Friday, January 28, 2011

The US Has Lost Lebanon. Now What?

Nicholas Noe's essay in yesterday's NYT is a must-read for understanding how badly the Bush administration and its neocon fantasies blew it with Syria and Lebanon.  So much for the once-lionized Cedar Revolution.

Noe's suggestion for Obama?  Pressure Israel to return the Golan to Syria, in return for which Syria will have to cut off Hezbollah's weapons supply from Iran - which will leave Hezbollah weakened, diminish its threat to Israel, and create more political space for a re-emergence of pro-West forces.

As far as it goes, not a bad approach; but besides being the chief force of militant resistance to Israel's military threat, Hezbollah has also become the chief political representative of Lebanon's Shia, who have quickly risen to become the single largest religious confessional community in a country where politics is tied umbilically to confessional divisions.  It's not going away; it's not about to be forced out of Lebanese political and religious society.  Can Israel live with that, long-term?  Or, perhaps the more appropriate question: will Israel live with that?

My guess is, no. I fear that isolating Hezbollah by mollifying Syria with the Golan will set up the Lebanese people for another IDF strike a la Ariel Sharon's 1982 brainchild of invading Lebanon and devastating Beirut in order to eliminate the PLO and Yasser Arafat as an existential threat.  But Hezbollah has a much more powerful military punch (including rockets that can targer Tel Aviv) than did the PLO.  The devastation on both sides might verge on the catastrophic.

However, the Golan does indeed justly belong to Syria.  Israel's post-1967 colonization of it flies in the face of all modern international law.

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