If it is
true that the 33-day war on Lebanon was the culmination of regional
developments and that it can hardly be fathomed separate from the brutal
Israeli war on Gaza or the faltering American imperial project in Iraq, then it
is hardly inconsistent to ponder the implications of the war�s outcome on the
region as a whole, notwithstanding Lebanon.
fallout with Lebanon and the subsequent withdrawal of its troops in 2005 has
left the country divided to the core. The political diatribe of that period had
little to do with democracy. Doubtless, Lebanon�s democratic experience
preceded that date by far, but according to the selective readings of the Bush
administration, it was then that American pressure, coupled with Lebanon�s
so-called Cedar revolution that brought about the end of Syria�s hegemony and
the birth of a �genuine� Arab democracy.
is as always at odds with the Bush administration�s narrative. The abrupt
removal of Syria has turned Lebanon into a hotbed for civil strife, if not a
probable civil war. Lebanon�s conventional powerhouses were now competing for
dominance; factionalism was once more the most pertinent factor in deciding the
country�s political composition. Hezbollah, and its widening popular support
seemed a nuisance amid grand designs to recreate a new Lebanon. A strong-armed
resistance, regardless of the very ominous and real Israeli threat, would
ensure the political prestige of the Shiites, a historically deemed inferior
and politically underrepresented group. Former warlords, themselves
representatives of various Lebanon sects were all vying for dominance. The
simmering power struggle was, expectedly, fought under the banner of
�uncovering the truth� of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri�s murder;
indeed, the �truth� at times seemed the least urgent objective.
needed to reinforce its relevance in the ongoing debate, especially after the
loss of Syria, a very significant backer. Thus, regardless of the precise
nature of the border clash with Israeli troops on July 12 -- which sent Israel
scrambling to produce one of its most self-defeating military adventures --
Hezbollah used the opportunity without any reservations.
entered the war based on premeditated calculations and has long prepared for it
with full American backing, which was displayed brazenly the moment the first
Israeli bomb fell on Lebanon, to eventually destroy most of its infrastructure.
This claim was validated repeatedly by Israeli and American officials, as was
counted for by the influential American journalist Seymour Hersh in the New
Yorker on Aug. 14 (�Washington�s Interests in Israel�s War�)
elected Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert awaited the opportunity that would
cement his position as a ruthless and canny military man -- an important job
description for any Israeli leader. The Israeli media and the opposition in the
Likud Party were -- and are still -- in doubt of such a claim. Since his open
war against Palestinians as a collective punishment for electing Hamas to power
yielded little success, the need for diversion was imperative. (Israel has
hoped to topple Hamas, either directly or by inciting a civil war among
Palestinians, as it empowered and armed the Fatah faction, a loser in the most
recent Palestinian elections, to lock horns with the elected Hamas leadership.
Though the plan worked to the extent that dozens of Palestinians were killed and
wounded in sporadic clashes, a civil war seemed unlikely. To the contrary, both
Hamas and Fatah became much closer to a deal that would guarantee a power
sharing government, and a much more moderate Hamas political stance.)
another war front in Lebanon would allow Israel to claim a battle on two fronts
against Islamic terrorists, as government spokesmen often asserted; going as
far as describing Hamas as �Israel�s own Al-Qaeda.�
precise logic was the needed platform that would also allow the Bush
administration to lend a helping hand, and unreservedly so, to defeat Israel�s
foes, for it is all interlinked, or so the neoconservative logic goes: Hamas
and Hezbollah champion the Islamic agenda; both are backed and financed by Iran
(an Islamic regime) and Syria (a secular regime, but never mind that), and all
are hell-bent on destroying Israel and America. A naive logic, perhaps, but
with the right media spins, it could justify yet another war or two.
this convenient logic meant full American involvement in support for Israel,
just shy from actual combat with the enemy. �It is time for a new Middle East.
It is time to say to those who do not want a new Middle East that we will
prevail,� is how US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice wished to convey the
new nature of her government�s alliance with Israel in a joint press conference
with Olmert, two weeks after the Lebanon war began. Rice signaled the official
entry of Israel into the US �war on terror� club. Time has proved her assertion
a costly mistake.
administration insists on engaging in new military debacles to escape old ones.
A victory, any victory could be of essence before the November elections, as an
unimpressed American public continues to withdraw their support of their
government�s reckless policies. A victory in the Lebanon war, as a proxy war
against Iran, would�ve served such an objective well.
Thus it was
not mere coincidence, in my mind, that Israel�s war of �self-defense� on
Lebanon was timed to cover the failure of the administration�s newest military
sweep in Baghdad, and the return of thousands of troops to the warring city, at
a time when the administration spoke proudly of possible troop reduction. The
war on Afghanistan was the only claim of victory in the war on terror. That
prize, too, is being gradually lost.
expected the Lebanon war to yield such unprecedented outcomes. Despite the war
of rhetoric, immediately after the declaration of an end to hostilities in
accordance with UN resolution 1701, it was clear that Israel had failed, and
for the first time, to militarily subdue an Arab foe. Over 30,000 Israeli
troops armed with the best weapons American money could buy failed to defeat
1,200 lightly armed Hezbollah fighters. How will such an historic setback
impact the Israeli collective psyche is yet to be seen, though I worry that
Palestinians will feel the brunt of Israel�s attempt to restore its confidence.
As for the impact on the Arab psyche, so accustomed to defeats, and suspicious
of unwarranted claims of victory, watching one elated episode of �Ma� al-Nas�
(With the People) on Al-Jazeera television, speaks volumes.
intense debate regarding the looming political reformation in Lebanon, it seems
that a more consequential debate has been forgotten: The relationship between
the Lebanon war and the real future of the Middle East. The stratagem that was
meant to crush any meaningful nationalistic project and secure the US and
Israel�s economic and strategic dominance in the region, received another major
blow in Lebanon.
Ramzy Baroud is a US author and journalist,
currently based in London. His recent book, �The Second Palestinian Intifada: A
Chronicle of a People�s Struggle� (Pluto Press, London), is now available at
Amazon.com. He is also the editor-in-chief of the Palestine Chronicle.