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Monday, July 31, 2006
Saving Lebanon and Israel

In regards to the current Israeli situation, I think that it is important that "we"--the American government and people interested in (international) politics-- give Israel a free hand for the rest of August to prosecute their military goals as they see fit.

First, the caveats and then the reasons. Three caveats, which are to be treated as 'if and only if' propositions attached to my strong statement of support for current Israeli military policy. One, Israel should be clear that a free hand means that we still fashion an agreement that takes into account the justice of the war's prosecution. The less casualties and the more careful Israel is the more favorable negotiations will be for them from our point of view. If the government of Israel is indiscriminate, then we will appropriately condemn them (after the military campaign). Two, the Secretary of State and the President should just petition Congress for a nice chunk of change, $100 billion+ or so, for stability operations in Lebanon: rebuilding infrastructure, arming the Lebanese army, and placing the government of Lebanon in sure control of its southern border. Three, Israel should be asked to transfer at least $10 billion in reparations payments to Lebanon for all the mess its interventions (notice the plural) have caused as well official recognition of the sovereignty and independence of Lebanon.

Five reasons. *One*, Hezbollah must be dismantled and be replaced by government-based social services administered through government elites. Patronage, typically, is a crappy basis for state support, leading to the famously weak 'neopatrimonial regimes' in comparative politics parlance, but patronage patrimonial regimes are better than competing power centers within one state's territory.

*Two*, the government of Lebanon must be strengthened to prevent the suspected growing influence of Iran and Syria. I think we should ignore the growing support for bombing Iran and playing 'tough' with Syria. I have not yet seen a convincing argument (though I have heard many an impassioned and uninformed diatribes) addressing why it's dangerous for American interests if Iran has nuclear weapons (which I doubt it's building anyway). Playing nice on Syria and Iran, however, doesn't sit with the public mood, and buttressing the domestic institutions of Lebanon against further Iranian and Syrian encroachment is a stability-oriented way to reduce their growing power.

More about military options and Iran here from my point of view here.

*Three*, we mustn't rush Israel because that causes the military planners to value speed and thoroughness over concerns of justice and the reverberation for Lebanese society. While there are appropriate times to corner and to criticize states, this, I believe, is not one of them.

*Four*, the criticisms of Israel in Lebanon and Israel in Palestine do not reflect each other. It wold be odd to demand a ceasefire on the Lebanese front--from arguably the greater threat--while turning a blind eye to the Palestinian predicament.

*Five*, the goal of foreign policy is the region is transformation and stability. Too oft, over the last five years, American policy has promote either separately at the expense of the other. Transformation without stability is chaos, a revolution whose ill-gotten gains will be fleeting and bitterly remembered. Stability without transformation is to support the calcified remains of one vibrant regimes that are content to sit atop their people with little eye for change as they are guaranteed by American and other imperial power(s). Lebanon has been a country that has seen a lot of transformation since the French arrived, backed by the full force of Sykes-Picot and the LON mandates, with little stability. In a devils bargain, the Ta'if accord gave Lebanon Syria and stability without any hope from transformation. A new widow of opportunity has opened allowing for further transformation and the consolidation of stability in Lebanon.

It would be ironic if the present administration, committed to democratic transformation of the Middle East, would succumb the pressure of the international community and the affiliated cognoscenti, who by brandishing pictures and statistics of dead children and bombed out buildings, would arrest the present and future possibility of a strong democratic state in Lebanon. We should support Israel and its fight to remove Hezbollah from the political equation in Lebanon even if it takes all summer. If Israel, by pressing the thing, might make it possible for democratic stability in Lebanon, I say: "Let the thing be pressed."