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Lebanon: Small Country, Big Danger

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mloutre Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jan-07-07 12:43 PM
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Lebanon: Small Country, Big Danger

Lebanon is a very small country.

Lebanon is only 4,035 square miles in area, while Connecticut covers 5,349 square miles. So that means Lebanon is smaller in size than all but one American state (poor little Rhode Island has only 1,214 square miles to its name).

Small in size, yes. But tiny Lebanon is a smoldering tinderbox that could set the whole Middle East aflame if its crisis condition continues to be ignored by us here in the United States.

I saw this comment on a different blog this weekend, and it gave me pause: "While Hezbollah is demonstrating peacefully, it doesn't suggest to me that it intends to stage a bombastic violent coup." In an ideal world, a peacefully-demonstrating Hezbollah might be the norm. However, the situation in Lebanon today is much more complicated than that.

Hezbollah is by its nature a violent revolutionary movement. It might be useful to compare it to Ireland's dual Sinn Fein/I.R.A. organization -- while it does have a social component that aids and supports like-minded citizens, it also has a very active military component that is dedicated to overthrowing the Lebanese government by force.

Bear in mind that last summer's 34-day war in Lebanon, where Israel invaded Lebanon territory (with what some have been saying was excessive force -- literally, overkill), was triggered by Hezbollah 's having staged a cross-border raid back in July (in what some have been saying was a bold move but a colossal blunder) and kidnapped two Israeli soldiers.

Since Hezbollah 's military component basically fought the Israelis to a draw rather than a victory for either side, its social component garnered plenty of public relations points in the region by providing emergency aid to the citizens who had been displaced by that war.

But that public relations advantage is already fading, and can't be expected to last much longer as anger over the gruesome costs of last summer's war with Israeli replaces gratitude within the local communities for Hezbollah 's assistance in trying to rebuild what was destroyed on their watch.

War damage in Lebanon is assessed at $3.6 billion. Over 1,200 Lebanese were killed, more than 3,700 wounded, and over 975,000 were left homeless. Over a million unexploded cluster bomblets still remain scattered across the hills and olive groves of southern Lebanon, waiting to kill and maim innocent civilians who come across them.

When you consider that Lebanon's entire population before the war stood at about 3.8 million people, that's an astoundingly high cost in human lives and property resulting from an ill-advised adventure on Hezbollah 's part.

Also bear in mind that Hezbollah is a Shi'ite revolutionary movement that is heavily funded and supplied by Syria, which has dominated Lebanon through military force for the last three decades. Syria (and Iran, funneling its support through Damascus) provided massive logistical, military, and financial support for Hezbollah during last summer's war with Israel.

Syria has made no bones about its intent to keep dominating Lebanon by means of force, and Hezbollah is operating as a Syrian proxy force there in terms of pushing for the Shi'ites to take total control of the country. But they're not the only players in the game there.

If Lebanon dissolves into another war between internal factions (its last civil war having lasted from 1975 through 1990), other groups can expect to find outside backing also. The Saudis have already indicated that they will fund and support Sunni militias in areas of the Middle East that are threatened with Shi'ite revolution. Lebanese Christian militias may turn to Israel for help, as they did during the previous civil war there.

So that's why I described Lebanon as a tiny but extremely flammable tinderbox. If the situation there devolves into civil war again -- which at this point seems highly likely, barring some immediate (and successful) intervention by the world community -- then some of the richest and most heavily-armed nations in the entire Middle East will inevitably be drawn into it as well.

Had our nation's integrity, influence, and power in the region not been so drastically reduced by the Bush administration's illegal and unnecessary war of conquest in Iraq, we would stand a much better chance of being able to help defuse the crisis in Lebanon.

But there's still plenty of ways in which America can work with other countries to keep the tinderbox from setting the whole Middle East aflame. It will take careful study, skillful diplomacy, and clear-headed thinking for that to happen -- something that the current administration has already proved it can't be trusted to get right when it comes to foreign policy.

So should we have talks with Hezbollah , help mediate the conflict with it and its host country, provide aid to the war-ravaged citizens there, and try to build a realistic political alliance with Lebanon and its neighboring countries? Absolutely. (Some of the members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who recently visited the Middle East discuss the case for doing so here, here, and here.)

But don't kid yourself. Hezbollah isn't going to hang up its weapons and just demonstrate peacefully in the meanwhile. It took nearly a century for Sinn Fein to gain credence as a political entity and for its violent I.R.A. wing to disarm, and the Shi'ite revolutionaries in Lebanon are every bit as tenacious now as their counterparts in Ireland were then.


(For further information on the critical situation in Lebanon, there's a comprehensive list of recent articles and analysis from the mainstream media here. Information and opinions directly from Lebanese bloggers on the ground can be found here and here. Wikipedia has a very detailed set of entries about Lebanon here as well.)



{Note: this essay is also crossposted at www.democracycellproject.net/blog/archives/2007/01/smal... and there are some excellent and thought-provoking response comments in the thread there as well.}
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whistle Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jan-07-07 12:55 PM
Response to Original message
1. Yet another example of the failed foreign diplomatic policies of Bush/Cheney
....It has been two months since the voters spoke. Impeach Bush/Cheney now!
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Tom Joad Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jan-07-07 01:13 PM
Response to Original message
2. Lebanon is threatened by its southern neighbor as much as anyone else.
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peacetalksforall Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jan-07-07 01:13 PM
Response to Original message
3. If you don't mind, I'm going to extract and list the numbers because
Edited on Sun Jan-07-07 01:16 PM by higher class
some people can be more impacted by numbers staring out at them - in plain sight. Then I want to ask a question -

Only 3 1/3 times the size of Rhode Island (approximately).
If Lebanon were a State, it would be our second smallest.

Population before: 3.2 million
Killed 1,200
Maimed 3,700
Homeless 375,000
Unexploded cluster bomblets still to explode - over 1,000,000 (million)
War damage 3.6 billion

We know that their infrastructure was purposely bombed.

There are some equivalent numbers for Israel, of course.

My question is - is there any doubt floating around about
Hezbollah crossing the border and kicking it off? Have
identities and loyalties been provedn

If writing a plot and knowing what we do about staged
reasons for killing, does anyone think that the kick-off
for the destruction was concocted? I don't trust anyone
in the war game - it seemed they wanted to purposely
weaken Lebanon in preparation to bomb Iran.

We can't forget the tidbits of knowledge we've had about
pipelines - water and oil. A lot of behind the scenes
pipeline route manipulations, negotiations, and building
goes on that we don't even know about. Passing through
Lebanon to a Mediterranean port (Israel) and bypassing
the Red Sea would be ideal.


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dwahzon Donating Member (338 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jan-07-07 01:29 PM
Response to Original message
4. K&R n/t
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