RANGER AGAINST WAR: We've Got You Surrounded <

Friday, May 16, 2008

We've Got You Surrounded

I sell guns to the Arabs
and dynamite to the Jews

--Smuggling Man
, Richie Havens


After the Shiite Hezbollah Iranian/Syrian muscle flexing in Lebanon last week, Prime Minister Faud Saniora's government is a shaky proposition.

Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice said last week,
"We will stand by the Lebanese government and the peaceful citizens of Lebanon through the crisis and provide the support they need to weather this storm." But how?

Since we are deadlocked in two elective wars, do U.S. policymakers plan to expand into another conflict? President Bush naively called the "Ceder Revolution" -- the end of Syria's 30-year Lebanese occupation in 2005 -- a victory for his pro-democracy vision. But they are now back on the brink

We are watching a simple action : reaction.
The U.S. moved to depose Sunni elements in Iraq and Afghanistan, moves which benefited the Shiites in the region, which is now spilling over into Lebanon. The Sunni situation remains unclear, and resolution is not a done deal. The Saudis will not roll over for the Shias.

The U.S. decision to scrap
realpolitik and intervene thusly has neutralized 80 years of a delicate balance. The U.S. can threaten, cajole and intimidate Iran all day long with nuclear armed carrier groups, but Iran has the real power in the area, delivered courtesy the U.S.A.

That power is that the region no longer fears the combat power of America, because it cannot address the issues that are relevant to the region.

As Thomas Friedman said in "The New Cold War,"

For now, Team America is losing on just about every front. How come? The short answer is that Iran is smart and ruthless, America is dumb and weak, and the Sunni Arab world is feckless and divided. Any other questions?

Furthermore, quoting author Aaron David Miller, he says America is “not liked, not feared and not respected,” and “'cannot defeat, co-opt or contain' any of the key players in the region.” That is it in a nutshell.

Hezbollah is a regional power, with or without Iranian and Syrian support.
U.S. policy must do a better job selecting its friends, and a decisively better job selecting its enemies. U.S. policy should not be contingent upon the House of Saud, yet presently U.S. postures reflect Saudi aspirations in the region.

What are the long-term strategic benefits envisioned in U.S. foreign policy? Can anybody state these clearly? Foreign policy does not react to events: it should shape them.

As it stands, U.S. policy in the region is simply knee-jerk reaction that benefits naught.



Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

i like the old roman and athenian style of empire. they didn't so much have subjects or client states as much as they had partners. along with military genius, which saved more than a few days, what cemented ceasar's victory in gaul was that the tribes on the fringes saw the growing wealth and comfort of the tribes who were allied with rome. this wealth and status was apparent in tribes like the remi, who became not only rome's official horse traders along with shock cavalry.

frankly we shouldn't have 'friends' or 'enemies' in that region. we should have folks who will do business, and folks who don't, and leave it at that. that's what the athenian empire was all about. trading routes and stations across the mediterranian and the agean.

it wasn't personal, it was business.

Friday, May 16, 2008 at 11:40:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...


Excellent historical analogy.

It seems the most reasonable model when dealing with recalcitrant players who are not seeking, and in fact rejecting, your friendship.

Friday, May 16, 2008 at 12:00:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger BadTux said...

First of all, Hezballah did not attack Lebanon. Hezballah resisted attempts to eliminate its influence upon Lebanese politics, and when those attempts involved armed force against Hezballah, Hezballah responded accordingly. Saniora's government does not represent the majority of the Lebanese people and never has, due to the fractured nature of Lebanese demographics and politics and the ratios set up by the resolutions that ended the Lebanese Civil War. The best that can be said about Saniora's government is that it arose from a desire by the majority of the Lebanese people to put the last vestiges of the civil war (Syrian influence) behind them.

As for Hezballah, the notion that Hezballah is a tool of the Syrians is ludicrous. At this point in time it is likely the other way around, after Hezballah demonstrated that they could take on the strongest military in the region (Israel's) and fight it to a draw. Syria needs Hezballah more than Hezballah needs Syria. Syria needs Hezballah as a credible deterrent to Israeli aims upon Lebanon. Hezballah needs Syria mainly as a transit corridor for arms, and frankly most of what it needs can be just as easily purchased on the open market and smuggled in via other means, Syria is a convenience for them, nothing more.

As for the notion that Hezballah wants to dominate Lebanese politics: HAH! One of the lessons of the Lebanese civil war was that no one group in Lebanon is capable of dominating Lebanese politics. Hezballah has been very restrained in its response to government actions against it, careful to respond only if attacked and at all times announcing that it had no designs on Lebanon, it only wanted to insure the rights of other groups within Lebanon. An attempt to dominate Lebanese politics would lead to a resumption of the Lebanese Civil War -- which is the last thing they want, since it would undercut their whole goal (which is a free, independent, democratic and prosperous Lebanon that can demonstrate that a multicultural nation can exist in the Middle East without genocide or repression, all part of their long-term goal of undermining Israel).

In a way, Saniora's government has undercut its own legitimacy -- by attacking the most popular group in Lebanon, then having said most popular group respond in a very restrained way rather than hauling Saniora out of his compound and hanging him from the nearest tree (and believe me, Hezballah has the military power to do that if they desired -- but it would lead to a full-scale resumption of the Lebanese Civil War, which they do *not* desire, so they're not doing it). What Saniora's government has done is made Hezballah seem like the voice of reason that wants a free and democratic Lebanon and Saniora's group seem like a bunch of power-crazed thugs and goons out to quash all opposition and impose dictatorship. You don't get that here in the U.S. propaganda press, of course, because it violates the Received Truth as passed down by the U.S. government's Office of Disinformation (which officially doesn't exist but of course it does, e.g. the ex-generals on the Pentagon payroll scandal). But if you read the foreign press, you can see what's going on, and it doesn't look good for Saniora's government, which first made the foolhardy decision to attempt to attack the most militarily powerful group in Lebanon, then ended up being diplomatically trumped when said group responded in a manner that made them look like the defenders of democracy in Lebanon.

- Badtux the Geopolitical Penguin

Friday, May 16, 2008 at 6:58:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

Badtux, I did not say anywhere that Hez attacked Lebanon.Nor did i say they were a tool of the Iranians or Syrians.My article is clear- in fact my only focus is the impotence and cluelessnss of US policy in the entire region.
As for needing a land link to move arms this is not necessary since God gave us airplanes.It's sorta like intelligent design for arms dealers.
Thanks for your analysis.jim

Friday, May 16, 2008 at 7:45:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger BadTux said...

Airplanes are great, drug smugglers everywhere love'em! Weapons are a bit heavier and larger volume, and it's hard to hide that you're unloading them when you have IAF spy planes lurking about just offshore especially when there's only one airport in Lebanon capable of landing heavy planes (Beirut, which is still damaged and still can't handle the heaviest cargo planes until it is fully repaired). So it's convenient for Hezballah to land its supply flights in Damascus rather than Beirut. But, as you point out, it's not necessary -- Syria needs Hezballah a lot more than Hezballah needs Syria.

The "tag" at the bottom of the article is what misled me. It said "Hezbollah War On Lebanon". That was not a fair or accurate assessment of what is happening in Lebanon today, which is a playing out of long-standing ethnic tensions where the President overestimated his hand when he made his bet and called, and that was my reaction. Lebanon has been of interest to me since the early 80's, when the U.S. Marines got blown up there. At the time it was mostly as a precautionary thing -- "see, this is what can happen, a multi-ethnic democracy can go from being a paradise on Earth to being this hellhole in just a few years!" But then something interesting happened -- the civil war ended.

Needless to say I don't have a full understanding of all the intricacies of Lebanese politics. You really have to be born there and grow up in it to get all the nuances. But it's clear that any simplistic assessments of what is going on there are simply wrong, and if the U.S. is to defend its interests in the region, the U.S. needs to move away from simplistic assessments like "Saniora good! Hezbollah bad! Ugh!" and either disengage entirely, or engage in a more intelligent manner. I think that's a thesis you can agree with :-).


Friday, May 16, 2008 at 8:08:00 PM GMT-5  

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