Hezbollah, Lebanon

On Defense

Lebanon began its second round of national dialogue talks yesterday, with two principal topics on the agenda: (1) Discussing the very important issue of the “national defense strategy”; (2) Postponing discussion of the very important issue of the “national defense strategy” until the third round of talks, where it will be given the highest priority once again.

These discussions are the source of much amusement to me. Why? Because everybody and their cousin feels as if they are qualified to discuss matters of national defense. Shortly after General Michel Aoun presented his proposal, several other politicians promised to counter with their own proposals at the next round of talks. One can see how Aoun might have a few ideas about national defense, but what exactly will Jumblatt, Geagea, Safadi, and whoever else jumps on the bandwagon have to contribute? Running a militia in the 70’s and 80’s does not qualify you to comment.

The biggest source of hilarity, however, is imagining how euphemism-laden these discussions must be. Given the absurdity of the entire premise in the first place — that Lebanon can have a “national defense strategy” in any sense of the term — what kinds of rhetorical acrobatics are being executed to make everyone feel like changes are actually taking place while leaving the status quo in place? For March 14th, these talks are surely nothing more than an opportunity to keep reminding the public of the fact that Lebanon has both an army and a resistance, while for March 8th, they are an opportunity to paper over this fact in some kind of an institutionally sanctioned fashion. In other words, the national defense strategy has nothing to do with national defense and everything to do with strategy… political strategy, that is.

My friend Abbas wishes that March 14 would just shut up and admit that their “Israeli/Saudi/American supported project failed” and stop trying to meddle with matters that they don’t understand. In other words, leave the defense strategy to us, and don’t ask any questions. In fact, any kind of formalized cooperation or integration between Hizbullah and the government on matters of defense can only be in Israel’s interests, he argues, because it will turn the resistance (aka, the national defense strategy) into something more resembling an army.

Another possibility is that there is actually an element of sincerity about the national defense discussions. After all, if the Syrian-Israeli talks get anywhere, the Lebanese resistance will have to turn into something else… probably something akin to a “national guard”. Is Hizbullah setting the stage for this eventual transition?


4 thoughts on “On Defense

  1. Hi QN! Congratulation yesterday!!! There is hope once again in America, and especially in our region.

    On the new topic, how realistic is the notion of HA incorporating into any kind of “national” entity (army, national guard, etc.)? I agree with Abbas here, it would certainly benefit Israel if HA is incorporated somehow, and that in itself is reason for it not to even consider it. As we discussed in the past, I think that even if Israel was to withdraw from the last remaining Lebanese territories, HA would still have to find a reason not to be incorporated. Continued Occupation of the Golan, of Palestine, or any other reason.

    What do you (and other Lebanese) think?

    Posted by Shai | November 6, 2008, 12:22 pm
  2. Shai,

    If AIG is the most pro-Syrian democracy non-Syrian I know, you are the most pro-Lebanese resistance non-Lebanese I know.


    If/when Israel withdrew from Lebanon completely, Hizbullah would/will have to make some choices and changes in its image. My guess is that it would begin to build up its political wing and focus more on extending its power base, pushing for changes to the political system, etc. They would keep their weapons but become more amenable to becoming incorporated into the state. By then, theoretically, Israel and Syria would be at peace, so Lebanon would not need to have a resistance anymore.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | November 6, 2008, 12:50 pm
  3. QN,

    I hope you’re right, but I doubt Israel (especially under a new leadership) would withdraw from Shebaa prior to a peace agreement with Syria. I don’t know why, but for some odd reason they think it’s a negotiation card with Syria… As you say, instead of calling HA’s “bluff” (ya’ani, OK, we withdrew from all Lebanese territory, now let’s see you disarm), we’re waiting to tell the Syrians “Hey, if you also let us drink your water, we’ll withdraw from Shebaa..” 🙂

    Seems Abbas and I have a few things in common after all…

    Posted by Shai | November 6, 2008, 5:32 pm
  4. Well Abbas is totally right, but Israel will make everything possible to have the “Lebanese State” responsible.
    Also, Hizbullah itself is very keen on getting ‘consensus’ on the situation. It is bordering naivety sometimes. Just like Hamas in Gaza.

    Posted by Bech | November 9, 2008, 5:10 pm

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