by Michael J. Totten
Lebanon will not become the next Gaza.
Commenters both inside and outside the country compared Hezbollah’s invasion of West Beirut last week to the Hamas takeover of Gaza last year, which is perhaps understandable: that’s what it looked like. If Lebanon’s mainstream Sunni-dominated party–Saad Hariri’s Future Movement–has a militia that is able and willing to fight, it didn’t make much of an appearance. Hezbollah seized the western half of the city in a walk. Most journalists focused on this portion of the conflict because West Beirut is where almost every journalist in Lebanon lives and where almost every hotel for visiting journalists is located.
Far less attention has been paid to Hezbollah’s military and strategic failure in the Chouf mountains southeast of Beirut where Lebanon’s Druze community lives. “Hezbollah picked a major fight there and lost”:http://www.michaeltotten.com/archives/2008/05/hezbollahs-thir.php. After three days of pitched battles, its gunmen were unable to conquer a single village–even when they brought out mortars and heavy artillery.
The Druze are among the fiercest of warriors, and everyone in Lebanon knows it. They are well-known in Israel, too, where they often serve in elite units of the Israel Defense Forces and suffer lower-than-average casualty rates in battles with Hezbollah and Palestinian terrorist groups. Most of Israel’s Sunni Arabs abstain from military service, but Druze Arabs are as loyal to the Israeli state, and are as willing and able to fight for it, as their Lebanese counterparts are in their own country. There’s a reason two of the Middle East’s religious minorities–Maronite Christians and Druze–live in Lebanon’s mountains in significant numbers: attempts to invade and subjugate them are ill-advised, very likely to fail, and therefore rarely attempted by even large armies.
It’s debatable whether or not Lebanon’s Sunnis are organized and well-armed or not. Certainly they are not compared to Hezbollah. No one in Lebanon is. But Druze chief Walid Jumblatt’s Progressive Socialist Party proved they have no shortage of weapons, and they fought off Hezbollah’s invasion even though he told them not to. A tiny percentage of Druze are partially loyal to Talal Arslan, Hezbollah’s only Druze ally, but they defected in large numbers when Hezbollah launched its attack. They fought on the same side as the rest of their community. Political alliances have their limits, and Arslan’s people and Hezbollah discovered theirs. It is now almost safe to say that Hezbollah has no friends at all in the mountains overlooking the dahiyeh, their “capital” and command and control center in the suburbs south of Beirut.
“Read the rest in Commentary Magazine”:http://www.commentarymagazine.com/viewarticle.cfm/lebanon-s-future-11376.
by Michael J. Totten