Monday, February 26, 2007

Four from Strategypage is always worth reading, but these four articles struck me as particularly good:

Lebanon: Family Ties That Make Nations Die
The problem is a lack of loyalty to the nation. People are more loyal to a family, social or religious group, than they are to a national government. While a Lebanese, when asked what he is by a foreigner, will say, "Lebanese," when it comes to Lebanese politics, there are no Lebanese.

The order of battle of Iran's Terrorism Expediters:
The Quds Force has eight departments, each assigned to a different part of the world. While the one that works in the Palestine/Lebanon/Jordan area have been the most successful, the other departments have been hard at it for two decades.

A survey of Moslem minds: Islam's Secret Weapon
...when Moslems talk about all the West owes the Islamic world in terms of science, they must refer to events many centuries in the past...Many Arabs admit that Israel must go because it embarrasses the Moslem world. The despots that run most Arab countries encourage this concentrated hatred of Israel, and blaming of Israel for the regions problems, as a way to deflect criticism of their own miserable misrule.

America Learns Arabic:
...the FBI has hundreds of agents with some proficiency with Arabic, and enough linguists to translate 34,000 wiretap messages a month... its Arab translators become even more hostile to Islamic radicalism after listening to hours of people spewing their ethnic and religious hatred in wiretapped conversations.

Friday, February 23, 2007

The Forgotten

I asked him if they don’t have a hospital where they take their patients. “Mostly they die, but it happens rarely that they are taken to a hospital for treatment, because the hospital is so far from our place. The nearest hospital is 60 kilo meter away from us”, he said.

Almost sixty thousand people, and they have to take their patients to Tagab hospital in Behsood. This is after five years of Karzai government.

In the last five years billions of dollars were spent in Afghanistan, but if you ask the people if they ever received any help from the government, they answer, “we think we are forgotten and we are probably not from Afghanistan.”

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Response to Maya's and Jeha's lament

You can bomb Lebanon all you want, all you achieve is kill Lebanese, destroy the country, bankrupt the economy and further Syria's control over Lebanon.

I may not like the Assad regime, but at least I know what to expect from them.

Soviet Spetsnaz paratroops subscribed to this credo:
A good person in their eyes was one who did not conceal the animal seated within him. But a person who tried to appear good was dangerous. The most dangerous were those who not only paraded their good qualities but who also believed within themselves they were indeed good people. When things get difficult good people can quickly go bad and leave you hanging.

Better to associate with people who are bad. At least then you know what to expect of them when your luck turns. [Victor Suvorov, Inside the Aquarium, 1986.]
All human beings are "dangerous". But knowing what pushes people into employing violence and betrayal is a matter of cultural understanding, whether you agree with their principles or not. Spetsnaz troops were young, but they had already experienced the betrayals of
the Communists by the time they entered the Soviet Army. Naturally, they had to follow Party propaganda and at least openly profess that they believed the outside world was even worse, no matter how "good" the West appeared to be. And the West has killed its millions: in wars, through negligence, by revolutions, and even through wilful ignorance. Consider another little nugget of this Russian wisdom:
The most loathsome disgusting criminal might kill a man, ten men or even a hundred. But a criminal will never kill people by the million. Millions are killed only by those who consider themselves good...The Robespierres of this world were the most humane types and fed squirrels from the palms of their hands...
I think everyone should reflect upon these words very carefully.
In the case of Lebanon-Israel relations, it's hardly surprising that Israel is considered, "at best, an unreliable ally" by many Lebanese. Israel puts first and foremost its own security first, before attending to the cares of others.

The SLA, Israel's ally of the 1990s, couldn't stop Hezbollah attacks upon
Israeli troops, the international community wanted Israel out, and Israelis were no longer welcomed in Lebanon anyway. Partners have to contribute something to an alliance. It was better to leave if Israelis could convince themselves that security would improve rather than remain occupiers, especially if leniency was assured for most of Israel's former allies.

In 2006, Israelis woke up to discover that Lebanon harbored, was partially governed by, and materially benefited from an organization actively dedicated to making Israel unliveable . It could not be borne for Lebanese to expect that they could remain
untouched while Hezbollah was making war. The principles of Torah that Jews still subscribe to as well as international law and precedent support the Israeli response. (Indeed, both Torah and precedent would support an even harsher response.)

Had Lebanese patriots been more daring and openly supported it, the West might have bought Maya's argument that southern Lebanon was like a Mafia state. The end result
would probably have been a Chapter 7 resolution forcing Hezbollah's disarmament and re-establishing the central government's authority. But instead Lebanese decided once more to "play it safe" and parroted Hezbollah's claims of "resistance". Lacking open Lebanese support, the Israelis resorted to destroying what weapons and military installations they could and departed with a mere cease-fire.

So by Maya's standard - improving the lot of the Lebanese citizen - the Israelis did
indeed fail. And that perceived failure says a great deal about Maya's mentality: she ultimately expects her country to be dominated by a liege lord, rather than governed by a free people.Strangler vine (kills tree underneath)

Only a serf would blame her lords for damage to the farm during a hunt. Free peoples hold themselves responsible for the bulls within their fences, and what happens when they get loose.

If you wish to remain a serf, Maya, there is still a way out from under Hezbollah's thumb for you: advocate that Lebanon be placed under a U.N. mandate, like East Timor. Just don't go about saying others are responsible for the poisonous vine twisting the cedar when you're the one who claims ownership of the garden.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

The REAL meaning of UNSC 1701

United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701 is the document that ended, at least temporarily, the Israel-Hezbollah War of 2006. Blacksmith Jade and I engaged in an extended discussion to dissect its provisions and their interpretations (excerpt):
I don't remember having any conversation with you about the overflights, but your arguments wrt to them is totally wrong. Far from being a red herring, the flights serve as an excuse for Hizballah to launch attacks against Israel -

Look at Paragraph 15. That portion doesn't fall under Chapter 6. As long as Hezbollah is trying to smuggle weapons Israel has not just the right, but the obligation, under UNSC 1701, to try to prevent it. Doing so using aircraft is explicitly permitted and reconnaissance overflights are an essential element of doing so...

At first it was fun for her, but readers can witness her slowly growing horror as she discovers just how much sovereignty Lebanon appears to have yielded to Israel, the United Nations, and the international community. Of interest to grammarians and international lawyers, as well as anyone who pays attention to the middle east, is the suggestion - supported by this recent interview with a Lebanese political operator by Michael Totten - that Lebanese in general do not possess a sufficient grasp of English to understand how their words are interpreted by the West.

Also revealed: how the choice of a preposition expresses the subtle difference dividing Lebanese and Western legal thinking. If Lebanese can't change this, their chances of escaping the fascist noose will be much smaller.

Of course, "the great Solomon2" may be quite wrong in his evaluations. I encourage my readers to check "my" legal and psychological interpretations thoroughly.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Lebanon & The REAL American Revolution

Abu Kais muses:
Will the Sunni love life and move to Kesrouane? Will the Maronites love life and feel comfortable owning a house in Basta? Can the Shia marry the Sunni, and the Sunni marry the Druze?

Perhaps these things can happen if people choose their principles first, rather than what side they are on. Then - and this is really the key step - they can regroup and create new "sides" of their own, cutting across even sectarian barriers. After all, where was March 14 before Hariri was killed?

The problem with that, I suppose, is that sectarianism is built into the Lebanese system. If reform appears impossible, then perhaps an entirely new system needs to be built. That's what happened in the United States of America, as follows:

I'll begin my explanation with a shocking statement: Everything you read in the history books is wrong, because the American Revolution did not happen in 1776. The real American Revolution happened in 1787.

That's because the Articles of Confederation that united the thirteen states from 1776 to 1789 did little other than restore the situation that existed before the accession of George III to the British crown. George III tried to turn back the clock by taxing the colonies and asserting his authority, so the colonies dumped him. But the Confederation did not work very well without a monarch at the top; it lacked the power and especially the money to carry out the duties specified in the Articles themselves, and was powerless when individual states appealed for help.

Some people even suggested (plotted?) to make George Washington king, but he would have none of it:
I am much at a loss to conceive what part of my conduct could have given encouragement to an address which to me seems big with the greatest mischiefs that can befall my Country. If I am not deceived in the knowledge of myself, you could not have found a person to whom your schemes are more disagreeable...

Lacking any other candidate, this possible coup attempt failed.

The Continental Congress finally invited states to send delegates to a Convention "for the sole and express purpose of revising the Articles of Confederation". The Philadelphia Convention of 1787 created the U.S. government in essentially the same form it exists today.

However, although the Continental Congress called for the Convention that created the document, the delegates did not send the Constitution for unanimous approval by the States as the Articles required, because they suspected some states would be stubborn and recalcitrant. Instead, they called for the Constitution to be ratified by individual, popularly elected conventions in each state, and simply declared that it would take effect once two-thirds of the states approved.

By their call to ignore the Articles of Confederation, the delegates themselves broke the law, and in America's embrace of the Constitution, the entire nation - not just the bosses of the state legislatures and rapacious western land-grabbers - became revolutionaries. Bereft of popular support and interest, the Continental Congress quietly faded out before George Washington was inaugurated as president. [1]

We Americans were lucky in that we had it easy; we kicked the butt of an incompetent would-be dictator first, then had the time and security to work out our own system, afterwards; Even so, without the honor and grace of George Washington, these things might never have happened. Lebanon is suffering from the grip of cruelly confident tyrants of proven competence, so Lebanese have a harder task than the Americans did.

Yet perhaps the U.S. example can provide some helpful insight. The creation of March 14th and the desire for political unity between Shia, Sunni, Christian, and Druze - do they not signify progress? What will be the next step for you to take?

1) "The Ratification Contest", Oxford History of the American People, Morison, 1965.

Update, 2/19/07

GWB gave this excellent speech on George Washington today. Also of interest: George Washington's Farewell Address. Happy Presidents' Day!