Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Lebanon - an American foreign policy perspective.

Lebanon got a lot of coverage in some of this month's US foreign policy publications. Foreign Affairs, for example, published five articles about the war between Hizballah and Israel which looked at its local and regional implications and provided some policy recommendations. The National Interest also published an article, somewhat pessimistically referred to as "Lebanon Post-Mortem."

Paul Salem authored one of the pieces in Foreign Affairs. I'll paste some ideas and recommendations he articulated that caught my attention and share them with you:
If Resolution 1701 is thoroughly implemented and the Lebanese government takes its security responsibilities seriously, Hezbollah will grow weaker and the Lebanese state will emerge as stronger. Despite the devastation wrought on the country, Lebanon can use the UN resolution as an opportunity for considerable progress in the immediate future. Its ability to do so will depend on what steps are taken to consolidate national security, economic recovery and political development.


The key players all have important choices to make. Hezbollah must decide whether it actually wishes to integrate into the Lebanese state, and the Shiite community that backs it must choose between two mutually exclusive options: a united and independent Lebanon or a "two-state solution." The government could help bring the Shiite community closer to the former choice by taking seriously the community's complaints about how the post-Taif state has developed. While Syria dominated Lebanon, the main Shiite parties allied with Damascus, enjoyed considerable power. With the Syrians gone, the Shiite's concerns have become more pressing and relevant. At some point soon, a bicameral legislature must be established, with a lower house free of confessional quotas, which would allow the Shiites better representation. It will not do to argue that the Shiites cannot be trusted with power because they are too close to outside actors (as the Maronites argued of the Sunnis in the past). They will reduce their dependence on foreign powers largely to the extent that they feel like they have a secure stake in the government. The horse must be put in front, and the cart will follow. And every group in Lebanon has at some point committed the sin of relying on extensive outside support: the Maronites allied with Israel and the Sunnis with the Palestine Liberation Organization, and everyone used-and was used-by the Syrians.
Volker Perthes also writes an article about the conflict, except, from the Syrian perspective. He writes some thought-provoking lines, including,
Especially since the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon in 2005, Hizbollah has become much more independent of Damascus. Most likely high-level Syrian officials did not know about the July 12 raid until after it happened.


Since Bashar al -Assad took over after the death of his father, Hafez el Assad, six years ago, state institutions have weakened and lost considerable authority.


Yet some remote regions in northeastern Syria, where tensions between Arabs and Kurds run high, are no longer under the central government's control. Sunni notables compalin about growing Shiite influence, especially Iranian money flowing into the country to buy, among other things, real estate around the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus.


In private, many officials in Damascus admitted their initial uneasiness over Hezbollah's cross-border abduction in July. But the leadership quickly recognized how the confrontation in Lebanon could prove beneficial to its own strategic interests. [I have to say that this quote is somewhat disingenuous, especially considering that the overwhelming majority of Hizballah "officials" had no idea the attack would take place either].
In The National Interest, Daniel Byman & Steven Simon offer some interesting Lines:
Reports that Iran prodded HIzballah to attack to divert attention from the Iranian nuclear program seem to be false. The dispute over the Iranian program has been going on for years with no end in sight, and Hizballah had tried other operations in the past. Similarly the claim that this conflict was a proxy war initiated by Iran to test whether a foe like the US (using Israel as a stand-in) could be defeated by an opponent that would fight hard and be willing to take casualties ignores the fact that far more important in Teheran's calculations are the successes that various fighters in Iraq have had against the United States.


[During the war,] the Lebanese government suffered the ultimate indignity for any regime: It was ignored. Once again, it is clear to all factions in Lebanon that their government cannot protect them from foreign threats or strong domestic groups like Hizballah.


Syria has emerged as the only credible gurantor of HIzballah's future good behavior [in Lebanon], and Israel has been reminded that it will not have peace with HIzballah unless it has peace with Syria. [The dual role that Syria plays] as Hizballah's backer and Hizballah's controller has long fit Syrian foreign policy. As Michael Doran contends, " Ever since the 19 80s, Syria has played this game of being both the arsonist and the fire department."


JoseyWales said...

Nice round up of pros' views Raja.

But is there anything new there or anything of interest? (Genuine question. Salem used to be more interesting (?), his piece was very blah, I thought).

Raja said...

you know josey, after typing it all up, I asked myself the exact same question! was this anything new?

Salem, however, does articulate some powerful ideas. Again, however, content is not so new, but his "delivery" was impressive.

Raja said...

another note, I see Salem's article as nothing but a short-term means out of this quagmire the country is in. He doesn't even go near challenging the issue of sectarianism. he accepts it and provides analysis based on that acceptance. for example, for him, a bicameral parliament is important merely to more accurately reflect the sectarian make-up of the population, as opposed to say, being a step towards eliminating sectarianism from state institutions all-together.

SnoopyTheGoon said...

Hi Raja,

Your opinion on the following:


If possible, directly in the comments to the post. Thanks in advance.

Anton Efendi said...

Perthes' piece was utter garbage. I mean pure crap all around. I hadn't seen Byman's and Simon's piece, but from what you typed up, it too seems like a high pile of nonsense.

Furthermore, there is a paradox in there., both between Perthes and the B and S piece, and even within the logic of the B and S piece.

This is all old useless drivel masquerading as analysis. IT's been debunked repeatedly.