In an article published yesterday in Forbes, Washington Institute fellow and former Pentagon official David Schenker weighs recent critiques of America’s efforts to strengthen the Lebanese Armed Forces. He writes: “Many in Lebanon are concerned that U.S. weaponry enables the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) to defend the state neither from Israel nor from local al-Qaida affiliates.” Schenker’s response: the point of military aid is not to present some kind of a robust deterrence of the IDF but rather to help build up the LAF’s abilities to contain local threats to stability.
Andrew Exum made a similar point in an email to me this morning:
“I do not know of anyone in U.S. policy circles who thinks the LAF can be built up to ever stand up to even the Syrian Army – much less the IDF. As a CSIS report made clear, the LAF needs $1 billion investment just to address current deficiencies. Since the United States is not exactly awash in money these days, policy-makers have to think hard about how military assistance is spent. At the end of the day, U.S. policy-makers and the Lebanese just want two different things. Generals in the LAF wants a mechanized, air-land battle group capable of fighting the armies of nation-states. U.S. policy-makers desire a LAF trained and equipped to defeat insurgents and terrorist groups at home, which, honestly, is seen the likelier future threat environment than air-land battles between heavy armor divisions in the Biqaa` Valley. The two sides simply have competing visions of what is the best way to train and equip the LAF, and a military as badly in need of investment as the LAF has little room to pick and choose from the aid on offer.”
While I tend to agree with Exum and Schenker’s broader argument about the point of military aid, I also think that they’re not quite reading the Lebanese “critiques” so accurately. No one — especially not Hassan Nasrallah — really believes that the United States is actually going to consider outfitting the Lebanese Air Force with F-16s. What would be the point? They wouldn’t scramble to engage Israeli overflights, nor would they be used to secure Lebanon’s border with Syria. So what would be the purpose? Answer? Image, baby.
When Lebanese politicians complain about a lack of seriousness on America’s part to cough up military aid, it’s mostly just rhetoric. What Lebanon really needs is the unglamorous stuff: bullets, guns, humvees, helicopters. But we Lebanese like glamorous stuff. We are a glamorous people.
But don’t take my word for it. Lucky for you, the Qnion has gotten its hands on a secret transcript of Defense Minister Elias al-Murr’s meeting with Jeffrey Feltman, Assistant Secretary of State and former Ambassador to Lebanon. See for yourselves…
Murr: So good to see you! It’s been too long.
Feltman: Indeed it has. I miss Lebanon sooooo much. The food, the culture, the skiing and swimming on the same day. Fabulous.
Murr: Yeah. So, whaddaya got?
Feltman: It’s your lucky day. I’ve just gotten word from the Pentagon that we’ve been authorized to supply Lebanon with a small fleet of… are you ready for this?
Feltman: Are you really ready? Cause it’s gonna be big!
Murr: I’m ready!
Feltman: You suuuuuuure??
Murr: Just tell me already!!
Feltman: Ok ok, keep your shirt on. (Whipping out a picture of a small airplane from behind his desk) Ta-da!!!!! I give you, the Armed Caravan!
Feltman: Well, what do you think?!
Murr: You’ve got to be kidding me. This is a joke, right?
Feltman: What? No. Why?
Murr: An… Armed… Caravan?
Feltman: (looking hurt) Yeah? So?
Murr: What are we supposed to do with that thing? Deliver mana’eesh to our border patrols?
Feltman: Ha ha, well actually…
Murr: Take ministers on sightseeing tours?
Feltman: Ahem, I hardly think that’s…
Murr: Put out forest fires?
Feltman: Mr. Defense Minister. I’m sorry, but that’s the best that I can do. What were you hoping for?
Murr: (muttering) A few F-16s wouldn’t have killed you.
Feltman: Ha ha ha ha ha ha!
(Murr glares at him)
Feltman: I’m sorry. That kind of just slipped out. But seriously, F-16s? Really? Let’s not kid ourselves.
Murr: I promise not to use them!
Feltman: Aww, that’s sweet. I know you won’t. But honestly, Lebanon really can’t afford them. And that’s an awful lot of money to spend on some planes that we won’t let you use.
Murr: Look, how about renting them to us?
Feltman: Ummm… excuse me?
Murr: Couple of days a year — Independence Day and Army Day. That’s all we really need. You can take them back for the rest of the year and we’ll pretend like we’ve got them hidden away someplace.
Feltman: Hmmm… that’s not a bad idea.
Murr: Because, honestly, Jeff… I can’t take this back to the President. I mean, it’s insulting. No offense.
Murr: It’s like, one day you’re driving an Alfa Romeo and the next day you’re in a Honda Civic or some shit. You gotta move up in the world, man. Wa law?
Feltman: I think I see what you mean. It’s like, right now you’re in a one-bedroom apartment in Hazmieh, and instead of moving into a pimp-ass crib on the Corniche, you’re moving back in with your parents in Baabdat or something.
Feltman: Or, like, you’re partying in Gemmayze and what you really want is to get into Sky Bar, but I’m handing out passes to some busted-ass dive bar in Qoreitem or some shit.
Murr: Now you’re getting it.
Feltman: Ok, well I’ll see what the Pentagon has to say about it. In the meantime, shall we drop the Cessna offer?
Murr: (snatching the picture off Feltman’s desk) Nah, I’ll use it to fly me to Cyprus once a month for vacation.
Feltman: Well, it doesn’t quite fly that far.
Feltman: I’m just messing with you! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!!!!
Murr: Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!!!!!
Feltman: Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!!!!!
Murr: Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!!!!!
Feltman: Aw man… Good times.
LOL!! Excellent! I could actually see them having this wonderful conversation in front of my eyes!! 🙂
Feltman should have replied to Murr when he asked for the F16 by saying “why do you need F16, Lebanon has Hezbollah”
On a serious note, I’d say that what the LAF and ISF need is more, and more serious, training, not more hardware. Like crowd control, no one in Lebanon seems to know how to do this. I don’t think the police even have handcuffs, just clubs and guns.
To me, the argument is not that the US and Lebanon have conflicting visions on what the LAF needs, but rather that the US’s take on “terrorist groups” is complicated and confusing, and there is a lack in understanding that the only group strong enough to protect the boarders is defined as a terrorist organization by the US (Hezbollah).
It seems absurd for the only goal of military support to be to “defeat insurgents and terrorist groups at home,” and not to also protect the country from neighboring countries.
As most people living in Lebanon realize, Hezbollah provides infrastructure and social services in parts of the country where the government does not, in addition to boarder protection that the LAF cannot provide.
If Hezbollah is “defeated,” then who will protect Lebanon (at least the Southern boarder) from neighboring countries? Not the LAF, because clearly, “I do not know of anyone in U.S. policy circles who thinks the LAF can be built up to ever stand up to even the Syrian Army – much less the IDF.
Hahaha hilarious as always!! I can never get enough of the Qnion dialogs!
oh and ahamma shi:
“the skiing and swimming on the same day” 😀
sean, don’t forget the fuhuud – an elite group trained to fling rocks downhill at protesters outside the u.s. embassy
just to promote discussion, i doubt the laf wants the state-like powers a. exum suggests they want. wouldn’t present sinecures – free phone calls, subsidized tuition and discount cocktails at a nice pool – suffice?
This hybridization of the news is dangerous, I must admit that it must have taken me a minute before it dawned on me that the Forbes column is a real thing 🙂 Good work.
I have already contacted Mr. Feldman to suggest that he should ask the Lebanese authorities to become the Costa Rica of the ME.
You mean the prostitution capital of the whole region?
in 2007 a delegation of US Government contractors presented General Suleiman in his office in Yarzeh an offer to rebuild all the LAF barracks in Lebanon including Ryak and Kleyat AB with available DOD funds using Lebanese subcontractors all he had to do was make an official request including the details of the barracks and airfields he would like rebuilt or refurbished.
He strangely stood up and went around offering Patchi chocolate from a box than sat down with a weird smile on his face and declared that all the LAF barracks are in perfect condition and the LAF prefers to have surface to air missiles instead.
A week later al Safir newspaper and oddly enough Debkafile both ran a story uncovering the “conspiracy” about the US wanting to build a military base in the Lebanon 🙂
Thanks for the Qnion, it’s really funny.
Murr’s comment about Alfa Romeo brought a smile to my face, as I am an Alfa enthousiast and own an older one.
I was saying to myself “who knows, QN could be an Alfisti as well”.
On a serious note, if I were deciding the military aid under the mentioned constrains, I’ll request a fleet of helos that have dual functionality of military operations capabilities as well as fighting mountain forest fires.
Maintenance for fixed wings military jets is just too expensive. Their vulnerability in the neigborhood is too high. Anti-aircraft systems would be way more cost effective, but Jeff will balk at that too.
Good one man… hilarious!!
I think the real news of the day is Israel’s re-taking of the hummus title. http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1141319.html
The linked article claims that Israeli cooks prepared the dish. However, the CNN reporter covering the story yesterday claimed that the hummus was created at a nearby factory. http://edition.cnn.com/video/#/video/world/2010/01/08/flower.me.hummus.record.cnn?iref=allsearch
In your opinion what can the Lebanese do to retake this prestigious award? Especially in light of the fact that the Israeli’s have mechanized hummus making. 🙂
I propose a letter writing campaign to the people at Guinness requesting the award be taken away since the dish was not man-made…
We want the (k)hummus title back!!!
And…The minister of Tourism; the amazing Mr. Abboud has promised the record back…maybe Pentagon can supply us with giant ladles….
David Schenker has the gall to state the reality of U.S. aid [“it is not meant–and will never be meant–to help Lebanon deter or defend against Israeli strikes”] and at the same time claim there is a “a fundamental Lebanese misreading of U.S. policy priorities”.
The critical reading of U.S. policy priorities in Lebanon is exactly that military aid is not meant to address the main security threat to Lebanon (Israel) but to enable Lebanon to conduct disciplinary actions against its population (on America’s behalf presumably). And this critique is mainly addressed to fellow Lebanese who proclaim loudly that the U.S. loves us, and the flow of dodge cars proves it.
And you can’t take Elias Murr as a responsible example of Lebanese armament demands. From his War Against Devil Worshippers to the Russian MIG deal, he’s been nothing but a national embarrassment.
We don’t need a national army that can hold off and defeat invading armies to enhance our security. Simply increasing the cost for any would-be invader would be a step forward. What the 2006 war did was to increase the perceived Israeli cost of invasion from near zero to something substantially higher. This diminishes the prospect of war substantially.
The Lebanese army would greatly benefit from anti-aircraft and anti-tank weapons. They wouldn’t need to be capable of bringing down the entire Israeli force. Simply downing one or two planes would radically change how often Israel wages war on us.
What the 2006 war did was raise immensely the cost of using “resistance”. You use the “resistance” you trash Lebanon.
Let’s look at historical facts. Israeli dead in the first Lebanese war: 675
The second war: 121
The casualties do not deter Israel. Israel fights wars when it has to. The Israeli public can accept casualties when it is convinced that a war is necessary. The way to stop Lebanon-Israel wars is for Lebanon to control its militias and make sure they do not attack Israel.
But, let’s say the Lebanese army gets a system that can shoot down a couple of Israeli planes. At what cost though for the Lebanese army? If they shoot at Israel they will also be attacked and they are sitting ducks. By the way, Israel losses a couple of planes or so each year just from training exercises.
Do you think that if the IAF kept its flights south of the blue line would help ease tension?
And then what? Hizballah will be able to build up its forces without Israel gathering intelligence? Israel flies over Lebanon to gather information for the next war in case it happens.
Somehow, I knew that would be your answer. I just felt like asking it anyway.
How about this one:
Do think returning the Shebaa farm to Lebanon would also ease tension? I have the feeling though that you’re gonna say that it is Syrian land, etc. Even then, why not give it back to Lebanon, and then Lebanon and Syria can work on this issue over a cup of turkish coffee.
I don’t think I qualify as an Alfisti, but I remember taking a ride in an 80’s model 164 that belonged to one of my dad’s friend. Very smooth ride.
You should drive an old spider or an old GTV if you ever get the chance. Manual transmission, no power steering and they cling to the road on the curves nicely. Really fun to drive. They would be perfect for Metn and Keserwen roads.
If you’re ever in California, we can take a ride.
Let’s say Sheba is Lebanese land. Why is it so difficult for Lebanon and Syria to sign an agreement that it is and send this agreement to the UN? Israel will be forced to withdraw then. This is a case that you actually have the initiative in your hands. You can actually FORCE Israel to withdraw by a simple action. Why don’t you do it??? I know the answer, but do you???
Here are a few things Lebanon can do to ease tensions:
1) Commit that if Israel does not attack Lebanon, Lebanon will not attack Israel.
2) Make clear by a public announcement that Lebanon does not want to annihilate Israel.
3) Make clear that apart from Sheba and Ghajar, Lebanon has no other territorial disputes with Israel.
What do you think, can Lebanon muster a non-ambiguous statement about any of the 3 points above?
I know the answer too. I was trying to pull your chain a bit (no pun intended). Syria in public affirms that it is Lebanese land, but will only do so in writing after a border demarcation effort which would involve Israel withdrawing, or something like that. A classic circular situation.
But since it is not israeli land to start out with, why can’t israel take the high road and withdraw as a goodwill gesture, and let lebanon and syria work out the detail. But then we wouldn’t have all the suspense and dramas that Qnions can be written about, lol.
There is nothing circular about the situation. There is only Lebanese impotence and incompetence. Syria is a friend of Lebanon. I think only Hariri’s pet hamster did not visit Asad. Israel is Lebanon’s enemy. So why are you asking your enemy to do you a favor when you can ask your friends to give you a piece of paper and solve the problem? And if your friends do not do so, why do you not organize a demonstration in front of their Beirut embassy and apply pressure on them??? Why don’t you demand from Syria explanations on why they won’t help you??? Do you actually prefer to fight another war? I guess so.
And you are still clueless about what the real reason is why Syria won’t give Lebanon the piece of paper it needs to get Sheba back. If you ask nicely, I will tell you.
And you are still clueless about what the real reason is why Syria won’t give Lebanon the piece of paper it needs to get Sheba back. If you ask nicely, I will tell you.
Let me guess. It has something to do with Hariri’s pet hamster, right?
If I recall correctly, Hasn’t Nasrallah already made it clear that returning the Sheba farms will not change anything as far as the ‘resistance’ is concerned?
QN, could you conform this?
I seem to remember reading a translated speech where he said that as well as mentioned the names a couple of villages in Israeli territory he claims are Lebanese and said they will be the reason for continued resistance if and when the Sheba farms are returned.
With that in mind,the Sheba farms are really a non-issue with respect to continued hostilities between Israel and Lebanon.
On your #23 post. I’ll give you my personal view on these three points, as I don’t speak for Lebanon or anyone else for that matter, lol.
No 1 is a fair offer.
No 2 Lebanon along with the whole arab league offered Israel a comprehensive peace treaty in the Beirut 2002 plan (which included recognition and therefore no annihiliation). But Israel rejected the offer, which I think Israel shouldn’t have. BTW, a comprehensive peace deal is where it’s at in my view, as the peacemeal approach have proven ineffective to resolve the conflict.
No 3 Fair enough. Except that I’ve read that the Lebanese government still has a claim on some seven villages (don’t recall the names, Kfarsheeba??), whereby the dispute goes back to the 1920’s and some misunderstanding between the French and British demarcation efforts or something like that. Not an insurmountable problem in my view, if there is genuine intend among all parties to resolve the conflict once and for all. Heck, this spot can be turned into a competetion locale as to who can make the largest Hommos/khumus plater between Lebanon or Israel.
Oh, and I think an update from the Qnion is in order considering the latest Israeli-(Arab? Palestinian?) move in the ongoing Hummus war:
I would like to raise an issue that is sensitive to many Lebanese but yet it needs to be raised so if you want to respond please do so rationally and without cliches. I raise this issue with you because I like the general tone of your posts lol.
The need for a Lebanese Army that is well equipped rests on the premise that there is a need for one. Usually the answer to this question is the Israeli threat. I know as well as anyone what has transpired over the past 28 years or so but then when I look at history I find out that the first3-34 years were very peaceful without a single shot across the border. Keep in mind that Israel could have used the pretext of 1967 and then 1973 to make any advances that they wish over the Lebanese territory but they chose not to.
Is it possible to read history in such a way as to suggest that the Israeli aggression towards Lebanon was primarily as a result of provocations initiated from the Lebanese side of the borders. Neither Lebanon nor Palestine have anything to show for the misguided policy of allowing through the Arab league the PLO to “occupy” South Lebanon. We all have seen the videos of the warm welcome that the Lebanese citizens of the South showed the Israeli army when it removed the yoke of a revolution that has gone wrong. I will be the first to admit that the Israelis overstayed their welcome and became too ambitious in setting up a plyable friendly regime in Lebanon when they should have been satisfied in eliminating the PLO threat and then handing the territory back to the legitimate Lebanese government. I am sure that AIG will say that there was no legitimate government and so the Israelis felt that they have to stay. That is not important at the moment.Hezbollah gets established as a pureley religious force to do the work of God and get rid of the Zionist occupier. Well Israel left Lebanon and Iranian mullahs kept on arming and training Hezbollah to the extent that the PLO-stan was replaced by a Hezbollah-stan. AS if it was not enough to keep the pressure on the Israeli s and to act as a government within a government Hezbollah started a war that was devastating to the Lebanese infrastructure and we called that a divine victory. That is not the end of the story. We still have Hezbollah acting as the real power behind the thrown, always challenging the Israeli side by even threatening that Tehran at the Med will act upon orders from Iran if the Israelis and Iranians are to get into a shooting war.
So we get back to my original question: Isn’t it possible to gaurantee Lebanese Southern borders short of establishing a “strong” army? Let us assume , for the sake of argument that a major country or even group of countries is willing to sign a defense treaty with Lebanon gauranteeing the Southern border against invasions then would Lebanon still need an army? It is instructive to note that this is what has happebed on the Egyptian side and on the Jordanian side not to mention the self imposed discipline on the Syrian side. Why is Lebanon, the weakest chain in the link, not expected to act like the others?
Whatever “favors” the GOI does, it is met by more war. The most recent example is the pullout from Gaza.
The real issue (few here discuss) is the intolerant ideology of the Islamofascists (as G stated in post #27).
AIG understands the game quite well, and I think he explains it the Israeli position masterfully.
The feeling is mutual. I like your posts as well.
Unfortunate as it is and has always been a heart break for me, is that yes Lebanon has always been the weakest link in the chain, and thus has been abused by all, Israel, Syria, the arab league, PLO, internal militias, the west, you name it. Having the fractured nature of lebanese society in terms of different sects/interests didn’t help either in reducing outside interference.
Prior to 67 Lebanon didn’t have the physical means to wage any war. Back then the lebanese army was less than 10k in personnel. The egyptian, syrian, and jordanian armies were very powerful, and there was concensus that lebanon was not needed in the conflict on the arabs’ part. Confidence was in the air. But the 67 defeat changed the whole balance. Egypt and syria started preparing real hard for round two and lebanon was enlisted for the effort to apply pressure, while round two was being prepared. Lebanon was swept through this current. The current was very strong to resist.
In 69 the Cairo accord was signed with the blessing of the lebanese president, who in my view could have objected, given his unmatched executive powers at the time. But the current was just too strong, or who knows what went on behind closed doors.
The PLO grew very strong, and felt that they had an approved mandate to wage the low intensity war against Israel. The lebanese government was in a very uncomfortable position, as the Kataeb objected strongly to the new order. Thus you had the civil war.
HA became the product of the civil war, and the result of Israeli occupation of the south and the establishment of the SLA. Why did Israel stay even after the PLO left to Tunisia? What is the point? and the net result of this is HA. The shia used to complain about the PLO, but soon after started hating the israeli presence.
The 73 war was a game changer. Egypt did prove itself militarily. But afterward was being proded by the west to change sides. Plus the relationship with USSR was cooling for various reason, including not being provided with the best armements.
Then the 79 peace deal occured. The arab countries were furious at Egypt about going solo. But Egypt answered that its treaty obliges Israel to make peace with the rest soon after.
Then Jordan did its deal. Which left Syria hanging there, afraid to confront Israel directly. Thus naturally uses Lebanon to apply pressure.
In my view, the arabs should have stuck together and only seeked a comprehensive deal. It would have been better for all, including Lebanon and Israel. You can call it the law of unintended consequenses.
“I know as well as anyone what has transpired over the past 28 years or so but then when I look at history I find out that the first3-34 years were very peaceful without a single shot across the border.”
Are you stating that Lebanon did not fire across the border or Israel? Because if the latter then the above statement is not truly accurate. Israel began attacks on Lebanon as early as the mid to late 1950’s. Back then, there were no major threats from Lebanon. However, Israel wanted to draw Lebanon into the conflict. A good read on this is: Israel’s Sacred Terrorism, where Moshe Sharett’s describes in his diary how Israel decided to attack Lebanon in the late 1950s (I believe that is the date was) due to an attack that occurred in Israel before finding out who was responsible. Sharett was one of the very few that did not think that was a good idea.
Sorry didn’t address your question about the need for a strong lebanese army.
In an ideal world, where a comprehensive peace deal is reached, the treaties signed, should oblige all sides to reduce their forces and make them balanced to reduce the potentials for future mis-adventures.
The saved money will be better spent on other worthy needs.
A comprehensive peace will help Lebanon a lot in terms of economy.
As far the current status quo. The army needs lots investment to make it competitive with either Syria or Israel. This is not realistically achievable in terms of suppliers or available funds.