A vacuum in Lebanon, and Hezbollah fills it – Africa & Middle East – International Herald Tribune

I’ve been struggling for a couple of days with Scottie’s questions. This column will not completely answer his questions :), but it will give my thoughts about moving forward.

For more, visit DC Offline.

The article above really opened my eyes about the situation in the Middle East and helped me put the pieces together for the first time. My developing thoughts are below for your comments.

There is a stated aim of Bin Laden as well as a concerted effort that we are seeing right now with Iran’s outstretched arm to the citizens of Lebanon through Hezbollah to recreate a Muslim Caliphate in the Middle East, free of Western influence and a world power in its own right.

There does seem to be a fight over which branch of Islam will own this Caliphate, once it emerges – the Shi’ite branch from Iran (and already we are seeing a Shia Crescent develop from Iran through Syria and down through Lebanon via Hezbollah), or a Sunni branch from Al Qaeda.

America has just helped this enterprise along, however unknowingly, by deposing Saddam Hussein (a pain-in-the-ass, but an avowed secularist who saw himself as the second coming of Hammurabi) and opening the door to a Shia vs. Sunni Civil War in Iraq.

It is no longer a question of whether this Civil War will happen – it is only a question of who will influence the outcome: The United States on the side of a secular outcome regardless of the brand of Islam OR Iran toward a definitive Shi’ite state under its direct influence if we vacate our position there as some statesmen (I use that term with some levity) here in the States are now advocating.

As should be apparent, I am no Bush fan. His policies have been so disastrous to our image and to the Region itself, it will take decades to recover – IF we can navigate the months ahead successfully. But the counterpoint to his Middle East policy is NOT to leave our position there right now. The certain occupant of that power vacuum would be Ahmedinejad and the Shi’ite influence from Iran with their bloated oil treasury buying influence and good will the exact way they are doing through Hezbollah in Lebanon right now.

The pattern is obvious and will be repeated in Iraq to win the cultural victory and repair all the infrastructure we have destroyed and have been, up to this point, unable to properly restore. Just read the above article to see the real effects of this on the ground in Lebanon and translate that to Iraq if we leave right now.

The correct counterpoint to the Bush policy in the Middle East is a change in strategy. A real battle to win “the hearts and minds” of the Iraqi people. Terence Daly notes: “This is scoffed at by many conservatives as the equivalent of sitting around a campfire singing “Kumbaya.” But in fact it is a sophisticated, multifaceted, even ruthless struggle to wrest control of a population from cunning and often brutal foes. We must be ready and able to kill insurgents – lots of them – but as a means, not an end.”

We were led to Iraq with false intelligence, false links to Al Qaeda, false motives, even false expectations and budget projections – but the question of “Should we have gone in there or not?” is no longer important. Rather, the question of “What do we do now?” is of paramount importance given the stakes of those we are playing this game against. They have already gamed out their strategy several moves ahead of us. Will we stop reacting to events as they take place, define victory and form a strategy to win, or continue to try to figure out how to retreat as quickly as we can from a war we never should have entered into in the first place?

Posted at 05:51 am by DC Offline

Posted by BP @ 08/22/2006 01:52 PM PDT
First I can’t see what’s so eye-opening about the article to which you refer. Hezbollah has always positioned itself as being the only humanitarian hope for its followers and the Lebanese people…however… granted this indeed strengthens their position to say the least.

I do think it’s important whether we went in for the right reasons or not, but I strongly agree that it’s AT LEAST as important to determine what we do now.

You’ll find very few (intelligent) people who don’t think it’s important to understand their enemy, and equally important to not make any more…but you’ll find many unintelligent people who believe that if we just “stop the killing” all of the problems will go away.

While we’re fixing the issues that need to be fixed (and there are many) from the “propoganda” and public relations battle, I still believe we’re going to have to continue killing a lot of terrorists. So Terence’s comments and most of Eric’s, I am in agreement with.

Posted by Johnny @ 08/22/2006 04:13 PM PDT
Interesting post. A big factor why the US didn’t take Baghdad in ’91, if I’m not mistaken. Oh, and of course the U.N.

Posted by Scottie @ 08/22/2006 06:48 PM PDT
All right, I officially give up on getting input from bloggers on this site concerning why they thought we went into Iraq.

While I certainly agree that the big issue now is the next course of action in Iraq (which should be full withdrawal), but if we do not learn from our government’s previous deceits, then we will not be able to understand their future moves.

I was not trying to re-live the mistakes of the Iraq engagement, but rather trying to lure responses so that I could offer another facet to the issue that will be relevant in the upcoming war with Iran.

The best laid plans of mice and man gang aft agley …

I will not bring the issue up again unless asked, but I will tell you all that the real reason behind the Iraq invasion and occupation hasn’t been exposed to the US public, and it will be the same reason that ignites a bigger conflict in Iran, and the real reason is not what you think … NOT Oil, NOT Israel, NOT Geo-Political strategy, NOT keeping the Middle East nuclear free (LOL with Israel having many already)


Posted by Eric (my real name) @ 08/22/2006 09:51 PM PDT
So what is your thought on the “Real Reason”? I’m dying over here!!

My thoughts on the reason always go back to an article I read in FP magazine back before 9/11 talking about how, if we could only topple Iraq and replace it with a sympathetic democratic regime, we could refashion that entire region in our own image. That article was based on a paper that Wolfowitz and Co. had put together for Bush I that had been (wisely) shelved at that time.

I think they used 9/11 as their excuse to go over there and try this experiment out. It’s been widely reported that right after 9/11 Bush was focusing his staff on Saddam, but was forced to go to Afghanistan after the facts wouldn’t line up for Iraq.

Of course, the fact that congressional elections were looming didn’t hurt either. First time in recent memory the President’s ticket actually GAINED seats in an off-year election?

Posted by Scottie @ 08/23/2006 05:01 PM PDT
in regards to johnny, the UN mandate did not allow US forces to topple Saddam in ’91

Posted by Scottie @ 08/23/2006 05:10 PM PDT
eric, if you wanna know the real reason, email me at sorrell67@cox.net and i will give you some hints, but i don’t want to simply state it, as it is better for one to make their own conclusions, given an exposure to a sufficient amount of credible data.

i will tell you that the real reason we invaded and occupied iraq will be the exact same reason the US will lie its way into a war with iran, sooner than later.

chavez’s venezuela will be next, for the same reason, because he made the same existential threat to the US implicitly (of course the CIA might be used for him like it was used in ’53 against the democractically appointed Mossadegh)

so if there is still interest, email me and i’ll point you in the right direction

Posted by BP @ 08/23/2006 05:51 PM PDT
So are we talking trading oil for Euros, etc., instead of Dollars…if so…that big secret is already out. “Confessions of an Economic Hitman” is already on the reading list.
Where do we go from Here?

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