Hezbollah, Lebanon

The Saga Continues: Nicholas Noe Responds to Schenker, Hokayem

Nicholas Noe sent me this commentary to publish at QN; it’s a response to the debate about U.S. military funding for the Lebanese Army that we’ve hosted here over the past week. In other news, check out a preview of Jesse Aizenstat’s book on surfing in southern Lebanon. Also, the new Arab Reform Bulletin is out.

I’m off to beloved Beirut this afternoon, for a week. I will try to post between bites.


(Commentary for Qifa Nabki by Nicholas Noe, editor-in-chief of Mideastwire.com)

In July 2008, David Schenker posted a piece on Harvard’s MESH website that said: “The debate regarding U.S. support for the LAF has been fuelled by a contentious and factually inaccurate op-ed in the New York Times written by Nicholas Noe in mid-June. [As a result of] his article, “A Fair Fight for the Lebanese Army… No doubt, the Times received a flood of critical letters… Not surprisingly, it did not run any. Nevertheless, I still think it’s worth debunking some of the more egregious inaccuracies and bad thinking in Noe’s piece.”

At the time I declined to respond on MESH because of two unpleasant experiences with the editors who, on one occasion, had insisted on censoring certain criticism about the way that they “moderated” and restricted comment and, on another occasion, demonstrated that they only “vetted” charges which agreed with their right of center gravity (allowing statements about people having “gone native” and the like – quite apart from charges of “egregious inaccuracies”).

One year and half on from that episode – which, it should be said, was followed by more responsible and helpful criticism from Emile Hokayem and Andrew Exum – Schenker seems to have finally come clean, acknowledging frankly in Forbes.com what I and countless others had long argued: essentially, that the US refuses to alter Israel’s QME vis-à-vis Lebanon – and, therefore, ultimately refuses a credible exploration of how such an alteration, along with others steps, might underpin a peaceful strategy of integrating Hizbullah under the authority of a truly democratic state in Lebanon. (For those interested in the subject, I would suggest reading the 2009 enacted legislation that finally enshrines Israel’s QME into law).

“While U.S. taxpayer generosity, currently slated at over $100 million this year, will enhance LAF domestic counterterrorism capabilities,” Schenker wrote recently, “it is not meant–and will never be meant–to help Lebanon deter or defend against Israeli strikes.”

In July 2008, however, Schenker wrote on MESH: “Washington has fully backed the LAF…contrary to Noe’s assertion.”

“This and subsequent assistance,” he continued, “has not been subject to Israeli veto, but rather is based on a careful assessment of LAF operational requirements carried out by the United States and France.”

Well we now know what most of us, especially here in Lebanon, knew then – but this time with important, frank statements by a man who was an integral part of the Bush administration’s disastrous Lebanon policy: Since the inauguration of the Cedar Revolution in early 2005, US officials constantly and very publicly ratcheted up their rhetoric over the “unqualified” support – the total, unrestricted support for a robust LAF. But at the same time, “careful assessments” were not determining the quality and level of support – a desire to not disrupt Israel’s QME was.

At some point, the whole LAF-Bush Administration episode may stand as a classic exercise in how not to go about credible public diplomacy (as the rise and fall of the Cedar revolution should also stand as a test case of how not to go about a colour revolution).

Indeed, as the deputy chief of mission (DCM) in Beirut, William Grant, put it in an interview in pro-U.S. An-Nahar daily in August 2008, “There is nothing until now that the Lebanese Army requested and the Americans failed to provide. The army realizes that it can ask for whatever it wants and we did not offer it a limited list to choose from . . . there are no U.S. restrictions on what the army requests.” Later, in the same interview, Grant went a step further, explaining that, “We always hear complaints from the Lebanese people that the United States helps the Lebanese Army but it does not provide it with necessary weapons and equipment. This is totally not true.”

Beyond the clarity which he now brings to the discussion over the real limits of US support for the LAF, Schenker also raises a number of other points in his recent piece – some of which dovetail with Emile and Andrew’s thinking – which should also be taken to task by serious observers, scholars and partisans hoping to peacefully deal with Lebanon (and the region’s) problems:

First – “Lebanon received nearly $500 million worth of military material from Washington.” Actually, according to the Congressional Research service, by early 2009, only about $60 million had been delivered – kept in bay at that point to see how the June elections turned out, among other factors.

Second – “Washington has never been under any illusions regarding the political will of Lebanese politicians to employ the LAF in controversial missions, like securing the border with Syria or disarming Hezbollah, or the LAF’s ability to take on such missions. The aid program was not designed to accomplish these highly ambitious goals in the near term.”

This is not true – and Schenker knows it given his role in the Rumsfeld Pentagon. In fact, Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt told the Chicago Tribune in March 2006, after confirming an ongoing review: “We’re looking for stability. . . . An unstable Lebanon is a danger to itself, to its immediate neighbors and the region. This is part of our overall strategy.” He then asked, “The larger question is: Who is their enemy? Are they looking at Israel? Al-Qaeda? Syria? . . . In our minds, this is the army that sooner or later will have to stand up to the armed branch of Hezbollah.”

Shortly thereafter, amid ongoing hostilities during the July War (which, as we now know, we vigorously encouraged by the Bush administration as a means of destroying Hezbollah), one State Department spokesperson made the quid pro quo clear, on the record: if the LAF hoped for equipment, even spare parts, it would have to first focus on “using its military to keep Hizbullah in check,” he said. The point was underscored by U.S. officials later interviewed by International Crisis Group who “implied” that “the LAF must be trained and equipped to meet Hizbollah’s, not Israel’s, challenge.” Ironically, as Schenker also no doubt knows, the title for the original US assistance to the LAF in 2006-2007 was actually called “Restricting Hezbollah’s Operational Space.”

Of course, all of the US emphasis on building up the LAF to confront Hezbollah had real ramifications in the event that finally put an end to the whole adventure – May 2008 – when US officials realized that their effort to goad the army (and March 14) – to dangle the carrots of money and hardware – into a confrontation with Hezbollah was going to have disasterous effects. Schenker adds the “near term,” above, perhaps to hedge a bit, but he knows that the aid program was designed originally for a primary mission: having the LAF help, sooner better than later, in the mission of going after Hezbollah.

Third – “Consider that Syria, which devotes an estimated $6 billion per year to military expenditures, could not prevent Israel from destroying its nuclear facility in 2007–or from buzzing the presidential palace with its F-16s in 2006.” This is true, of course – but the argument implies that the LAF could never be reasonably built into a credible deterrent – which is wrong.

Emile has a helpful point on this score: “In the best of all worlds, we would have a serious defence review that would conclude that we need a military fashioned à la Hezbollah – special forces, light infantry, officers and NCOs that have a sense of initiative, good communication, anti-tank weaponry, good intelligence and reconnaissance assets, some helicopters, coastal radars, even air defence at some point – but hopefully without the thousands of rockets and missiles that Hezbollah deploys. Such a force would do a far better job at protecting Lebanon at a much cheaper cost, and the QME would not be an insurmountable problem.”

It may, as Aram at CSIS pointed out in 2009, cost $1 billion… but a credible deterrent can be built – all the more so since Hizbullah, as a model, is actually already serving as a key side in a (somewhat) credible (though awful and unsustainable) “balance of terror.” Allow the Lebanese state to buy SAM’s to protect population centers, allow it to create a national army along the lines of an asymmetrical conflict and allow an Arab state effort to gather funds for doing so (Aram and I both have proposals along the lines of a Paris-type conference).

Emile’s “best of all worlds” could go forward if the US got behind the vision instead of obstructing it – indeed, Hezbollah would be enormously hard pressed to resist such an effort, as well as the necessary follow through which would focus on ending the Shebaa issue and moving ahead with democratic reforms of the power structure. Of course, the LAF needs to be reformed in all this – but it can only happen in the context of a credible plan to bolster its capabilities to do what national armies should do instead of unelected militias – defend the whole, the entire country, from all threats, foreign and domestic.

The two approaches can and should proceed hand in hand with the ultimate aim of putting enough domestic political pressure on Hizbullah that it integrates fully under the authority of the state. The Obama administration, though, needs to decide: either stop the obstructions or vigorously assist in creating a real, democratic state in Lebanon that can finally protect all of its people. The time for a decision, sadly, seems to be running out.
wordpress stats


39 thoughts on “The Saga Continues: Nicholas Noe Responds to Schenker, Hokayem

  1. The record of economic development all over the globe since WWII has not been especially bright. A major errorr that keeps on being repeated time and again is the total disregard for the principle of “low absorptive capacity” in many of the poorer countries and regions of the world.
    I am of the opinion that the same principle holds in military development. It is often a waste to just throw good resources after bad in order to win political favouritism of a ruling group or a popularity contest from the citizens of the recipient nation.
    What is clear is that any effective program to help modernize the LAF must take the constraints imposed by structure, competence, facilities etc… Mr. Noe might be totally aware of these constraints but only Mr Hokayem spelled them out :

    “Lebanese national security strategy, a defense doctrine, a division of labor between LAF and ISF, a better chain of command, procurement, training and HR policies, reorganization of the force ”

    That must be the starting point and we must also realize that to satisfy the above a lot of time effort and training is needed.

    My hope is that such a serious review will conclude that there is no need for a large deterrent force. A well organized ISF is probably more important to law and order.

    Posted by ghassan karam | January 15, 2010, 2:15 pm
  2. pfffffff…. nicholas noe is a reference nowadays?


    Posted by Baptist | January 15, 2010, 3:14 pm
  3. Gus;

    Ditto…I will not elaborate or comment re: smoke and mirrors non factual anaalysis of Mr. Noe!!!

    Posted by danny | January 15, 2010, 3:47 pm
  4. “Allow the Lebanese state to buy SAM’s to protect population centers, allow it to create a national army along the lines of an asymmetrical conflict and allow an Arab state effort to gather funds for doing so (Aram and I both have proposals along the lines of a Paris-type conference).”

    It’s a beautiful vision, Nick, but you’re assuming that the LAF actually wants a flexible, assymetrical force instead of a general-heavy, armor-focused anachronism that keeps the brass happy with their chauffeurs and their educational benefits. Either that or MIGs, which will bankrupt the LAF and be destroyed on the ground in the event they’re ever needed.

    It’s true that the U.S. is in no rush to provide sophisticated weaponry to the LAF, but the Lebanese state has failed to provide the organization with the most basic elements of a modern force, from vehicles, to basic weapons, to fuel. In such an environment, the U.S. $100 million annual contribution in equipment and training is significant. Not sexy, but significant.

    Posted by mushkelji | January 15, 2010, 7:24 pm
  5. mushkelji your comment is important – thanks for addressing the ideas. I think its important to see the “reform the LAF” and “give them a real fighting chance” arguments not as a cart before the horse argument – they are mutually dependent on one another (just like there are key leaders in the LAF who want to maintain status and get prestige weapons for prestige value – as there are in ALL armies – so to are there many leaders and rank and file members who could provide significant energy towards building a real defence force, and this should not be discounted). Finally, my problem with the US contribution is the way officials blew that support way out of proportion – they mislead the lebanese public, members of congress and even their own allies here in Lebanon – creating false expectations. This proved to be a major contributor to the failure of US policy in lebanon during the Bush administration.

    Posted by nicholas noe | January 16, 2010, 4:36 am
  6. @mushkelji:
    I wouldn’t necessarily qualify it as “significant”. It achieves a level of intentionally directed internal stability and little more. It certainly doesn’t provide the means necessary to adequately defend Lebanon from invasion, the deterrence for which, and very real means of defense, is provided by HA.

    Really, in terms of defense, where would little Lebanon be without HA’s military prowess? The southern border would no doubt have been pushed beyond the eastern extension of the Litani River; Lebanon’s prize water resource.

    Posted by Mark Pyruz | January 16, 2010, 10:42 am
  7. Mark Pyruz,
    But don’t you see how circular is your argument? You asume that the southern border would have been invaded for no cause when it never was and then you proceed to justify the need for Hezbollah.
    The exact same logic can be used to show show the reverse. Israel would have respected the border had it not been for the constant provocations. Remove the provocations , sign a peace accord and voila there is no need for the “resistance”.
    Actually the second scenario is more credible since the Lebanese Israeli border was peaceful until the Palestinian armed resistance came on the scene. But the best proof of the feasability of the peace process is the Egyptian and then the Jordanian peace agreements with Israel. Syria on the other hand wants to have it both ways, pretend to be a leader of the resistance movement as long as the resistance is carried on some other place.

    Posted by ghassan karam | January 16, 2010, 12:15 pm
  8. @Mark:

    I agree that the U.S. has not taken on the role of financing LAF to the tune necessary to provide a credible defensive capability against Israel. However, as I noted, almost all new equipment, ammo, and training that the LAF is receiving is from U.S. funding. I see no reason why the U.S. taxpayer should pour more than $100 million/year (which, by the way, is extremely high on a global level and historically atypical for Lebanon) until the Lebanese or their Arab benefactors step up to the plate, too. The vast majority of the LAF’s meager budget goes to extravagant expenditures for the inflated officer corps, so until the Lebanese get serious about developing a credible strategy for improving their armed forces, I don’t see why the burden should lie on the U.S. Buying the Lebanese high-priced, high-tech weaponry is not going to build the institution or make it more credible.

    Posted by mushkelji | January 16, 2010, 12:29 pm
  9. Ghassan,
    What did the Palestinians do to provoke the Zionists to take over the country?

    What did Hizballah do to provoke the Israelis into occupying South Lebanon in ’82?

    How did the Palestinians ‘come on the scene’? Did they show up from Mars? The Israelis kicked them out of their land, and decreed their return a ‘provocation’. Just as they occupied half of Lebanon and decreed the people’s resistance a ‘provocation’.

    Israel’s actions created the Palestinian resistance, as it created the Lebanese resistance. Let’s not confuse the historical record.

    The whole notion that Israel is simply responding to provocations is false and flies in the face what Israeli leaders themselves have said. I cannot understand why Lebanese persist in ascribing innocence to Israeli actions when the Israeli actors themselves openly admit their intentions.

    Israel requires Lebanon as a client state. They see any Lebanon that does not abide by its demands (regarding Palestinians, Syria, resources, foreign policy) as a ‘provocation’ and use whatever means (including force) to bring us around.

    As for your two examples of a successful peace:
    The Egypt route is to offer peace to Israel, then have it rebuffed. Then you launch a massive military campaign to show the Israelis you mean business, and then sign a peace deal. Without the 1973 war they would never have gotten back the Sinai. Then you keep the peace by:
    A. Spending billions of dollars on arms per year.
    B. Starve and humiliate the Palestinians like a pro.

    The Jordanian route is to completely submit to Israel, and become a client state with a puppet government. You institute a local branch of the CIA in order to monitor and deal with ‘undesirables’. For bonus points, you train native imperial guards for various colonial projects in the region.

    I reject both options. I have a right to live free without joining the Zionist project.

    Posted by RedLeb | January 16, 2010, 1:23 pm
  10. 1) US foreign military assistance is first and foremost a public subsidy for US defense contractors, so please let us dispense with the comments about American generosity or at least qualify them. And even if you are US taxpayer like me, if this blip looms large, your radar on government waste is malfunctioning. I will, however, allow excess defense articles as evidence of American virtue (you are welcome for this year’s truck!).

    2) Hokayem, Schenker and Noe are all quite selective in the ‘evidence’ they marshal to support their ‘positions.’

    2a) Hokayem wants Lebanon to develop a coherent and realistic national defense strategy before complaining about the kind of military ‘aid’ it receives. While I don’t think anyone would argue against the development of a “Lebanese national security strategy, a defense doctrine, a division of labor between LAF and ISF, a better chain of command, procurement, training and HR policies, reorganization of the force,” one need only to look at US military aid to virtually every other country in the region (with the exception of Israel, and even there) to wonder why the Lebanese bar has to be so high for so little, especially when the US literally dumps very expensive weapons platforms in the Gulf on an almost annual basis so that they may gather sand. Given that Hokayem knows his way around DC, I am a bit bemused by his castigation of the Lebanese for their obsession with image, access, etc. Let’s just say there is a reason Lebanese pols feel so at home when they visit the Beltway.

    2b) Schenker, like all WINEPers, is in a difficult rhetorical position as any and all of his arguments must make it appear that US and Israel have identical strategic and political interests in Lebanon. This is quite hard to do (especially given that Israelis don’t agree on what their interests in Lebanon are) and why the institute’s analysis on things Lebanon is often quite humorous. His post on MESH is instructive. He knocks Noe for saying Israel has a veto, but nowhere does he say that that is untrue (de facto then, de jure now). Of course, it is interesting to see the political orientations of the architects of US aid to the LAF (Schenker:Winep; Karlin:Aipac), but really these people are actually not as ideological as some of their colleagues, which is why you can read them explaining to the Israelis why LAF aid is good for Israel. Moreover, it matters not what is in their heart of hearts as it cannot be stressed enough that there can be no aid to Lebanon that cannot be sold on the Hill as beneficial to Israel. This explains why people from certain organizations end up in the positions they end up in and why Lebanese-based lobbyists team up with Israel advocates in DC.

    2c) I am not really sure why Noe expected a fair hearing from MESH, as anyone familiar with its proprietors could predraft the content. Secondly, Noe is quite selective with his quotes. Kimmitt probably knows a great deal about Columbia, but Lebanon, not so much. Moreover, Noe completely ignores the various debates within US policy circles, which is the necessary context for using any quote from any official or concerned party. I invite him to dig into the debates over 1559 in the US so that he may provide greater context for US policy toward Lebanon during the Lebanese Intifada. If you study this stuff long enough, you realize there are no policies, just policy battles.

    3) I think this is an important issue, especially as the US military is basically now in charge of US foreign policy (I don’t know if that is a good thing or a bad thing, but have a look at agency budgets if you doubt this is a real thing), so it is likely that in the future military aid will take on a lot of the political, intelligence and development issues that were traditionally the purview of today’s agency backwaters: State, CIA, USAID, etc. So it is not for nothing that Americans are now conceiving military aid as means to secure not merely security arrangements but ‘societal transformations’ (enter the COINdinistas, and their ‘population-centric’ tactics and strategy). Military aid is now, and will be more so in the future, the grease for the political wheel. And as everyone knows, politics is almost entirely about image and access: so a tank is a tank, except when it is not a tank.

    4) Politics in Lebanon are complex, as they are in the United States, and everywhere else. When those politics cross borders it only gets messier. A little less certitude and a little more curiosity from the parties would, in my feeble mind, increase their credibility on these issues, result in more fruitful dialogue and contribute to more decent, more sustainable policies. Surely, that is something we can all agree on and aspire toward (schoolmarm mode: off).

    Posted by david | January 16, 2010, 2:06 pm
  11. This is a good discussion. I’m not sure that Emile is following along, but I think Nick is.

    Cheers from Beirut

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | January 16, 2010, 2:41 pm
  12. RedLeb,
    I have no doubt that we agree on the basic issue of the gross injustice that took place in 1948. I do not believe , however, that this is what we are currently discussing. You might disagree.
    The current thread is about the effectivness of resistance in Lebanon and whether it is needed when the resistance itself proclaims that its aim is the defense of Lebanon against Israeli aggression. Given that limited goal then the record will support my contention that Palestinian military cross border operations , the establishment of a Fatahland in the south were major factors in the Israeli operations against Lebanon. Would the Israelis have waged their campaign into Lebanon under a different pretext? That would be nothing else but a guessing game. My guess is that they would not have made a move. It does matter whether they moved for purely expansionary reasons or whether the move was in retaliation to acts across the border.

    I do not see major differences between the Egyptian Israeli accord and that of Jordan. In both cases hostilities ended and a semblence of normality was established. But obviously the Syrian option is the most difficult to accept. Syria has maintained a peaceful border with Israel with an iron grip, not one shot has been fired across the Golan heights and yet they are the biggest booster of military resistance as long as that resistance is in Lebanon. A perfect case of NIMBYism if there ever was any.
    I do not believe that the examples of military resistance in the case of the Palestinian Israeli conflict have been productive. I would go even further by suggesting that civil disobedience stands a far better chance of success.
    One more point: Why are we to rejectthe idea,(Not that there are any offers on the table)of peace across the border with Israel if that border can be gauranteed through a credible major third player? Is our goal a peaceful border or is it something else? If it is a peaceful border then I can think of better and more effective ways of establishing that compared to the instability, uncertainty and even illegality of an extralegal militia that is financed and trained by a foreign power and whose existence is a challenge to the state.

    Posted by ghassan karam | January 16, 2010, 2:45 pm
  13. Meanwhile, the Lebanese benefit from a well proven, battle tested alternative, in the form of HA (with indispensable technical and arms support from Iran).

    After the results of the 33-Day War, and the Iraqi insurgency-where a full-time force of a few thousand insurgents managed to inflict over 35,000 casualties on the most powerful nation on earth)- nations like Iran have reorganized elements of their defense doctrine.

    The only weak spot for this more practical and battle proven “alternative” is SAMs. For which the US is totally off limits, and the Russians unreliable. Nevertheless, such would be a game changer.

    US provided, bulked up paper tiger armies like Egypt’s are exactly that. The role of this defense spending (like many pro-US/Israel arab nations) is at least as much for internal considerations, as it is for national defense- and many times more. Did I mention it also affords a tangible level of client-state dependence?

    Posted by Mark Pyruz | January 16, 2010, 2:51 pm
  14. @ghassan:
    Politically (and to a degree, militarily), I suppose it comes down to whether you would be content with a Lebanon that, like Egypt’s role in the siege of Gaza, has certain imposed policies upon it that are to the exclusive gain of a foreign cause- all to the physical detriment of an indigenous people scattered about the region.

    If you’re content with that, and all that it entails, politically, then yes, that option appears advantageous. But beware! With such entanglements comes intentionally directed levels of dependence. And just take a look at the models in your neighborhood- monarchial or private, they are dictatorships. And they remain greased as long as this foreign cause retains preeminence, in and over your country’s policy orientations.

    Posted by Mark Pyruz | January 16, 2010, 3:10 pm
  15. Redleb,

    In the case that Israel attacks Iran and only Iran, what is your position, should Hezbollah attack Israel then? And if they did, what would you attitude towards them be?


    I think the above question is the way to a meaningful dialog. From a practical point of view, why would you care if Hezbollah has weapons if they promised to use them only in the case Israel attacks Lebanon (and of course you believed them)? As an Israeli, I would be fine with that also.

    The issue in my opinion that is realistic to solve is not about disarming Hezbollah, but about aligning Hezbollah and Lebanese interests. Let’s wait for Redleb’s answer and go from there.

    Posted by AIG | January 16, 2010, 5:34 pm
  16. AIG,
    I have answered this questions many times in the past and I have posted two rather long columns about it both on Yalibnan.com and my own blog aggregator. I agree with your premise that this is the most meaningful questio at the moment. Before i give you my short answer let me add that this is not the only issue that counts. I strongly believe that under a rule of law no one , not even Hezbollah, should be allowed to act in an exceptional way to others i.e. even if they promise not to use their weapons except against Israeli attacks… they should not be allowed to maintain a cache of weapons. It is that simple.
    I guess, unintentionally, I have answered your question. No Lebanon should not be the sacrificial lamb for Qom or anybody else for that matter.
    BTW, the picture of Za’atar was very apetizing but yet I would insist on cinamon raisin bagels with real cream cheeze if you are still willing to place a bet. I would be willing to specify a time limit, Oct 2oth, 2101.

    Posted by ghassan karam | January 16, 2010, 7:08 pm
  17. Ghassan,
    If the time limit is Oct 20th, 2010 you are on. 2101 is too far away 🙂

    Again, I agree with you but think your goal is too aggressive for the near future. You have to build the ground for it slowly by allowing most Lebanese the opportunity to find for themselves that the Hezbollah excuses are fake.

    Posted by AIG | January 16, 2010, 7:24 pm
  18. David – in response to your point on digging deeper into 1559, are you suggesting such an exploration would change – or add to – the basic thrust of what I was saying? On Kimmitt who you say, “probably knows a great deal about Columbia, but Lebanon, not so much;” I used him as but one example of a top US official – who had come here to Lebanon and who was a key decision-maker on LAF policy – to illustrate the point which ex-bush folks like to now avoid, i.e. the thrust of their policy which centered on going after Hezbollah… and suggesting that the QME with Israel could be shifted if that task was taken up by the LAF.

    Posted by nicholas noe | January 17, 2010, 5:08 am
  19. Can someone explain to us commoners what QME stands for? It would help if you spelled out it at least once in the post before you go on to use it several times.

    Posted by ali | January 17, 2010, 10:56 am
  20. Ali

    It stands for

    Quantified Machismo Exponent.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | January 17, 2010, 11:08 am
  21. Ghassan,
    Moshe Dyan and Ben-Gurion were fantasising in the 1950s about annexing south Lebanon and installing a puppet regime in the north, way before Fatahland and all its ‘provocations’. There is no guessing game. Israel has declared repeatedly, in its leaders own words, that it is an expansionist colonial project. It is not interested in peace. It has repeatedly used wars to implement policy and expand its holdings.

    It doesn’t matter if we agree or not about the injustice of 1948. It matters more that we understand the lesson of 1948: If you do not have an effective army, you will be evicted from your land and the international community will not lift a finger to help you.

    Please read more about Jordan and Egypt to understand the differences in their peace agreements. Jordan was never hostile to Israel. And Egypt only managed to sign one after a full scale war. You would then realise the two examples you trumpet give us two alternatives:
    1. Becoming a client state with a puppet regime.
    2. Launching a war where Hezballah knocks down a dozen F-16s and invades Israel, after which we sign a peace deal.

    We want peace with sovereignty, not peace at any cost. That entails having the force of arms to protect your sovereignty. There is no other ‘guarantee’. The US is not going to spend men and money to make sure little Lebanon doesn’t get attacked. They don’t care about Lebanon. The only reason its even on their radar is because we share a border with Israel. Any peace deal available now and for the foreseeable future is going to be at Lebanon’s expense and to Israel’s benefit, much like the current aid to the LAF.

    Posted by RedLeb | January 17, 2010, 11:32 am
  22. Hahahah. That’s about right. Even “edge” is kind of macho sounding.

    Posted by sean | January 17, 2010, 11:34 am
  23. Hi Nicholas,

    What I am saying is the US policy toward Lebanon is not very coherent, as thus it makes itself available to all kinds of interpretations, based on one’s politics and/or positions, and re-interpretations. It does cohere at the broadest, most generalized level, but that is not very interesting and does not explain particular actions (it just gives those actions reference points).

    1) First of all you have to be real careful with Lebanese journalists interviewing US officials (press conferences are different, but some of the same dynamics apply). For example, it is not unsusual for a an-nahar correspondent to employ the Raghida Dergham-Steven Colbert school of questioning (‘is the syrian regime the worst or is the syrian regime the worst in all of human history?’ Of course, the same applies in the US-UK, i.e. an interview with David Welch on Fox will sound different than one with the Guardian.

    2) You have to appreciate the factionalism, which is a result of different politics, policies and bureaucratic realities.

    In re: 1559 and its aftermath. The great irony is that it was DOS that preferred a more subtle, more nuanced, less maximalist approach to its implementation (more in line with the traditional US approach to Lebanon), but for bureaucratic reasons, Lebanon became State’s baby and thus the arm-twisting and rhetorical volleys of mssr. welch and mssr feltman.

    The military aid only introduced a new dynamic into this policy battle, ie an arena for arguments about a maximalist or a minimalist approach. But it also did more than that, because it brought in the military bureaucracy which has its own interests, politics, policies etc. Moreover when a two-three-or even four star or high-ranking DOD official gets parachuted into Beirut for 25 minute tete-a-tete with his Lebanese counterpart, his words to a journalist are more than likely just whatever he can remember from his briefing by the embassy’s military attache or a memo from some Pentagon policy wonk.

    These statements do not amount to policy. If you put them all together and contextualize them, then you might get reasonably close, but there is no reason to take them a face value (nor Schenker’s post facto commentary).

    I am afraid a blog is not the best place to get into the nuts-n-bolts of all this, but if you like we can go through the details one by one, here if QN wants, or offline.


    Posted by david | January 17, 2010, 11:38 am
  24. AIG,
    I don’t believe it is up to Hezballah to retaliate for a strike on Iran. And I don’t either Hezballah or Iran would think it an appropriate way to respond. Nasrallah has said as much in one of his speeches.

    If they did so, I would be against it.

    Your turn: If Israel strikes Iran, should the IDF launch pre-emptive strikes against Hezballah to eliminate their rocket launchers? And if they did, what would your attitude toward the IDF be?

    Posted by RedLeb | January 17, 2010, 11:46 am
  25. RedLeb,

    It would be a mistake for Israel to launch a preemptive strike at Hezbollah before attacking Iran and Israel will not do that. I will not vote for Netanyahu again if he does it.

    This whole preemptive bull is coming from Hezbollah that are going to latch onto some minor event that they instigate to find an excuse to fight for Iran. It could be some Lebanese captured and released after straying over the border or some overflight. The question for you is, will you see through their deceit or will you blame Israel as usual? And if they do attack Israel, will you be for disarming them?

    Posted by AIG | January 17, 2010, 1:02 pm
  26. Some beginning reading for the curious but uninitiated:

    CRS 2009 Lebanon report: http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/mideast/R40054.pdf

    Nerguizian’s 2009 CSIS report on LAF: http://csis.org/files/media/csis/pubs/090210_lafsecurity.pdf

    Please note that I said ‘beginning.’

    Posted by david | January 17, 2010, 1:06 pm
  27. Redleb,
    Your view of history is as distorted as can be. It is a fact that Israel did not invade Lebanon in 1956, nor in 1967 nor in 1973. If as you claim there was an Israeli policy to annex South Lebanon, why didn’t Israel implement it on any of the opportunities above??? It would have been a walk in the park for Israel. All the bullshit quotes from Ben-Gurion and Dayan about Lebanon are fabrications or taken out of context. There is ONE important fact you ignore. Israel did not invade Lebanon when there were no attacks from Lebanon to Israel. How do you explain that?

    Jordan was never hostile to Israel? What are you smoking??? The most effective army against Israel in 48 was the Jordanian legion. It was able to hold onto the West Bank and East Jerusalem. In 1967 the Jordanians also attacked Israel. They did not attack in 73, but that does not mean they were not hostile. And how exactly is Jordan’s sovereignty compromised by a peace agreement? Are there Israeli overflights there?

    Posted by AIG | January 17, 2010, 1:21 pm
  28. AIG,
    You keep raising the issue of a Hezballah attack on Israel in the event of an Israeli strike at Iran. Now you’re also concocting a whole scenario by which Hezballah instigates an incident to create a fight. The pre-emptive bull crown is yours.

    And no, I wouldn’t call for disarmament of Hezballah does attack, any more than you would call for the IDF to disband if they pre-emptively attack Lebanon. I would call for a change of policy.

    As for history, I don’t know why Israel took its time to annex south Lebanon. What I do know is they attempted to do it in ’82. You can only have so many wars at a time, you know.

    I know my statement ‘Jordan was never hostile to Israel’ implies they never engaged in combat. That is of course incorrect. I meant to say that Jordan never had a problem with a Zionist state and never signed on to the Arab plan to destroy it.

    The Jordanian legion never had the intention of invading Israel proper (West Bank and East Jerusalem were not Israeli under the partition plan) and had even signed an agreement with the Jewish Agency to annex the West Bank.

    1967 was a ‘pre-emptive’ war, remember? Israel attacked everyone first. At the time King Hussein was in contact with Israel, cooperating in suppressing the PLO. The Israelis didn’t trust him, or didn’t trust his control.

    As for sovereignty, Jordan is a police state backed by western powers. It’s a bit like Syria, but without even the possibility of change.

    Posted by RedLeb | January 17, 2010, 8:31 pm
  29. Redleb,

    Why are you not asking for change of policy now regarding the use of Hezbollah arms? After all they instigated a war that cost Lebanon dearly. Why do you still trust their judgement? Even Nasrallah said he made a mistake, yet he is not willing to concede to Lebanon the right to decide when to go to war. He still is the one that decides, not the Lebanese cabinet. Are you fine with that?

    In short you make up your mind irregardless of the facts. Israel had ample opportunities to take over South Lebanon. It never did so but that does not stop you from believing that it wants to. In 1982 the people of South Lebanon welcomed Israel including the Shia. Yet, Israel did not annex nor settle ANY part of Lebanon ever. But who cares about the facts? To you it is clear Israel is after South Lebanon.

    The Jordan Legion took over Gush Etzion, which was part of Israel proper. They evicted or killed all its people.
    In 1967 the war against Jordan was not preemptive. It was attacked only after the Jordanians started shelling West Jerusalem.

    So, I don’t get it. Is Syria sovereign or not?

    Posted by AIG | January 17, 2010, 9:39 pm
  30. AIG, RedLeb & others,
    Has anyone listened to the 5 five minute segments of the presentation done at the UN by Walid Khalidi about Jerusalem on January 1, 2010. It is on YouTube. I would be interested in what you think of it.

    Posted by ghassan karam | January 18, 2010, 12:12 am
  31. Ghassan,

    Khalidi is a whiner who mixes facts with half truths and fallacies. I have no patience for these pompous assholes.

    How do you make a nation strong? Quite simple:
    1) Economy
    2) Technology
    3) Institutions

    Not by bitching how unfair life is and that the US congress needs to change. Nor by hanging around useless UN committees.

    In any of these regards how has Khalidi helped the Palestinians? He should stop whining about what others should do and do something useful himself. Pathetic.

    Posted by AIG | January 18, 2010, 1:36 am
  32. 4) Handout$ from the Uncles Sammy.

    Hey AIG, doncha know that “the French” warned Hariri about the starting date for “Operation Just Reward” ?

    ……and that Obama told Sulieman that if Hezbollah acquires anti-aircraft missiles, he wouldn’t be able to intervene in another Israeli adventure?

    Or so they say.

    I do agree that it’s rather ridiculous to bitch about changing Congress. Really, the more one thinks about it, the better the Knesset looks.

    BTW, who is running Israeli foreign policy? That snake Danny Ayalon? He’s dangerous to Israel.

    Posted by lally | January 18, 2010, 4:52 am
  33. David – I only had had a brief moment to list examples that I think back up my overall point re: a coherent USGOV policy on LAF and lebanon – for I certainly think there was a coherent policy but that it was not the right policy on many scores. (Which is to say that your points discounting some of the citations i was able to include are well taken).

    Aram’s paper is a good one but its main flaw is that is does not put the LAF side into an overall political framework – take a look, if i may suggest, at my Century Foundation report that came out in December 2008



    Posted by nicholas noe | January 18, 2010, 7:24 am
  34. AIG,
    So you have seen the Khalidi presentation? I thought that he gave short shrift to a proposed solution, it is as if it was an after thought.
    I expected much less history and a greater rationalization for a proposed solution.

    Posted by ghassan karam | January 18, 2010, 9:29 am
  35. Ghassan,
    Yes, I wrote my comment after viewing Khalidi’s presentation following your recommendation. Just the usual UN whinefest. Not a word about Palestinian unity and efforts to achieve it. Extremely pathetic.

    Posted by AIG | January 18, 2010, 10:23 am
  36. Lally,

    You know that the US started supporting Israel significantly only after 1967? Do you remember who forced Israel to give up the Sinai in 56? No, but let me remind you. It was Eisenhower.

    Between 48 and 67 the US did not support Israel much, yet Israelis were able to build a thriving country. How does that fit with your theories?

    In Israel, when politicians make mistakes, it costs them in the next election. In Israel, politicians are ACCOUNTABLE to the Israeli public. That is the essence of Israel’s strength.

    Posted by AIG | January 18, 2010, 10:33 am
  37. AIG
    Many forget that the 1967 campaign was waged with Mirages and not US planes. Maybe even the 1973 war was waged without US built jets. But I believe that the Mirage at the time was one of the most dominant military jets in the air. But I believe that the real turning point in US support was the air bridge that Nixon used to supply the Israeli military in its 1973 campaign.

    Posted by ghassan karam | January 18, 2010, 12:46 pm
  38. Reblogged this on The Mideastwire Blog and commented:
    It was almost exactly 9 years ago when David Schenker (unknowingly) revealed how he lied in regards to one of my NY Times op-eds on the Lebanese Army: “…One year and half on from that episode – which, it should be said, was followed by more responsible and helpful criticism from Emile Hokayem and Andrew Exum – Schenker seems to have finally come clean, acknowledging frankly in Forbes.com what I and countless others had long argued: essentially, that the US refuses to alter Israel’s QME vis-à-vis Lebanon – and, therefore, ultimately refuses a credible exploration of how such an alteration, along with others steps, might underpin a peaceful strategy of integrating Hizbullah under the authority of a truly democratic state in Lebanon. (For those interested in the subject, I would suggest reading the 2009 enacted legislation that finally enshrines Israel’s QME into law).

    “While U.S. taxpayer generosity, currently slated at over $100 million this year, will enhance LAF domestic counterterrorism capabilities,” Schenker wrote recently, “it is not meant–and will never be meant–to help Lebanon deter or defend against Israeli strikes.”

    In July 2008, however, Schenker wrote on MESH: “Washington has fully backed the LAF…contrary to Noe’s assertion.”

    “This and subsequent assistance,” he continued, “has not been subject to Israeli veto, but rather is based on a careful assessment of LAF operational requirements carried out by the United States and France…” Read on at the link below.

    Posted by nickbiddlenoe | January 3, 2019, 3:27 pm


  1. Pingback: The Inside Scoop on U.S. Military Aid to the LAF « Qifa Nabki | A Lebanese Political Blog - January 18, 2010

Are you just gonna stand there and not respond?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Browse archives

wordpress stats plugin
%d bloggers like this: