We need to deal with this problem from the beach side, in concert with the ocean side, but we don’t have an embassy in Somalia and limited, ineffective intelligence operations. We need to work in Somalia and in Lebanon, where a lot of the ransom money has changed hands. But our operations in Lebanon are a joke, and we have no presence at all in Somalia.
BEIRUT (AP) -- Gunmen ambushed Lebanese troops in the east of the country on Monday, spraying their military vehicle with gunfire and rocket-propelled grenades, a senior military official said. Four soldiers were killed and an officer was wounded in the attack.
The ambush on a major road near the town of Rayak comes after a recent push by Lebanese troops to crack down on the drug trade in the Bekaa Valley and carried the hallmarks of a revenge attack by clansmen.The official said the gunmen, traveling in three four-wheel drive vehicles, sped away after the attack.
...the Defense Department has dispatched as many as a dozen teams to interview Israeli officers who fought against Hezbollah. The Army and Marine Corps have sponsored a series of multimillion-dollar war games to test how U.S. forces might fare against a similar foe. "I've organized five major games in the last two years, and all of them have focused on Hezbollah," said Frank Hoffman, a research fellow at the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory in Quantico.Steve Biddle, per usual, has the answer to the question Jaffe is asking:
"The Lebanon war has become a bellwether," said Stephen Biddle, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations who has advised Gen. David H. Petraeus, head of the U.S. Central Command. "If you are opposed to transforming the military to fight low-intensity wars, it is your bloody sheet. It's discussed in almost coded communication to indicate which side of the argument you are on."Here's the problem with that, though. As Jaffe notes toward the end of the article, the 2006 war is a kind of Rorschach test that does not so much point toward obvious conclusions but rather highlights pre-existing biases on the part of those researchers looking to draw conclusions. Personally, I believe you can take any number of important lessons from the war and can use the war writ large to argue all sides of the ongoing defense debates. If you just look at the war within the 34 days of open fighting, for example, it is clear the Israelis allowed their conventional war-fighting skills to atrophy as they engaged in low-intensity operations in the Palestinian territories between 2000 and 2006. But if you look at the war from the other side of the border -- which few studies have done -- you see the way that, over a span of time beyond the 34 days of open fighting, Hizballah employed non-kinetic lines of operation (to include information operations and the provision of essential services to their population), to virtually ensure that no matter how the Israelis performed operationally, they would have a tough time winning strategically. Or, to put it another way,
"Even if the Israelis had done better operationally, I don't think they would have been victorious in the long run," said Andrew Exum, a former Army officer who has studied the battle from southern Lebanon. "For the Israelis, the war lasted for 34 days. We tend to forget that for Hezbollah, it is infinite."So there are lessons to be found in the 2006 war for Cold Warriors and COINdinistas alike. What we should do, instead, is study the wars we are actually fighting. That will cost guys like me several thousand dollars in consulting fees each year for those war games Frank Hoffman mentions, but it makes a lot more sense to study the wars in which Americans are actually fighting and dying than it does to study a war whose lessons are only vaguely applicable to the future of American war.
Nihilists? F@*k me!, I mean, say what you want about the tenets of Population-centric counterinsurgency doctrine, Dude, at least it's an Ethos!All that having been said, this blog has often posted on events in Lebanon, as that is where this blogger happened to both earn his master's degree and do his field work for his PhD. My ear is no longer to the ground in that country, though, so I am not following the run-up to the important elections in June as closely as I perhaps should be. Enter Qifa Nabki. A few weeks ago, I told Qifa to be prepared to be the go-to blog for Abu Muqawama readers looking for insights on the elections. I have been really impressed by the mix of serious analysis and good humor on this blog. So consider my duties as a Lebanon analyst on non-security-related matters officially outsourced.
I still think Totten should have kicked his ass out of principle once they had returned to the hotel. (Thanks, SNLII)
Well, call me old-fashioned if you will, but I have always taken the view that swastika symbols exist for one purpose only—to be defaced. Telling my two companions to hold on for a second, I flourish my trusty felt-tip and begin to write some offensive words on the offending poster. I say “begin” because I have barely gotten to the letter k in a well-known transitive verb when I am grabbed by my shirt collar by a venomous little thug, his face glittering with hysterical malice. With his other hand, he is speed-dialing for backup on his cell phone. As always with episodes of violence, things seem to slow down and quicken up at the same time: the eruption of mayhem in broad daylight happening with the speed of lightning yet somehow held in freeze-frame. It becomes evident, as the backup arrives, that this gang wants to take me away.
I am as determined as I can be that I am not going to be stuffed into the trunk of some car and borne off to a private dungeon (as has happened to friends of mine in Beirut in the past). With my two staunch comrades I approach a policeman whose indifference seems well-nigh perfect. We hail a cab and start to get in, but one of our assailants gets in also, and the driver seems to know intimidation only too well when he sees it. We retreat to a stretch of sidewalk outside a Costa café, and suddenly I am sprawled on the ground, having been hit from behind, and someone is putting the leather into my legs and flanks. At this point the crowd in the café begins to shout at the hoodlums, which unnerves them long enough for us to stop another cab and pull away. My shirt is spattered with blood, but I’m in no pain yet: the nastiest moment is just ahead of me. As the taxi accelerates, a face looms at the open window and a fist crashes through and connects with my cheekbone. The blow isn’t so hard, but the contorted, glaring, fanatical face is a horror show, a vision from hell. It’s like looking down a wobbling gun barrel, or into the eyes of a torturer. I can see it still.
Quickly - I think some more of how I think on Hizbullah's discourse will be clearer next week when a long essay on Nasrallah is published in the national magazine. Lets see if that makes things clearer vis a vis the party's states goals, aspirations, interpretations. But even without such a line of argument, we need to end this idea once and for all that I am arguing for removing the bleeding wounds - and that with their removal, Hizbullah disarms. I am NOT. The paper I released argues that this would certainly not get the job done. Instead, it is my position that 1) you must view Hizbullah's discourse dialectically as an operation between reason/unreason, totalitarianism/radical democracy and peace/violence. When you do that and then add an analysis of the multitude of constraints which the Party faces in exercising violence towards its goals (which are themselves a dialectical operation as I stressed), you arrive, I believe, at the conclusion that a strategy of using reason, democracy and nonviolence to undermine all that is indeed unreasonable and violent about Hizbullah is the best strategy for serving US interests and, I believe personally, Lebanese interests. That strategy has THREE key parts: 1) Remove the bleeding wounds because these are the areas where conflict might reasonably be sparked in the short term (so remove the likely conflagration points; 2) Credibly arm the LAF to defend Lebanon against Israel and internal threats (and Syria too!). This means, as Aram and I BOTH argue a) the US, Israel and M14 accepts that a strong LAF is not to be used to forcibly disarm Hizbullah (although it can and should protect a credibly constructed state!) and b) the US accepts a recalibration of Israel's QME WITHOUT an a priori peace agreement; and 3) the US begins to help the Lebanese push the process of deconfessionalization and enfranchisement which the Lebanese have already mapped out for themselves (this rests on Bilal Saab's argument that the US should support certain processes rather than parties and figures in Lebanon).
There it is in a nutshell - so please do NOT consider me duped by Nasrallah or an "admirer" which suggests a positive value judgement. I agree with mona and reinoud's point on the military-jihadist core for Hizbullah because they both insist on viewing this DIALECTICALLY....But remember, as i said in the paper, even if you think that Hizbullah operates towards the most extremist, evil ends, they operate within a framework which can be deftly marshalled to deflate violence and build peace. The openings for this is what I am focused on. Sadly though, I have not seen much in the way of good ideas from those who understand this and who then criticize this approach. But let me know, because one should not give up on proposing peaceful options even when you think the actor in question is bent on evildoing - and especially when that other actor is far more complicated than that and faces other actors who hold such a perponderance of power!
Personally, I think Hizballah is a lot more intimidated by Barack Hussein Obama than it ever was by the cartoon villain George W. Bush. It would be like if Iran voted in a moderate president and we still had to deal with the issue that the Iranian population still wants nuclear power and feels they have a right to it. It's all well and good when some cartoonish clown like Ahmadinejad or Bush is in charge. When a conciliatory moderate is in charge but your interests still aren't alligned, that's when you see the real differences -- and you can't blame all your disagreements on the other side.
The leader of Lebanon's Islamist Hezbollah movement, Hassan Nasrallah, has said his group will never recognise Israel's right to exist.
He was responding to a US suggestion that both Hezbollah and the Palestinian faction Hamas should recognise Israel before expecting any US engagement.
"We reject the American conditions," he said. "As long as Hezbollah exists, it will never recognise Israel."
Israel and Hezbollah's armed wing fought a bloody conflict in 2006.
Mr Nasrallah made the statement rejecting the US conditions for talks said in a speech marking the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad.
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.