Walid's Wanderings

Reflections on life, good-and-evil, family, humanity, and anything else that occurs to me, usually when I travel. Right now I am on a 6-year trip through Lebanon, the homeland I had never really lived in before.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Elevated Debate

The following comment is from one guy writing on another guy's blog. I moved the debate here to avoid being buried under less relevant issues.
If Hezbollah is so democratic...try something for me. Take your fellow protesters and march down to Dahieh and surround Nasrallah's compound (if you can even get that far), then demand that he turn over his weapons to the Lebanese Army. The moment he does that, I'm willing to give him 1/3+1 in the cabinet, or whatever it is he is demanding, and call for early parliamentary elections (since he claims the majority is on his side).
Think he'd take that deal? Think he'd listen to 200,000 protesters? I have my doubts.
My response: Lest the impression is given that I am avoiding a direct answer to a direct question, I will give the "short answer" first: "I honestly have no idea: can't presume they will and can't presume they won't."

To make a more reasoned response, I must distinguish between three elements of the question:

  1. Is having arms outside the armed forces compatible with democracy?
  2. Is a popular march an accpetable way to express a majority opinion? and
  3. Would Hezbollah respond to a true majority opinion?
These three point have already been addressed by Hezbollah's rhetoric, and, as I said, I only claim to be sufficiently convinced by those claims to take them at face value.


Having those arms deployed in a non-traditional guerilla organization is the only guarantee of their effectiveness in fulfilling their stated goal: deterring Israel. Why do we need to deter Israel? For many in Lebanon, this is a stupid question, but for most of us here in the blogosphere who have Jewish friends and who read American news, the question deserves a response credible to our world view. My argument is that Israel has used it superior arms to dictate terms in any negotiation. Even if you do not buy into threats of an expansionaist Israeli empire, you must admit that Israel's best interests do not always concide with Lebanons, even if both were at peace and both had governments truly reflective of theor people's actual develpmental needs. I doubt that Israel wants to steal Lebanese water, but I recognize that they may have an interest in purchasing some, and I recognize that the balance of power today would allow them to dictate a price. I doubt that Israel wants to send the Falashas to build settelments in Tyr, but I recognize that Israel does not want to admit that it owes anything to the Palestinians in Tyr and the rest of Lebanon. Since Heballahs unique organization has proven the only way to stop Israel from doing anythin it wants militarily in South Lebanon, I do regard that the preservation of this deterrent, until it is replaced by an equally powerful deterrent, is essential to the realization of goals legitimately held by a vast majority of Lebanese citizens. (e.g 95% of Lebanese percent do not want the Palestinians permanetly housed in Lebanon - I belong to the other 5% but we are talking about democracy here and I support the 95%'s right to get their way.) Hence the arms are more than merely compatible with a system of government that allows the expression of these popular goals. I have previously argued that Hezballah is the only instance in todays world of a "well organized militia" as per the definition implied in the US constitution, so I will not rehash that arguemtn here.


Marching is a last resort when the proper institutions for determining popular will have been subverted. If you grant that you can fool some of the people all the time and all of the people some of the time, I propose that an unscrupulous minorty can gain full an permanent control of democratic institutions. While all of the pople are fooled, you group the "some of the people" whom you can fool all the time with people you cannot fool into electroal districts so that they constiture a majority in those districts, and those districts constitute a majority of districts. Institutions that allow this policy to go unchallenged cannot protect democracy in the modern Western sense - they would be more like democracy in the ancient Greek sense, which dies every time the majority elect a tyrant. Marching in the streetes is a last resort when an unscrupulous minorty threatens to destroy the system and refuses to heed any other calls to desist from them scheme, e.g. by allowing the parliamentalry minority to safeguard its rights or by letting an impartial commission re-draw electoral districts. I maintain that this is what the opposition inLebanon today is doing. With the support of a lot of jealous despots, but that is another story. In its actions as a whole, the opposition is on the side of democracy (in the modern Western sense) and the cabinet is not.

When faced with a sincere attempt to engage them, Hezballah has many times in the past changed their policies without having to give up their core beliefs. Hezballah realized that the Lebanese people did not want private American citizens kidapped, and the practise stopped. Lebanon cannot be a theocracy like Iran, and Hezballah has indeed long since dropped the goal of forming one. Hezballah supported Syrian presence in Lebanon while the Syryans were here, but when they left Hezballah listened to their fellow citizens and now oppose their return. The Lebanese army and the Unifil are in south Lebanon only after seeking and getting guarantees from Hezballah that they would not be attacked - hardly supportive of the thoery that only weakness on the ground precipitated a capitulation by Hezballah.

It is also the stated objective of Hezballah to be part of a coordinated defense strategy for Lebanon, as long as the representatives who express the will of Lebanon are truly representative of the Lebanese people. Case in point: when Hezballah joined the Siniora government (as part of the 1/3+1 formula which was since subverted by the defection of two pro-Lahoud ministers), the ministerial statement approved by all said that the release of Lebanese prisoners in Israel was to be sought by all means as amatter of Lebanese government policy. Hezballah captured two soldiers in an effort to implement this policy, and only after other means had failed. They did not attack Israel in retaliation for actions against Gaza or against humanity - they did so with more support from the recognized representatives of all the Lebaense people than the US had support for invading Iraq based on the expressed will of the nations in the UN. So I am convinced that Hezballah will continue to only ue its arms in a manner consistent with teh stated will of the Lebanese people, not of what they or Syria think that the will of the Lebanese people should be. I think this is something we can all build on, if only people dropped their knee-jerk oppostion to Hezballah as an entity and considered its trajectory instead.


  • At 7/12/06 7:40 PM, Blogger Bad Vilbel said…

    Ok. Here I am. I'll post a response a bit later today, but I just wanted to let you know I got your comment :)


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home