But while everybody is preoccupied with spoils, the fabric of our countries is deteriorating. The New Middle East will most surely be a more violent and fractious one than the Old Middle East, and much more profane.
After all, what is Hezbollah from an Israeli perspective? Well, it is clearly an Islamist organization that, by the very nature of its ideology, still refuses to acknowledge Israeli’s right to exist, and still subscribes to the most vile of anti-Semitic myths around, including the blood libel and the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. In fact, Manar TV aired a TV series it itself had produced dealing with these issues very (unfortunately most of the actors were Syrians).
Moreover, even after the Israeli withdrawal from South Lebanon, Hezbollah raised the issues of the Shebaa Farm, despite the fact that they are not covered by UN Resolutions dealing with Lebanon, and the fact that they actually represent a disputed territory between Syria and Lebanon. This gave an excuse for Hezbollah to keep its weapons and go on living up to its ideology by attacking Israel. The fact that Hezbollah’s leadership might have ulterior motivations in this regard, related to their desire to strengthen the organization’s position vis-à-vis other communities in Lebanon, by adding a military dimension to the existing demographic one, and the fact that by adhering to claims of Shebaa’s Lebanese character, Hezbollah is serving the interests of one of its chief supporters and arms suppliers in the region, Syria, make the situation even worse, as it brings in considerations not related to the Arab-Israeli conflict per se to weigh in heavily on Israel and its security. Factor in Hezbollah's link to Iran, its supreme backer and financier, and the current domestic and foreign entanglements of the Mullas regime, and the situation becomes even more urgent.
As such, it is not just Hezbollah’s ideological predilections that makes it dangerous from an Israeli perspective, its geopolitical alliances and its internal calculations and ambitions within the region and within Lebanon itself makes it a source of danger and concern as well.
And now it has shown that it has plenty of missiles, the know-how and the will to use them, and the ability to resist a ground attack like no other Arab army has done before. So, what could Hezbollah do, many Israeli strategists must be wondering by now, if it were given even more time to develop its potential? Can Israel really feel secure with such an organization along its borders?
Indeed, now that Hezbollah has amply demonstrated its strength, Israelis have more reasons to want to fight and destroy it now, before it is too late. Indeed, this was the goal from the very beginning, judging by the kind of rhetoric employed at the time by Israeli officials. Still, for some unfathomable reason, Israeli leaders seemed to have anticipated an easier time of it. Just as Hezbollah seems to have miscalculated the size and nature of Israeli reaction to its operation, so did Israeli military leaders misjudge the amount of initial and long-term investments they need to make to achieve their stated goals in Lebanon.
But the events of the last few days seem to have jolted many of these leaders and they now seem to be more aware of the complicated and arduous nature of the challenges ahead, and more determined.
On the other hand, French President, Jacques Chirac, and head of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy, Martin Indyk, are advising against this course of action, arguing that this will come as a reward to the very people responsible for the current mayhem.
So, what should the current US administration do? And how should we in the Syrian opposition feel about it?
Well, I say that the US should indeed talk to the Assads, just to get this thing out of their system, and I think that we, members of the opposition, should feel quite safe in this regard, because the possibility of the two sides actually reaching any agreement, and the possibility that these talks could actually last more than a few hours to begin with are as realistic as Ralph Nader’s chances of becoming the next President of the United States.
So, Condy, please do talk to the Morons in Damascus. You only risk developing a greater sympathy for our plight as a people.
In reality, and as the various talks and presentations made at the Conference on Blogging and Democracy have amply demonstrated, people just need time to get used to the possibilities that can be are afforded them by blogging. No one is the wiser in this regard than the current generation of teens and 20-somethings, with many of whom already getting hooked on such blogging varieties as MySpace, YouTube, Flickr and many such similar sites that have already been integrated into teen and youth cultures. Now, these may not be “hardcore” blogs, that is, they may not necessarily tackle significant political and social issues in a journalistic or analytical manner. Still, it is only natural to expect that those who will get used to these media as means for self-expression, communicating and networking are more likely, in due course of time, to develop a greater affinity and respect for the more socially and politically pertinent blogs.
As such, and for all the aura that seems to surround the medium today, we are, in fact, only witnessing the birth of blogging. Its real impact on our lives is something that we will not really see or appreciate for a few more years to come.
And if blogging is still in its infancy on the international arena, it is indeed still in the embryonic phase in the Arab World, where bloggers number in the thousands only in comparison to the few hundred thousands of bloggers in Iran, for instance. Still, Arab bloggers have already generated some noise and news.
In Egypt, they took active part in organizing the Kefaya movement and its various anti-regime activities and protests. In Saudi Arabia and elsewhere in the Gulf, they already managed to break certain religious taboos and have managed to empower a number of female voices, enough of them, in fact, to show that many women have indeed established their own socially dissident subculture in that conservative part of the Middle East. Some bloggers, especially in Bahrain and Egypt, have already been imprisoned for the views they expressed on their blogs, with some still waiting to be released.
All this shows that the internet and blogging in particular is destined to play an important role in the social and political transformations currently taking place in the region. The democratic forces are bound to continue on using it for intercommunicating and for organization, but so will the radical forces a well including the Islamists and the ultranationalists.
By itself, then, blogging is merely a tool, and unless a consistent effort is applied to transform it into a too of democratization, other actors on the scene are liable to use it for exactly the opposite purpose, namely to advance a more militant and reactionary agenda. Regime ideologues might also be able to use it as another medium for propaganda, but unless the regimes set on reinventing their worn-out political discourse and stratagems, the medium is unlikely to be of any help. By its nature, blogging is a dynamic medium, creatures of a stultified culture are not exactly the kind that can make adequate use of it. The real competition, therefore, is likely to take place, and is indeed taking place, between independent individuals and groups of various political and social stripes.
"Referring to the Syrian president, Chirac said: "There was a time when I spoke to Bashar al-Assad. I spoke to his father. To hide nothing from you, this dialogue came to an end. It was he who wanted it.”
And yet, there are indeed those who are still willing to bet on Bashar, including some Israeli figures, most recently Edward Luttwak, who want him to get them out of a potential mess in Lebanon. But, those who bet on morons are even greater morons. And those who think Syrian troops will be able to set the Lebanese house in order again or that they will be welcomed back by anyone, are beyond any hope.
For having an extensive experience in destroying and pillaging a country does not necessarily give you any insight on how to put it back together again. Moreover, there will be enough opposition across the sectarian and social spectrum in Lebanon to any direct dabbling by Syria in Lebanese affairs to render the whole new venture short and disastrous for the Syrians.
Hell, even Hezbollah would not want to go back under anyone’s mantle again. Freedom is too sweet, and being your own man, for Nasrallah, is much more prestigious and profitable.
As for the Assads, even the Perfect Deal at this stage will not be able to protect them from the consequences of betrayal.
Let's face it. The die has been cast. All actors have already made their choices. All other bets are off for now. The Israelis will have to muddle through whatever quagmire they are creating for themelves in Lebanon for a few more weeks, if not months. The Assads will have to stick to their choice of allies, or find themselves hopelessly alone and perhaps, six feet under. The time for negotiations have long passed. The Assads have long become hostage to their own allies, their own policies, their own tactics and their own avarice. They are hardly in a position to help themselves now not to mention anyone else.
Meanwhile, the Americans and the French will have to muster enough will to put together a little package that can save Israel from itself, and Lebanon from everybody else keeping it as a viable entity. They will also have to keep the Assads, for all their dabbling and penchant for trouble-making, under lock and key, or risk having another country in the Middle East blow up in their face, which might just happen no matter what anyone does anyway, as the die might have been cast in this regard as well, the smuggness of Syrian officials and analysts notwithstanding.
The only problem with it, of course, is that they, the Assads, are so addict on brinkmanship that they may find it necessary, if such calls were reiterated widely and frequently enough in the country, and are adopted by no lesser figures than the likes of Salahuddin Kiftaro, the son of the country’s late Grand Mufti, who had been first to issue such a call anyway, to take the gamble and allow for some operations to indeed take place across the border regardless of the consequences, which are bound to be quite dire, as we can all imagine.Or, the entire issue might simply be taken out of their hand all together and be forced upon the scene by some hapless nationalist or Islamist group acting on its own initiative. For the Assads have been playing with this fire for quite a while now that the contagion could easily spread and blow up in all our faces. In both cases, the country will end up paying a terrible price.
As such, taunting the lions could have as serious repercussions for the future of the country as leaving them be. All politics in the region today is dirty and costly politics and all possibilities ahead of us seem to be bad. The search for the lesser evil should begin at earnest, before we are forced to indeed “settle” for Armageddon.
Indeed, and as the Israelis continue to bombard Lebanon back to the Stone Age, killing more than 400 civilians so far (not counting the bodies still buried under the rubble) and causing more than 10 billion USD in damages, and counting, the turbaned symbol of our forever impending national salvation continues to promise us victory, a feat that will likely assume the form of personal survival, namely: his.
For the main difference between Islam and Christianity seems to lie in the nature of our messianic figures. The Christian Messiah goes to the cross to redeem the sins of the flock. Islamic Messiahs (plural is both necessary and factual), on the other hand, have always sent the flock to the cross for their sins. But, having had a long history of behaving in a manner similar to Islamic messiahs, Jewish leaders, seems to have come up with an ingenious compromise here, namely: sending other people, messiahs and all, to the cross for their sins, for these people’s particular sins, and for the sins of whoever happened to be in the neighborhood at the time. You can even bid to have your sins redeemed in the process.
So, as Nasrallah’s rockets poke occasional holes in Israeli buildings, and Israeli bombs often bringing down whole buildings on top of occasional Hezbollah fighters, the promised victory is threatening to assume the guise of a series of little defeats, adding up to a catastrophe of major proportions, that only the survival of our Lord of Desolation can help mask. But if our recent history has taught us anything is that much can indeed be swept under the turbans of our leaders, be they real or purely figurative, the turbans that is.
Indeed, War has its own rather hard and disquieting calculations. In this, dissidents like me are easily outgunned, out-sleazed, and all but completely out-done. As we sink deeper and deeper into the quagmire of war and mayhem, liberal dissidents simultaneously take an even deeper plunge into irrelevance. Hell, we are bound to become objects of disdain and hatred. We have always been preaching against the national and the social mores, so how could we not be fifth columnists and agents of the Zionists and the West?