Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Police Force Gets Unexpected Help

Ever since the Syrian Army’s expulsion from Lebanese territories, our eyes have turned to Western nations to see what kind of assistance, and how much of it, they provide to Lebanon in this very delicate stage of its history. Politically there can be no doubt; had it not been for, primarily, French and American pressure, Lebanon would still be under the thumb of Syria's occupation forces. Technically and financially, though, assistance to Lebanon appears rather sparse.

From a security perspective though, assistance has been considerable. The FBI contributed by helping investigate several assassinations that occurred over the past year, and also donated a forensics laboratory to Lebanon’s security services. French and British advisors took up residence in several police headquarters, and introduced such novelties as using police vehicles to encourage citizen cooperation by advertising websites and phone numbers. And only last week, acting Interior Minister, Ahmad Fatfat, returned from the United States with a considerable pledge of assistance. The Daily Star reports that Fatfat returned with promises from the US Department of Defense for approximately $14 million - $10 of which would go to the Army and $4 to the Internal Security Forces.

The unexpected assistance referred to at the title of this section has, figuratively speaking, come from right under our noses – and, as far as I am aware, not been highlighted in Lebanon’s (or in fact, any major) media outlets. The United Arab Emirates recently committed funds to construct over 200 police stations across Lebanese territory. Unfortunately, I do not have more figures to share with you, and cannot even confirm this snippet of information. However, my source over here, informs me that at least some of the police stations slated for construction are already on the ground, so to speak.

If true (I have no reason to doubt the credibility of my source), I wonder how much of an impact new facilities would have on our police force. Of course, nothing supercedes training, and with that in mind, I am grateful to the French and British for sending their advisors over (and the FBI for the forensics lab - and required training). However, considering how much coverage international ususally receives from Lebanon's media outlets, I also wonder why this particular aid package does not even come up in a Google search.


Anonymous said...

If it's not in Google, as Juan Cole would say, it must not be true (or at least he does not have to admit it's true)!

Anonymous said...

You won't hear anything about this stuff because the defense and justice departments (from which military and law enforcement advisors come) are fundamentally at odds with the Department of State, the guys who grab all the headlines. This reminds me of a comment that I left on Tony's site quite some time ago; it is actually more appropriate for your post:

Regarding outside assistance, perhaps those critics who project Syria's or even Iran's intentions on to U.S. actions need to examine the character of American actions themselves. With practically no diplomatic fanfare, FBI agents lend their assistance, and military advisors help train the Lebanese military. What DOES this mean? While most of the world jumps at the opportunity to judge American intentions based on the Iraq model, the U.S. military operates in about 150 other nations, albeit very quietly, with as small a footprint as possible.
If anything, Iraq has reaffirmed in American mindsets that Americans are long on know-how and short on ideological underpinnings. Americans are great at training others' armies, but not at convincing them who their enemies should be, for instance. Hence, when Americans lead with the FBI and Special Forces advisors and NOT with their diplomats, they de-emphasize the importance of whatever "message" or "conditions" that would normally be imposed in the past. THIS is the future of American foreign policy, not necessarily the mistakes made in Iraq. (end of quote)

I recommend Robert Kaplan's latest, "Imperial Grunts" (in spite of the weirdo title) a more complete summary on what's happening within the U.S. defense establishment regarding this kind of strategy, of which Lebanon's consumption of American know-how is a perfect (yet fundamentally unsung) example.

Doha said...

Thanks Raja for giving us an inside view of what's going on in Lebanon. The view from the Beltway here, and relying just on those media outlets you referenced, does not look so appealing and has put me in a writing rut.

JoseyWales said...

This helps, but a whole lot more needs to happen politically.

The basic problem is lack of will, and a tolerance for incompetence and corruption.

The army was helped by the US before 75-76, after the war under Gemayel, throughout Lahoud, and now. So what?

Same with the police.

Also when PMs, MPs, and judges are killed and can't be protected, the lowly sergent is gonna stick his neck out for his $200 salary?

OK it's a start, but so many more things need to be turned around.

Anonymous said...

" The United Arab Emirates recently committed funds to construct over 200 police stations across Lebanese territory. Unfortunately, I do not have more figures to share with you"

Arab countries are notorious for promising money without sending it.

Doha said...


but the gulf countries pledge money and do send it.

Anonymous said...

"Politically there can be no doubt; had it not been for, primarily, French and American pressure, Lebanon would still be under the thumb of Syria's occupation forces."

Is there a limit to your naiveté? Where was the US when Israel occupied your country for better than 20 years? Or is the South not the part of Lebanon you care about? So now your former oppressor’s chief patron has turned philanthropic for no reason and decided to care about your freedom? And you're an astute reader of history and a keen observer of politics?

Please answer this: why does the US care about your freedom and has no trouble squashing the Palestinians with its unconditional support of their jailers and murderers? Are you Lebanese special in the eyes of the US? Are you a different kind of Muslim or Christian? Are you worth rescuing, while the Palestinians are not? Until you figure this “riddle” I suggest spending your time doing something more useful than recounting totally misleading “facts” and applying infantile readings of them.

Raja said...

Anonymous 1:47,

I suppose it would suit you better if I just went ahead and typed that the Syrians regime willingly left Lebanon out of its own generous and "brotherly"/"sisterly" impulses.

Or better... the regime wanted to set an example for other regimes, and ultimately, the Israeli regime.

Or maybe this version would suit my more nationalist compatriots: the syrian army was expelled from Lebanon ONLY because of Lebanese efforts.

Maybe you should add some more reasons behind Syria's "departure" to this list. My naivite seems to cloud my judgement all too often these days!

Anonymous said...

You know that the reasons why Syria left is not the point I am contesting, so your reply simply takes us on another red herring..

The point is that you seem grateful to the US/French for the pressure and subsequent "security" assistance without so much as mentioning the historical and geopolitical context the US and the French operate in.

The US did not pressure Syria, and they did, to affirm your point, because it cares about your country or your freedom. The US considers Syria a problematic regime because the latter refuses to play along in Washington’s Mid-East game, and so it pressures Syria to exit to weaken it and to drive a wedge between it and its geopolitical allies in Lebanon who have also contested Washington and Tel Aviv's self-serving interests.

Rest assured that had Syria been in the US camp that you and your compatriots would have never seen the dawn of independence unless you forcibly/militarily were able to drive the Syrians out (a la Israel-in-Lebanon scenario). US/Israeli interest dictated a strategy of isolating Syria and HA in Lebanon. Your subsequent freedom is simply the byproduct of that strategy. It is, not to be too cynical, a consequence, but the US plays this after-effect up because, morally/internationally, it hides the real motives behind the thrust and allows the US to play good cop to the world.

So, I understand why the US may want to raise these notions and mislead the world, but why are you? Have you not been privy to the US’s meddling in your area? I believe your naiveté is even dangerous because if enough people like you believed this crap the Lebanese will never achieve true independence and will simply switch one self-serving patron for another.

JoseyWales said...

I believe your naiveté is even dangerous..

And I believe your misplaced "sophistication" is dangerous, and what is killing the Arabs.

If someone, regardless of the past, wants to give you a million dollars today:

Do you want to ask "sophisticated" questions, or do you take it and figure out your next move?

Raja said...

Anon, no where in my entry did I delve into intentions. You were the one who introduced that subject, and then immediately assumed that I believed France and the United States assisted Lebanon for altruistic reasons.

I never said anything of that nature; and I do not believe it either.

As far as I am concerned, very few people or organizations do anything out of pure altruism. So my question to you is the following: You accuse me of naivite, but I wonder who among us is naive considering your own apparent expectation that states deal with oneanother altruistically?

No, my friend. I am happy when the interests of the United States and those of my country coincide. And in the case of expelling the Syrians, and providing us with assistance, I believe that is exactly what happened.

You cannot see past the Zero-sum mentality (i.e. Someone else's gain must be my own loss). Has it ever occured to you that two people may actually partake in a transaction and gain from it?

Maybe you should think about that

Anonymous said...

Sure Raja, I'll think about it..

But I would think in light of the current on-going Israeli juggernaut advancing on Gaza, crushing every facet of Palestinian existence with American hardware and money, and American diplomatic support and unflinching loyalty, that you’d have a little hesitancy in saying the following:
“I am happy when the interests of the United States and those of my country coincide.”

Do you care at all what’s happening next door to you, to people who share your language, history, heritage, etc... You have no qualms, questions, or even just plain, flimsy weariness about a superpower that does as it pleases to the area around you and its people? That is astounding to me. Let’s say Lebanon’s and the US’s interests coincide in this particular case, does it not raise your concerns about what else the US is doing to your neighbors? And it does not worry you that in the past that the US’s interests deemed it ok for the Israelis to keep occupying you, vetoing every move in the Security Council that criticized or attempted to sanction the occupying Israelis?

You have the right as a Lebanese to throw out the Syrian thugs with whatever means necessary, but it concerns me that not only do you not contextualize and qualify what the US’s actions in Lebanon are and what that may mean for the future in light of all the historical events taking shape around you, but you’re even keen on trying to promote this interference and assistance: ” I am grateful to the French and British for sending their advisors over (and the FBI for the forensics lab - and required training). However, considering how much coverage international ususally (sic) receives from Lebanon's media outlets, I also wonder why this particular aid package does not even come up in a Google search.”

In my opinion, Lebanon’s dignity and true independence is worth more than a paltry couple of millions. I think the problem with the Lebanese is that many of us see the world differently and we act locally on these beliefs. I am of the opinion that our future is inextricably tied to the overall well-being and future of the whole area. Lebanon will not know real peace and independence until the Palestinian issue is resolved. States who strike deals on their own thinking that war and instability will spare them have been proven wrong again and again. In fact, this attitude hardens the belief amongst the powers-to-be in the US and Israel that they can take us on one by one and get their way. I am not asking Lebanon, wit its size and limited resources, to take on the lion’s share; neither do I expect it to. But the Lebanese and other Arabs must understand that the US/Israeli plan for the area has always been to divide and conquer. We owe to ourselves, even if we cannot stand up to them, to at least keep reminding ourselves of this fact and never to forget where our interests lie. Not to promote such insight and discourse would be to shortchange us and to keep us blind to some of the more destructive forces facing us today.

JoseyWales said...

Thanks Pompous Ass Anon,

For writing 3 pages to tell us that the US is pursuing its own interest, while the PLO, Syria, Iran, Egypt, Russia and the rest are only concerned with the well being of Lebanon.

Your ideas are so obvious and irrevelant that you fit right in with our failed intellecuals.

Raja said...


I think we all agree that Lebanon will not get the opportunity to "rest" until the region has calmed down. You see, Iran and Syria would turn Lebanon back into a convenient battlefield in a heart beat! Those two countries would like nothing better than to continue to fight their isolated, incessant and ultimately futile war against the Israeli regime - one with hardly any consequences for them but nevertheless tragic consequences for us.

As for Palestinian suffering, I empathize with them. But I thank God that I am where I am today, as a Lebanese, especially considering that not too long ago, Lebanese were hardly any better off than their oppressed neighbors to the South.

Also. Could it be, anon, that the tragedy that Palestinians currently live in today is actually a consequence of the even more tragic miscalculation among the "Arab Leadership" that force will get them anywhere? Has it ever occurred to you that the Palestinian situation has gotten progressively worse with the passing of time? The longer they "resisted" militarily the more time they gave the Israelis to settle on land they claim as theirs without even raising an eyebrow across the region or the globe!

No. The most serious threat facing the region today, anon, is not that speck of Land the Jews claim as theirs. It is not even American tanks in Iraq.

The biggest threat the region faces today is its own under-development. Literacy rates among the lowest in the world. Political maturity of five-year old children. Around a hundred million women who are treated as inferior species, and in some cases, as if they were sub-human. Anachronistic tribal societies that oppress individuals and drain out all traces of creativity and independence inherent in humanity. Those are our real problems anon.

And unless individuals like yourself stop obsessing about the 3 million Palestinians under the Israeli Barrel, 200 million individuals who like to think of themselves as Arabs will remain the perennial underachievers of the human race for the foreseeable future!