This blog has been quiet for months because this blogger did not see any changes in the political landscape that deviated from previous analysis and that required commentary. Arguably, the tragic events of the last few days were not unforseeable either. They have, however, been momentous.
First, I commend the magnificent job done by Lebanese bloggers Abu Kais , Jeha, Blacksmith Jade, and others in providing first hand analysis and breaking news. I could not bring myself to write during those times.
That said, I would like to give my own take on matters.
The claim that the government's decision to dismantle Hizbulla's telecom network and to dismiss the chief of airport security was the direct cause of the rampage witnessed in Lebanon in the past few days is a loaded one at best. While it is true that at some high level the March 14'ers gravely miscalculated by either underestimating Hizbulla's response or overestimating the army's reaction to such a response or both, the truth remains that the organization, tactical efficiency, and speed with which Hizbulla orchestrated its rampage indicates that this was a preplanned assault awaiting nothing but an excuse.
Despite that, it is also clear that the Hariri component of March 14 was severely humiliated in its own centers of support in the capital which also happen to border Hizbulla centers of support. The consequences of that are yet to be seen, with the radicalization of the Sunnis being one strong option - with whatever effects on the strengtening or weakening of the Mustaqbal (Future) movement that may carry - and the increase in Sunni sectarian anger (read hate) against the Shias in general and Hizbulla in particular being a certainty.
Jumblatt and the PSP
On the other hand, the resistance offered by the (Druze/PSP) residents of Mount Lebanon and the Chouf and the reportedly high casualties that they managed to inflict on their Hizbulla assailants circumvented, with no small price paid by their own, a similar humiliation to the Druze - for now. This has arguably damaged and thwarted a consolidation of the negotiation leverage that Hizbulla may or may not have been seeking against its March 14 opponents. While they made a strong point for their military prowess in Beirut, they failed to make the same point in the mountains and in the Chouf.
As for the Christian component of March 14, it has been untested so far. Michel Aoun's claim is that his stupid memorandum of understanding (read subservience) to Hizbulla has spared the Christians the rampage of the Hizb is at best hypocritical. What his statements so blatantly imply is that by capitulating to the Hizb, you can spare yourself from their terror. Unfortunately this is both dishonorable and false, and reduces the previous general to a satellite of and apologetic for a group of religious radicals.
In any case, the Christian component of March 14 can only stand to gain from the events of the last few days at the expense of the humiliation of the Future movement of Beirut and the resistance of the PSP elsewhere, provided that the onslaught of terror does not try to break into their areas.
Satellites to Radicals
With regards to the small parties orbitting around Hizbulla, it is unclear what the outcome is. The arms of the SSNP and similar parties were on display and they got a chance to show that they still exist on the streets. Beyond that, they need to remember that they mainly exist in areas were they are - to say the least - not liked and very likely in the future, not welcome. update: For example, Already there are indications that Talal Arsalan (Jumblatt's political foe among the Druze) has already lost a lot of his meagre support among the Druze. A similar conclusion also holds for Omar Karami's support among the Sunnis of the North. Moreover, the massacre of Halba committed against the SSNP shows how thin the ice these groups are walking on is.
Radicals and Myths
This leaves Hizbulla (and Amal). Arrogant, agressive, angry and self-righteous, the radical "Party of God" got a chance to display its MO in all of its "glory". Most notably they unleashed all their hatred against Hariri's legacy be it in the media or social and charitable organizations. The ease with which they captured and controlled west Beirut while the army stood watching probably emboldened them further. They believed that the next step would be the subjugation of the areas were Walid Jumblatt was popular. The resistance that they encountered in Choueifat, Aley, the Chouf and other areas was probably more than they had expected and the sad fact remains that they used artillary and mortar fire to try to crush those resisting them - while at the same time accusing their resistors of using heavy weaponry against them. Someone must have been reading Nazi history. To this point they have failed at gaining military ground despite overwhelming force, and while they most likely have the ability to eventually defeat the mountain residents what remains stunning to me is their use of heavy weaponry... This all serves to destroy the myth of a resistance dedicated to protecting Lebanon from the Israelis and comitted to using its weapons to that end only. To all those with eyes, ears and a functioning brain, this myth should be dead and buried by now.
As for the reprecussions and reactions on the regional and international fronts, that deserves a post on its own, and I will leave it to a future time.
One could go on and on but I would like to end this post with two quotes. This first one was from an old post on this blog dated November 2006 - which I apparently like to repeat:
In the case of Hizbulla, the fact that they have been pushed away from the borders with Israel and are separated from their arch-enemies by thousands of international and Lebanese troops might challenge their very "raison d'etre". Moreover, the fact that they are armed to the teeth with nowhere to use these weapons and no enemy to channel them against might lead to them redefining the enemy internally. We are already seeing signs of that.
The second is by American satirist Ambrose Bierce who over a hundred years ago said that
... Democracy is defended in 3 stages. Ballot Box, Jury Box, Cartridge Box.Unfortunately, parliament has failed us and is held hostage by Hizbulla and its allies, the judiciary has so far failed to uncover and try the assassins of the March 14 leadership, and the armed branches of the state have refused to use force to uphold the law in the face of terror.
The people were left to fend for themselves in this battle for Lebanon. That is the lesson that will be learned from this episode and that may be the most dangerous consequence of all, one that may put the final nail in the coffin of the myth of Lebanon.