The War is Over: What Were They Thinking?

The war is over. Hizbullah has taken control of West Beirut in one day of fighting, during which Hariri's amateur and untested militia proved no match for the highly trained and war hardened Hizbullah fighters.

The outcome of this showdown was completely predictable. Anyone who expected the Lebanese Army to take on Hizbullah on behalf of the Sunni leaders of Beirut was dreaming.

It appears that the military, realizing the lopsided distribution of power, has sided with Hizbullah. Hizbullah has been turning over the strategic centers to Lebanese military elements as soon as it captures them. The military hs assumed control of the al-Mustaqbal offices.

Only yesterday, I argued that Washington had to be coordinating with Jumblatt and March 14th forces. I could not believe that Jumblatt's and the government’s efforts to dismantle Hizbullah's secure communications network was anything but a calculated effort to force a confrontation.

Qifa Nabki said I was wrong. He proposed that Jumblatt had gone of half-cocked and was dragging Hariri and Siniora into a confrontation that no one was prepared for, least of all Washington and the West. I could not believe that the pro-Western alliance would be so foolish and disorganized. When Ambassador Feltman was in Beirut, this would not have happened. He was in constant motion, conferring with the March 14 forces and brow beating Hizbullah and Aoun. One may have objected to his constant interference and hectoring, but there was little room for the lack of coordination between the US and March 14 leaders.

Now I am inclined to believe that March 14 was dragged along by rash leadership. It is hard to believe Washington would be so foolish. There will be those who believe this is part of a larger US and Israeli plan to sucker Hizbullah into overreaching only to provide justification for a second Israeli attack. Neither the governments in Washington or Jerusalem are in any clear-minded state to be thinking with such Machiavellian calculation.

I just received this note from Ehsani:

Dear Dr. Landis,

I just got off the phone with my business partner, who was staying at the Phoenicia Hotel in Beirut. Below is a summary of what he told me:

After heavy gunfire in the early hours of the morning, the hotel management advised its residents to vacate the hotel as it could not guarantee their safety. The rumor was that the HA forces might occupy the Saraya, the main government building, next door. The hotel itself was the recent spot for March 14th gatherings. Thus the hotel management was worried that HA could be planning to take over the Phoenicia itself.

At 6:15 am, my friend was evacuated with his family. Close friends guaranteed his safe passage to an apartment he owns in the Eastern (Christian) section of the city. As he left the Phoenicia, he described the scene outside as a "war zone".

The HA forces seemed to have total control of the situation on the ground. He described them to be "incredibly sophisticated" and organized as they moved through the streets.

Things could not be more different on the Eastern side of the city, where normalcy prevails. Reaching his apartment made him comfortable enough to feel like "there is nothing going on".

Normalcy is also returning to the Western or Muslim side of the city occupied by Hizbullah. The reason for this is that HA has been completely successful in overwhelming opposition forces. The other side was not even close to matching them. They were overrun with such ease that HA can see no resistance in sight.

What was March 14th thinking? What is the U.S. going to do? The French Foreign Minister states that his country will not sit idly by and watch the events unfold. But what is France going to do? Send its forces into Lebanon? Are the Americans prepared to do the same?

What is likely to happen is that the White house and Condi will condemn the latest events and claim that HA is a terrorist organization that took over the democratically elected government by force. Great, like that is really going to scare HA and convince them to retreat.

Particularly noteworthy has been the behavior of the Lebanese army. HA takes over a building and seems to turn it over to an army unit that follows behind the Shiite party. This is very odd indeed. The army seems to resemble a U.N. force that watches over buildings and streets after they have been overrun by a sovereign military force.

What the future holds, no one can say. This round overwhelmingly and devastatingly belongs to HA and its supporters. Jumblat and Hariri Junior were crushed.

Comments (263)

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251. abraham said:

Sol, have you ever heard of a “specious argument”? Please, look up the word specious. Now, replace that with “ineptly fraudulent”, because that is what every counter-argument you made is.

Let me spell this out for you clearly so even you can understand:

+ Occupation
+ Palestine
The Problem

This has nothing to do with Algeria, Sudan, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, or Chechnya, all of which are not either Palestine, Lebanon, or Syria. Now, there’s a common theme amongst these last three countries. I’ll leave it up to you as an exercise to figure out what it is.


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May 11th, 2008, 2:36 am


252. Alex said:


This is not low… I am joking with QN.

I do understand that part of the reason Jumblatt said what he said in that clip was that he wanted the Syrians to be OK with him.

I am not motivated to vilify Junblatt, but given the fact Junblatt was making tons of money when he befriended the Syrians for decades, I won’t feel too guilty for using his video clip to teast Qifa Nabki.

As for Hizbollah … I agree that the use of their military superiority this week made many people worried about Hizbollah’s excessive power.

But Nasralaah is not constrained to AIPAC’s robotic maximization mode of operation … he knows when he needs to take a couple of steps backward.

For example, his fighters immediately disappeared .. they gave up all their newly acquired positions to the Lebanese army.

He will probably do more, in the near future, to make it up to those who do not hate him, like Qifa Nabki, but they were disappointed because he chose to use some of his force inside Beirut against other Lebanese.

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May 11th, 2008, 3:31 am


253. Honest Patriot said:


You misunderstand me. I have nothing but the greatest sympathy and the utmost support for Palestinians and for the Palestinian cause. I believe, and have always believed, that if the right “weapons” of effective lobbying, peaceful protests, strength through effective voicing of the rights, had been pursued, and with participation from all Lebanese among others, a very different outcome would have occurred in the Middle East vis a vis Israel, if not its creation, at least its expansion.

What I have decried and continue to decry with certainty, is that the methods chosen by both the Arab leadership (e.g., in 1967) and by many Palestinians, methods based on (a) complete ineptitude in estimating their military strength and (b) utilizing wanton violence against innocent civilians. These have resulted in nothing but failure and loss.

All that the Palestinians did in Lebanon by way of armed struggle yielded zero results for them, brought destruction onto Lebanon, and yes, caused the differences in Lebanese society to degenerate into the armed conflict of the civil war. Roll back time, re-introduce the Palestinians without weapons and let the struggle include all Lebanese who would have been more than willing to spearhead the non-violent struggle, you would not have had the arming of militias and the ensuing 15-years of civil war. I do believe this, as I’m sure a majority of my compatriots do.

The armed Palestinian struggle in Lebanon culminated in their military defeat at the hands of the 1982 Israeli invasion with all its horrors. The true progress made in Palestine was thanks to the local Palestinians of the first Intifada. That is how a struggle is effective. That is the struggle that all Lebanese will rally behind. You may not know it or not be willing to admit it but with the right strategy the Lebanese — all Lebanese in and outside Lebanon — can and will be the most effective advocates for the Palestinian cause. We simply reject those methods used in targeting innocent civilians. So does Abu Mazen.


Being cordial and brotherly to you by suggesting we join in a meal of local fare does not mean the heart is not aching at the suffering of my native land. I don’t need any lectures from you. The methods you advocate have been a recipe for losing for 60 years: just watch the Israeli celebrations. Your conclusion? Do more of the same. Let me help you with a revelation: continuing to beat your head against the wall will not make your headache go away. And making me beat my head against the same wall will yield nothing either.

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May 11th, 2008, 3:31 am


254. Alex said:

And Ausamma 7abibi … please remember the rules of Syria Comment

I know you are only semi-serious, but many others here are not familiar with your writing style. You sounded as if you hate Lebanon or the Lebanese people, and I know you don’t.

And Qifa Nabki is a very balanced Lebanese. I think you had an initial impression of him which is not entirely accurate.

AND (if I did not get on your nerves yet) … I have a question:

If we can not joke and talk about falafel sandwiches because some people lost their lives in Lebanon today … then why don’t we follow the same restrictions everyday when Iraqis and Sudanese are dying in larger numbers?

Are you implying that a Lebanese life is more valuable to you than an Iraqi life?

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May 11th, 2008, 4:42 am


255. Shai said:

QN, Abraham, HP, Sol,

I won’t pretend to want to “bridge” anything between you guys (certainly not as the token Israeli “on shift” now…), but I will say that often the content of our words, or the ideas behind them, are ignored completely because of HOW we say things. I’ve turned a deaf ear on numerous occasions here on SC to people who may have had much sense to speak, simply due to their harsh language, often bordering on personal insults and accusations.

Though I should be the last person to agree with Abraham here, I actually tend to agree with him quite a bit. I am not an innate anti-Israeli, anti-Zionist, or anti-semite. I live and work in Israel, raise my family here, and plan to stick around until someone or something forces me out. But unlike most Israelis (unfortunately), I have found the way to continue to feel proud of my country, and ashamed of it at the same time. I am proud of the fact that after 2000 years, my people have a place they can call home. That Jews that were persecuted for two millennia can finally feel protected in their own nation. That in merely 60 years, Israel has indeed become a modern, high-developed state. But, at the same time, I am also ashamed of the price others had to pay (and are still having to pay) for that achievement. We cannot, indeed must not, ignore the millions of Palestinians who are paying this price until this very moment. While I sit here and “calmly” type on my fancy laptop, sipping a cappuccino in a local cafe, 1.5 million people are being suffocated in Gaza. Another 800,000 have refugee status in Syria and Lebanon. And another 2 million are living without freedom in the West Bank.

Of course not ALL of their lacks of freedom are caused by Israel. But most are. Of course Syria and Lebanon have used these poor Palestinian refugees in their political battles with Israel, instead of granting them citizenship, and treating them equally. But that cannot reduce Israel’s responsibility for those refugees one iota. The way to deal with an accusation is not by making a counter-accusation. We each must deal with our own responsibility, and clear our conscience once and for all. We can pretend the problem is not there, or is not ours to solve, but if we won’t deal with it, our children, or their children, will. And until then, the price we’ll all have to pay is increasing exponentially. And, as always, the poor pay far more than the rich.

As much as I don’t like Hezbollah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Al-Aqsa, and many other resistance movements, there is no doubt that without them, Israel would still be in Lebanon, in Gaza, and would not be considering talking to Syria, or Abu Mazen, or whoever. The only way, unfortunately, to convince Israel over the past 30 years, has been through force. That is also something I am ashamed of. When Sadat reached out to Israel (a mere few years after the 1973 war), there were brave Israelis there ready to receive him. We didn’t make ridiculous preconditions. We ran to the negotiation table. Sadat paid for this with his life. So did Rabin. Hafez Assad, King Hussein, Yasser Arafat are also all gone. All those that have been courageous enough to fight when necessary, but also make peace when the time came, are long gone. It is now time to find, and nurture, the future leaders of this region.

Bashar seems to be such a leader, even if he won’t last another 15-20 years. I agree with Alex, chances are that this young, wise, and patient leader (who happens to listen to Country music on his iPod), is probably looking for the best ways to get Syria onto a path to eventual democracy. He knows that by holding free elections tomorrow morning, he won’t be serving that purpose. He’ll be overthrown in an instant, and replaced by hardline politicians and zealots that will destroy Syria for decades. But this leader is reaching out to Israel to make peace. And funny enough, not only Israelis are turning him away, but also Arabs! So many here on SC are coming up with every reason in the book to suggest Syria should not make peace with a treacherous and conniving Israel. I guess they see things Bashar doesn’t… At the same time, instead of realizing that Israel NEEDS Hamas and Hezbollah in power (yes, what an outrageous statement to make, eh?) we wish to “destroy” them. And then who will be left – our friends? And with our puppet friends like Abu Mazen, or a Siniora, we’ll make peace? If I had a choice of whom to make peace with, Khatami or Ahmedinejad (assuming both were possible), of course I’d rather choose the latter over the first. Destroy your enemy, or opt to do so, and you’ve destroyed the hope for peace. Strange as that may sound, but fact.

QN, as much as I’d like to have a Lebanon free of armed factions, free of anti-Israel excuses that obstruct progress, and freedom, I’m afraid that in the end, having them serves Israel’s best interests. But not for the reason many here will think. It is precisely this instability and anti-Israeli sentiments (and occasional action on the ground) that may still apply pressure on Israeli leaders to consider changing their policy. If Hezbollah gave up its arms, and became a purely political organization, many Israeli politicians would say “Ok, now there’s really no need to rush… with respect to the Golan or Shebaa farms”. I know many Israelis would disagree with me, suggesting that if only HA and Hamas stopped their resistance by force, we’d all be willing to consider making peace with them (or their people). I think that 20 years before any real resistance began is enough proof to the contrary. Before the first Intifada, we had two decades to stop settlement building, to seek peace with the Palestinians, and we didn’t. Before HA was formed, and started bruising the IDF in Lebanon, our governments were ready to occupy Lebanese territory for twenty years.

I wish it wasn’t so, but only resistance forced Israel to act. True, often it was counter-productive (Summer 2006). But the two advantages the Arab world has always had over Israel, are time and people. They can sacrifice much more than Israel can, and they do. Until we understand that we cannot choose our enemies, nor their chosen methods of war, we will continue to fight one another endlessly. Show me one case in history (modern or ancient), where one side first demanded a change of methodology of war, before willing to talk peace with the other. Must we all continue to bleed another decade or two, before we realize our foolishness? When will we realize that by continuing to focus on changing the other side, instead of ourselves, we are merely moving away from the end, rather than towards it?

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May 11th, 2008, 6:45 am


256. ausamaa said:


Good that you caught what escaped Qifa Nabki in a way. I guess HP also cought up on that as his “reply” to me was sort of mild.

And about the FALAFEL, no sir, I have actually stopped eating them since the first Rawandan . All lives are dear to me. Of course Lebanese lives have a special spot as more than half of my – and our family’s- friends are Lebanese. Not the HA bearded scary and serious ones, but Siniora and even Ja’ja cuti ones. Actually they keep wondering why I bother with Lebanese affairs, as they have given up on it themselves as they keep saying in frustration.

And QN style of writing is certainly balanced gramatically and
linguisticaly. Politically, I know he is no Junblat or Ja’ja, but sometimes he over does himeself. Trying to appeare balanced, I mean. Especially when he says that Syria and the US are intent on sacrificing Lebanon for their own ends. To me that statement from an “informed” person tells me that something in him refuses to be totally balanced. But as you say, he is ok.

Let us hope today will bring good news.

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May 11th, 2008, 7:09 am


257. abraham said:

QN said:

I choose to believe that things are more complicated. Maybe that makes me a treasonous traitor.

Oh? I’m sorry if you can’t pick up the nuance of my discourse. If I have to spell everything out for you then let me know. I think I was being simple enough for most minds in my ideology but if it’s over your head then you just let me know and I’ll dumb it down even more.

I never said I agreed with everything Nour said. I simply stated that I thought this statement was “nicely said”. I don’t agree that anyone who criticizes Hizballah is a traitor and I don’t how you could have come to that conclusion based on anything I wrote.

Anyway, I don’t think you think you know what the problem is. It’s not that I don’t think, it’s that I don’t think the way you would like me to think. Your conclusions are not exactly based on the apex of rational thought either.

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May 11th, 2008, 7:59 am


258. abraham said:

Shai, nicely stated.

For QN’s benefit, I will explain that I don’t necessarily agree with everything you said, but I think you stated it well, i.e. rationally.

Although I applaud you for expressing some of the things upon which we agree (Israel will not come around without resistance, Israel understands force) I do have some points of disagreement. Namely, the reason I don’t think Bashar’s peace overtures are useful (though I believe they are truly sincere) is because I simply don’t trust Israel, period. And I don’t trust Olmert specifically (and I suspect many Israelis are finding they are starting to feel the same) nor most current Israeli leaders. They have all acted in bad faith in various roles, and my trust is quite frankly depleted 100% with regards to Israel. So in the end, due to this cynicism I think there is something other than peace on the minds of Israeli leaders currently. If something actually comes of this then so be it and hallejujah but I’m not holding my breath. Israel will have to make peace eventually, but I don’t think we’re there just yet. I think Israel needs to suffer a bit more before you’ll be ready.

The way I see it, there are four ways the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can be settled:

a) The Palestinians are ethnically cleansed from the West Bank and Gaza, and the complainers within Israel as well.

b) The Jews are pushed into the sea.

c) The status quo remains.

d) A one-state solution with no preference based on religion or race.

a) is not going to happen. b) is unacceptable. c) is untenable, choose again. And so we are left with d).

I really see no other solution. If Israel did this, there would be peace agreements with every remaining Arab country before Hannukah.

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May 11th, 2008, 8:25 am


259. Shai said:


I wish that was possible, but it’s not. Israelis do not trust the Arabs enough to allow for a one-state solution. We must separate physically our two peoples, and live apart, before we can begin to trust one another and consider a future together. If we wait for option d (one-state), we’ll all suffer miserably, and chances are, we’ll head straight into a very painful and catastrophic regional war. The “pressure cooker” that is our region, can only take it so much. Eventually, something will snap. Too many parties here want to not only release this endless tension, but indeed punish others in the process. We cannot allow that to happen. And if a superficial peace with Syria is the first step, so be it. But at least it’ll calm down things a bit, create (hopefully) a much-needed optimistic spirit in our region, and bring about the possibility for Syrian involvement in helping Israel and the Palestinians end their conflict. This is an opportunity that hasn’t existed before and, in my mind, is quite viable.

As for trusting Israel, you must understand that there is no “Israel”, but Israeli leaders, and public opinion, when it comes to our motivation, plans, and policy. At the moment, indeed, you cannot trust our “peaceful overtures”, quite simply because there are none (barring Olmert and very few around him). But much of these “games” are intended to begin changing public opinion in Israel. It’s a silly dance that, unfortunately, must be danced… No Israeli leader can change our path, without the support of at least 50.1% of our people.

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May 11th, 2008, 9:06 am


260. why-discuss said:


It seems we are in a dead end again. If Egypt was a democracy at the time of Sadat, they would be no peace agreement. Same applies to Jordan. I guess my conclusion is that democracy in Israel is the principal impediment to any peace deal within a reasonable time. If Arab countries are been pushed to democratize, it will increasingly difficult for them too make peace with Israel, because the leader would have to convince 50% of the population before making any move. Lebanon that has a less authoritarian regime than other arab countres is a good example of failure in making peace with Israel.
Before Syria becomes a democracy as AIG is hoping, Israel should make a peace deal.
Democracy has good sides but it obliges the mentality of the citizens to be changed and that maybe take more generations.

The only solution I see is a massive and targetted Israeli economical package ( with US and EU help) to boost occupied Palestian lands as well as south of Lebanon and indirectly Syria.
Instead of destroying houses, hospitals and factories, they should build them.
When Israel’s arab neighbours will see their life style improving thanks to Israel then they will likely to push for peace.
Otherwise it will be the statu quo and the ultimate demographic disapearance of Israel.

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May 11th, 2008, 7:10 pm


261. Shai said:


From your mouth to Allah! I completely agree with you.

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May 11th, 2008, 7:50 pm


262. Mark McHenry said:

Israeli Jews do not want a one-state solution. The Jewish Talmud says that Jews are superior to other races and therefore the Muslim response of “Zionism is racism” is quite accurate and Jews are not likely to abandon their religious teachings for the sake of peace. Israel wants a Jewish State which they will claim is for “safety” but this is merely a propaganda front to mask the Jewish desire for superiority over others.

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May 11th, 2008, 11:05 pm


263. Shai said:

Mark McHenry,

There are at least 3-4 “Jews” that frequent Syria Comment. We are very much divided on issues pertaining to the Palestinians, the Syrians, and the rest of the Arab world. We all want peace, but have very different ways of approaching it. Some of us may see it as a possibility in the very near future (1-2 years), while others may require much greater change to occur first (Democracy, etc.)

But absolutely NONE OF US are trying to “mask (our) Jewish desire for superiority over others”. Your words are sheer nonsense. 90% of Israelis don’t know the difference between the Talmud and the Bible, yet you claim as fact that “Jews are not likely to abandon their religious teachings for the sake of peace…”! Who are YOU, to tell US, what is taught and isn’t taught in Israel? Have you ever been to Israel? Do you have the slightest understanding or knowledge of what goes on inside Israel? Or do you simply copy/paste words of hatred over and over again from some “respectable source” you found early on in your frustrated life?

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May 12th, 2008, 4:23 am


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