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Monday, July 24, 2006

Right and Responsibility (Translated from an article by Dr. Radwan el Sayyid)

Prime Minister Fouad Saniora in various occasions insists on repeating a phrase that he heard from the late Dr. Constantine Zreik: "It is naturally important to believe that you have a right to one thing or another, but it is more important to earn that right!"

Professor Zreik was referring to two causes in Arab modern history: the Palestinian cause on one hand, and the cause of liberty and building and advancing nations on the other. Nobody (sic) argues about Arab rights in these two vital issues; however, the progress of nations and countries has never been achieved by what they believe is their right, but rather by their willingness to use the power of the state to create the means that make it deserving of those rights.

For two weeks there has been a war, definitely not the first against Lebanon. However striving to earn our rights could make it the last. "Earning" in this case consists of having the will to build a strong and able state, one that spreads its authority to all its territories, establishing its sovereignty and independence, protecting its citizens and their interests as well as their right to a free dignified life.
Such statements, accepted at face value by all Lebanese and most politicians, have seen a lot of debate in the last 30 years, especially in the few months following the death of PM Hariri and the exit of Syrian forces from Lebanon.

There are those who say that the (Lebanese) state has never liberated land, and therefore cannot continue to liberate what remains occupied or to protect Lebanon from agression. So, it is a must to revert to the formula that has succeeded previously, the duality of state and resistance. Also, there are those who say that there is a weakness in the Lebanese structure, not against Israel only, but among the various sects in Lebanon; consequently, there is a need to maintain the "special" relations between Lebanon and Syria to protect Lebanon's internal stability. And finally there are those who have despaired, privately if not publicly, and reverted to a policy of sectarian "self security" as was the case during the Lebanese civil war.

The latest Israeli war on Lebanon has nullified the aforementioned arguments. The logic of the resistance fell in 2000 with the Israeli withdrawal and the logic of deterrence based on the balance of terror fell with the latest Israeli invasion. The logic of counting on our Syrian brothers fell in 2005/2006 because of their attempts at destabilizing us internally. Finally, the logic of self-security immediately leads to civil war as it has before.

Today, we are looking at seven hundred thousand displaced people, destroyed infrastructure and homes in the south and Baalbek and the suburbs, in addition to large scale destruction all over Lebanon. But we also have an unnatural condition that began in 1991 and that has manifested itself completely during this latest Israeli assault- the phenomenon of a state that is legally responsible for all that is going on, for helping the displaced people, for upkeeping the rule of law, but that is not allowed to preside over security or to make decisions of waging war or signing peace or even of reaching the borders of the country. A state that has no capability to answer its citizens' concerns, let alone international concerns. The Lebanese government now is nothing more than a humanitarian mission, and even at that, not very succesful. Kudos to the Arab and international players for acknowleging its existence or even engaging in dialogue with it, and helping it to its feet! On the other hand, what it should be, is an elected power, designated by its people to run their public affairs.

This "wonderful destruction" that we hide in our homes so that we do not see it, those of us who still have homes, has one third of the Lebanese population roaming in its ruins.

This is no longer acceptable regardless of the reasons. As for Arab and international support of Lebanon, it is no longer enough, nor is it useful. Everytime they help us up and we stand helpless, incapable of protecting what has been built, unable to preserve what we have achieved or has been achieved for us.

I see no Lebanese or Arab or Islamic need for all that has occurred, and it will do me no good to hold Israel responsible. God rest Dr. Zreik's soul: We can either earn the right to life and dignity or get trampled upon in the name of the right to life and dignity!


Hassan said...

I'm coming over. Bring out the Arak.

fubar said...

R -
Thank you for translating that article. Dr. Radwan el Sayyid is clearly a very smart man who is thinking of the future of Lebanon. I truly hope there are many more like him in Lebanon.

I you would indulge me, as you are clearly a thinking man, I have some questions about the Lebanese Army that you may be able to answer. Are you willing?

R said...

Fubar, I am sure that any questions that I answer about the Lebanese army will not threaten Lebanese national security ... feel free to ask.

fubar said...

Thank you.

My questions and concern is relative to the Shia population within the Army. Please understand me. I too am a thinking person. I know that all Shia are not Hezbollah. But I wonder how compromised the Lebanese Army is. Are the Shia within the Army representative of the population at large (ie. approx. 38-40 %) or are they are larger or smaller percentage?

fubar said...

Additionally, I have wondered and cannot see in any English version of publications, have there been any substantial desertions from the Army since the war? This is not intended as an insult. With 3/4 of a million people in refugee status, surely, Army families have been affected. My question is, can the Army stand up if needed?

R said...

Well I am not exactly familiar with the precise sectarian representation in the army, but I am sure that because of Shias being (generally) poorer than the other sects, they must be significantly over-represented in the army. I don't think any such numbers would ever be released in Lebanon, but a lot of the top politicians seem to act with that knowledge. Add to that, the officers in the army strictly follow a sectarian quota, leading to non-shia officers giving orders to shia soldiers to kill shias in case they decided to take out HA... Not a situation whose consequences any lebanese would want to test.

fubar said...

Additionally, all news coverage in English is focused on the south. Is the Army assisting the people of Lebanon in the central and northern areas? In other words, do the Lebanese people see the Army aiding them, even if foreigners do not?

fubar said...

I do not expect the Army to fight against HA. I am wondering if the Army can take over the southern border with say a NATO force? There is no point dream unrealistic dreams. Do you think that Army could be expected to perform reliably on the southern border?

R said...

As for your second question, I have not heard of any desertions. As for whether it would stand up if needed, that depends on what you mean I guess.
Traditionally the army has been used heavily in relief efforts, so i think it is operating in the central and northern areas in that capacity.

Finally, the Lebanese army generally has a good reputation as an institution in Lebanon (personal opinion). They safeguarded the right of both sides of the spectrum to freedom of speech during the cedar revolution (or independence intifada) and are regarded as nonpartisan. However, their fighting capabilities are generally viewed as weak.

Whether or not they can take over the Southern border, I think that depends more on whether or not they are going to have to be shot at by HA or not :). In other words, there has to be some form of international and interlebanese way of safeguarding the army against attacks by HA.

fubar said...

This is what I think. Any international force on the Lebanese border without the L Army is only a temporary solution to gain an immediate cease fire. In order to have any lasting effect, the L Army must be on the southern border. No offense, but if the L Army is not there, then Leb. has no sovereignty and becomes just another third rate country in the third world. Please to do take offense. I speak bluntly to cut to the quick, not to insult.

Sovereignty is the key to the future of Lebanon. With the L Army on the border, even with international forces, the Leb. people maintain dignity. With dignity comes hope and with hope comes progress toward a better Leb. Without the L Army on the border, it is much harder.

fubar said...

I have no confidence that HA will lay down arms. Any international force will come under fire from HA. However, with L Army also present on the southern border, HA should at least think twice before shooting. That said, they might decide to shoot anyway. There is no guarantee that the L Army will not come under fire from HA.

R said...

I agree to some extent, that is what "should be" in any country - the army protecting the border. Unfortunately, a lot of problems stem from (as they always have) sectarianism in Lebanon. Whether we like it or not (and I don't) lebanon is a consensus-type democracy (!) where each sect is ruled by one or more leaders who then have to agree on everything for anything to fly. What that leads to is a veto-power on decisions wielded by all our sect leaders. Breaking that unanimity could be used to fester a feeling that a particular sect is being targetted by the others, which is the way the Shias feel right now and how the Christians felt when the Syrians were still here. So a major problem is that we can't send in the army in an operation that can be perceived as anti-shia. There has to be some way for everybody to "save face", and come out with the minimum damage possible because obviously complete victory of any side is impossible. All offers on the table now do not accomplish that, which is why we are still far from a settlement to this conflict, let alone a lasting one. Its delicate, fucked up even, and the general feeling is that we, the lebanese, are screwed whichever way the wind blows...

fubar said...

In your opinion, is the L Army responsible, reputable, and non-partisan enough that the HA will not fire on them? In other words, does the HA respect the L Army?

I am not a bot and I have trouble with your word verification!

fubar said...

Thank you for taking the time to discuss this with me. I am sick of everyone who knows nothing having an opinion and feeling compelled to share it.

First things first. There will be no cease fire unless HA agrees to it. So assuming HA agrees, is the govt. willing to place L troops on the border with international troops or would the govt. be too afraid to put L troops there?

R said...

Ofcourse, any solution that ends up being accepted, has to be a lasting one. Trust me, a lot of Lebanese, and not just Christians as some bloggers seem to think, at the very least do not like HA's ideology and think their methods are counterproductive. We want them out of the equation. That said, we are unwilling to pay the price because of their militia, sectarian nature, and foreign support, not to mention the scars that another civil war will leave. We have not yet healed the wounds of the first one. The cost is simply too prohibitive.

That is why I think this entire conflict is pointless, the problems are deep lebanese problems rooted in the culture and even identity of lebanon. It will take years to solve them, if they are ever to be solved, but the solution has to come from the Lebanese people. I fully understand that Israel has no interest in what is good for Lebanon and as a state wants the best for itself. Whether or not it will achieve those goals militaristically is another matter.

fubar said...

I do not understand the politics of Leb. enough to understand the army's situation. It has been a mind bending experience for me to watch the L army do nothing during this war. I want to think they are being restrained by the govt. Is that true? But I am coming to think that the govt. is afraid to put L army troops on the border.

Thus, my original questions about the number of shia in the army. No international force will want the L army on the border with them if they think that the L army is largely compromised.

R said...

"In your opinion, is the L Army responsible, reputable, and non-partisan enough that the HA will not fire on them? In other words, does the HA respect the L Army?"
Hmmm, very interesting question. Not sure I have the answer to that one. I hope not.

"First things first. There will be no cease fire unless HA agrees to it. So assuming HA agrees, is the govt. willing to place L troops on the border with international troops or would the govt. be too afraid to put L troops there? "

I think they would be happy to, HA agreement is probably the only missing ingredient. What worries me is that this might require the approval of Syria and Iran.

R said...

I believe that if the army is actually sent to the south, i.e. a political decision is made to send it, then it is trustworthy.

fubar said...

I disagree with you about this conflict being pointless. I see this as a moment in history. A turning point. Leb. has been so fractured for so long that the people are exhausted with fighting amongst themselves. This I understand. But HA has overplayed its hand. Other than HA supporters, at least from what I can see in the English language press, the L people are not happy with HA and the vast majority blame HA. This is a starting point to demilitarize HA. Who wants to allow HA to drag them into a war again. All the political posturing aside, HA has betrayed the non-HA Lebanese. HA has upset the delicate balance. This is not easily forgivable.

R said...

I guess that is true, it is not easily forgivable. On the other hand, the Lebanese have paid the price of counting on "moments in history" so many times before. You see, the historical moments pass, and we are left to deal with their consequences. Granted, the HA Shias have to learn that they can't have it their way or no other way, but unfortunately so do the others. Now everybody else is still acting responsibly, and my hope is that the HA leadership will do the same at some point in the near future. They can still salvage a lot politically if not militarily, but the question is how far they are willing to go, and how much regard do they have to their fellow Lebanese's wishes...

fubar said...

"What worries me is that this might require the approval of Syria and Iran."

No. That will not happen. Washington and Israel will never agree to a solution satisfactory to Syria and Iran.

The key is that HA must be do militarily defeated (not necessarily crushed, but severely hurt) that they must seek a cease fire or risk be annihilated. Thus, no cease fire for at least 2 to 3 more weeks, minimum. That I will put money on. The IDF has not progressed as far as they and Wash want yet. It has been slow going. Witness the slow pace at which Condi Rice made her way to Leb. and Israel. Now she will go another "scheduled" trip and then come back. Meanwhile another week or so goes by. Then we have to figure out which forces to put in Leb. It takes time to mobilize, another week or two. This is all being deliberately done to give the IDF the time they need.

fubar said...

I agree, everyone else is behaving remarkably well. Not that HA has given them a real choice. But the could join HA and they are most definitely not doing that. Also, the L Army has not put up any fight. Unthinkable in almost any other time in history. This is why I have hope. Regardless of rhetoric, there seems to be a sense among the politicians that Israel does not really want anything more than a secure border. It is probably personal greed, but it appears to me at least the the politicians see this as a time to let HA take the fall - militarily and politically.

R said...

I agree, no ceasefire will be reached for another while. I also agree that the scenarios being thrown around depend on HA being defeated in the way you described. I am not too sure whether the IDF will be able to bring about that defeat without committing to a ground invasion and the casualties involved in that. Also, you have to remember that the government in Lebanon is fragile and while I think it can survive one or two weeks, I am not sure it can afford to keep looking this helpless for much longer. Obviously everyone except HA, Syria and Iran want them out of the equation, but too much is at stake for these three to give up easily. The longer this drags on without a solution, the stronger is their position as patience runs out in Lebanon.

fubar said...

Well, that is the question then. How much are the L. people willing to suffer for a truly democratic government and true sovereignty?

Israel will make a full invasion into to the south to secure it so that they can hand it over to the international force. Let's be honest, no one else is going in until it is secure, so the IDF has no choice but to take it.

Israel will open humanitarian channels to abate the suffering of innocent refugees. Is it too much to hope the L Army would mobilize to assist in humanitarian aid?

fubar said...

In my opinion, it is vital that the L people see the L army as aiding the L people, unlike HA which is hurting them.

This brings additional respect to the L army and thus when they do take the border they will have greater support among the general population.

It is not important that the L Army is weak militarily. Heck the international force will prefer it that way. But the L army must have the support of the population. The L army must bring the international force the good will of the people while the international force brings the fire power to keep HA at bay.

fubar said...

I have spent two weeks learning the situation in Lebanon. I too thought the govt. looked like chicken shits. I have laughed out loud to hear L. politicians spout off (that's one piece of work you have for a President - and he is a Christian!). Anyway, I am beginning to see behind the words. I will take my own advice and ignore what they say and watch what they do. What they are doing is holding on, encouraging Israel by not overreacting, and attempting to reach out to the foreign govts of the world. Make no mistake, they are preparing to resume control of Lebanon after HA is defeated. They are counting on it.

fubar said...

And that brings us back to my original questions.

Can the L. army be counted on, or are they too compromised?

Your answer is that they are reputable, generally non-partisan, and if sent south are trustworthy. This is a big help to me in analyzing the end game.

It does appear that the L army can be a reliable force on the border with an international force.

Let us hope that the IDF picks up speed in its ability to rout HA. The sooner the better. There will be no cease fire until HA is routed so the sooner that happens the sooner this ends.

fubar said...

I thank you for taking the time to answer my questions.

Perhaps you will consider my words as well. The L. govt. may be weak but they have choosen a course. They, I believe, are counting on HA being severely diminished in military might and perhaps politically too. This should strengthen their positions.

HA is clearly in control now, but for how is the question.

I wish your country good luck in surviving this.

I have no concern about rebuilding. If Lebanon survives this war between Iran and the US, the reconstruction and relief will follow.

I also say to you, watch the Saudi's. They have much more at stake in this fight than they will outwardly show. I suspect they will be Lebanon's friend when Lebanon truly needs one. I believe they have an understanding with Washington. They are protecting your back while Washington is working from the front. I know that this is a very complex political situation, but I have been a Saudi and Iran watcher for quite some time. I have lived in both countries. This time is different. I see it clearly. Let us hope it really Lebanon's moment in history for the final time.

Thank you again.

R said...

hey again fubar,

Again I agree with you aon almost everything. The only difference in our respective analyses is in the ability of the IDF or anyone to damage HA enough that they are willig to concede and retreat away from the border. Also, if they do for now will they try to come back? Will the Syrians and Iranians try to make them relevant again? I agree that the Saudis want HA buried, but how much can they help other than allowing this to go on for a while... which brings us back to HA's capability of rearming and making themselves relevant again. Its still gonna take a while to figure out, but on the long run unless the Lebanese pull their act together, the country will remain volatile and so will its borders....

R said...

oh and ur more than welcome Fubar, I also enjoy talking to someone whos not just firing off the same crap over and over again... I appreciate the concern and genuine interest in understanding... I would be interested in your experiences in Saudi and Iran by the way, if you feel like sharing...


fubar said...

I have been re-reading your posts and trying to digest fully what you are saying. But now it is getting late and I have to work in the morning. I will visit your site again and perhaps can discuss more. The Saudi's and Iran if you wish.

I do apologize for my analytical way of looking at this war. I do understand that it has personal and very real meaning for you. I am trying to understand not only this war but consequences, not to just Lebanon, but to the US and the world. Unfortunately, it is a very complex situation and you and I will not solve all of the Hezbollah, Lebanon, Syria, Iran, Israel, US, and Saudi problem tonight.

Quick response - HA is putting up significantly stronger resistance that IDF anticipated. Worth a discussion all of its own.

Please translate more items into English such as the article which brought me here. Even ones with which you disagree. There is a completely different view being conveyed in most of the Arabic speaking world than in the English speaking world. Agree or disagree, the more each knows about the other, the better off both will be.

Thanks. And hope to talk with you again.

fubar said...

R --

I do not see it outwardly (in English speaking press), but you seem to have been right. The L govt. is having some internal stability problems.

From Ya Libnan today – On Tuesday (July 25, 2006), Saudi King Abdullah announced that his country will grant Lebanon $500 million dollars in aid to help rebuild the country. The kingdom also decided to deposit $1 billion in the Beirut Central Bank to help stabilize Lebanese Lira.

I did not expect this so soon. I thought more like the end of the week, possibly even later, when a show of support was most needed. But I do not underestimate the Saudi read on the situation.

Time to talk?? Just leave a message in your comments if you have time and want to continue our conversation. (I will check back periodically tonight.)

dougjnn said...

“So what will happen when this is over? Lebanon will be in ruins. That’s for granted.”

I’m not sure the damage is really as widespread as the rather hysterical TV news in particular (CNN, BBC etc.) make it seem. In addition, 400 civilian deaths really isn’t that many in even a short war, particularly when it’s largely concentrated among Hezbollah supporters and when one side intentionally places itself among its supporting civilian population.

See e.g. this NY Times article from yesterday:

Yes, a huge number of bridges are out. But that isn’t completely destroyed. That’s a span missing, typically. Yes a number of TV and cell phone towers are out. But the overwhelming majority of the damage in Beirut seems to be in the Shi’a suburbs surrounding Hezbollah’s headquarters and other buildings.

Lots more damage in southern Lebanon, again in heavily Hezbollah supporting Shi’a neighborhoods around Hezbollah assets. Tyre badly damaged.

Meanwhile the Saudi government has pledged $1.5 BILLION in rebuilding money, beyond the UN’s call for $150 million in near term humanitarian relief, towards which the US pledged an initial $30 million. If the Shi’a areas are now to look to the central government to dispense rebuilding money, rather than Hezbollah dispensing Iranian money, that might have some upsides.

The greatest damage, potentially, is to confidence in the peacefulness of Lebanon’s future and the security of investment there. That all depends on the end game, rather than exactly how long this conflict goes on.

If Hezbollah were disarmed and Israel withdrew (without being replaced by any closely allied power such as the US or Britain), and especially if also a comprehensive peace agreement were also signed with Israel, the peaceful future of Lebanon would be FAR more assured.

R said...

Hey Fubar,

I am around, thanks for dropping by again.

The Saudis have the best international read on the situation in the government quite simply because of the current Prime Minister, a friend of the late PM Rafic Hariri, represents the "Future Movement" which dominates the Sunni scene to the same extent that HA dominates the Shia scene (though in a liberal capitalistic non-militaristic sort of way). The "Future Movement" is currently headed by Hariri Jr. who is their (Saudis) man. Heck, he even talks with a somewhat Saudi accent...

I caught your response to some comments on AbuKais's blogs, and the only thing that we are stuck on, is the endgame as dougjnn pointed out. Do not underestimate the Syrian and Iranian determination to fight this to the very end, or till they cash out. HA is their frontline, and a bargaining chip that they can both use in the future, so they won't give it up that easily.

fubar said...

Hey R,

I do not discount or underestimate Syria or Iran. That is the problem. I see the bigger picture. I know who this war is between. You, and the other at Abu Kais' blog, are focused on Lebanon. Not that I would not be if I were you. But I am looking at the bigger picture because I do understand that Lebanon is just the unfortunate battleground, not the game.

So what is happening inside Lebanon, if you know? Why are the Saudi's going public now? What is the weakness they sense?

fubar said...

dougjnn is right and wrong.

It does not matter how long this conflict lasts AS LONG AS the L. govt. remains stable and the humanitarian problem does not become overwhelming.

There is only one end game. Hezbollah must be militarily destroyed or so severely damaged that they will accept terms for a cease fire. It will be one or the other. Israel has not even begun to use the military force that they have. They have been exceedingly judicious in their strikes and they are placing their troops in significantly higher harm than they have to just to minimize civilian deaths so as not cause a complete collapse of the L. govt.

Honestly, the L. govt is being tremendously restrained. The US gave them the dignity of the first stop by Condi. Everyone is doing what they can.

Is there internal strife (more than normal) within the govt. which is about to blow up?

dougjnn is right in that the picture of destruction which flashes across the international tv is completely misleading. War photos are news. Intact buildings (90% or more of Beirut) has no mass market appeal. Israel's strikes have been very surgical. (They had an "oh, shit" moment today with the strike on the UN, but its war, shit happens.) Hezbollah controls the photos and video coming out of southern Beirut. Not much anyone can do about that unless they want to get killed.

R said...

Ah crap, I just posted a long answer to your question which got wiped...
Well here we go again in short points:

Saudis want to preempt everyone and be seen as prime backers of Lebanon. Contrast their image as "builders" to that of Iran as "destroyers".
I doubt there is any internal strife in the government as they are a cohesive bunch except for the 2 HA members or sympathizers...

hope that helps

More importantly, the billion dollars they pumped into the L. central bank is to stabilize the Lebanese Lira. Lebanese Lira crashes, economy completely crashes, investments won't come, bad, very bad. Government would fall. saudi solution, throw a billion bucks at em. :)

fubar said...

Yes, you have to hand it to the Saudi's, they know how to make their petro dollars talk.

I had no doubt about the Saudi's my concern is that I'm am not seeing a weakness they see.

Your prime backers idea may be it. Jordan and Egypt will come in yet too. Perhaps the Saudi's wanted to be first.

Really, this is an amazing thing to watch. The L. govt. is holding up very well, I think. Two weeks ago, I did not have much hope the govt. would survive.

Again, sorry for the overly analytical speech. I know from your site that you have family there. I want this to end as quickly as you do but Hezbollah controls that part of the timing and Israel's IDF.

fubar said...

R -
Things will get worse before they get better. The humanitarian needs will come the fore. Lebanon has at least 3/4 million people in refugee/transient status. This is a massive undertaking. Internal distribution is the hardest part. It will fall to the Army. I hope that you are right and the Army will do the job. Hezbollah has another assignment at this time. This is the time for the Army to be seen as the ones helping the people - all the people.

I have to go now. I will stop again some time.

R said...

fubar, don't worry about the over-analytical speeches, I enjoy chatting with, it does us all good to grasp this as much as possible, and learn from it.

The Jordanians and Egyptians might come in yet, but not like the gulfies. We will probably see more of Kuweit and the UAE first, in terms of money. On the other hand, three military transport planes from Jordan are landing in Beirut International Airport with UN aid. Egypt's role i think is going to be more of a liaison role or rather a pressuring role against syria.

Solomon2 said...

We can either earn the right to life and dignity or get trampled upon in the name of the right to life and dignity!

So what is it that Lebanon is supposed to do? What are individual Lebanese supposed to do? Agree to be hijacked by the Nasrallahs of the world and die fighting for them? Resist and die fighting against them? Call for help from abroad? Doing nothing seems to be a no-no.

Battal Agha said...

It is a terrible situation - Unless the Leb. people take the matter in their own hand, I don't see any end to this crisis. This is not anymore a war between Israel and the Arabs - It is Israel and the Muslims fundamentalists. Lebannon should not be part of it - ENOUGH

R said...

What the individual lebanese should do now is try to support their government and make sure that there is some minimum level of unity on OUR home front. Regardless of what Israel is doing or thinks it is doing, the first and second Lebanese objectives should be a cease-fire and stability respectively. I don't think there is much that the Lebanese people can do to stop the fighting, and they are showing great restraint and a sense of responsibility internally. That said, the goal of the Lebanese people should be to educate the masses, provide for them and not leave them to be supported and preyed on by hte likes of HA. Any solution that pops up now will never be final unless its spirit is institutionalized in Lebanon (and Israel by the way) on the long run...

Battal agha,
Thanks for your comments. I agree.