRA? Bunch of terrorists, were mainly active in the UK and Ireland. Main terrorist MO was bombs in crowded areas, like town centres. Sometimes they gave warnings first, sometimes they didn’t.

    Anyway, the various factions of the IRA did a lot of their fund-raising in the US (as well as a certain amount of arms-smuggling). You see, they weren’t declared illegal there for far too long. Even now, the US isn’t bringing into force a new extradition treaty with the UK because the Irish-American community are worried might allow them to extradite suspected IRA members.

    So, by your argument, it would’ve been perfectly fine for the UK to bomb Irish-American areas of the US, should they suspect IRA terrorists are hiding there. After all, they were supporting and sheltering terrorists, and if we had to kill a few of them in the process of taking out the evildoers, well, fair enough.

  20. Don Says:

    So, by your argument, it would’ve been perfectly fine for the UK to bomb Irish-American areas of the US, should they suspect IRA terrorists are hiding there. After all, they were supporting and sheltering terrorists, and if we had to kill a few of them in the process of taking out the evildoers, well, fair enough.

    No.

    In the US, the IRA was never part of the government (the Kennedy’s notwithstanding), and it was always illegal in the US to ship arms to the IRA. I know US arms did go to Ireland (“me little Armalite” is a song about the AR15, an IRA favorite), but that was always something the US gov would investigate and prosecute.

    If the IRA actually ran Boston like Hez runs Southern Lebanon, you might have a point. But they never did and you don’t.

    But if you want to extridite Ted Kennedy, you have my support.

  21. R2K Says:

    Worst country ever.

  22. douglas Says:

    So, by your argument, it would’ve been perfectly fine for the UK to bomb Irish-American areas of the US, should they suspect IRA terrorists are hiding there. After all, they were supporting and sheltering terrorists, and if we had to kill a few of them in the process of taking out the evildoers, well, fair enough.

    Let me add to Don’s reply that you’d also have had to have had IRA terrorists from Boston kill eight British soldiers in Britain and Kidnap one, then launch hundreds of missiles into London…

    Keep trying.

  23. grackle Says:

     
    I’m going to regretfully agree with anonymous to a certain extent. Although there was never official approval for the IRA, many in the US who should have known better(including Kennedy) were supportive of the IRA in various unofficial ways. Not a particular nice page in America’s recent history. I’ve read that Kennedy has since expressed regrets.
     

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