Friday, August 25, 2006

Lebanon's Shiites, or the power of Poverty

Back in the day...

The Scythians responded to Alexander the Great; "our poverty will be faster than your army which has to carry the bounty of all the nations you conquered".

Indeed, the poverty of some tribes was such that they have little to lose, and could therefore gain more by attacking the richer ones... Alexander won, but he did not have much fun, and still had to placate the Scythians.

For too long, Lebanese Shiites have been the downtrodden of Lebanon, maintained by traditional leaders in a feudal poverty. Assaad Beyk's son was getting an education for the sake of his people, wasn't he? When Iran came along, it offered plenty. And ask so little in return; just act as a "front" every once in a while...

And maybe sacrifice a son, or two, or more...

By the time traditional leaders tried a come-back, Hezb was well entrenched; not a "state within a state", but a "state within a non-state". Praise to the Lord...

Instead of bombing, maybe the Israelis should not have conspired (knowingly or unknowingly) with the Syrians and PLO to undermine the country since the 1960's.

McDonald's, Coke, Hollywood, Levi's, Nike and the Gap, are not so nefarious after all; they do help to sedate the downtrodden masses. When goods do not cross borders, armies will. In the meantime, the guys will make do with a nice smoke and a good brew... or tea.

The Israeli too easily forget Sun-Tzu; “Do not press a desperate enemy”. Well, this applies both ways; And Shater Hassan may be forgetting it too.

Keeping the Shiites poor may keep some beholden to Shater Hassan, like the Feudal masters of old. But many are revolting, and Hezb's victory tactic has its limitations.

Bear in mind that Iran's plenty is essentially limited; how can a third world country durably, sustainably, play Great Power politics and still develop its downtrodden provinces? Any doubters, see the picture at the top... Or read the UNDP's reports.

Whatever Iranian "bounty" fell on Lebanon is limited to serving the immediate needs of the refugees. The real work remains the work of the "non-state" of Lebanon; expect Siniora to leverage this new found power. Still, we must watch this idea of "sponsorhip".

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