Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Military Solution?

Ancient history can be so recent in the Middle East, not least Lebanon. The events of the past couple of weeks hark back, in some sense, to the days of the Greek civil war, the Peloponnesian War, when militaristic Spartans defeated mercantile Athenians.

Sparta’s military focus allowed it to do vanquish Athens efficiently. But after Sparta conquered Athens and humiliated it, this same military focus defeated it, as it failed to secure the peace. Sparta had no objective beyond victory, no solution beyond military.

A dialogue by other means…

And herein lays the key problem; the Military cannot be a solution, and they can never offer any.

Today’s Spartans forget that, for all their ingeniousness, self-sacrifice, abnegation, and bravery, they can only aspire to be a tool of policy. A tool that complements diplomacy;

"War is the continuation of politics through other means. The military objectives in war that support one's political objectives fall into two broad types: "war to achieve limited aims" and war to "disarm” the enemy: “to render [him] politically helpless or militarily impotent."

The nice thing about military tools is that they allow those who wield them to reach their objectives much faster. The efficacy of the use of military force is the bluntness of the message; the bluntness of the sword can simply cut the sharpest pen or the most eloquent of microphones.

But once it does so, once it meets its objectives, the tables are turned; the sharpness of the pen becomes more relevant. This is especially the case if the political objectives are clearly defined in the first place. In the case of the “Resistance”, since the shy away from publicly advertising their real goal (or those of their masters), their objectives are currently defined as the means themselves; the “Divine Weapons”.

Hezb’s “Miltary Solution” is fast becoming a “Military Problem”. And this problem has two aspects, both of which Nasrallah’s ill equipped to address.

The Objective is the Means

Hezb’s has achieved its military objectives in its latest coup. Yes, it took control over Beirut. Yes, it imposed its will over the population and the weak, ineffectual leaders who claim March 14th.

But now that it has done so, the actual limitations of its policy are appearing; it has nothing new to offer, no real solution to propose.

Now that those modern Spartans have achieved success, they are failing to develop a vision for the “after”. Yes, they know the sectarian threshold have been crossed. . Yes, they know they need to “engage” Sunnis and “reconcile” with them.

But they lack the means to do it. Their “Divine Weapons” are getting in the way, and the cost of keeping them is rising…

The Institutional Aspect

That would not be a problem in the limited context of Lebanon. But this game has many players, and those players have agreed on the “D’Oha agreement” as a framework to the current conflict. Kinda like a tailor made "Geneva Convention" for the ongoing Lebanese conflict.

As a result of this framework, a (wily?) President has been “elected”. As a result of this framework, a new PM (Siniora Part Deux?) will soon be back managing the crisis.

Even if 14 حمار cowers in the face of 8 حمار's diktat, Hezb is fighting a rear-guard action to conserve diminishing assets. The state’s bureaucracy, egged on by many, will continue encroaching on Nasrallah’s “Divine Domain”.

In the immediate, Nasrallah will do his Faqihest to enshrine his Divine Weapons in a new government statement. His goons recently wielded their military arguments again, but all the AK’s and RPG’s cannot hide the fact that, beyond this, Nasrallah has no other policy on offer.

He has nothing more than the threat of another “Military Solution”.

The Military Aspect

Faced with a growing hostility to this Military exclusivity, Nasrallah now faces the need to consolidate his powerbase by formalizing his state within a state. As he does so, the unconventional resistance is slowly turning into a conventional army, much like Arafat’s PLO did, once it secured its Fatahland.

The “Resistance” is turning into yet another occupying force. And much like the PLO, the “Resistance” is fixing its assets, digging in among an increasingly hostile Lebanese population. This is a tendency our neighbours may actually encourage;

"Some of the changes [Hezb] is undergoing oblige it to move from the form of a [guerrilla force] to the characteristics of a conventional army. This is the case in its deployment, its weaponry and also in terms of command and control. This transition is not entirely advantageous for [Hezb]. It deprives it of some of the advantages it had as an elusive body that strikes at the civilian population and hides behind the back of the civilian population."

But the stakes today is far more complex, and the implications far more dangerous. Back then, the PLO was a foreign body manned by foreigners. Today, Hezb may be a foreign tool, but it is manned by people who are just as Lebanese as anyone of us.

Interesting talks ahead...


danny said...

Perfect analysis of the Hizb quandry. They have decisions to make; Do they make the final push?
Do they play for a stagnant time hoping that the fools of March 14 might oblige? Their r'asion daitre is gone...almost. The next step could be devastating! If Israel releases the HA child killers from Jail and moves the Shabaa farms to under UN supervision, Hizb will be running on fumes!!

ghassan karam said...

Remember the story about the frog who kept blowing itself up in order to become as big as an oxen ? It wasn't a pretty sight. The same will eventually happen to HA but when they think that they are invincible that is when they are the most dangerous. They have tasted power, it has gone to their head and they are not about to give it up. Things will only get to be worse before they can become better.

Anonymous said...

Great analysis...

amir in tel aviv said...

The problem with Arabs (as one Israeli commentator put it, and I'm not gloating here...) is that the elites and the populations support the resistance (Shi'i, Sunni...whatever), and only the corrupt political and business establishments support the "western democracy".

HA, we might not like it, enjoys of great and unconditional popularity. It allows them the margin of making mistakes here or there, without losing this support.

Anonymous said...

Hazbani thinking
Two Israeli Jews= three political parties= four world outlooks. I think it is not very different from Lebanon. So I beg to disagree with Amir.
Acording to Amir some of the good people on this blog are agents of the "corrupt political and business establishments". From my experience, this generalization is not very polite, not very true and not very usefull.