Saturday, August 12, 2006

Does being a policymaker (or a pundit) mean remaining ignorant of all the human realities "on the ground"?


I think Mags did a tremendous job yesterday focusing on the human dimension of the catastrophe unfolding now in southern Lebanon.

As it happens, just the day before, stumbling through the home stretch of a fairly grim day, making my way home with my regular subway line knocked out by another of the relatively brief but violent storms we've been having all summer here in New York, I found myself struggling through Jon Lee Anderson's "Letter from Beirut: The Battle for Lebanon" in the Aug. 7 & 14 New Yorker. The subhead is: "Has Israel’s assault weakened Hezbollah--or made it stronger?"

Anderson does his best to represent all of the Lebanese factions in play, with vivid scenes of refugee flight and of touring the destruction. But two quotes stuck in my mind, and reverberated rather loudly as I read Mags's piece.

First, there's this from the wife of "an affluent Maronite Christian businessman"--"over dinner at a restaurant in a Maronite enclave in the hills above Beirut":

All through the civil war, I stayed in Lebanon--I never wanted to leave--but in just two weeks they have destroyed everything we have built in the fifteen years since the war ended, and now I don’t want to stay anymore. This time, I want to leave.

"A moment later," Anderson writes, "a distant rumble could be heard. 'Are those bombs?' she said. 'Is that what I am hearing? Here?' Neither her husband nor the ex-minister [the party at dinner also includes "a well-known former government minister," also Christian] acknowledged her. But then there was another, louder explosion, and she asked again."

Then there is an especially interesting interview with Jamil Mroue, "a secular Shiite and the editor of Beirut’s English-language newspaper, the Daily Star." He says in part:

"Even after 9/11, there is this expectation in the U.S. and Israel that some unspoken middle class is just sitting there waiting to inherit the ruins of whatever country it is that they are obliterating. But there is no calculation that, if they flatten Lebanon and Nasrallah comes out of hiding and is given a microphone to deliver a speech, he can topple governments. He has been extraordinarily empowered by this.

"Israel and America are still obsessed with destroying hardware. But if you do this with Hezbollah you just propagate what you want to destroy. Do I want to live under Hezbollah? No, I don’t. But the same errors that the Americans made in Iraq are the ones being made here. You get rid of Nasrallah not by destroying his guns but by helping to create a sustainable society."


At 2:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Exactly!!! People fight to keep what they have. People fight to get revenge for what you take when you leave them nothing else!!!

There are really few other motivations. The greed meisters take from behind a curtain and rob from us in the secret meetings. They seek what is illusive, power and money, not the substance that makes up a worthwhile life.

They are the cowards and those who are less than human.


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