Friday, August 18, 2006

Parcel Post for Militia -Who Will Sign for these Missiles?

Remember the partial hysteria in America over the militia “movement” in the aftermath of the Oklahoma City bombing? I think it may have even nabbed a Newsweek or Time cover – fear the overzealous bigoted rural white guy! Of course there was no “movement” to speak of, but in any event I got to thinking back to those days in the midst of the Israel – Hezbollah war.

Hezbollah is a terrorist militia inside Lebanon. Now, one could understand that a large government might not be keeping track of a small bunch of spirited hunters buying combat fatigues and running around playing war games in Michigan, but how exactly does it go unnoticed by the government when a militia takes delivery of a couple thousand rockets?

The answer is that it doesn’t go unnoticed – it just goes unpunished because the government doesn’t have the ability to stop it. In fact, the recent cease-fire triumph of diplomacy, which calls for the Lebanese army/government to disarm Hezbollah, was dampened a bit by the candid admission of the government that it isn’t capable of disarming Hezbollah. Why this fact wasn’t obvious to everyone from the get go is beyond me – do you think the Lebanese government was saying to itself “of course we can disarm them, but they really aren’t a threat to anyone until they get at least 10 thousand missiles, so we’ll just sit back and keep an eye on them.”

Government has famously been defined as a monopoly on violence – that is, the state typically grants to itself the exclusive right to smack people around when they aren’t obeying the law. There are of course legitimate governments – where the leaders and the laws they enact are chosen, ultimately, with the participation of the governed (in varying degrees). And then there are illegitimate governments – where the leaders grab that coveted monopoly on violence because they are just flat out better at it than all would-be competitors. And then there are organizations like Hezbollah, which technically are not in charge of the government, but which might as be; John O’Sullivan from National Review online made this point earlier this week:

This structure — an electoral “party” allied to a terrorist militia — was pioneered in its modern form by Sinn Fein-IRA in Northern Ireland. It is now being imitated in places as far afield as the Basque country in Spain and in Lebanon. It means, of course, that democracy cannot really function. If such a hybrid party loses the election, its milita can bring out the guns. Everyone knows that and shrinks from opposing the terrorist party. So Hezbollah will not need to win elections, merely to frighten those parties that do win into going along with its, er, policy preferences. Making Sinn Fein-IRA a respectable partner in the “peace process” continues to provide terrorists everywhere with a roadmap around democracy and toward power.

Maintaining an illegitimate monopoly on violence is only possible if you are willing to spill a little blood in the cause. As one writer pointed out:

Hezbollah has a crucial advantage over any competitors for ultimate control of the south —… the sheer will that motivates it to fight and die for its cause. Are French and Italian troops willing to die for the enforcement of Resolution 1559, calling for the disarming of Hezbollah? To ask the question is to answer it.

Seems like that is a problem beyond Lebanon, arguably for most of the Middle East – countries not already being run by Islamofascists are beholden to them. The Iraq “insurgency” seems to be about that very same thing – the cost of letting a legitimate government get established in the Middle East is the threat that other constituencies in other countries might be so bold as to think, with a little help from the West, they too could taste a little freedom. So Iran and Syria funnel as many of their lunatics as possible into Iraq to make hey – even if it fails to stop Iraq from eventually achieving stability, it at least increases the cost of Western intervention, and therefore dampens the potential contagion effect, which is what they fear most.

We are seeing the Arab world embracing the dominoes theory in reverse – we contested communism incrementally in country after country for fear of it taking hold and spreading from there – the Middle East fascists are contesting democracy incrementally in Iraq for fear of it taking hold and spreading from there.
One could argue that the U.S. effort to transform the Middle East via Iraq is hopelessly Utopian, but that argument rests upon a comparative assessment of the strength and desire of the enemy versus our own, rather than as an a priori fact. If the idea was hopelessly Utopian independent of the actions of others in the region, why would they be so keen to screw things up in Iraq? Clearly they fear that if they don’t act, they do so at their own peril.


Anonymous Jim O said...

My favorite part of the terrorist/political party union idea in the middle east is that most of the Islamofascist organizations are also "religious". So if you don't vote for their candidates, not only do the guns come out, but you never get into heaven.


10:21 AM  
Blogger Professor Vic said...

I completely agree with everything Hatch writes in this post.

And in other news, today's forecast for Hell: scattered snow flurries and dropping temperatures.

11:12 AM  
Blogger Hatcher said...

Wow. Professor Vic - which one of us needs to seek professional help? Clearly one of us does.

11:33 AM  
Blogger Bayou Barrister said...

Allow me to lighten up this topic:

..."fear the overzealous bigoted rural white guy!... but how exactly does it go unnoticed by the government when a militia takes delivery of a couple thousand rockets?"

I don't know about Michigan militia and Hezbollah, but down in Louisiana we do things a little different. This reminds me of a couple of years ago at the hunting camp someone showed up with Potato Canon. We had so much fun shooting that thing that the next week 3 other guys showed up with their own renditions, 6 motorcycle helmets, and a bunch of foam and duck tape. Right in the middle of the now infamous "Battle of Idaho" the game warden and local sheriff's deputy stopped by and coined the camps new name. The sign at the gate now reads in cajun fashion, "Maison a la Pluches Militaire" (translation--Home of the Spud-Bashing Militia"

1:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i love the saying "illegitamate monopoly on violence" Good one.
how to I get a permit?

5:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great post! I have never heard the concept of government having a monopoly on violence. It is an interesting way to look at comparative governments.

By the way Bayou Barrister, you guys don't have a monopoly on potato guns. My brother in law brought one to the last family picnic. Almost as much fun as waking up with a Chartreuse hangover and not knowing the name of last night's conquest laying next to you.

5:11 AM  
Blogger Pulvarizer said...

I'm guessing John O'Sullivan was on a Chartreuse bender when he wrote his article this week, as he's totally off base regarding terrorist organizations and their ability to obtain some measure of political power. Granted, I haven't read the National Review article, as my Blue state residency would be immediately revoked, but what Hatcher's summary of O'Sullivan seems to be conveying is that terrorist organizations, such as Hezbollah, gain political power though fear and intimidation. In Hezbollah's case, nothing could be farther from the truth, as Hezbollah is well known for using butter, not guns, as a means of gaining political support. It has been widely reported that Hezbollah provides an extensive network of health care, food, and social services to the residents of Southern Lebanon, and are far more successful at providing basic services than the Lebanese government. Now, why would Hezbollah use their Amex cards for rice, butter, and penicillin, when they could use that money for even more bullets and rockets? Because they understand that to gain the support of their Lebanese constituents, they can't use fear as a motivating factor. During the recent Hezbollah / Israeli conflict, public opinion polls in Lebanon showed even the Christian and Sunni populations (Hezbollah is a Shiite group) living in the north supported Hezbollah’s efforts in the conflict. Without broad support, their days as an effective organization would be over.

Terrorist organizations, like any political organization, have to win the hearts and minds of the people. It’s a fundamental principle of guerilla warfare, which they’re experts at fighting. Hamas, the far more radical Palestinian organization, recently won more than half of the Palestinian parliamentary seats, besting the more moderate Fatah party, and there weren’t any widespread accusations of voter intimidation by the US or other European governments. They won fair and square in a democratic election. The fact of the matter is, terrorist organizations are subject to the same need for broad public support for their polities and actions as any legitimate and benign political organization.

O’Sullivan’s lack of understanding about this very important point highlights just how poorly the Bush Administration, and its die hard supporters, understand the new threats we face. He and others think if we just can kill the finite number of terrorists that exists today, the world will be at peace. Only problem is, 1) there are a bunch of terrorists in the world, and most are hard to identify, and 2) the more people will kill indiscriminately, despite our good intentions, will only breed new terrorists, creating a never ending game. Didn’t work for Britain in Northern Ireland, hasn’t worked for Israel in Lebanon and Palestine, as we’ve been recently reminded, hasn’t worked for India and Pakistan, didn’t work for the French in Algeria. So why the hell do we think it will work for us?

10:56 AM  
Blogger Hatcher said...

Whew, the Pulvarizer disagreeing means that it is Professor Vic in need of help. That's a relief.

Anyway, as to Pulvarizer's points, no doubt Hezbollah and others have used butter, but do you really think all the butter recipients are happy about these guys importing arms from Iran and bringing war onto their country? If they enjoyed the consent of the majority for all of what they do, why don't they just get themselves elected like Hamas? Maybe they could, maybe they couldn't. O'Sullivan's point was pretty simple - even if they can't, the government is not in position to stop them either way.

As for fighting terrorism "not working" in all the places you mention, define "not working." If not fighting terrorism means capitulating to their demands, do you think that they'll take what they've asked for and go away? Israel, for example, faces terrorists with intermediary goals, but if it were to satisfy them (as it has some), the list just keeps growing - because ultimately they want the Jews dead and Israel gone.

Maybe fighting terrorism breeds more terrorists, but not fighting terrorism surely breeds more.

2:16 PM  
Blogger Pulvarizer said...

Actually, Hezbollah currently holds 23 seats in Lebanon's 128 member parliament, almost 18% of the total seats. That's up from 8 seats since the previous elections. I don't know how this compares with the percentage of Shia in Lebanon's entire population, but 18% isn't insignificant in a multi-party system. The current prime minister, a Sunni, while admitting his administration was too weak to stop Hezbollah from starting the conflict, bitterly complained that Israel was responsible for the conflicts scope and wide spread destruction. So, while he, non-Shias in Lebanon, and Arabs and Muslims across the Middle East may admit Hezbollah acted irresponsibly and maliciously in the beginning, looking back on the entire conflict, Israel is seen as the ultimate bad guy, not Hezbollah, because of the wide spread death and destruction, mostly to innocent civilians, brought by the IDF. Push comes to shove, Arabs and Muslims will almost always support their own when opposing Israel and the US, no matter how violent Islamic terrorists become. Nationalism and religious identity trumps all other relationships, and that is why the US hasn't ultimately been greeted as the "liberator" of Iraq, and never will. Just doesn't work that way.

Does my criticism, or other critics, think we should never pursue military options when combating terrorists? Absolutely not, as ousting the Taliban from Afghanistan was not only justified, but necessary for our security. But the Taliban government were sheltering and supporting the most dangerous terrorist group on the planet, thereby justifying their removal. As has been admitted, Iraq, or Iraqi officials, did not take part in 9/11 planning, did not shelter known Al Qaeda terrorists (Al-Zaqari came onto the scene after our invasion, not before), and did not pose an imminent threat to US security. Therefore, our invasion was unnecessary and unjustified, despite UN resolutions and the Senate vote.

So, what is the middle ground? What is a better mixture of military and political/social/economic means to diminish the threat of terrorism? I admit, I don’t know at this point. All I know is, invading a country that wasn’t a serious terrorist or security threat to the US was the worst thing we could have done, as it was unnecessary and unjustified. Iran now has greater influence in Iraq, and the Middle East as a result, sectarian violence grows worse every month, and there is a continually diminishing hope that a legitimate government will be able stabilize the country in the long run. The US has no credible plan, and maybe no real ability short of sending in an additional 200,000 troops, to roll back the tide of these consequences we face in Iraq. Admitting that the invasion of Iraq was a mistake is not appeasement, it’s simply an honest assessment of the much greater problems the US faces in creating a stable Middle East.

1:11 PM  

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