I don’t care if Fatah al-Islam is evil incarnate. I don’t care if they are Hariri-funded or a front for Syrian mukhabarat or Islamaniacs from Tunis or aliens just landed from Mars. Artillery is NOT THE ANSWER. Worst of all, everyone knows this, especially the LAF. The problem of the camps (in its myriad forms) is not a mystery, not a new development. Direct military confrontation serves no purpose. In fact, if security and peace are the objectives, one can easily argue that such an assault is horribly counter-productive as it only increases the militance-misery quotient.

I am all for disarming the camps, but this will never happen outside a political process that integrates the refugees into Lebanon’s political, civil and economic life. Everyone knows this. This is not rocket science. The camps are open wounds and they bleed when the body (Lebanon as a whole) is under stress or trauma. The camps are complex political, social, security and economic problems and thus require complex (and intelligent) solutions. Even in the USA, they have not yet made a bomb smart enough to solve such problems. To think that tank rounds will do requires a willful ignorance of not only Lebanon’s past and present, but also the general nature of human communities.

Was no one paying attention during Israel’s war on Lebanon last summer? Wholesale destruction does not pay. Its returns are limited and unpredictable (see Afghanistan and Iraq for further evidence). Every human problem is ultimately a political one and thus admits political solutions. Process does pay, and it requires less investment in human capital and lower operating costs than violence.

The LAF should stand down. There is nothing to be gained here. Indeed, only something to be lost: human life. This must end, now.


14 Replies to “DO NOT SHELL THE CAMPS … EVER.”

  1. Those other bloggers scare me. While I have a lot of affection for Lebanon and the Lebanese, the hate and the anger always freaks me out. At its very worst, it is the psychology of genocide and it is frightening.

    I will relate a personal anecdote. Last summer when I was in Beirut, I recall seeing an exhibit about the famine that resulted from the Ottoman blockade from 1915-1919 (??). It really shook me. I had always tried to understand the civil war according to the political, economic, military and social realities. But these horribly gruesome picture really made me stop and consider where the terrible inhumanity, where the terrible brutality came from. After seeing those photos, I really began to understand how the value of human life can become so degraded that people will trade in it to achieve their political and economic objectives.

    The photos still haunt me. Mostly because I think it is almost impossible for me to reconcile the warmth and generosity of most Lebanese I know with this horrible meanness that seems to lurk under the surface of social relations. Maybe I should do a post, but I am fearful of making wild generalizations for no purpose. Dunno.

  2. PS: For anyone reading this, yes I am keenly, sometimes painfully, aware of the extent to which American society is the most violent in the world, both at home and abroad.

  3. yes.. Let’s set up one more talk-shop. That should solve the problem of terrorists blowing up soldiers and people..

  4. one more talk-shop?

    i think the problem is that there are none. rambling on – as we’ve done for 17 years – isn’t equivalent to talking.

    unless of course, there is something specific in the points made that you disagree with …

    a. – social realities do include social psychologies, communal memory (definitely not to be underestimated), and the potential for killing being in power seems to bring. the “meanness” could possibly be explained in many ways, though i am not sure if that is just rationalizing the issue. but i will agree – many posts have scared me. it has been quite some time since i’ve seen such things.

  5. Yes, m. I don’t think I was being very intellectually coherent or rigorous with respect to the “meanness,” but was just trying to relate a personal anecdote about how I try to approach and think through some of these most difficult issues. So I agree with your comment.

  6. Indeed, Mustapha, violent, indiscriminate oppression has such an excellent track record of eliminating radicalism in the ME and elsewhere, please let’s have some more.

    And I hope any Lebanese rule of law types appreciate that history’s great legal theorists have always considered the law to very much be at its essence “a talk-shop of terrorists.”

    I have been reading your blog for a long time, so I know you are smarter than this. There are better ways to defeat fatah al-islam and their ilk and you know it. Surely, the first step to defeating one’s enemies is to respect them and the dangers, challenges and opportunities they pose.

  7. mustapha: there’s a big difference between giving in and showing restraint.
    Being respectful doesn’t mean being pussies or bullies.

    besides, there’s no Evil. There’s only fear.

  8. so if invading the camp and bombing it is not the solution..what is?

    dont tell me giving palestinians their rights, because the issue needs an urgent and quick solution, not a 10-year political plan

    so kindly propose a straight forward solution to end the crisis now, or spare us your brag. people are dying

  9. I’ve been seeing a lot of gung-ho pro-army sentiment from Lebanese friends and acquaintances in the last couple of days. (Things like Facebook groups with titles like “Don’t mess with the LAF.”)

    And while it’s nice to see some semblance of Lebanese nationalism (it’s one of the few places that could use a little more rather than less), I’m a little uneasy with the “take-out-the-trash” mentality, particularly since it could be generalized against Palestinians as a whole, whom we all know are treated horribly in Lebanon.

    The LAF are in a tight spot here, since they’re kind of damned if they do and damned if they don’t.

    In any case, there’s a lot more to this situation than meets the eye, and I’m afraid I don’t really understand what’s going on at all.

  10. We’re talking about solutions…let’s think again about how the problem was created. If the intelligence about Fatah al-Islam was as good as it is now claimed to be, how come these people weren’t arrested earlier? (And yes, it is possible to arrest ‘terrorists’, they don’t have to be killed on the spot, always). Is it incompetence on the part of the ISF and other agencies? Or is there some agenda in the Lebanese Army assaulting the camp like it does now? And beyond the grand solutions, people should focus on small, immediate things – ending the blockade of the camp; reminding the LAF of the Geneva conventions; allowing access for humanitarian agencies (and not shooting them while they’re evacuating wounded people; check out this report And beyond this, what other solution can there be but a negotiated political one..? It does stop people from dying.

  11. Ruweida,

    I think Eva answered your question, but let me be clear. Only negotiations will resolve the current, immediate problem. A military solution does not exist, period. The LAF knows this, and while I can understand and tolerate some limited military response by the LAF, shelling or blockading the camp is counterproductive in the extreme. This has been proven time and again. I mentioned the larger, structural problems about the camps, because they speak directly to why there are no good military solutions. So in short, immediate cease fire, talk with Fatah and Hamas about getting the guys they want out of the camp. No this will not eliminate Fatah al-Islam, but that will not ever be possible without a fundamental rethink of the problem of the camps. So you do the best you can, and you do not take human life where there are no obtainable strategic objectives. The LAF should not be in the business of killing people out of revenge or to save face. It is stupid from a military and security point of view, and it is immoral. It was so when the Israelis did it last summer, and it is now, as well. Okay?

Leave a Reply

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

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

Google+ photo

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

Twitter picture

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

Facebook photo

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


Connecting to %s