Across the Bay

Sunday, June 29, 2008

The Argument for Divorce

Back in February, Walid Jumblat made critical statements in an interview with Future News Channel. Jumblat spoke of the need for an "amicable divorce" between Hezbollah and the rest of Lebanon, as coexisting with such a group is an impossibility.

Jumblat's comments resonated deeply as they didn't come from a vacuum. The brave An-Nahar columnist, Ali Hamade, for instance, had been consistently making that argument in his columns, as I've noted on this blog.

Jumblat's comments in that interview proved prescient, after Hezbollah broke all ties with the rest of Lebanon and literally invaded their homes and neighborhoods by force of arms. Such a situation is untenable, as noted by the NOW Lebanon editorials I blogged recently.

Indeed, a May 8 piece by Michael Young carried the same title and echoed that conclusion:

The Lebanese state cannot live side by side with a Hizbullah state.
If the party wants its semi-independent entity, it is now obliged to state this plainly. The masks have fallen. And if Hizbullah does decide to reject Lebanon, then we shouldn't be surprised if some start speaking of an amicable divorce between Shiites and the rest of Lebanon.

In that light, it was curious to hear former MP Mohammad Abdel Hamid Baydoun, a Shiite at odds with Hezbollah, declare today that the Doha Agreement was "the first step towards federalizing the Lebanese situation, meaning federalizing government and afterwards federalizing geography."

But yesterday, it was the turn of Hazem Saghieh, one of the most articulate writers, whose commentaries on Hezbollah and their weapons have been absolutely on the money. Saghieh dropped all pretense and spoke in brutal honesty:

There are, in reality, two peoples at least.
There's a Lebanese people that doesn't concede, and will never concede, that the state is the only side that monopolizes the tools of violence, regardless of the authority of this state or its nature and symbols. And there's a Lebanese people that will not accept the resistance and its continuation, regardless who this resistance may be.

In such a case, one could rely on domination and subjugation. But even if we morally accept domination and subjugation, they remain impossible in practice. For those who win by force in Beirut, lose by force in Tripoli. And those who prevail by force in the Bekaa, lose by force in Mount Lebanon. The interference of foreign sides does not change this principle.
It might be said that Lebanon's demographic makeup prevents putting this issue [i.e, partition] in practice. This is true. However, what is more true is that demographic intermingling in light of such a division is an invitation to a continuous civil war. Why then is it not accepted to start thinking about a difficult divorce and the ways to organize it, instead of spending all efforts on salvaging an impossible marriage? Suffice the Lebanese to stretch their necks to see the island of Cyprus, and how it is, with both its peoples, immeasurably better off.

Old nationalism alone insists on the unity of territory and people, regardless of all opposing considerations. The beginning and end of contemporary nationalism, however, is subscription to a certain way of life. In Lebanon today there are two ways that can never meet. Indeed, it is impossible for them even to intersect.

One of the lessons of the 1975-90 war was that by the mid-80s, a social, military and geographic reality emerged which was known as the "cantons" back then. The essence of that reality was that the warring parties could not penetrate, defeat and hold each others' "cantons" (see the latest NOW Lebanon editorial).

Ten years had passed, and countless dead, until we reached that consolidated, stalemated status quo. Saghieh's argument, it would seem, is to skip those ten years and move directly to that situation, where the "March 14" Lebanon, for lack of a better term, and Hezbollah's Islamic Republic in Lebanon, as it were, would go on their separate ways. Hezbollah can go on pursuing its endless "resistance" -- a "doctrine, culture, Jihad, and way of life, not tied to liberation of land" as Hezbollah officials have recently been putting it, flushing down the toilet about two decades' worth of clueless and fraudulent Hezbollah "expertise." The rest of us can then perhaps get a chance at a normal life.

Friday, June 27, 2008

The Coming War

I highly recommend you read in full the following excellent NOW Lebanon editorial.

You will note that it dovetails with a number of points in my Transatlantic Issues piece. It also foreshadows an upcoming research essay of mine that I will link once it's out. Its focus is entirely on military issues.

Friday, June 20, 2008

The Bottom Line

A NOW Lebanon editorial lays out the bottom line:

[T]oday, we are fast moving to a stage where Lebanon is not big enough for both Hezbollah and Lebanon’s national institutions.

Thus the state, as ever, remains secondary to Hezbollah’s chronic navel-gazing. It remains to be seen how and when it will end. The outlook does not look bright.

As I noted in my TI analysis, the historical precedent with the Palestinian Resistance Movement is very clear: an autonomous armed trans-state actor cannot coexist with the state. That situation has led and will lead to war. It is even more acute when it is ideologically alien to the very historical and cultural experience of the country.

This has been building steadily, as regular readers of my blog know (as I've been chronicling this as it developed in the public discourse) to reach this inevitable conclusion.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

It Was a Nuclear Site

This is from Le Monde today:

D'après nos informations, l'AIEA détient des données, provenant de plusieurs sources non américaines, qui appuient cette analyse. Certaines de ces informations sont des photographies satellite fournies par différents pays. D'autres sont tirées des investigations que l'AIEA a effectuées par le passé sur les activités nucléaires de la Corée du Nord. D'autres encore viennent des recherches menées par l'AIEA sur les réseaux clandestins d'acquisition d'équipements nucléaires dans le monde.
Deux questions centrales vont occuper les inspecteurs de l'AIEA : d'où le combustible pour le réacteur d'Al-Kibar était-il censé venir? Et y a-t-il en Syrie une installation secrète de retraitement du combustible usé? Le retraitement est une technologie qui permet de produire du plutonium utilisable dans la fabrication d'une arme nucléaire. C'est par cette méthode que les Nord-Coréens se sont dotés de l'arme atomique qu'ils ont testée en 2006.
Toutefois, selon des diplomates, l'AIEA n'a pas été autorisée à se rendre sur trois autres sites, en Syrie, qui éveillent des soupçons. Al-Kibar a été soigneusement dissimulé par la Syrie pendant des années. Une partie importante de l'installation était souterraine. Un toit et des murs de camouflage avaient été dressés, lui conférant un aspect cubique qui le banalisait.

Update: Michael Young has more on this over at Reason's Hit&Run.

Monday, June 16, 2008

TAI: Hezbollah's Dangerous Gamble

I apologize for the long absence, and I'll be back very shortly with my promised post on Walid Jumblat's significance in the recent crisis.

Meanwhile, here's a quick analysis I wrote for Transatlantic Issues a short while ago.

More to come.