Michael Totten

The Iraqification of Lebanon

Hezbollah is alarming its Lebanese opponents by expanding its territory through the purchase of property outside Shia areas in Lebanon. Former civil war-era President Amin Gemayel went on television Thursday and said what many Lebanese have feared for months now while this has unfolded.
“There is some sort of military preparation starting from Niha in Jezzine all the way across the entire Western mountain range with military surveillance posts set up from Jezzine to Sannine all the way up to Laqlouq,” “he said”:http://www.naharnet.com/domino/tn/NewsDesk.nsf/getstory?openform&84C5EC2CE1C1A494C2257475001CE552.
If he weren’t talking about an army that really does build massive and sophisticated military infrastructure — including deep tunnels and a high-tech surveillance system in Beirut’s international airport, of all places — I might suspect he was paranoid or exaggerating.
Amin’s Phalange Party is a vehicle for mostly parochial and sectarian Christians, and it has a dark past, as do most parties in Lebanon. His concerns, however, are echoed at the more broad-based and mainstream “online magazine NOW Lebanon”:http://www.nowlebanon.com/NewsArticleDetails.aspx?ID=49010. “These are preparations for war,” says an editorial earlier this week, “or rather preparations to ensure that if there is a war, Hezbollah’s adversaries won’t be able to fight one. The party knows better than to enter Christian, Druze or Sunni areas. So it has opted for control of the high ground — high ground overlooking the territories of its foes but also controlling lines of communication between mainly Shia areas in the northern Bekaa Valley, the southern Bekaa, South Lebanon, and Beirut’s southern suburbs . . . [W]hat is taking place today has so transgressed the red lines of all communities that what we will almost certainly see in the near future is a dangerous logic of communal self-defense taking over.”
Even if these moves by Hezbollah are being misinterpreted by the overly anxious, NOW Lebanon is correct to point out the danger for the simple reason that they are perceived as threatening. Everyone in Lebanon knows all too well why the “logic of communal self-defense” is an ominous development.
Communal self-defense means sectarian self-defense, and sectarian self-defense means exactly the same thing in Lebanon that it means in Iraq: militias. If the police and the army cannot or will not disarm Hezbollah — and they cannot and will not — then the only self-defense options remaining are personal and communal. Robert Heinlein famously wrote that an armed society is a polite society, but he didn’t know the Middle East very well.
“Read the rest in COMMENTARY Magazine”:http://www.commentarymagazine.com/blogs/index.php/totten/13661.