Elections, Hezbollah, Lebanon, March 14, Reform

Nonsensical Consensualism

which way lebanonThere’s an interesting debate about Hizbullah’s weapons going on in the comment section of the last post so I thought I’d alert those of you who don’t spend much time in the trenches. The debate kicked off when I asked the following question:

“Let’s say March 14 wins the election. Personally, I feel that this is a less than likely possibility, but let’s say it happens. M14 wins, and it wins on the following basis:

  1. An electoral law that the opposition proposed in Doha and that no can accuse of marginalizing this or that community;
  2. No Quadripartite Alliance like in 2005;
  3. No vague national dialogue agreements;
  4. A March 14 campaign that is absolutely clear about how it feels regarding Hizbullah’s weapons;

Under these conditions, if more Lebanese vote for March 14 than vote for March 8, would you say that the resulting government would be justified in pressuring Hizbullah to disarm? If not, why not?

There have been several interesting responses thus far. MM replies with a resounding “YES”. Mo answers in the affirmative, provided that M14 wins at least 65% of the popular vote. Joe M takes a more circumspect position, arguing that there are many factors to consider such as “the ability of the country to defend itself without Hizbullah’s weapons, and whether the weapons instigate Israel to attack Lebanon, and whether the people believe in Hizbullah’s goals to liberate Palestine.” RedLeb says that while M14’s fears are legitimate because of the size of their public support, the state “would have to provide credible alternatives to the resistance as it disarms it. It cannot simply declare the arms illegal and throw everyone in jail. There is no mandate large enough to legitimise an unfair process.”

J of Chalcedon and Majid correctly identify the underlying issues. It makes little sense to speak of popular will as long as it is reflected through the cracked prism of Lebanon’s political system. So I’d like to follow J’s suggestion for a debate along these lines. Here’s how he lays it out:

Let’s do a vox pop, QN willing. Whoever wants to submits 100 words on what the outcome of the vote means for the big questions: what does electoral will mean for consociaotional govt, and what to do with Hizbollah’s weapons in light of the first? But no more than 100 words. Make your case tight; no citations. QN, if he’s willing, can pick from the results, summarize and opine.

This is a debate that needs to happen on a national level. It should happen because — for the first time in decades — it can. It is easy to be cynical about all the posters you see on the highway with slogans like “The Second Independence”, “The Third Republic”, and “Kulluna li-ayy Watan?” but in an odd way, they gesture toward an important reality that we have already become jaded about: The Lebanese are finally in a position to confront certain existential issues about self-governance. We should start doing so.

The floor is yours.
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Discussion

47 thoughts on “Nonsensical Consensualism

  1. I’ll make a simple suggestion and it’ll be far less than hundred words. But you have to do your own homework. Find out how Athena succeeded in turning the powerful earth monsters, the Furies, into benevolent Eumenides and absolved Orsetes of his matricide. Compare the settings of the play (the Oresteia by Aeschylus) to Lebanon’s cvil war then make up your mind.

    When the word limit is lifted, I’ll have a different say.

    Posted by majid | May 23, 2009, 9:15 am
  2. I see Lebanese society as the child of a very dysfunctional family, where there is an unhealthy parental relationship, and in which resorting to domestic abuse has become common. The violence used is psychological and physical. All parties use abundant psychological violence, while the physical one is lately used mainly by one party, the one left with the physical strength. The relation with one of the neighbors is complicated because they are in-laws. The other neighbors are a sick family, paranoid by a terrible past of victimhood in other neighborhoods. They are very powerful, armed and violent, and they tend to intervene in any possible fact that they assume is threatening their survival in the neighborhood. And up to now, they have the blank seeing of the sheriff. Whenever this violent neighbor is calm for a while, the questioning of the rules that regulate the use of power inside the family comes to the surface, and domestic conflict is served. But then the violent neighbors come in, devastate everything in their way, keep the use of part of the house for themselves, etc., the questions concerning domestic abuse fade away naturally in the name of internal solidarity. Nevertheless, all members keep wondering –the weaker ones particularly- what the family life will be if and when the bully neighbor is gone, or somehow forced to follow the rules of law.

    Posted by mj | May 23, 2009, 1:02 pm
  3. Limited though my understanding of Lebanon is, I do have a bit of a background in poli sci, and as much as that admittedly qualifies me for not much more than a manager position at a Barnes & Noble, I feel confident in finding the right questions to ask. Namely, beyond what you noted when you cited Joe M, there are other concerns beyond whether the Lebanese Army could defend the country in the absence of the Hizb. Regardless of the size of M14’s mandate, would an attempt to disarm Hizbollah result in a violent response? Is attaining the goal of disarming Hizbollah worth a civil war? Is that goal desirable to the point of being worth undermining Lebanese desirable? What will be the result of a Lebanese democracy that excludes the Shia? Aren’t they a plurality of the population? If M14 pressure on the Hizb to disarm results in violence, how will Israel respond? Syria? The US, god forbid?

    Posted by Andrew | May 23, 2009, 4:30 pm
  4. I am sorry. This comment is somewhat off topic. A new
    report has just appeared. It mentions that the STL, through the UN investigation, has evidence that Hezbollah is behind the killing of Rafik Hariri.
    If so, then the quetsion should be asked, what happens if Hezb wins the elections and forms the next government? In addition to putting or not putting its arms on the table for disarming, will Hezb submit to the Tribunal if any of its members were named by the Tribunal?

    Posted by mike | May 23, 2009, 6:39 pm
  5. “The Lebanese are finally in a position to confront certain existential issues about self-governance.” Such statement does apply in to Lebanon. It seems that the famous “existential issues” are reduced to one! True ,this issue is out off topic just as Mike’s comment about the rubbish published by the German paper Der Spiegel, the same rubbish that the Zionist-Wahhabis in the Hariri clan fed the French Le Figaro back in 2006. And they talk in the West about freedom of the press.

    Posted by Jihad | May 23, 2009, 7:24 pm
  6. From the Der Spiegel piece of rubbish:

    “Hariri’s growing popularity could have been a thorn in the side of Lebanese Shiite leader Nasrallah. In 2005, the billionaire began to outstrip the revolutionary leader in terms of popularity. Besides, he stood for everything the fanatical and spartan Hezbollah leader hated: close ties to the West and a prominent position among moderate Arab heads of state, an opulent lifestyle, and membership in the competing Sunni faith. Hariri was, in a sense, the alternative to Nasrallah”.

    Yes, Sayyed Nasrallah envied Rafiq Hariri’s relations with the plucky little “kings” in the Gulf and his “opulent lifestyle” that included showering gifts on former French president Jacques Chirac, his wife and his mentally ill dog!

    It was said about Ronald Reagan that “you can walk through his thoughts without wetting your feet”. This also applies to the Hariri’s (bleak) Future movement and its journalists in Der Spiegel among other newspapers.

    Posted by Jihad | May 23, 2009, 7:58 pm
  7. Jihad,
    It seems that the article has touched a sensitive nerve in you.

    You quoted QN,“The Lebanese are finally in a position to confront certain existential issues about self-governance.”

    I didn’t say the linked article in my previous comment is completely off topic. Actually it does have an important relation to the topic. Lebanon would be facing an existential threat if it fails to apply justice in the numerous mysterious murder cases. It’ll be even more of an existential threat if Lebanon is prevented from exacting justice by a group holding a gun to its Government’s head. Don’t you think?

    Why is the Government still stalled by the Hezb veto over Bellmar’s request to be given access to any Lebanese for questioning including leaders of para-military groups i.e. Hezb officials? If Hezb has nothing to hide would it not make sense for it to cooperate with the investigation? Didn’t the STL prove its impartiality already by releasing the four Generals? Are HN and his group above the law?

    Posted by mike | May 23, 2009, 8:42 pm
  8. Mike, that article contains so many factual errors, it’s not even funny.

    Attacks in South America in 2002 and 2004? I think he’s talking about Argentina, in which case he’s off by a decade.

    Evidence of involvement by the Hezbollah commando unit … in each of more than a dozen attacks against prominent Lebanese in the last four years? Really? Says who?

    Hezbollah currently holds 14 of 128 seats in parliament, a number that is expected to rise. Who? I’d like to know.

    This article is ridiculous, and has clearly been written by someone who knows little about Lebanon. He’s getting a nice snow job from someone…

    Posted by sean | May 23, 2009, 11:06 pm
  9. The Der Spiegel article may not have an eye for details, but the source sure has an incredible sense of timing. The coming two weeks are going to be absolutely riveting!

    Posted by Ms. Tee | May 24, 2009, 12:21 am
  10. Sean,
    You could be right. However, the questions I raised in my previous comment are very relevant to the case as well as to Lebanon regardless of DS article.
    Thanks.

    Posted by mike | May 24, 2009, 12:22 am
  11. If this is from the Spiegel correspondent in Beirut it doesn’t surprise me. She’s clueless, needless to say she does not speak a word of Arabic.

    Posted by K | May 24, 2009, 1:01 am
  12. Primo I enjoy your blog. You said it well in a previous post: that you try to depict unfolding events. The result is a well written and read blog.
    Not the case in this post.
    I left 24 years ago and came back 5 month ago for a sabbatical. I want to come back, but waiting for the summer of 2009 to unfold: we could eat grapes soon or watch the vineyards guards kill each others…again.
    You’ve asked a futile question and you got pretty good answers.
    QN said: “would you say that the resulting government would be justified in pressuring Hizb to disarm?”

    Well well. Do you think that the hizb can be pressured to disarm in the first place? do you see ANY force that can do that? seriously.

    To rephrase your question properly:
    “would you say that the resulting government would be justified in starting an internal war in lebanon?”

    No and no, a 14th march Gvt should not start a war in this country.

    It is NOT about the hizb arms really. It is not the problem and never was for the lenght of Harriri sr rule. It is about what rice hinted to: a new M-E.
    1 of the the problems is that the “new” had among other things over 500K of palestinians changing identity.
    Israelis if you can ask them will tell you: all is quit on the northern front since the hizb took control. the northern part of Israel was booming for the past 15 years.

    In 1981-82 I was part of the school boys that Bashir Gemayel took for military training for few weeks a year. ALL schools in the eastern part took part.
    Bashir Speech I recall at the end basically convinced most of us: preparedness in case any “will” decides to play chess with our identity. His words: everyone of us was a piece of resistance against /syria/US/vatican/israel etc…
    Flash forward
    The hizb is a mature resistance rooted deep and the only way to counter it is really a national strategy of defense where everyone can feel secure about defending himself against aggression from whatever he thinks is the enemy. the arms of the hizb should blend in the army like the national guards in the USA. Even more: they should show us the way of building a national resistance. Only then the government can be the great equalizer.

    About the Der spiegel piece: that was a hint of recycling the failed strategy of post hariri assassination with other means. Just pull the same Mag piece in 2005. Damn…they are not giving up. add one for your conspiracy theory posts.
    jh

    Posted by jooj haddad | May 24, 2009, 3:41 am
  13. I’m an outsider, so I don’t consider this a formal submission.

    There seems to me something of an internal inconsistency here. You are talking about (democratically) legitimate mandates. Yet you are talking about whether or not there is a mandate to ignore such mandates anyway.

    Hizballah is armed and so can conduct it’s own foreign policy: war, peace, cooperation deals. It does not have a mandate for this authority. At least not via the process that you are deeming M14 to have or not have

    By this sort of logic, I think that the cited position of Joe M, is ridiculous. These sort issues (a need for Hizballah’s defence capability, participation in the Palestinian cause, etc.) need to be taken account in making the decision. But a decision needs to be made. For this to happen you need some sort of way of making desicions. Lebanon has a (sort of) representative democracy that is supposed to take decisions like this.

    The fact that such a robust discussion about the mandate of an elected government to make such a decision is possible is itself a bad sign.

    Posted by netsp | May 24, 2009, 6:34 am
  14. Netsp just spoke my mind. Since the issue is so important and the responses are non-robust as mentioned by Netsp, then there is only one possible explanation. The potential participants know what they want, and they know the outcome of this discussion will not give them what they want, so no one is willing to take the bait. The discussion requires a deep soul searching effort that will force everyone to face demons he/she may not want to see or he/she may not want others to see.
    I conclude that the Lebanese would be content to continue to be ruled by zua’ma instead of going through a process of self criticism and revision. In this case, Lebanon has only one solution. It should be divided into three or four autonomous regions with a very weak federal government.

    Posted by majid | May 24, 2009, 8:55 am
  15. I decided to err on the side of caution with regard to the Der Spiegel article for two reasons: 1) the political identity of the Arab media that ‘felt’ it to enough credibility as to deserve top billing, namely Asarq Al Awsat (first page headline) and Al Arabiya News Channel; and 2) the fact that the usually outspoken critics of Hizbullah on this blogg seem to be quite understated, so far at least, in using this ‘scoop’ to co maintain the tempo of onnslaut on the Hizb, irrespective whether it is justified or not.

    I believe all who exsersised caution have have been wise, especially after the debacles of Assidiq and company, and the fiasco of the four officers and the unsavory role that media, domestic, regional and international played. These episodes combined, in addition to others, have imposed a sense of sceptisism when it comes to media ‘exposes’ pertaining to the ‘international’ Hariri court within public opinion, pro and anti alike.

    Posted by Question Marks | May 24, 2009, 12:46 pm
  16. mike, k, question marks, sean, since the off-topic topic has generated some further commenting, i take the freedom contribute as well:

    the spiegel article was penned by erich follath, who is part of the spiegel’s established investigative journalism squad. this kind of journalism used to be the spiegel’s trademark, but quality of ordinary reporting and scoops has been deteriorating for a long time. follath, like most of that crowd, operates out of hamburg or berlin (i.e. they’re not familiar with the middle east, lebanon, for example…), and used to be the ‘BND guy’ at the spiegel, meaning he was obviously well-connected to some folks within germany’s foreign intelligence service who fed him bits and pieces whenever the BND was involved in shady operations. i’m not sure how, or if, this is how his ‘informant’ from the trial is connected to him. but in this case he fabricated a masterpiece of irresponsible sensationalism, based on one single unnamed source of information, without even bothering to come up with other evidence to support what his source fed him. i wouldn’t attribute much credibility to the story, based on what i just said. but it will stir discussions, and this is obviously what the ‘source’ intended, a stone’s throw away from elections.

    k, i agree the beirut spiegel correspondent is extremely clueless (and extremely pro-israel/anti hizb, on a different note), but in this case the writer was someone with even less local knowledge…

    Posted by bint abeeha | May 24, 2009, 3:45 pm
  17. Bint abeeha,

    I gather from your informative post that you have some insight into German media.

    It is a journalist’s duty to to try to forge contacts with as many potential sources of information (for me the sole exceptions are Israelis!). However, to do this, she/he must have the intent and ability to be able to stiff through the information, double check it with alternative source(s) before she/he adopt it in print/broadcast. For some reason, obvious to some, several journalists -Arab as well as international- opted not to follow the ABC’s of journalism when dealing with an aspect of the assassination of Hariri senior. One can ascertain the validity of my assertion by revisiting the overage of some media that has been mentioned already as perhaps deviating from the pass of objective journalism. The list of Arab and international print and broadcast media is long to list here, but it does include Der Spiegel. One wonders what is the common denominator between such media as Assiyasa (Kuwait), Al Arabiya News Channel and Asharq Al Awsat (Saudi) A Mustaqbal stable (Lebanese) … and Der Spiegel, just to name a handful.

    That said, and guessing that the timing of the ‘expose’ has something to do with the imminent Parliamentary elections in Lebanon coming a few days after SHN’s surprising pronouncement re 7 May, does anyone really believe that such antics (Der Spiegel) still have consumers out there in numbers that would make any difference to the outcome of the elections? I maintain that it would require a very creative approach to shift the balance of power that seems to be edging towards the one-time opposition.

    Regards

    Posted by Question Marks | May 24, 2009, 6:26 pm
  18. I am deeply sorry once again that my comment about the DS article has generated so much off topic comments. I did not intend to cause so much straying off a very important topic. I made it clear in my comment that there are other questions that should be asked when responding to QN questions. I said, ,”If so, then the question should be asked, what happens if Hezb wins the elections and forms the next government? In addition to putting or not putting its arms on the table for disarming, will Hezb submit to the Tribunal if any of its members were named by the Tribunal?” I also said in my next comment, “Why is the Government still stalled by the Hezb veto over Bellmar’s request to be given access to any Lebanese for questioning including leaders of para-military groups i.e. Hezb officials? If Hezb has nothing to hide would it not make sense for it to cooperate with the investigation? Didn’t the STL prove its impartiality already by releasing the four Generals? Are HN and his group above the law?”

    It looks like the Lebanese are more interested in sensationalism than an issue of existential importance to them and to their country as QN pointed out in his main posting.

    Having committed the “sin”, I’ll try to make amends by answering QN’s original topic.

    I disagree with Joe M and Joo Haddad. Joe M.’s position is correctly described as circumspect by QN. Joo’s position cannot be justified in a multiethnic society where one group can hold the country hostage under force of arms threatening the sovereignty of the country and social peace and order as on May 7 and the two year sit-in in downtown Beirut. I agree with Netsp mostly. I would like to see the government forcing the issue and making the issue of disarming Hezb. the primary objective. Lebanon can best defend itself through its armed forces and its good relations with the rest of the world. I do not believe there should be a civil war as a result. If that is going to the outcome then I agree with Majid by dividing Lebanon into autonomous provinces with a federal government that has minimal powers.

    Posted by mike | May 24, 2009, 6:59 pm
  19. Der Spiegel’s Sensational Hariri Tribunal ‘Breakthrough’: Hezbollah Did It
    Hizbullah media relations’ bureau: “Information published by the German Der Spiegel is nothing less than police fabrications.”

    http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,626412,00.html

    http://www.france24.com/en/20090524-hariri-hezbollah-assassination-united-nations-spiegel-investigation-lebanon

    http://pulsemedia.org/2009/05/24/der-spiegels-sensational-hariri-tribunal-claim/

    Posted by Honest Patriot | May 24, 2009, 7:09 pm
  20. question marks, i did follow german media attentively when i used to live in that country, which hasn’t been the case for quite some time now. but i’m not a journalist or ‘media person’ myself in any way. i don’t think whoever fed follath his informations was hoping to actually make a difference at the polls, in terms of numbers. but the mere quoting of and reporting on the article, the denials or even refusals to comment by several lebanese media outlets and politicians at least cause talk even in this country, in addition to what i call the usual suspects who would surely love such stuff (al-hayat,al-sharq al-awsat, al-arabiyya, al-mustaqbal). the thing seems more geared towards the international ‘western’ audience and its perception of the hizb – plus, in a second step, a possible stance western governments will be taking towards a lebanese government if march 8 wins.

    Posted by bint abeeha | May 24, 2009, 9:03 pm
  21. Certain details from the DS article may be inaccurate but the headline may not be off base simply because Mr. Nasrallah several weeks ago, after the release of the Generals, preempted any future events related to the tribunal by declaring, in no uncertain terms, that neither he nor anyone under his control (read the Lebanese government if M8 wins the elections)will cooperate with the tribunal.
    Back to QN’s question I would like to reference my comment (42)from the previous post here and would like to read comments related to the main thesis that the Hizb can not fend off any Israeli aggression and 2006 proved that – hence the only purpose the Hizb’s weapons are serving is that of terrorizing fellow Lebanese as we saw on May 7 2008. Please prove me wrong.

    Posted by MM | May 24, 2009, 11:27 pm
  22. Re MM’s above, citing the previous comment; bravo.

    That’s the question. The data are now in place: Hizbollah defended Lebanese territory against a foreign threat better than any LB army ever did; in fact, no LB army has ever tried.

    Incidentally, they did really well: they held off a regular army with air support, while the national army did nothing, or died supine.

    They also, as I read it, destroyed any claim to deterrence, in that they brought on a war (not that it wouldn’t have happened anyway. But did it have to happen right then, with an operation outside the etiquette established since 2000?).

    So, now what’s the conversation about the “national” utility of Hizbollah’s arms?

    And, in light of our discussion about the fractured Lebanese polity, who can detail the process by which Hizbollah subsumes its military capacity under the army – arguably the weakest of all central institutions?

    Just to further complicate things, what’s the relationship between a good show on the ground in 2006, and internal ass-kicking in 2008? Did the first, buttressed by increasingly sectarian claims along the lines of “we’ve got the numbers,” lead to the second?

    Posted by J of Chalcedon | May 25, 2009, 12:07 am
  23. J of Chalcedon,

    The arguments of your last comment are false because they fail to put things in perspective.

    Hezb instigated the 2006 war after HN withdrew from the National dialog when his weapons became the subject of discussion. The reason for instigating the war is precisely because there is no further use for those weapons after liberating the south in 2006. Therefore, creating another conflict justifies the continued arming of a militia outside government control. The issue here is not whether the national army is a match to the Zionist army.

    Hezb did not prove to be a deterrent. On the contrary, its action caused the destruction of Lebanese infrastructure and the dislocation of hundreds of thousands of southerners. Hezb was forced to accept the government’s decision alongside UNIFIL to the south after an absence of more than thirty years. That action alone allowed the civilians to go back to their homes otherwise they would have become refugees. Therefore, Lebanon’s integrity is best served by its government and not by a militia.

    Hezb’s connection to the Iranian regime is a threat to Lebanon since it turns the country into a tool in the regional play of power.

    Yes, the 2006 war led to the May 7 events precisely because Hezb was shut off from its base in the south and found itself with no legitimate mandate except to stir internal conflicts, particularly after its two year sit-in in downtown Beirut failed to produce any results, further endangering the social order.

    Hezb’s militia is a liability to the country.

    Posted by majid | May 25, 2009, 3:25 am
  24. J of Chalcedon says: “Hizbollah defended Lebanese territory against a foreign threat better than any LB army ever did; in fact, no LB army has ever tried.
    Incidentally, they did really well: they held off a regular army with air support, while the national army did nothing, or died supine.”

    I am always surprised by supposedly informed and smart blog contributors who still believe the 2006 performance of HA was a “victory” or a “success.” International pressure and fear of dire consequences limiting the otherwise ferocious destruction of all of Lebanon at the hand of the IDF does not constitute successful performance by HA. Regrettably, it has been a common fallacy by leaders in the arab world to turn military defeats into “victories,” to with the “mother of all battles” of 1991 Saddam, to just cite one example.

    Effective progress and assurance of rightful redress of the Palestinian problems will surely never come about from such fallacies, but from the smart and effective countering of the power of the Israeli lobby by equally (or better yet, superior) competent movements and financing within the U.S. and European politics.

    Alas, with the supposed elite espousing the fallacies cited above, such effective consolidation of real efforts remain far in the future, at least for now.

    Let’s hope this changes.

    Incidentally, my post above givint he references for the DS article (with pro and con articles) was submitted prior to all the other references in this thread, but its appearance on the blog was delayed by moderation as it was, I believe, my first post on this blog.

    Regards to all.

    HP

    Posted by Honest Patriot | May 25, 2009, 3:36 am
  25. Typo above: “to wit” instead of “to with”

    Posted by Honest Patriot | May 25, 2009, 3:38 am
  26. With more folks like “majid” there will be hope. I fully agree with your rational reasoning.

    Posted by Honest Patriot | May 25, 2009, 3:40 am
  27. Thanx, HP.

    A little off topic ‘entertainment’ since you mentioned Palestine and in order to keep the hope alive.

    Posted by majid | May 25, 2009, 4:08 am
  28. ya salam ya majid 🙂

    Posted by Honest Patriot | May 25, 2009, 4:18 am
  29. Honest Patriot,
    The Winograd Commission (Israel’s official inquiry into the war on Lebanon) considered the war to have failed. Also, there was significant pressure on the commission not to classify it a defeat. Even Israeli military circles generally consider the war to be a defeat. Although you are right that most Arab leaders will spin a defeat into a victory, this is not an example of that phenomenon.

    Majid,
    The Winograd Commission also provided concrete evidence that the decision to go to war with Lebanon was planned well before hizbullah “instigated” anything. It was a political decision by Israel, it was not a military calculation. That is well documented.

    Posted by Joe M. | May 25, 2009, 4:21 am
  30. I still think that this discussion drifts downstream when it shouldn’t. The issue as defined in the post, is a meta-issue. It’s not a question about hezballah’s being armed. It’s a about deciding who gets to make that decision.

    As I mentioned above, I think that’s ridiculous anyway. If you come to the conclusion that no government has the right to disarm Hisballah, you are admitting that the government is not the Government. It is subject to some unwritten constitution or Hizballah or I don’t know what.

    That’s the theoretical. In practice, the government may not be able to. Or it may be better to act via consensus.

    Is this discussion even relevant? Can Hizballah be disarmed involuntarily? Without civil war.

    Posted by netsp | May 25, 2009, 4:31 am
  31. Joe M.

    I believe Netsp’s last comment answers you. The issue is not Winograd. The issue is the function and authority of the Government of Lebanon which should be the final and unchallenged authority. No matter what the zionist entity was planning, Hezb made a misadventure in order to protect its weapons and not Lebanon. It was the Government of Lebanon which secured the country’s integrity after Hezb’s misadventure, and Hezb paid back on May 7, 2008 with a stab in the back to the Government, the people of W. Beirut and the people of the mountains. Hezb’s mandate ended in 2000 and should have voluntarily disarmed then.

    Posted by majid | May 25, 2009, 4:45 am
  32. Hizballah can never and would never be disarmed… Hizballah’s arms and Hizballah’s men are those of the “Al Mahdi” the long awaited “Messiah” who will come and rid us all of evil

    End of Discussion, that was easy wasnt it!!!

    Posted by V | May 25, 2009, 4:55 am
  33. Majid and HP,

    I think we’re probably in agreement here.Hizbollah’s “victory” was, to be kind, pyrrhic: They put 1,300 people through the wringer via brinksmanship, not counting those whose lives were ruined by loss of kin, property or, well, limbs. Majid, we definitely agree about the deterrence question (and I bet we both think the pledge not to use force internally was disproved long ago). But in so doing, they also demonstrated – to broader ruin – the coherence of their institutions, especially a cadre of reservists who were ready to chuck whatever they were doing and go fight, for nothing, with a high probability of getting killed.

    When’s the last time someone did that for the sake of wizarat al islah al idari? Would you shed blood for the integrity of sunduug ad dimaan al ijtimaa’i? (Disclosure: they owe me money. Not a lot, but, Christ, I’m not rich).

    Don’t get me wrong. As a witness to events, and politics aside, I was amazed at the recklessness of what I’d taken as the canniest local actor up till then. My sense then, and now, was that Hizbollah understood what happened as a heroic contribution to a state idea that nobody (else) really buys into. And so they described it. Right or wrong, those events were destined to be depicted as a sub-state actor – with considerable backing – sticking up for something that others just talk about.

    My point is that Hizbollah laid a claim – milked to this day, and for the forseeable future – to have done something “Lebanon” couldn’t or wouldn’t have done for itself. That notion may be ridiculous. But it brings the real problem to light: who buys into the national idea? Doesn’t the war reflect the failings of that idea, rather than the tyranny of any single actor?

    As I saw it, the war was a horror that posed the above questions. And so far, no one has a good answer to them. I don’t have a horse in this race – barring a Michel al-Murr style intervention to naturalize me for an empty minority seat somewhere, I’m off the Lebanese map. But really, what’s the answer?

    Sorry to ramble. Barking dogs outside the house; insomnia.

    Posted by J of Chalcedon | May 25, 2009, 5:03 am
  34. J of Chalcedon said:

    But it brings the real problem to light: who buys into the national idea? Doesn’t the war reflect the failings of that idea, rather than the tyranny of any single actor?

    J, I don’t quite get your meaning here. How does the war reflect the failings of the national idea?

    The fact that the Hizb’s institutions remained coherent and its reservists dropped what they were doing and went down south to fight doesn’t suggest to me that they are more committed to the national idea than other Lebanese.

    The whole point of the resistance is to fight. It’s an army. In a war, some fight while others stay home. This doesn’t make the ones who stayed home any less committed to the national idea. Nor does criticism of the army and its decisions to instigate/respond to conflicts necessarily evince a lack of committment to the national idea. In the U.S. and the U.K. hundreds of thousands marched against the Iraq War. In Israel, the Winograd Commission criticized Israel’s performance in 2006. Nobody turned around and called these critics weak on the national idea.

    I’m probably misunderstanding your point, though.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | May 25, 2009, 8:08 am
  35. J of Chalcedon,

    I’m not sure about all the things you say that we (you and I) are in agreement about. First, you call Hezb’s 2006 war outcome a “pyrrhic victory”. I do not agree about that.

    You are still trying to insert the word victory by acknowledging the high cost of the war in a sort of package-assessment that would allow you to use the word victory in an expression. What is victory to you here? Is it the ability of Hezb to show discipline among its reservists who were willing to go to death at the command of their leader. That is not a measure of victory!

    This is a meta-issue as netsp pointed out. The real issue is who makes the decision to go to war in a country called Lebanon. Does HN have the mandate to make such a decision?

    I am also not certain that I understand your point about deterrence. Are you saying that Hezb proved itself to be a deterrent force in 2006? If that is what you think then we do not agree. I stated more than once that it was the Government’s decision to send in the National Army alongside UNIFIL which proved to be the real deterrence, and which saved the people of the south from becoming refugees. If that’s your opinion then we do agree.

    Finally, despite the fact that many including myself don’t believe that Lebanon is a State in the full sense of the word, yet it is a miracle that we still have a country called Lebanon despite the destruction and savagery that was brought upon it during its 17 year old civil war. It is more of a miracle than the show of coherence that Hezb members displayed during that ill-fated adventure. The resistance which flourished in Lebanon and which would not have been able to flourish anywhere else in the Arab world owes its achievements to the type of Liberal Democracy Lebanon had come to enjoy since it was created, and this is the subject I tried to steer the discussion towards in my first comment in this thread. So is Resistance going to pay Lebanon back by taking away from Lebanon the very same essence which gave it (Resistance) life? Does Resistance want to take the Soul of Lebanon away? This is the issue.

    Posted by majid | May 25, 2009, 8:48 am
  36. Majid

    You and JoC agree that the Hizb cannot make a claim to be a deterrent against Israel. He said:

    “They also, as I read it, destroyed any claim to deterrence, in that they brought on a war”

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | May 25, 2009, 9:03 am
  37. Majid, on deterrence, we really do agree – there’s no deterrent. I should have just said so, rather than banging on.

    QN, the war’s implications for the national idea are as follows: one group takes what’s usually a national decision by going to war. It then acquits itself pretty well, while the army does nothing, and points to that fact as proof that it needs to keep its weapons until the army can function.

    That group’s institutions hold up and function through aftermath of the war and the ensuing political crisis, while the state’s falter. The dispute then translates into the use of force internally to settle a dispute over the future of those arms.

    Maybe it’s crude, but that’s how I read the chain of events. At each point, Hizbollah can argue, with justification, that they wouldn’t need to have a military capacity if the state worked (while their military capacity undermines any hope of a state).

    Posted by J of Chalcedon | May 25, 2009, 11:58 am
  38. JoC

    I see what you’re saying but isn’t the point that Hizbullah is itself defining the idea of “commitment to the national idea” in ways that it alone can fulfill? It’s a vicious circle, as you point out.

    I’ve been up to my ears in Aounists lately because of a piece I’m writing on the FPM, but tell me what you make of their argument. Crudely put, it is:

    “We believe that the Hizb is a necessity in the short term while the army/state is weak, but it is a handicap in the long term as we try to build the state, so our strategy is to contain the Resistance through our electoral alliance and the Memorandum of Understanding until we have created enough trust and political incentives to persuade them to enter into a (protracted) grand bargain of political power for arms.”

    To which M14ers reply: “You’re delusional if you think that Hizbullah has any interest in trading political power for guns, because they are not interested in anything but resistance, and even if they were, their value as a strategic asset of Iran is too great for their sponsors to allow them to change course. A strategy of containment is tantamount to burying your head in the sand.”

    Your thoughts?

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | May 25, 2009, 12:27 pm
  39. QN,

    I couldn’t propose anything better; if you declare the weapons an affront to Lebanon and try to take them, you get a civil war.

    But that’s a lot of “if’s” in there – building of trust, institutions, a durable political compromise. It also makes some big assumptions about Hizbollah, namely that they’d be willing to negotiate away the very distinct status they have. Would anyone else do that?

    Posted by J of Chalcedon | May 25, 2009, 12:40 pm
  40. QN,
    The FPMs argument might sound great in theory,but its very presumptious of them.I mean,It sounds almost like HA itself is a stepping stone in order to eventually disarm HA.”Lets be friends now,but eventually will have to do something about your weapons.”
    I dont think HA is in need of this kind of friendship…Its not FPM or any other group that can have a say on HA weapons.The sanctity of the weapons and the reason détre of HA can only be up for compremise if it hails from QOM, not Ibrahim Kanaans delusional Utopia.
    But hey, HA found themselves some great window dressing, why not for now.
    I could be wrong, maybe im a little overly suspicious of HA intentions, and I dont like to emmulate Carlos Edde here with his sensational discovery of Naim Qassems book recently that he doesnt waste an opportunity to wave around,but it does provide some light into HA’s plans and Qassem says it, not exactly in these words but something along the lines of: Its not the question of how the state will absorb HA but how will HA absorb the state.
    Forward a few years from now, it is HA that are using FPM as a stepping stone and not the other way around.

    Posted by Maverick | May 25, 2009, 1:26 pm
  41. JoC, QN, Maverick,
    Re: last 4 comments

    The arms can be put on the table immediately by proposing either one of two scenarios:
    1. The arms get declared as an affront to Lebanon as JoC said. That has been proven already. Immediate full implementation of Taef (senate formation, confessional representation, etc…) which requires the disarming of Hezbollah once the reasons for its arming (occupation of the south) have been removed. Those reasons have essentially been removed since 2000. The arms came under discussion at Doha as part of the deal. The current talks about National Defense Strategy are meant to reflect what went on in Doha to this regard. This will keep Lebanon intact as a State with a strong central authority.

    2. If that is not acceptable to Hezb then a division of the country into several autonomous provinces (essentially along sectarian lines) should be sought. The central government will have very minimal powers relating to external affairs, responsibilities in front of international bodies, coordination (but not control) of defense, managing of the current debt which has to be shared by the whole population etc… The provinces will be responsible for their own securities, their own economies, education, etc…

    The second scenario basically means the end of Lebanon. In this case, you can kiss good bye any meaningful commitment of development or military aid from most of the world. We are talking here about a 19th century Lebanon of fiefdoms. But short of a civil war or burying heads in the sand, that is feasible and more attractive.

    I don’t think anybody in Lebanon is interested in a civil war. But if Kanaan or anyone in FPM thinks they can use Hezb weapons to their advantage in a way of reclaiming what they consider as lost privileges, they are dreaning and playing with fire and they will end up burning their hands and the hands of those who support them.

    JoC,
    I see your point regarding deterrence. But I also wanted to credit the Government on its decision to send in the National Army which was instrumental in bringing 1701 to light ending the war and securing the return of the hundreds of thousands who fled their homes. You didn’t mention that in your comment. The army was barred from the south for over 20 years by Hezb. I’m sure you are aware.

    Posted by majid | May 25, 2009, 6:48 pm
  42. JoC, QN, Maverick,
    Re: last 4 comments

    The arms can be put on the table immediately by proposing either one of two scenarios:
    1. The arms get declared as an affront to Lebanon as JoC said. That has been proven already. Immediate full implementation of Taef (senate formation, confessional representation, etc…) which requires the disarming of Hezbollah once the reasons for its arming (occupation of the south) have been removed. Those reasons have essentially been removed since 2000. The arms came under discussion at Doha as part of the deal. The current talks about National Defense Strategy are meant to reflect what went on in Doha to this regard. This will keep Lebanon intact as a State with a strong central authority.

    2. If that is not acceptable to Hezb then a division of the country into several autonomous provinces (essentially along sectarian lines) should be sought. The central government will have very minimal powers relating to external affairs, responsibilities in front of international bodies, coordination (but not control) of defense, managing of the current debt which has to be shared by the whole population etc… The provinces will be responsible for their own securities, their own economies, education, etc…

    The second scenario basically means the end of Lebanon. In this case, you can kiss good bye any meaningful commitment of development or military aid from most of the world. We are talking here about a 19th century Lebanon of fiefdoms. But short of a civil war or burying heads in the sand, that is feasible and more attractive.

    I don’t think anybody in Lebanon is interested in a civil war. But if Kanaan or anyone in FPM thinks they can use Hezb weapons to their advantage in a way of reclaiming what they consider as lost privileges, they are playing with fire and they may end up losing everything they have right now once and for all.

    JoC,
    I see your point regarding deterrence. But I also wanted to credit the Government about its decision to send in the National Army which was instrumental in bringing 1701 to light ending the war and securing the return of the hundreds of thousands who fled their homes. You didn’t mention that in your comment. The army was barred from the south for over 20 years by Hezb. I’m sure you are aware.

    Posted by majid | May 25, 2009, 6:49 pm
  43. majid,

    I don’t understand.

    Why do you see an autonomous provinces Lebanon as a way of preventing civil war?

    (a) What are the pretexts for such a war? & (b) How does such a solution prevent it.

    Posted by netsp | May 27, 2009, 3:03 am
  44. Netsp,

    My reasoning is as follows:

    Taif is the only consensus agreement on the constitutional level relevant to present day Lebanon. This agreement is coming under attack from M8 sources – mostly from Aoun. If Taif were to be violated a civil war is definite outcome.

    There is already an overdue requirement for Taif which stipulates that Hezb should disarm once the South has been liberated. The South has been liberated since 2000 and, Hezb has been dragging its feet ever since. You know very well, since basically you initiated this thread, that a Liberal Democracy, particularly in a multiethnic society like Lebanon, cannot function with one group holding the gun on everyone’s head in the name of an irrelevant resistance in the sense that this resistance has become outdated by developments. There are other stipulations for Taif but they are not as crucial or more correctly precarious to implement as the disarming of the militia of Hezb.

    The idea that FPM may resort to some kind of ‘grand bargain’ with Hezb, due to its alliance, in return for disarming is both not achievable and dreamlike and even if it is, contradicts Taif – hence the specter of a civil war looms due to such conduct. Aoun must come out with an unequivocal statement in support of Taif as is. Failing to do so, he would be committing a crime against the country similar to the one he committed in 1989 before his exile. Aoun actually has no political program aside from feuding.

    The main issue here is the weapons. Hezbollah has constituency among the Shia of Lebanon and it could rely on that constituency to marshal support for keeping its weapons. Aoun is playing on nostalgic Christian feelings of lost privileges (I said he has no political program before. He can only feud) to justify his support for Hezb and by extension for keeping its weapons. The cost of this support is very high for the Christian community in particular and for Lebanon as a Liberal Democracy. Aoun is in effect initiating the return to feudal politics in the hope of achieving a non achievable goal. The Christians didn’t just lose the civil war. They lost and continue to lose on the demographic front as well. It is illogical to argue for the restoration of such privileges in light of the current reality. Aoun and his followers must come to a clear understanding of this reality and move beyond it.

    The way forward is to implement Taif by first disarming Hezb by proposing either one of the two scenarios I mentioned in my previous comment. It is a national duty of the highest order that lies on the shoulders of Aoun and the other Christians to make a stand and demand alongside the pro-independent Lebanese the disarming of Hezb in accordance with Taif, which is the only way to maintain consensus on the constitutional level.

    Hezb cannot stand alone against such demand when it comes from over 70% of Lebanon. If Hezb refuses to submit to disarming, then the other scenario would be put forward as the only way to prevent a civil war. You may say that Hezb may refuse this scenario and may threaten to take the country by force. But it cannot win, neither militarily nor politically, plus there are other measures that can be taken internationally that can put a check on any Hezb’s attempt to take Lebanon by force. It may require holding another meeting such as Taif with Arab and other sponsors like France, the USA and perhaps Russia.

    Posted by majid | May 27, 2009, 3:58 am
  45. Netsp,

    My reasoning is as follows:

    Taif is the only consensus agreement on the constitutional level relevant to present day Lebanon. This agreement is coming under attack from M8 sources – mostly from Aoun. If Taif were to be violated a civil war is definite outcome.

    There is already an overdue requirement for Taif which stipulates that Hezb should disarm once the South has been liberated. The South has been liberated since 2000 and, Hezb has been dragging its feet ever since. You know very well, since basically you initiated this thread, that a Liberal Democracy, particularly in a multiethnic society like Lebanon, cannot function with one group holding the gun on everyone’s head in the name of an irrelevant resistance in the sense that this resistance has become outdated by developments. There are other stipulations for Taif but they are not as crucial or more correctly precarious to implement as the disarming of the militia of Hezb.

    The idea that FPM may resort to some kind of ‘grand bargain’ with Hezb, due to its alliance, in return for disarming is both not achievable and dreamlike and even if it is, contradicts Taif – hence the specter of a civil war looms due to such conduct. Aoun must come out with an unequivocal statement in support of Taif as is. Failing to do so, he would be committing a crime against the country similar to the one he committed in 1989 before his exile. Aoun actually has no political program aside from feuding.

    The main issue here is the weapons. Hezbollah has constituency among the Shia of Lebanon and it could rely on that constituency to marshal support for keeping its weapons. Aoun is playing on nostalgic Christian feelings of lost privileges (I said he has no political program before. He can only feud) to justify his support for Hezb and by extension for keeping its weapons. The cost of this support is very high for the Christian community in particular and for Lebanon as a Liberal Democracy. Aoun is in effect initiating the return to feudal politics in the hope of achieving a non achievable goal. The Christians didn’t just lose the civil war. They lost and continue to lose on the demographic front as well. It is illogical to argue for the restoration of such privileges in light of the current reality. Aoun and his followers must come to a clear understanding of this reality and move beyond it.

    The way forward is to implement Taif by first disarming Hezb by proposing either one of the two scenarios I mentioned in my previous comment. It is a national duty of the highest order that lies on the shoulders of Aoun and the other Christians to make a stand and demand alongside the pro-independent Lebanese the disarming of Hezb in accordance with Taif, which is the only way to maintain consensus on the constitutional level.

    Hezb cannot stand alone against such demand when it comes from over 70% of Lebanon. If Hezb refuses to submit to disarming, then the other scenario would be put forward as the only way to prevent a civil war. You may say that Hezb may refuse this scenario and may threaten to take the country by force. But it cannot win, neither militarily nor politically, plus there are other measures that can be taken internationally that can put a check on any Hezb’s attempt to take Lebanon by force. It may require holding another meeting such as Taif with Arab and other sponsors like France, the USA and Russia.

    Posted by majid | May 27, 2009, 3:58 am
  46. Taking a slight tangent majid,

    You are slaves to the same paradigm problems as Israel. It’s quite ironic considering the typical Lebanese demonization of your cousins to the south.

    The nation state paradigm that is so prevalent these days is relatively new. It’s easy to forget that.

    When the idea was being conceived, the usual idea was that borders be drawn in a way that creates nation states. Lebanon & Israel (and quite a few other states) worked out solutions that pandered to the nationalism(s) that preceded the states. They prevented a new nationalism from evolving around the state.

    Who would have thought that the preferred solution would have been manufacturing the nation rather then the state?

    Posted by netsp | May 27, 2009, 5:14 am
  47. I agree with your last observation. In the case of Lebanon, it was never a nation in the full sense of the word. The civil war may have created realities that eventually would have helped to shape it into one. But, the return to feudal politics is threatening its fulfillment. I linked in a previous thread an article from the time of the 1982 invasion which highlighted and exposed this vulnerability of the State of Lebanon:

    http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,925494-1,00.html

    In addition, countries that were created in the region after the First World War inherited the old ‘millet’ system that was administered by the Ottomans and which is now expressed by the sectarian divides throughout the region. That system worked fine as long as there was a strong central authority. But with the collapse of that authority, the centrifugal forces are still felt throughout and no more so than in the microcosm, Lebanon. Unfortunately, as the linked article points out, Lebanon had no say in the choice of its neighbors (not shifting any blame). But, being the microcosm is a blessing, a curse and a message all at once.

    Posted by majid | May 27, 2009, 7:14 am

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