Two excellent reads, over at Winds of Change:
Donald Sensing on ground fighting in Lebanon
A Link from Michael Totten, with full coverage at his site
Totten is a singularly insightful commentator into the Middle East, and a brave and dedicated journalist as well. He was an early observer and advocate for the Lebanese Spring, the emergence of nascent democracy even as Syrian occupiers were hounded out. He is greatly dismayed by current events, and had refrained from public comment other than a few bleak and angry comments about Israel and the tragedy this represents for the Lebanese people.
They have grown dear to Totten, and I think he needed the distance and space of time that a prescheduled commitment gave him, to refrain from blogging at his site. He breaks that silence with this very pessimistic piece, an assessment as accurate as it is dark:
Disarming Hezbollah through persuasion and consensus was not possible in the first year of Lebanon’s independence. Disarming Hezbollah by force wasn’t possible either. The Lebanese people have been called irresponsible and cowardly by some of their friends in America for refusing to resume the civil war. Unlike Hezbollah, though, most Lebanese know better than to start unwinnable wars. This is wisdom, not cowardice, and it's sadly rare in the Arab world now. They are being punished entirely too much for what they have done and for what they can't do.
Israel and Lebanon (especially Lebanon) will continue to burn as long as Hezbollah exists as a terror miltia freed from the leash of the state. The punishment for taking on Hezbollah is war. The punishment for not taking on Hezbollah is war. Lebanese were doomed to suffer war no matter what. Their liberal democratic project could not withstand the threat from within and the assaults from the east, and it could not stave off another assault from the south. War, as it turned out, was inevitable even if the actual shape of it wasn’t. Peace was not in the cards for Lebanon. Its democracy turned out to be neither a strength nor a weakness. It was irrelevant.
This speaks a greater truth, not just for the Middle East, but for all of civilization. To realize any of the fruits of Democracy, people need to first be free in their physical safety and security. The freedom to die or be taken into captivity is no freedom at all.
First things first, after all. If the strongman and the gunman and the executioner are allowed “free” reign, no other freedoms have any real meaning. This is the poverty of options that Michael so laments for the Lebanese.
In the end, the very principles of Democracy and Freedom remain irrelevant in the face of terrorist violence and brutal aggression. That is why we fight.