Thursday, November 23, 2006

The bleak conclusion to 2006

It was my intent to keep this page as light in tone as possible during this week. It is, after all, the holidays -- and a particular holiday meant to celebrate and be thankful. It is one of my favorite holidays.

But, this is a very terrible Thanksgiving Day.

Lebanon is on the brink, again. Hezbollah is not the battered remnant that so many wish to will into existence. It is so strange how columnists and politicians assert success in the face of failure. George W. Bush's eternal, fierce, terrifying optimism has become a disease that plagues people who wish to forget that history is a sometimes bloody sport.

Finger-pointing at Syria is premature. We should recall that al Qaeda has vowed to influence affairs in Lebanon, to move one step closer to Israel. I have seen no "expert" note that this assassination was not a Syrian (massive) bomb. This was the sort of killing a crime syndicate would enact. There was also an attack on a Greco-Christian minister's office. It seems to be far more amateurish -- something like a Jihadist B Team. Students of political assassinations, such as Abraham Lincoln's and Franz Ferdinand's, would note that the B Team sometimes does not deliver. The B Team is probably not Syrian operatives, for I think their success rate would have been remarkably higher. That second minister, who is alive at this point, would have tipped the Lebanese government into disarray. Who would benefit? Small, nimble and violent organizations that feed and thrive within chaos.

There is as much reason, at this point and with what little we know, for speculating that this was al Qaeda as there is for any other villain.

Then there is the brutal carnage in Sadr city. At least 150 Shiite have died in that neighborhood, and an unprecedented curfew has descended over Baghdad. The curfew is indefinite. Al Jazeera, and other media outlets, reports that Sadr's Health Ministry was attacked. Sadr's followers, with or without the cleric's support, have killed numerous Sunnis. This sectarian conflict is tit-for-tat and is growing more intense, not less. Gunmen kidnapped numerous Sunnis just over one week ago. I have not found an accounting of the dozens that were reported still missing, though in the past few days there have been a lot of dead bodies showing up in Baghdad. The largest kidnapping in the war happens in mid-November. Before the month is done, the largest civilian bombing happens.

At the beginning of this month, I said we must mind the metrics. October saw almost 4,000 civilian deaths, which were reported. Two of CENTCOM's four "key reads" are: Provocative sectarian attacks/assassinations and Unorganized spontaneous mass civil conflict.

We have seen the former, we shall soon see the latter.

How far does Iraq slip as a result of this uncontrollable civil war? How far will Lebanon slip?

The two will influence each other.

Then Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal cautioned the Bush administration before the invasion of Iraq:
"If change of regime comes with the destruction of Iraq, then you are solving one problem and creating five more problems.

"That is the consideration that we have to make, because we are living in the region. We will suffer the consequences of any military action."

Regime change can only be a possibility if it is done "indigenously", he said.

"There has never been in the history of the world a country in which a regime change happened at the bayonets of guns that has led to stability."

The worry is rising fundamentalism in America and the West - not in the Middle East, he said.

"Our worry is the new emerging fundamentalism in the United States and in the West. Fundamentalism in our region is on the wane. There, it's in the ascendancy. That's the threat."
As it turns out, fundamentalism is on the rise in the Middle East, to levels that are approaching a historic degree of violence and terror. This conflict, these conflicts, can rival the most terrible periods of our world's history.

Robert Fisk ends his most recent column with some optimism. He states that perhaps the Lebanese will find unity and kick out foreign influences. I think this is too optimistic. How can the rhetoric of Sunni-Maronite anti-Syrians be tossed aside because one minister was slain? His death was terrible, his family destroyed. But, how does that single death change the dynamics? It shall only make the anti-Syrian powers more assertive, not less. Is that unity? No, they will call it unity as George Bush calls bloodshed democracy. The slain minister spouted racist rhetoric before his death -- he dismissed the pluralistic superiority of the Shiite by saying that they were "quantity" compared to the Christian "quality".

He was hardly a democrat.

Now, he is a martyr. If so, for whom?

You know the answer to that. You know what happens when sectarian factions have their martyrs. Or, their tragic string of car bombs.

Be thankful for the relative peace we have seen in 2006.


Blogger Kvatch said...

The bombing in Sadr City was an especially tragic beginning to the day. [sigh]

But on a more positive note...just wanted to stop by and wish you and your's a happy Thanksgiving.

7:36 PM  

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