Fear and Loathing…

I have been somewhat concerned in the last few days that perhaps my analysis of the situation in Lebanon has been colored by an excess of fear and over-concern that this all ends with a civil war in Lebanon … Mostly, this fear stems from having to watch and consume the US media, which can make one think we are on the brink of the apocalypse with the infidel Mulsims once again at the gates of Vienna … Also contributing to this fear is a sense that I missed the boat in the lead up to the US invasion of Iraq … Of course, I was in Lebanon during 9/11 and the first months of the second (third?) US war against Iraq so I was not exposed to exactly how the US political class and media respond to such things … Sitting in a Beirut newsroom, I did not anticipate the Iraq War and indeed thought it too ridiculous to come to fruition, and thus also contributing to my fear is this sense that I was wrong before …

I am concerned about how this excess of fear has made me somewhat insensitive to the barbarism and tragedy that has already been visited upon Lebanon in the last few weeks. I have considered the violence to be horrible, but a mere trifle of what future days might bring …

However, listening to Bush and Blair today at the White House and getting a few news stories from southern Lebanon have confirmed some of my darker fears about how this will all shake out … And I am now firm in my belief that this will not end well … This realization pains me because I have considerable affection for Lebanon — warts and all — and even more affection for some of its residents — warts and all …

It seems clear that the US plan for Lebanon is to push the GOL toward the brink of civil war … Comparisons to 1982-3 are becoming more and more apt as Bush has called for a mulinational force to help the GOL assert its authority over Lebanese territory (sound familiar?). Perhaps the military, financial and political might of the United States could make such a thing happen, but it is already off to a horrible start by allowing the IDF to terrorize southern Lebanon and thus increase support for Hizbullah and radicalize those who already support the group … This did not work in the early 1980s and it will not work now … Yes the Soviet Union is gone and Syria is weaker than at any point in its history, but this war on Lebanon is pushing Lebanese shia, among others, even further into the embrace of Hizbullah … Moreover, I have my doubts about the legitimacy of the current GOL (created this time, not by Israeli tanks and American suitcases filled with dollar bills, but Saudi money and American political pressure) and whether or not it could stand another election … As with Lebanon then and now and as with Iraq now, the Americans and the Israelis are pursuing a policy that does not fully consider the realities of the country they are talking about (my favorite is when the pro-Israel chicken hawks in Washington talk about “expelling” Hizbullah from Lebanon) …

All of this does not bode well for the future as the US and Israel are likely to push very hard on the GOL to pressure Hizbullah into accepting a mulitnational force … I fear that the US will push so hard that the government will collapse and civil unrest will follow … They can do this because ruining another country comes at no political cost back home … Already, the US adventure in Iraq has cost the United States over 300 billion dollars and 3,000 dead Americans (I will not mention the hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqis because they do not exist in the world of domestic American political debate) … Yet, the Republicans are out campaigning across America on the great success Iraq has been in the war on terror … And Democrats are divided as ever and would rather not mention the word Iraq lest their divisions weaken the party (see Leiberman in Connecticut) …

So where to find hope?

1) I place my hope in Israel in that I hope it will recognize that its current adventure is a disaster with little to no strategic advantage in the offing … The United States can tolerate a failed state and civil war in Iraq, but Israel hopefully will realize that it cannot or if it can, will realize that it is not in their short or long term interest to have one on its northern border … Yes the Israelis seem comfortable with the violent ghettos that are the occupied territories, but I think it will be difficult politically in Israel to justify an occupation of Lebanon, even as things get worse …

2) I also place my hope with Nasrallah that he will be able to play the coming political game with as much skill, grace and patience as will be required… Indeed, I am certain that avoiding civil war will be more difficult than resisting the Israeli military onslaught …

I hope my hope is not misplaced … But I now fear the worst and we are at very dangerous moment with Israeli troops massing at the border and the US preparing a multinational force … Perhaps things will either cool down and return to the pre-crisis status quo, but the US and Israel have said this would be unacceptable … If they truly mean that and evidence suggests that they might, I fear all hell will break loose … Thus I feel we are truly standing on the precipice and the United States appears ready to push Israel and Lebanon into the abyss …


9 Replies to “Fear and Loathing…”

  1. How can anyone rationalize what Israel is doing. It is a BLITZKREIG and they have completely, utterly, irreversibbly destroyed Lebanon. And Gaza. And the West Bank. How dare they!

  2. I want to say that not all Americans approve of what the US Administration is doing by supporting Israel in this attack.

    Personally, as an American I am heartsick at all of this. I have always been hoping for a two state solution with the Palestinians with land restored to pre-1967 lines. I have Jewish friends, whom I love and even they are uncomfortable with the militancy of Israel.

    Just last night on PBS Network the Jim Leher News Hour hosted three media wonks and leaders, one man was from Mosaic Network, which is I believe is an internet news outlet for the Arab perspective and journalists. The other was a US professor of Journalism and one other media person. The subject was how Americans do NOT have access to international media via TV News the way the Arab world does and the rest of the world does. The professor in particular was saying that this lack of media coverage was “sanitizing” the Middle East war in Iraq and the Israeli-Hisbollah conflict and therefore distanced greatly the American public’s sense of the war and just how devastating it was. It is common knowledge that no US Administration has EVER wanted a repeat of what happened during the Viet Nam war when the TV News was broadcasting horrifying and bloody battle scenes into American living rooms every day and night. Those images served to mobilized sentiment against the war the way nothing else did. Since then we have had “talking heads” news reports with TV news anchors and imbedded journalists reporting in the blandest tones events of wars. It is sometimes played into our living rooms like a Super Bowl game. Big colored banners such as “Operation Desert Storm” with generals commenting and so forth.

    The commentators on last night’s PBS program were all in agreement that WERE Americans to see what Arabs see on TV on a daily basis they would not ask such questions as “Why do Arabs hate us?” “Why don’t they appreciate our bringing democracy to them?” If they saw first hand, the result of our Foreign Policies then they would perhaps be willing, even anxious to change them.

    It is ironic to me that America prides itself on “Freedom of the Press” but we basically have ONE channel, the government Mainstream media channel, because the MSM just reports basically ( and with few exceptions ) what the government wants to disseminate.

    But I hope that Arabs everywhere can know that not all American people feel hatred or bewilderment towards them. Those of us who are motivated, read Blogs, read and listen to alternative news sources such as Pacifica Radio, Air America and so forth.

    I have the same fears and hopes shared by this Blogger about the coming events, I pray to be wrong about the foreboding I feel.

  3. I am an American who does not agree with my coutries middle eastern politics. I feel we suffer from an elitist class who forces their will onto the world. These people are the most dangerous of men. Greedy and powerful. They will sacrafice any human life to foward their short sighted agenda. American or Lebonnese.

    The world has a new breed of power mongers, we call them capitalists. I always wondered, if the people in the middle east really didn’t like Americans then why do they sell us oil? If they truly wanted to force America home – quit selling us petrolleum. Take our interestes out of the region.

    Iran sells us oil, through companies they’ve created in other countries. Why don’t they stop?

    Force America to take care of it’s energy dependence at home. We should love the people of the Middle East, embrace their culture and language. But sadly Americans suffer from a poor education and make poor choices.

    I hope all this war ends soon, if not I will be greatly dissapointed with human beings. There is no reason for a single person to starve or be left with out clean water in this day and age.

  4. The reason Iran, Saudi etc sell oil to the US is that the super class is connected worldwide. The fat cat super-rich are now a global class while they get we the people to be bigots, waring idiots and broke so we have no choice but to work and not think while tnhey move all their cash to Dubai, wher the monacchy allows for all kind s of corrupt practises not possible in the world for the worker. The worker is doomed while globalization reigns…

  5. Thank you for your insight…

    However, I must say that I hope you are incorrect in thinking that Israel will be less difficult than avoiding civil war. Indeed, I think that Israel will prove itself a formidable opponnent… to think that the avoidance of Lebanese civil war will be equally difficult; I just don’t know.

    I should think that the Lebanese people would be eager to avoid civil war, considering their very recent history. Is a country that is just starting to rebuild really ready for another internal conflict? For that matter, is there really so much conflict among statesmen about the illigitimacy of Israel’s “counterattacks”? I suppose that we will find out very soon.

  6. With regard to a civil war in Lebanon I think it is possible but not probable at the moment. As long as we have a verbal debate there will be a diffusion of tension through violent means. To me it is the first Lebanese conflict that occurs in my lifetime in a democratic atmosphere, allowing even in time of war those who were opposed to it to voice their dissent; and those who supported Hezballah to support theirs as well. Also, I remind you that never Lebanon has seen such a movemement of support for the refugees especially in regions where leaders are opposed to hezballah’s strategy (you can argue it is a tactical help for future negotiations; but still it is help provided to people in need). Even some refugees are reconsidering their views on the people whom they demonstrated against a couple of months ago.
    I think if there is one thing to (relatively) rejoice about is that lively debate and that lack of consensus around the war.Some will say it serves the purpose of those who want to divide Lebanon, I argue it is a sign that our society is healthier than it was 5 or 10 years ago.


  8. suburban,

    I am glad you have hope and pray that you are right. Indeed, there are some encouraging signs, but from my vantage point, I am just worried that the US/Israel will pursue a maximalist agenda to appease domestic constituencies and that pressure could very well break the civil peace … In Washington, there was a huge debate over 1559 and whether to focus on getting Syria out or whether to pursue Hizb’s disarmament, the realists won the day and that victory paved the way for the Lebanese National Dialogue … My fear is that the war party will triumph this time, but I hope I am wrong … thanks for your post …

  9. U.S. Residents: Please call your Senators, Representatives and the President with the toll-free Washington, DC switchboard numbers:

    1-888-355-3588 and 1-800-828-0498

    When the operator answers, just ask for the office of the President, and your Senators, and your Representatives and any other Senators and Representatives who should be working for the U.S. people – not the Israeli AIPAC lobby.

    Let’s deluge them with calls so that they cannot ignore us and continue to allow innocent children and infants to suffer and die with our U.S. taxpayer money and our U.S. weapons.

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