March 09, 2009

Cohen on Hizballah

Roger Cohen gets things a little off in his column today on why we should initiate contacts with the "political wing" of Hizballah. First off, who is this "political wing?" Does he mean Hizballah parliamentarians? If that's who he is talking about, then fine, I understand. The seven-man Shura Council, though, has operational control over both what Ahmad Nizar Hamzeh calls the "Political and Administrative Apparatus" as well as the "Military and Security Apparatus." So while there is a clear division of labor between Hizballah's activities in the government and its military activities, the command is more or less unified. (I have no idea how Hamas is set up, so someone feel free to jump in here.)

Second, why on Earth would Hizballah want to talk to us? What would they want from us?

Third, it would be one thing if the only thing Hizballah has ever said about armed resistance was said in the Open Letter of 1985, but Hizballah leaders have repeatedly and consistently defined the organization as an armed resistance movement first and foremost. What's more, this armed resistance is no longer tied into concrete territorial demands that we could conceivably help out with, such as the Shebaa Farms. So that complicates things, both for us in dealing with them and also for them as they try to figure out what the future of their party holds.

Finally, I would have expected Cohen to have grasped the obvious: Britain initiating diplomatic contacts with Hizballah means we already have a trusted third-party through whom we can negotiate.

Thoughts? I'm not adverse to sitting down and talking with our "enemies". I'm just not sure what the hell the point of Cohen's column was. It seems like he wanted to say something about the peace process and seized on Hizballah as an opportunity to do so even if it's really not the same subject. I hate it when columnists do this. It's like when it's blindingly obvious that someone doesn't like Chas Freeman because of what he has said about Israel and -- in a not-so-subtle piece of misdirection -- decides to write a column about how the reason not to like Chas Freeman is because he's a realist ideologue. Not that anyone has done this. (And I don't know enough about Freeman to argue for or against him, so I am not wading into that debate. I just recognize intellectual dishonesty when I see it. You can't B.S. a B.S.-er.)