Friday, June 15, 2007

Bared Lessons

In the modern Levant, there are now two eras;

Before Nahr El-Bared and After Nahr El-Bared

The events will be far reaching unintended consequences on Lebanon, Syria, and even Israel and Palestine.


When similar attacks were made against the Lebanese Army in the 1970’s, the Lebanese society’s divisions were deepened, and few supported the troops. Today, even Hezb has had to make grudging support.

We used to say that only the Christians could have gotten the French out, and only the Sunnis could have kicked Syria out. Much more than March 14th, 2005, this mess still appears to be a cross-sectarian affair.

An optimist would note that, in spite of the “Red Line” mistake, Nasrallah’s speech give little for the Salafis to hold on to. Had Hezb supported the Army too early, the Salafis would have had something to “hold on to”, propaganda wise.

A pessimist would point out the general “ugly” atmosphere, the political blackmail of “either a government or more terror”. When politicians refuse to live up to their responsibilities, and only pay lip service to decency, how do you expect the crowds to tone down their chants at the funeral, and stop making increasingly derogatory remarks about the “other side”?

Before you make up your minds; note that the pessimists usually survives…

Israel and Palestine

Israel will be affected as well; for all the rants of the dead-enders, the Lebanese Army conducted a model of counter-insurgency. Rather than level the camp, of direct “precision strikes” against any metal workshop in sight, it has proceeded cautiously against the terrorists. For now, the lack of F-16’s is no handicap, but those Gazelles are still woefully underequipped.

And more importantly, the Lebanese government, for all its faults, continued to engage the Palestinians, coordinating with Fatah, explaining his position, and holding out the hope of better treatment in the future. Time will tell whether our rulers are sincere, or whether they have an idea of how to improve the sorry lot of the refugees.

Time will also tell whether Israeli pols can still learn


Before Nahr El-Bared, the Syrian regime framed politics as a choice between dictatorship OR terror. As long as people ceded to this blackmail, Syria’s kleptocratic regime was able to continue, and even thrive.

After Nahr El-Bared, the masks have all but fallen. Blowing up cats and dogs is one thing, booby-trapping babies is another.

I have heard the story of the booby trapped Palestinian baby from many different sources; the child was crying, paralyzed by fear and unable to tell the Lebanese “Meghwar” who rescued him that he was “mined”; his explosion was triggered by remote control before anyone realized what hit them.

Whether the story is true is not relevant at this stage. I am using it to illustrate that, in this fog of war, perception becomes reality. Whether this is propaganda is not as salient as the diversity of sources that are passing; it around reveals how much the Syrian regime lost in Lebanon, and beyond. The Syrian border lets weapons through towards Lebanon, but the memes that pour back into Syria maybe far deadlier on the long run…

The Syrian regime may have hoped to trigger a mass uprising in Northern Lebanon, and in a sense, it did; but “the masses” it hoped to mobilize on its behalf all rose against it and its agents.

Nahr El-Bared has demonstrated how far is the Syrian regime willing to go to maintain the local kleptocracy. Whatever meager Arab support it got may not appreciate Syria’s new chums. For all practical purposes, we’re all dead if the Army’s not victorious, and if Lebanon’s not back under the Rule of Law.

Today, the choice has been framed differently; it is the imposition of dictatorship THROUGH terror.

And that’s no choice at all.


fubar said...

Before Nahr El-Bared Lebanon could pretend it had a unified army. I suspect that after Nahr El-Bared, the divisions in the army will have to be addressed. And yet there will be no time before the next crisis. It is tricky arming the LAF knowing that those same arms may ultimately be used against the loyalist LAF by the breakaway Hezbollah LAF. In the meantime, without arms, the LAF cannot fight the "terrorists." Damned if you do and damned if you don't - not a good place to be.

moz said...

Ok, I give up. I honestly cannot understand how intelligent, rational people can have such a narrow view of the Lebanese situation. I cannot understand how people can expect to create a free a sovreign state if they are not only looking to protect on side of the country but also attributing every ill on one "enemy" of the country - Unless you are directly associated with and profit from this current govt., I cannot understand how the people of Lebanon cannot learn the simple lesson that if you fight one oppressor with the support of another oppresor you will merely be substituting oppressors and methoology. If we cannot learn this incredibly simple lesson, then the likes of Angry Arab are right. There is no future for the country except one of constant turmoil, struggles for power and exploitation by our neighbours.

8000 years of history and we still can't figure it out.

Thanks for the debates.

Jeha said...


I fear you may be right, but one has to be optimistic. I am not sure, however, what you mean by "breakaway Hezbollah LAF".


You have a point, but you rule out another all too easily. We do share a huge part of the blame. But Syria has been helping a lot; true, this govt had 2 years in which it did not try to work very hard, but the Syrians had at least 20 years to prepare the ground.

NOTE: You will note that I have enabled comment moderation. I had erased derogatory comments in the past, and the offenders did not insist.

I have enabled comment moderation for now. I cannot police politeness, and trash cleaning get in the way of work. Please excuse this move; I can only assure you that I
will wave through all comments, except for the person banned, and any profanities.

You cannot please everyone, and I am done trying.

ghassan karam said...

Winston Churchill once said "History will be kind to me because I intend to write it". Well, history was written at Naher El Bared by a confluent of events and developments that go way beyong the purely local.
The Lebanese have taken a unified stand against the intransigent efforts by what they considered to be an outside force that is not representative of their aspirations.
The united political front gave the LAF the chance, arguably for the first time in its history, to conduct an military operation to protect the dignity and integrity of the state.

But there were a few other forces that played a seminal role in shaping the events at Naher El Bared:
FAI's connection to Pan Islam ensured global support to the Lebanese official government since Islamists are regarded as pariahs by the international community. It is also important to note, as we have argued in an earlier post, that Pan Islam presents a serious threat to each and every regime in the Arab world and thus the total regional support for the Lebanese government.
We will be remiss if we do not also recognise the major role played by the Palestinian Authority as represented by Fath and Mr. Abbas. The political cover that they offered for the operations at Naher El Bared was huge. I am not sure that anyone besides Mr. Abbas could have delivered under the circumstances. It was his efforts that kept the lid on Ain El Hellwah and the other camps.

Repeating that something is a fact does not make it so. Where are these checks that you keep refering to? Look, I understand your skepticism regarding the possibility that Hariri money and Saudi finances reached FAI. I have stated this as a probability as of day one of the conflict, but what does that mean? Does that mean that March 14, as you seem to be alleging orchestrated the Naher El Bared? Of course not. All what it shows is that is desperate situations many decisions backfire. It shows bad judgement. The same argument is applicable to the alleged Syrian complicity. Would it serve the interests of the Syrian Ba'ath to have a Salafist Islamic Emirate at its border? The answer again is in the negative but this does not mean that Syrian Mukhabarat would not intentinally fund and encourage such a group to create mayhem in Lebanon. Each side had a plausible explanation to help FAI. One thought that it might help neutralize some HA guns and the other saw it as a means of sowing instability. Ultimately though, FAI is an independent phenomenon that is willing to benefit from whoever is willing to support its wildly fanciful scheme and murderous ways.

BTW, you cannot be serious when you say that I want to stifle free speech , can you?

JoseyWales said...

I'm sorry if I don't read the Bared episode as positively as you and as most bloggers do.

Sure the gvmnt/army FINALLY decided to defend themselves BUT:

-I wish it had been a thought out conscious DECISION by the authorities, way back when they were challenged in many places over the last 2 years (and took casualties).

-It is a scandal that they waited until 17 soldiers were murdered in cold blood

-they also waited until every gvmnt and political party and mufti and priest on the planet gave their approval

-they are STILL woefully under-equipped

-they are still not in full control of the camp, and took 4 casualties today, 4 weeks into "tightening the noose' and "being in control"

The signal is still: you have to do something terrible and horrendous before we will act, and only after we get approval from... and after we say we fighting for the sake of the brothers...bla bla bla

Look, in one of these camps are the a-holes who tried to kill the DEFENSE Minister in 2005. Only yesterday (literally) did the gvmnt appoint a head investigating judge in the case.

Got it: 2005 crime vs the state, judge appointed in 2007.

BOB said...


sry to bring a totally unrelated comment, but in view of this "sam" character who's been plaguing your blog, let me share some of what he did on my blog...

beside the continuous insults and demeaning rhetoric to the personnel attacks, the guy used on several times different alias, at one point he even congratulateed himself, praising his great "intelligence" using a different alias

I donno to what level some ppl might slide in order to just defend an undefendable view...
i had to implement comment moderation to make him stop.

sry to interrupt your interesting discussion


Jeha said...

Josey, Ghassan,

Both your comments remind me of a Churchill in his 1938 letter addressed to Lord Moyne;

Owing to the neglect of our defences and the mishandling of the German problem in the last five years, we seem to be very near the bleak choice between War and Shame. My feeling is that we shall choose Shame, and then have War thrown in a little later, on even more adverse terms than at present.

I fear that we have apparently stumbled in this. I fear that the interest accrued may be more than we can afford, and far more than our leaders realize.


You're not interrupting, and I often enjoy reading your blog. I have had this individual under a tight leash ever since he insulted you on your blog, and tried to turn it around as an example of PC-ness and use this forum for continuing his little asides. I will remove comment moderation at some point, once I am better able to block his IP's; I have little time to take care of this right now.

amir in tel aviv said...

I tend to agree with the optimists.
Doesn't seems like the Lebanese army is going to disintegrate in the near future. On the contrary.
Events like Naher Al Bared contribute to the army's comradeship; the support the army gets from most Lebanese, is considerable, and this fact is encouraging.
Not to mention that the rusty Leb Army gains experience and knowledge.
The army's future assignments are going to look like the current; it is not going to fight national armies, but local militant organizations. When I watch the Leb army soldiers on TV, they look mature, responsible, calm and give a strong impression of confidence. They definitely don't look like riffraff, that is going to disintegrate (look at Iraqi army, for example).