Friday, July 21, 2006


Lebanon Round-up

News reports suggest an imminent Israeli ground invasion of Lebanon into Hezbollah controlled areas and against Hezbollah targets. The writers at the fine group blog Winds of Change are monitoring the situation closely, including excellent commentary from Donald Sensing, Joe Katzman, and Neo-neocon.

I found other excellent and informed commentary at Michael Totten, not from Michael as he’s indisposed (and dismayed), but from guest poster Callimachus, who it turns out is a regular at WoC as well.

Another occasional WoC contributor, Chester of The Adventures of Chester, I’m delighted to see has been afforded a wider audience over at TCS Daily, a contribution of the fine folks at Tech Central Station.

Also discussing Chester’s TCSDaily piece:
TigerHawk, The effects of OIF on the Israeli-Hezbollah war
James Joyner at Outside The Beltway, (Big) Bang Theory of Iraqi Invasion

All of these sources offer must reads, and there’s little I can add to their insights, so go read them all. I will only add the following observations.

Chester looks at some curious turns of events, a recent statement by Saddam Hussein warning against Iranian involvement in Hezbollah’s provocation of Israel, and the response of Arab leaders, and says, things may go well for US interests. He rightly attributes fundamental change in dynamics to the US invasion of Iraq:
The US invasion of Iraq has so shaken and stirred the Middle East that some exceptionally strange things are happening. More importantly, these things unequivocally favor the US in influencing the outcome of the Israeli-Hezbollah War now taking place in Lebanon.

What sorts of strange things? Well, consider an Arab League meeting in Cairo over the weekend, where a fight of sorts broke out. Jed Babbin described it best:
"This meeting began with the Lebanese foreign minister Fawzi Salloukh proposing a resolution condemning Israel's military action, supporting Lebanon's 'right to resist occupation by all legitimate means' ... The Lebanese draft also called on Israel to release all Lebanese prisoners and supported Lebanon's right to 'liberate them by all legitimate means.' ... The Syrian foreign minister, Walid Moallem, strongly supported Lebanon and Hizballah. But an historic obstacle was raised that blocked the Lebanese endorsement of terrorism. "The Saudi foreign minister, al-Faisal, led a triumvirate including Egypt and Jordan that, according to the AP report, was '...criticizing the guerilla group's actions, calling them 'unexpected, inappropriate and irresponsible acts.'' Faisal said, 'These acts will pull the whole region back to years ago, and we simply cannot accept them.' . . . The Arab leaders are frightened that the acts of the terrorists they have coddled for decades might have consequences for them. And they are very frightened of what Iran may do next.'
Here’s how Chester describes the catalyst for change, the basis for what he calls the “Big Bang:”
Before the US invasion, Iraq was the geostrategic pivot of the Middle East. All of the fault lines in the area's politics converge there. The Sunni-Shia split; the Arab-Persian split; the Ba'athist-Wahhabist split; and the Muslim-Israeli split: each of these ran through Iraq via its ethnic and religious makeup; its geographic location; and its former interests, alliances, and enemies.

The 'big bang,' as invading Iraq has sometimes been called, was meant to reorder the nature of politics in the region. This has been accomplished in a fundamental way. The idea of dividing an enemy force into its constituent parts and then dealing with it piecemeal is at least as old as Caesar's actions in Gaul. It applies no less to US strategy in the Middle East. Every faction there has been made to reconsider its relationship with every other. Rather than there being a monolithic clash of civilizations, thus far the US is dealing with the area in pieces -- in whatever way it sees fit to do so -- whether making it tacitly clear to Syria that what happened in Iraq could more easily happen to it, or threatening Iran on behalf of the region and world, or seeking cooperation with the Saudis in hunting down al Qaeda.
Rarely will you see better explanations than Chester’s of the strategic importance of Iraq as a “tipping point” against radical Islamic terrorist states and actors. This reveals the real strategic implications (along with caveats) of removing Saddam from Iraq within the context of the broader Middle East and the radical Islamic terrorism it breeds. Unfortunately, his insights are prompting a largely ignorant rejection from commenters at OTB (as I’m sure in anti-war circles generally.)

That many readers or commenters find such the logic behind the strategy so "absurd," in my mind underscores how few people really understand what's really at stake, or what forces are at work. Frankly, not having any awareness or knowledge about the military forms the basis for this ignorance.

Is the military point of view the only legitimate view in discussing the current situation in the Middle East (Iraq, Iran, Syria, Lebanon)?

No, but without a military perspective what you get is a lot of handwringing and ignorance. That starts with reading the AQ propaganda reprinted by the MSM as all there is to know.

Iraq was a very plausible tipping point, and if any readers here think AQ or Iran or any of our other Jihadi minded enemies would have retired to Islamic scholarly pursuits were it not for Iraq, are probably unteachable.

BTW, for those who don’t know Chester, Josh Manchester (Chester of Adventures of Chester) was a US military officer, a plans and ops guy (S3 or G3, I'm not sure at what level). His military analysis as been generally excellent, and his work with Bill Roggio in doing near real time analysis of combat operations in Iraq was terrific at a time when the MSM could only harp IEDs and explosions in Baghdad.

I can’t ignore Also Fouad Ajami’s outstanding piece in the Opinion Journal, but dinner awaits, I’m hungry and Mrs. Dadmanly has been more than patient with my frantic scribblings. Perhaps later.

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