That’s a theme I started to get at in this column today. In Iraq, Lebanon, and even arguably in the Palestinian territories (although less so), we are aligned with the forces that don’t want their countries occupied by foreign armies and proxy forces. In Iraq, we want to oust the foreign jihadists and check Iranian influence (and then leave ourselves). In Lebanon, we want to keep Syria out and disarm its proxy army. The situation in the Palestinian territories is more complicated, but Hamas is to some extent an agent of Syria and is effectively working to keep the Israeli occupation going, since its hostile acts have torpedoed Olmert’s re-alignment plan. In all these places, old-fashioned nationalism looks very good now, especially given that the alternative is murderous Islamism.
Dear Mr. Lowry,
Thank you for making such a needed distinction between Lebanon and Hezbollah; some of your colleagues on NR would do good to take note. (I came across several opinion pieces yesterday that barely mentioned Lebanon.) However, I would urge you to consider, whether or not, Israel is targeting Hezbollah as surgically as they claim and are capable of doing. It seems to me that ‘Hezbollah infrastructure’ has been code in the operations thus far for ‘Lebanese infrastructure.’ Your point that the Lebanese government must be strengthened not reduced to rubble is one that I do not see the international community recognizing. President Bush appears content to talk about a return to 1559 when it is unclear why when an army like Israel’s was unable to defeat Hezbollah an army belonging to the Lebanese government would be able to do so. A government whose many representatives would more certainly side with Hezbollah over Israel, not because they support terrorism, but because they have good memories of harm Israel has caused their country in the recent past. Simply, I ask your question again, is it a big favor to Lebanon to rout Hezbollah if it entails destroying their country and killing many civilians? The parable of the wheat and tares certainly comes to my mind, but the reality is that it wouldn’t dawn on either extremist side of the current conflict. Maybe it is time someone remind them?
Your last emailer says “it is unclear why when an army like Israel’s was unable to defeat Hezbollah an army belonging to the Lebanese government would be able to do so.” He provides his own answer immediately by stating Lebanon has “[a] government whose many representatives would more certainly side with Hezbollah over Israel….” Assuming many who would side with Hezb over Israel would side with Lebanon proper over Hezb, Lebanon would have an advantage over Israel in eliminating Hezbollah.
Regarding the UN peacekeepers – the consensus view seems to be that peacekeepers in Lebanon do nothing to interfere with Hezbollah activity, and instead serve as human shields against Israeli reprisals. That being the case, why doesn’t Israel invite the UN to patrol its side of the border? Let the blue helmets get kidnapped and shelled for a while, and see where international opinion ends up.
One small point. It’s not Arab Nationalism that we want, but nationalism in the Arab world. As I understand it, when one uses the term “Arab Nationalism,” one usually means pan-Arab nationalism–the idea that all Arabs are one people. What you endorse, quite sensibly, is turning the region into a place with a certain number of well defined nation-states–the classic liberal idea for the past few centuries.