Wednesday, July 19, 2006


What if they had World War III and no one showed up?

That's my hope for the Lebanon(Hezbollah)/Gaza(Hamas)-Israeli conflict: that all the major powers let the belligerents duke it out until they get tired. I refuse to watch the news coverage or to care about what is just one more episode in a war that has raged openly for sixty years. I will try to send aid for the civilians, mostly Palestinian or Lebanese but also Israeli who are suffering terribly. This is one of the most absurd, incomprehensible military campaigns in history. As has been pointed out, Ariel Sharon would have dealt with it-- indeed, dealt with similar situations-- with a much more measured and focused response. How strange that Sharon would seem like a sage next to the chickenhawks running this campaign. Saddest of all is the lack of comprehension in this country. Most Americans couldn't find Lebanon on a map. Now munitions paid for by American taxpayers are raining down on it... and killing dozens of civilians for every Hezbollah fighter. With what I understand are 900,000 refugees in Lebanon, and Israel demanding that Lebanese abandon their homes to create a demilitarized zone up to the Litani River-- with a million residents of Gaza lacking food and water-- it amounts to ethnic cleansing. There is no defense for the humanitarian crisis that has been created: one cannot endanger a couple of million innocent civilians on behalf of a half dozen soldiers or in pursuit of a few thousand militiamen. Juan Cole has a terrific piece in Salon, good enough to get me to click through the ad. Lebanon... is a multicultural society, sometimes called a country of minorities. In East Beirut, Jounieh and points north, into Mount Lebanon, Maronite Catholics are the majority. Sunnis are important in the port cities -- Tripoli, West Beirut and Sidon -- as well as in the Bekaa Valley and in the far north. In the Shouf mountains live the Druze, hardy adherents of an esoteric offshoot of Ismaili Islam. The deep south down near the Israeli border is orthodox (or a "Twelver") Shiite territory, though they are also a majority in the Bekaa Valley to the east, with Baalbak a major center, and decades of immigration to the capital have created a southern ring of Shiite slums around Beirut. Poor Shiites are the constituency for the fundamentalist Hezbollah Party, though in opinion polls most of them do not report their main political commitment as Muslim fundamentalism. ... Hezbollah emerged as the militarily most important group in Lebanon when 14,000 Syrian troops withdrew from the country in spring 2005. The Syrians had played the role of peacekeeper, or at least referee [Charles: I think the correct term is "warlord." Syria was not neutral, serving to reinforce the Muslim regions], during the Lebanese Civil War. ... The Cedar Revolution was hailed by the Bush administration as a great achievement of democratization, but in fact it pushed the fragile Lebanese political system into a state of dangerous instability, in which the Lebanese ethnic factions no longer had a referee. ... Israel has bombed, blockaded, isolated and crippled the entire country. Why? In preparation for what? ... Israel has a range of options. It has already made one raid into the south. ...The next stage could be a calibrated Israeli incursion into the south, reminiscent of its Operation Litani in 1978. ... How good is the maximalist plan enunciated by Israeli military and government spokesmen? Ethically, it is monstrous, involving war crimes on a vast scale insofar as it targets a civilian population for forcible relocation. And practically, any such plan is doomed to abject failure. This confrontation of Hezbollah and Hamas is a road to nowhere. I guess that's why the GOP is so anxious to travel it.
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