Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Why does Hezbollah have a military and what can that tell us

Hi All,

I'm sure I'm not alone in thinking a lot about what's going in Lebanon. I've said before that I don't understand why Israel is doing this bombing thing. It is inherently sloppy (i.e. kills and so alienates civilians) and yet it's unlikely that Israel can disarm Hezbollah (a good goal!) with air strikes alone. Leaving that puzzle aside for a moment, I was thinking about why Hezbollah still has it's military and what that can tell us about it's motives.

Hezbollah developed it's military wing during the Israeli occupation of South Lebanon. It's understandable how it came about in that circumstance. But Israel pulled out of Lebanon (except for some tiny enclaves here and there along the border) years ago. What's more, Hezbollah has proved quite successful politically and has won representation in the national government. So why hasn't Hezbollah dismantled its private military? Why has it instead strengthened it?

Suppose that Hezbollah's motive is purely to "defend Lebanon" when the national military cannot? If that is the party's goal, why doesn't it simply donate its equipment (and troops) to the national military and advocate a strong defense like many hawkish/nationalist parties around the world? One might say, "Well, Hezbollah's supporters are poor and can't afford to pay for a national military strong enough to deter Israel." Fair enough. And that is probably why Hezbollah's funding for it's own military comes mainly from Iranian and Syrian aid.

So why would Iran and Syria give military aid to Hezbollah but not to the Lebanese army (which uses a mixture of western military equipment and some older Soviet stuff)? I suggest it is because they prefer that Hezbollah BE the Lebanese government rather than simply participate in it. That Hezbollah accepts this arrangement suggests that they share this goal.

I'm increasingly convinced that the argument that Hezbollah needs it's military because of the Israeli threat to Lebanon is nonsense - even given the current invasion by Israel. If defending Lebanon was the goal, Hezbollah would support the national military. That they insist on having a private military reveals their more selfish concerns.


Anonymous said...

By the way, this is all probably why most of the stink people are raising about Israel's actions are about the care (or lack of it) they are taking in avoiding civilian casualties. No one (except Iran and Syria) seems particularly to object to their claim to have a good reason to attack Hezbollah.  

// posted by Raised By Republicans

Dr. Strangelove said...

Hizbollah has a military wing because that's what you need to be considered a player in that region. And that is surely Hizbollah's goal. It is the goal of every group that maintains its own "militia," from Fatah to Hamas to a dozen groups in Iraq.

The idea that Hizbollah "needs" its private military to defend Lebanon is abusrd, not only for the good reasons RbR points out, but because the only real threat to Lebanon is Syria--Hizbollah's backers.

Incidentally, Israel is no longer conducting merely air attacks. They are making "targeted" land incursions as well. The Israeli military admits that air superiority alone will not be sufficient to destroy Hizbollah's capability to terrorize the Israeli people.

Anonymous said...

RBR raises a good point. It is not about Lebanon at all, but about Iran and Syria. It is, in my mind, a proxy war. It is really fundamentalist regimes fighting 'The West' meaning Israel and the U.S.

Hezbollah is funded by Iran and Syria. It allows Syria to control Lebanon without having to put its own troops there. That is why Syria was so willing to pull out of Lebanon.

In addition, look at the map. To get supplies from Iran to Hezbollah, they have to pass through Syria. To get fighters from Lebanon to Iraq, they have to pass through Syria from Lebanon and then into Iran and up into Shia dominated Southern Iraq where they get to kill Americans and Brits in Iraq. That is really the goal. They can't pass from Syria because the U.S. has control of the Iraqi Syrian border in the north. In fact, we hare expanding a military outpost there.

Remember when we talked about Iranian activity in Iraq and I mentioned the Iranian leader's promise to give American's trouble in Iraq? Well, there it is. Hezbollah. It is an Iranian power play in alliance with Syria to solidify its position in the Arab world.

By removing Saddam, we broke the "stability" in the region. We removed the only real block to Iran in the region. Now you have Iran going nukey. They couldn't have been so bold with Saddam next door. He was useful to us, he really was. For Arabs it is like a Berlin Wall moment where old alliances are destroyed and new ones are rising up.

// posted by USWest

Anonymous said...

I think US West sumed things very nicely! That this is a proxy war between Israel and Iran is all the more tragic for the people of Lebanon. And it is all the more offensive that Israel seems to be so cavalier about bombing civilian areas.

An Israeli General (and visiting professor at Boston U) on PBS Newshour said that the IDF drops leaflets first but I don't believe that easily.

All that said, there are things to be said in favor of proxy wars. Consider the mess that would break out if Israel actually invaded Syria directly or bombed Iran. Or if Iran or Syria tried to launch missiles at Israel? Yikes! I suppose this is the Middle Eastern version of "restraint." 

// posted by Raised By Republicans

US West said...

RBR, believe the flyers story. We said that we did the same thing in Afghanistan.

I wouldn't be THAT skeptical.

Anonymous said...

The reason I'm dubious about the fliers is that the Israelis are trying to destroy movable caches of rockets. If they give the locals notice "we're going to bomb in your area tonight" or something, there is a good chance that Hezbollah will simply move the cache. In Afghanistan, US air forces were bombing troops trying to set up a defense line between the Northern Alliance and Kabul so getting them to move out of their prepared positions was the immediate tactical goal. 

// posted by Raised By Republicans

US West said...

Yes, I understand your thinking. But you don't know what the flyers said either. In fact, they were showing the flyers on Arab news stations. And they usually drop them close enough within the time frame that you can't really move a weapons cache in that amount of time given.

My friends from Lebanon have also told me that the Israelis have a new system where they call and leave messages on answering machines telling them that they will be bombing in the next hour and thus, to leave. It is similar to the systems that call us before elections begging for votes.

But since I can't quantify how many people got calls or measure the length of each call, or actually heard a call myself, I shouldn't trust this first hand information? I haven't checked the Arab news outlets, but I bet they are airing samples of the calls.

I also heard the same thing about the flyers reported in other sources. It would be a lie that would be easily verifiable, thus pointless to make.

I think the bigger issue is that such tactics, like dropping flyers or makign calls aren't really useful. People either can't get out in time, won't get out in time, etc. It's not like they got 5 days notice to clear out. But it does enable the ISarelis to go onto foreign news outlets and say, "We gave fair warning, we aren't bad guys. We protect civilians"

Anonymous said...

Actually, I'd believe it if someone from Lebanon said the Israelis were warning civilians but not if an Isreali General says it. It just sounds too self serving to be accurate. Like you said, it seems like the main purpose is the public statement on PBS rather than actually saving lives. 

// posted by Raised By Republicans

Anonymous said...

I think we need to consider for a moment another problem: refugees. It is reported  that over half a million refugees are bumping around Lebanon, heading for Northern Beirut and Northern Lebanon from the South. This doesn't count the over 100K that have gone to Syria.

This is a country compires of 3.9 mil people and 10,400 sq Km or about .7 % the size of Connecticut (CIA WORLD FACT BOOK) This is why what seems to us to be "targeted" bombing isn't really. The area is so small, everything has a magnified effect.

My Lebanese friends tell me that this migration to the north is going to great huge problems later. Many of these people's villages and homes have been destroyed. Many who could afford it, rented homes in "safer" areas that are normally vacation homes. This means that they may resist going back home once things calm down. The owners of the buildings and places that they currently occupy may not be happy with that. The whole thing could degenerate into civil war. 

// posted by USWest

Dr. Strangelove said...

Would you stay put with bombing going on around you? It doesn't matter if it is "targeted" bombing or not. To those on the ground, it's just death raining from the air.

The Israelis are surely aware that the perception of bombs falling is going to create chaos and misery so long as it lasts. I believe that is why they are coming down so hard, so fast. The sooner they disable Hizbollah, the sooner it will be over.

Anonymous said...

They will weaken Hizbollah, but not disable it.There won't be cease fire because for that, you have to have negotitations. And do we "negotiate" with "terrorists"? No.

In an attempt to better understand the history of Hezbollah I went to this Frontline episode   from May 2003. I found an interesting an telling quote from Richard Armitage.

"Hezbollah may be the A-team of terrorists and maybe Al Qaeda is actually the B-team," argues Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage. "They're on the list and their time will come. There is no question about it. They have a blood debt to us and we're not going to forget it[referring to the 241 Marines killed back in the 1980's] . It's all in good time."

The time has arrived.


// posted by USWest

Anonymous said...

As for the bad image of Israel, I don't think they care. As for the Arab view of Israel, isn't it the idea, "How can you keep your good name, when you never had one at all?" And, it's not like international opinion really changes much. USA supports Israel with a blank check. Europe waffles. Nobody else supports them at all.

That's why I focus on one issue: whether Israel can gain anything by pressuring the Lebanese government in this way. I don't see it. Now, there is a need to destroy Hezbollah, and that will actually help Lebanon too, which is why they should have tried to do it together.

I don't buy this proxy war stuff. I think that's a load of bull being ladled out of DC to justify future strikes on Iran. Hezbollah uses Iran for money. Iran uses Hezbollah to pretend it hasn't given up the anti-Zionist struggle, and to challenge Syria.


// posted by LTG

US West said...

Well, Iran also wants to challenge the U.S. I find the timing of all of this very interesting. Once nuke neogtiations break down, Israel, who has had trouble with Hezbollah since forever, decides to invade. Call me a conspiracy theorist, but it makes me wonder . . . better to hit an agent of Iran than Iran itself. Next best thing. And since we have to collect a blood debt, why not now?

I normally think Tom Friendman is an idiot but in his recent op-ed he mentioned that one of the key ways to affect Hezbollah was to woo away Syria. Once Syria is wooed, Hezbollah can't be supplied and then you have a way to weaken or even eliminate them.

In a previous comment about the leaflets, RBR pointed out that dropping leaflets would give Hezbollah time to move weapons caches. Well, according to my Lebanese sources, the Hezbollah's long-range missiles have to be moved on trucks. Well, my sources tells me that Israel was very smart. They bombed all the roads and bridges and then proceeded to bomb or destroy all the trucks. "You won't find a sinlge one left that can move a missile," I was told.

There is also a friend whose family is stuck in southern Lebanon in a border town because they are too old and infirm to leave. One is in a wheel chair, others are too sick. Another acquaintance lost her aunt and uncle when they attempted to drive south to collect family and bring them back north. I mention this only to report what I am hearing and to remind us all that strategy aside, again, there is a very human cost to all of this. It is less abstract for me now than in the past.