It is too early to assign victory or defeat. Much will depend on the pusillanimous politicians of Lebanon. Will those enraged at the behavior of Hizballah boot out the paid Syrian agents, such as Emile Lahoud? Will Siniora stop his undignified spectacles, his solipsistic display of sympathy for Lebanese “victims”? (Quite a few of those victims were instantly, unthinkingly, toted up as part of the “civilian” scorecard that Hizballah and Arab propagandists shrilly ululated their fake grief about all over Arab and Muslim radio and television stations, and in the hysterical press of those countries.)
Will Siniora think carefully about the duties of a government, of any government, to retain a monopoly on violence? Will the Christians, the Druse (Walid Jumblatt, varium et mutabile in his alliances, has gone too far out on an anti-Syrian and anti-Hizballah limb this time to climb back down that particular tree), the Sunni Arabs (like Hariri’s aide, Siniora), and even some of the more intelligent and aware Shi’a manage to patrol the only border that counts — not that between Israel and Lebanon, but that between Lebanon and Syria, in order to keep out the Iranian agents and weaponry?
The Shi’a, who multiply faster in Lebanon, as in Iraq, than any other ethnic or sectarian group, could destroy Lebanon. A sample of the destruction that they brought was on display during the last six weeks. It was only a sample. Either Hizballah remains armed, or Lebanon will disappear. The choice is that of those who consider themselves Lebanese first, and whose loyalty is not to some supra-national idea or hatred. That idea, that hatred, comes from Islam. It can even effect those whose Islam comes secondhand, through growing up surrounded by others who are either Believers, or by being told that they are “Muslims” and therefore must think as Muslims “must think.” Socioeconomic resentments, like every other kind of resentment, are described and felt in Islamic terms. The ultimate enemy is always to be located in the camp of Infidels. Shi’a in Lebanon may have felt economically marginalized by the richer Sunni Arabs and by the Christians and others, but Hizballah has harnessed that resentment on behalf of Greater Islam and the current contender for the title of Smiter of Infidels, the Islamic Republic of Iran (a year, or a decade hence, the title will pass to some other group or state).
The most important result of the war against Hizballah should be, must be, a change in the understanding of Israelis as to the power of their enemy, and the necessity for not giving back, ever again, an inch of territory — not the Golan Heights to Syria, not the “West Bank” to those among the local Arabs who since 1967 have been carefully called “Palestinians,” not to anyone. If that is the outcome, then this will have been a decisive victory for Israel’s future, and — though many in the West do not realize it, do not make the connection — for Infidels in Western Europe, who are casting about for models as to how to deal with their own internal threat, that inevitably will grow and grow. No amount of government-funded “integration” programs or appeasement in foreign policy, and then in domestic policy, will make that threat smaller, much less cause it to disappear.
Siniora, he of the crooked mouth and crooked politics, is not financially corrupt, but rather morally corrupt. We now see that by his failure to stand up to Hizballah and demand that it, as simply one more “militia,” be disarmed. After all, this is the best moment to do so — the Lebanese now can present themselves, to the Hizballah bullies, as having been “forced to acquiesce” to the dismantlement of Hizballah (“much as we appreciate all you’ve done for us, Hizballah”), with the protection afforded by American and other attention.
Lebanon is akin to a Wild-West town. Little by little it has been taken over. The law-abiding townsfolk have themselves to blame for doing nothing for six years. They assumed that somehow those 12,000-15,000 missiles were there just for fun, and would never be used, never threaten anyone. (Yes, this script has its anachronisms, just like the telephone wires glimpsed by the camera over the saloon’s swinging doors, or the shot of a plane’s contrail picked up over some saguaro cactus in Monument Valley.)
Very well then. Siniora will probably not rise to the occasion. He figures he has too much to lose if he comes out for the disarming of Hizballah, even if there are hints that possibly even the French government would like, just a bit, to help decent and quasi-decent and not-decent-at-all-but-nonetheless-non-Hizballah Lebanese to recover something like a semblance of sovereignty. Even the French may recognize that Hizballah is a permanent menace that has now been weakened by Israel’s attacks, and that now is the time to put the blame for whatever damage has been done to non-Hizballah targets on Hizballah, on hated Syria, and on distant and fanatical Shi’a Iran.
The word “Lebanese” is used as casually, and as misleadingly, as is the word “Iraqi.” Nothing at all, other than the fact of both being citizens of a geographical spot called Lebanon, links or connects the thoroughly Western man, a Christian Lebanese, an admirer of, say, Charles Malik or of the late Antoine Fattal (author of the best book on the legal status of non-Muslims under Islam), with those who have those in their rooms and in their minds pictures of Nasrallah, the Qur’an, and a kalashnikov: the Three Pillars of Hizballah Faith. We should not want “democracy” in Lebanon if, through mere head-counting, those whom we should support would lose out: the Christians of Lebanon, and those clever or advanced enough among the Druse and even some of the Sunni Arabs. (For some Muslims in the Middle East, those most familiar with a coherent and confident non-Muslim group such as the Christians in Lebanon or the Jews in Israel, are the beneficiaries of an unrecognized “mission civilisatrice,” the secret ministry performed merely by observation of those non-Muslims, by contiguity with them).
Lebanon is a geographical designation. The “Lebanese” we care about are the Lebanese who call themselves “Lebanese,” who explain when asked that they speak “Lebanese,” who if asked if they are Arabs often reply, somewhat puzzlingly and incompletely, “I am a user of Arabic.” Many of those people are now in exile; their ancestors left the region when it was ruled by the Ottomans, or later surrounded by a steadily growing population of Muslims. Others left in the last few decades. Not surprising — what would you do if you were a Lebanese Christian? Imagine yourself as a thoroughly Western man, part of the Western world, in a place that had been abandoned by the Western world. Imagine yourself subject to Islam in the one place that had for centuries served as refuge and redoubt for the many Christians who, while they may have been forced to accept Arabic and may even possess Arab names, refuse to consider themselves as just one more subset of the many arabized and islamized peoples, now all convinced they are “Arabs,” everywhere that Islam conquered.
But those that remain may still be able to make themselves heard.