Be All That We Want You To Be
John M. Peters
by John M. Peters
Lebanon has never had more than a fledgling army. That is because Lebanon chose not to. In part this was because Lebanon wished to remain a non-combatant even though surrounded by conflict. It was more interested in devoting its resources toward commercial development. In this sense it was not unlike Switzerland. There was also the specter of an army which would be as divided by communal affiliation as the nation itself.
The United States has announced plans to provide military training and equipment to Lebanon. The U.S. says it will increase military assistance by ten times its current level. Is this Washington's plan or Lebanon's? Of course, there has been no confirmation of this plan by Lebanon.
One can hardly escape the irony that the announcement is being made as America's do-no-wrong ally is laying waste to Lebanon and its population with weapons we have gifted to it. In order to avoid a lag in the pace of destruction America has even placed laser-guided bombs on "rush" delivery to Israel.
Is it recognition of the need to defend Lebanon against Israel which has motivated this sudden determination to make the Lebanese ‘be all that they can be?' Will the U.S. provide Lebanon with an air defense system capable of stopping Israel's at-will violations of Lebanese airspace and its aerial demolition of the infrastructure into which Lebanon elected to invest its national treasure rather than a standing army? Will the U.S. equip Lebanon to the point that its army can repel another Israeli ground invasion? No.
Three objectives accompany America's military plan for Lebanon. First, the U.S. seeks to control Lebanese military capability. If the Lebanese should stray from official neocon policy they will suddenly find themselves without spare parts and a called loan. Secondly, the U.S. wants the Lebanese military to be strong enough to strangle the formation of internal militias hostile to Israel. Thirdly, by restricting its development to that of a national police force, the U.S. will insure that the Lebanese armed forces will serve the goal of defending Israel from within Lebanon while being unable to hinder any Israeli military invasion into Lebanon.
The ill-conceived plan obviously ignores the political mood and demographics in Lebanon. When the devastation ends and the rebuilding begins, the Lebanese political scene will not resemble the old, colonial, Paris-of-the-Middle-East which Washington and Paris are so desperately trying to resurrect. The "Cedar Revolution" conceived of and promoted by Washington's neocons withered almost before the confetti hit the ground. This is not the 1950's. This is not your father's Lebanon.
Even before Israel's latest invasion, Hezbollah was supported by roughly 50% of the Lebanese population, and was firmly established in Lebanese social, religious and political life. While Israel destroys every part of Lebanon with U.S. encouragement, even highway bridges in the Christian north, more Lebanese are rallying to Hezbollah's side than ever before.
Any new Lebanese army will be comprised of the very people who are fighting Israel and cursing the U.S. now. Its core will be the members of Hezbollah and its supporters. Hezbollah is South Lebanon. That will not change if and when they put on Lebanese army uniforms. Hezbollah will either dominate the new Lebanese army or be the force which prevents it from forming.
August 7, 2006
John M. Peters [send him mail] is a practicing attorney in Michigan.
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