Abu Muqawama retains its autonomy and the views and beliefs expressed within the blog do not reflect those of CNAS. Abu Muqawama retains the right to delete comments that include words that incite violence; are predatory, hateful, or intended to intimidate or harass; or degrade people on the basis of gender, race, class, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, or disability. In summary, don't be a jerk.
1) Do be careful about using the word "admire" (one of your commentators has already used that tag as a way to compare me to Zawahiri... we know how this can go and we need to be more precise - if you could star this in your original post it might help). I do not "admire" Nasrallah. I do view him, however, as a far superior thinker, articulator and leader than Fatfat and many others, of course, here and elsewhere - but this is certainly NOT to say that I think Nasrallah's line is good for the US, Lebanon or the rest of the world. As far as value judgements go, the whole paper is premised on the idea that Hizbullah should be disarmed - that the elements of unreason, totalitarianism and violence that do exist with Nasrallah and the party (and which work dialectically with elements of reason, justice and peace within their overall discourse and actions) should be addressed head on by the US and others, via peaceful strategies. The larger point here is that in the paper I am not in the business of proving or disproving statements by either Lebanese side. Fatfat's silly and contradictory comments were useful, but a minor detail and really the only case I think where I used a statement by a Lebanese politician to demonstrate hallowness. The main point, as I explain on page 22-23, is even if you think Nasrallah is a liar, and/or that he wants to liberate Jerusalem or turn Lebanon into an Islamic state, "what he really thinks" or what Hizbullah "really wants" is far less important - and probably unknowable publicly, in any case - than how they sell themselves, how they view their weaknesses and the ways in which their sociopolitical environment can structure, limit and even change their actions and calculations. On this score, as I explain in the paper, Hizbullah is extremely vulnerable to having its unreasonable and violent side deflated... But the US - the actor who holds a great perponderance of power - must emphasize the peaceful means that address the rational basis of Hizbullah's support. The only other suggestions out there (apart from a still unlikely resolution of the Iran, Syrian, and/or Palestinian tracks) are 1) more of the same policy of stagnation (which is fast turning into disregard) 2) a slow and really only marginal uptick in US support for the LAF which will not be decisive enough to get the "peaceful disarmament" job done 3) More war and/or encouraging a new civil war 4) or selling Lebanon out to Syria. I argue that these 4 options are all far worse/unlikely to succeed, more costly, morally problematic and/or more risky than the option of addressing Hizbullah's rational basis for wide public support.
As a final reiteration: its not about Hizbullah "moving the goalposts." They can and may move them all they want. The point is that they likely won't be able to exercise violence towards these goals if you pursue the strategies outlined in the paper.
2) Can a non-military analyst talk in broad strokes about military related policies serving political ends? I think so, especially if I refer to what the LAF itself says it needs...If the main disagreement between us is over the money aspect - or that the LAF somehow "owes" the US some more results, a point which I found bordering on a kind of colonialist thinking (apologies, but remember that we are giving goodies to the LAF and M14 to serve our interests, even if this has not served US interests well in the end!). Let me just repeat what I said to you earlier after the part you quoted. The US has still banked almost $300 million in aid to the LAF - already given by Congress!!! So there is plenty there already to launch a serious program. My proposal in the paper is for a Paris-type conference as well with the arab/gulf states which could help far more..... Instead, the US is going to spend some drips on old M60 tanks! More of the same.... and more lost opportunities with money that is already there!
3)"I told Nick this paper would work better if it just focused on strengthening the LAF as a way toward undermining Hizballah's raison d'être" - This is precisely the main problem - and it is the one which I am saying Aram's paper is also caught in (for he limits himself to what you suggest.)... You cannot decisively undermine Hizbullah's ability to exercise violence independently of the state by just focusing on the LAF. You need a full strategy which ends the bleeding wounds, credibly builds the LAF to defend lebanon AND begins to seriously push politicial reforms focusing on enfranchisement and an end to the confessional system generally (a process sketched out by the lebanese themselves). As a part of this overall strategy I raise the FPM and Fadlallah. It is now evidently stupid that the US "lost" Aoun. On Fadlallah: well, if the US is serious about encouraging Shiite voices that can be a counter weight to Iran and that can have a positive influence on a strategy of peacebuilding in Lebanon and beyond (as Aoun's supporters can) Fadlallah could be pivotal. Aside from that, throwing money at "free shiite" figures is ridiculous. Lets finally undertake this process with seriousness instead of self-deception.