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author biography
Professor Barry Rubin is the MERIA Editor and Director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center of the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) in Herzliya, Israel. He is also Research Director of the IDC’s Lauder School, the editor of the journal Turkish Studies, and has been serving as Deputy Director of the BESA Center for Strategic Studies.
In addition, he is a senior fellow at the Interdisciplinary Center’s International Center for Counterterrorist Policy. Prof. Rubin also writes The Jerusalem Post’s Middle East column.
Prof. Rubin is the author of 16 books, including The Truth About Syria, and is the editor of Middle East Review of International Affairs.

by this author
by this author:
LIFE IN ISRAEL
ISRAEL AND EUROPE, A PRETTY GOOD RELATIONSHIP
EGYPT: BETWEEN THE DEVIL AND THE DEEP BLUE SEA
Israel Is Strong – Really
Lennonism Imagines The Middle East
Frog Bites Scorpion
Let`s Talk About The Nazis
PALESTINIAN POLITICS: ONWARD AND DOWNWARD
The Israel-Arab Reader
Why There`s a Hamas-Israel War
CHARISMA ISN`T ENOUGH
Arab Ideological Doctrine Syndrome: A Crippling Plague
The War of Muslims Against Muslims; Arabs Against Arabs
WHO OWNS THE PALESTINE CARD?
Radical Disorder Over Lebanon
Take Me To Your Leader
UNIQUELY BIZARRE
Hamas’s Phony Victory
Fatah’s Politics Make Peace Impolitic
Here We Go Round The Mulberry Bush
EMPOWERING LIES
Bush’s Last Year: The Best, One Hopes, Is Yet To Come
The Year of Acting Dangerously



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LEBANON TO WEST: WAKE UP FAST!
Filed under Israeli politics, Middle East, Opinion Editorials, Palestinian politics – on Tuesday, May 13, 2008 – By: Rubin, Barry

While America’s secretary of state devotes her time to doomed Israel-Palestinian talks and America goes ga-ga over a candidate whose main foreign policy strategy is to talk to dictators, still another crisis strengthens radical Islamists and endangers Western friends and interests.
William Butler Yeats said it best: “Things fall apart; the center cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere, The ceremony of innocence is drowned; The best lack all conviction, while the worst , Are full of passionate intensity.”

The “best” are often too innocent indeed, sunk in constant self-criticism, persuading themselves they must atone for having done too much in the past by doing nothing in the present, trying to convince the other side of their niceness and sensitivity. Their priority is to ensure no one will accuse them of being imperialistic. And to prove it they will let another country fall into the enemy camp.

            The Lebanese logjam has broken at last as Hizballah seized west Beirut and inflicted a big defeat on the pro-government side.

            While Iran and Syria provide guns and strong backing to their friends, the West responds with words backed by nothing. Who can blame Hizballah and Damascus and Tehran for laughing with contempt, believing they are the tide of the future, assuming their “passionate intensity” will inevitably triumph over the weak-willed West?

            The historic great powers act as pitiful, helpless giants but their enemies will take no pity on them. In short, Hizballah is pulling a two-stage version of Hamas’s Gaza strategy in Lebanon and no one does anything effective about that either.

            What Spain was in 1936; Lebanon is today.
 
            Does anyone remember the Spanish Civil War? Briefly, a fascist revolt took place against the democratic government. The rebels were motivated by several factors, including anger that their religion had not been given enough respect and regional grievances, but essentially they sought to put their ideology and themselves into power. Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy backed the rebels with money and guns. The Western democracies stood by and did nothing.

            Guess who won? And guess whether that outcome led to peace or world war.
            Funny, I thought September 11 changed everything.

            Why should Lebanese Sunni, Druze, and Christians risk their lives when the West doesn’t help them? Every Israeli speaking nonsense about Syria making peace; every American claiming Damascus might split from Tehran; every European preaching appeasement has in fact been engaged in confidence-breaking measures. 

            Hizballah doesn’t need to win a military victory but only to show it can win one, using that position of strength to try to force its demands on the moderate government. . The government has already accepted Michel Suleiman, Syria’s candidate for president. But Hizballah and the rest say this is not enough: they want veto power over everything.

            The goal of Hizballah, and its Syrian and Iranian backers at present is not the full conquest of Lebanon—something beyond their means—but to control the government so it does nothing they dislike: no strong relations with the West, no ability to stop war against Israel, no disarming Hizballah’s militias or countering that group’s control over large parts of the country, and certainly no investigation of Syrian involvement in terrorism there.

            Government supporters don’t have to surrender. Hizballah took west Beirut in large part because local Sunni Muslims lacked their own militia. Once Hizballah tried to keep going into Druze-controlled areas it got a bloody nose. With its Shia Muslim constituency only about one-third of the population, Hizballah is not capable of conquering Lebanon militarily.

            Still, the West often acts as if it would like to lose the struggle in the Middle East. There are all too many examples of how this is true:

            Why, three years after Damascus ordered the murder of former prime minister Rafiq Hariri do investigators dawdle, having edited out the names of top Syrian officials they blamed for the killing in their initial report?

Israel bombed a nuclear reactor being built in Syria. Rice reportedly opposed the action. The world yawned.

Iran drives for nuclear weapons. There is some effort but too little, too slow.      Whether or not the war in Iraq was a mistake, when terrorists murdered Iraqi civilians, much of the West blamed America; all too many Americans agreed.

Far too much Western media, intellectual–sometimes political life–reviles Israel. But Israel is no threat to them; other forces are. And events in Lebanon are one more proof that the Israel-Palestinian conflict is only a portion, say one-fifth, of the wider Middle East crisis.

  Many in the West think Israel will pay the price for their follies. But Israel is ready to do what it needs for its self-defense. If anything, the mistakes of the last round in Lebanon reinforced this determination.

Instead, the main victims will be Arabs, mostly Muslims, in Afghanistan, Gaza, Iraq, and Lebanon, killed by the various Jihad groups, or ruled by them where they take power or dominate through intimidation.  And second they will be Western interests, which would not fare well in a region dominated by a combination of Islamists and those who feel they have no choice but to appease them.

When Senator and presidential candidate Barack Obama says he will negotiate with Syria and Iran over Iraq’s future, he signals every Persian Gulf regime to cut its own deal with Iran. When his stances convince Hamas that he’s the guy for them; when Iran and Syria conclude they merely need stand defiant and wait until January 21 for any existing pressure vanishes, the U.S. position in the Middle East is being systematically destroyed. 

Note that this does not make Obama the candidate favored by Arabs in general but only by the radicals. Egyptians, Jordanians, Gulf Arabs, and the majorities in Lebanon and Iraq are very worried. This is not just an Israel problem; it is one for all non-extremists in the region.
If the dictators and terrorists are smiling, it means everyone else is crying.

The Syrian and Iranian regimes know that while they may walk through the valley of the shadow of sanctions they need fear nothing because there are all too many who  comfort them. 
After all, if the UN human rights committee is run by Libya, if UNIFIL forces in Lebanon tread lightly so Hizballah won’t be angry with them, if Westerners tremble and repeal freedom of speech lest some Muslims be offended, why should the “bad guys” worry?

Yet the West doesn’t have to play it stupid forever. Now is the time for energetic action on Lebanon to wipe that confident sneer off their faces. To contain Iran and Syria, to buck up the Lebanese government side and all those Arabs who, whatever their faults, don’t want to live in an Islamist caliphate.

If you want to know what’s wrong, consider Obama’s May 10 statement on Lebanon. He starts out playing tough, talking about “Hezbollah’s power grab in Beirut….This effort to undermine Lebanon’s elected government needs to stop, and all those who have influence with Hezbollah must press them to stand down immediately.” He calls for supporting the Lebanese government, strengthening the Lebanese army, and to “insist on disarming Hezbollah.”

But how to do this? By “working with the international with the international community and the private sector to rebuild Lebanon and get its economy back on its feet.”

In other words, according to the Obama world view, it’s a problem of development. If people have more money they won’t be terrorists. Of course, that was the policy of Hariri, which was countered by Syria blowing him up. In politics, bombs trump business. And any way you can’t have a strong economy with no government and chaos. Part of the mistake here is Obama’s assumption that Hizballah (and other radicals) want stability and prosperity. In fact, they want to use instability as blackmail in their pursuit of power. They don’t want conciliation. It’s a military-strategic problem, not one of community organizing.
 
The statement continues: “We must support the implementation of UN Security Council Resolutions that reinforce Lebanon’s sovereignty, especially resolution 1701 banning the provision of arms to Hezbollah, which is violated by Iran and Syria.”

Great. But the UN is no substitute for U.S. power. As David Schenker of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy writes, “It is highly unlikely that the UN — which failed to even prevent the rearming of Hizballah–would agree to more dangerous deployments in Lebanon.” America doesn’t need a president whose solution is to turn over crises to the UN.

Nor can Obama pass the buck to Lebanon’s army. Its commander is Syria’s presidential candidate, its soldiers are mostly pro-Hizballah, and the quarter-billion dollars of U.S. aid given since 2006 may well become additional assets for Tehran.

As President Harry Truman said of the president’s desk, the buck stops here. So the president of the United States must take the lead, be tough, and make credible threats. What’s needed is not a conciliator but a confronter.

These are the questions Obama isn’t even pretending to try to answer: Are you willing to fight on this issue? To defy an “international community” that opposes action? To intimidate and defeat the radicals? Answer: No.

But here’s the worst part that few in America but everyone in Lebanon will understand all too well:

“It’s time to engage in diplomatic efforts to help build a new Lebanese consensus that focuses on electoral reform, an end to the current corrupt patronage system, and the development of the economy that provides for a fair distribution of services, opportunities and employment.”

 Here, make no mistake, Obama is endorsing the Hizballah program. It wants a new Lebanese consensus based on it having, along with its pro-Syrian allies, 51 percent of the power. What’s needed is not consensus (the equivalent being getting Fatah and Hamas to bury their differences, or bringing in Iran and Syria to determine Iraq’s future) but the willingness to fight a battle. In effect, Obama without realizing it, is arguing for a Syrian-, Iranian-, and Hizballah-dominated Lebanon. Such talk makes moderate Arabs despair.

Here, at the “From Beirut to Beltway” blog, is a typical, sarcastic, reaction by Lebanese government supporters:
 
“Oh the time we wasted by fighting Hizballah all those years….If only we had engaged them and their masters in diplomacy…sitting with them around discussion tables, welcoming them into our parliament, and letting them veto cabinet decisions. If only Obama had shared his wisdom with us before, back when he was rallying with some of our former friends at pro-Palestinian rallies in Chicago. How stupid we were when, instead of developing `national consensus’ with them, we organized media campaigns against Israel on behalf of the impoverished people who voted for them.

“During that time when we bought into the cause against Israel, treating resistance fighters like our brothers, we really should have been `building consensus’ with them. Because what we did…was…unnecessary antagonism, a product of a `corrupt patronage system and unfair distribution of wealth.’”

“We stand today regretting the wasted time that could have been wisely spent talking to them, to the Syrian occupiers who brought them into our system, and the Iranian revolutionary guards who trained them.[1]

The battle isn’t over, which is all the more reason for real—not just verbal—international action. Hizballah has made its point for the moment that it is the most powerful and to it every knee must bend. Yet without serious political and diplomatic support for Lebanon’s government and real costs inflicted on Syria and Iran, the battle will be lost eventually.

For all those in the West who don’t like Israel, then at least help the people you pretend to like. Back the Lebanese government with real power and aid, covertly or overtly, those battling the radical forces in Lebanon.

Rick: “Sam, if it’s December 1941 in Casablanca, what time is it in New York?”

Sam: “Um, my watch stopped.”

Rick:  “I bet they’re asleep in New York. I’ll bet they’re asleep all over America.”
 
The opinions and views articulated by the author do not necessarily reflect those of Israel e News.

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