Thursday, August 24, 2006

Robin Hood Politics (2)

Hezbollah sets about the task of rebuliding Lebanon.

Already, Hizbullah has spearheaded the reconstruction efforts in the bombed-out Shiite areas of south Beirut. Huge cranes and jackhammers clear mangled concrete from roadways. Volunteers with red T shirts and hats that read VICTORY FROM GOD sweep away rubble in residential areas. At one intersection, a volunteer poured buckets of shattered glass out of the second story window of a shop called Yukon. Many crushed buildings in the neighborhood have been marked with a banner made from plastic sheeting. The banner notes which regional office the owner should go to for compensation, the opening hours (9 a.m. to 5 p.m.) and is signed: HIZBULLAH.
This is not good news for the West. I'm all about helping rebuild Lebanon (and Israel, for that matter), but allowing Hezbollah to take all the credit is going to undermine everything we are trying to achieve.

Meanwhile, in Iraq, Moqtada al-Sadr's group is doing similar things in Iraq.

While opposition to the U.S. military presence in Iraq remains one of its core tenets, the Sadr movement's militia, called the Mahdi Army, took heavy casualties in two military uprisings against better-armed, better-trained U.S. forces in 2004. Today, according to Sadr leaders and outside analysts, the movement is husbanding its strength and waiting for American troops to go.
The movement is highly structured, largely along the lines of the Lebanese Hezbollah organization, building for its followers a state within a state while also acquiring a share of power in Iraq's formal government. Sadr, like Hezbollah, built popularity in part by providing social services such as health care. Because he controls the Health Ministry, and with it the hospitals and clinics of Iraq, his followers bear their children in public hospitals decorated with posters of the young cleric. They go to their graves washed by workers of a Sadr charity at a sprawling Shiite cemetery in Najaf, at a cost of 5,000 dinars, about $3.40, one-fifteenth of what grieving families outside Sadr's network pay. Sadr also sponsors the God's Martyr Foundation, which supports veterans and the families of fighters who are killed.
Why in the world weren't we able to get this guy on our side? Or, since he has some of the ministries, and they are part of the government we hope gets its act together, is he already on our side?

Now his people lay low and focus on services instead of direct engagement of US forces (and I'll never complain about that), but there is that very sinister sounding 'lie and wait' strategy. Does this mean there is a plan to unleash chaos once we leave, or are they planning on taking over the country by doing things better than the other groups? Or does this verify our need to keep troops in Iraq for the next 20 - 30 years, hoping they'll 'lay low' that long, and continue to work on infrastructure?

We've got the wolf by the ears with these two. On the one hand, they are more efficiently building the infrastructure needed for society and commerce, and are doing so while taking part in Parliamentary governments of nations we desperately need to start standing on their own. On the other hand, one's a terrorist group and the other ain't too far from one. The third layer is that we absolutely know that both groups are being bankrolled by Iran (who's making all their money selling oil to the West).

One thing this does seem to demonstrate, however, is a Shiite desire to build hospitals, schools and infrastructure. Apocalyptic suicide cultures generally don't worry about such things, so I think that's a good sign. On the other-other hand, we don't have a very good relationship with Iran, and have pretty much voted them "Most Likely to Be Involved with WWIII."

This leaves us with a haunting spectre: Iran may not need a nuclear weapon to gain hegemony in the Middle East. They may be able to buy it with money the West spends on oil, coupled with an efficiency-in-government that our allies can't seem to produce.


Dante said...

Now we're finally getting to some really real similarities with Hitler. Effeciency in government? Not until well after he was in power. Helping Communists invalidate Reichtag elections and funding a rather large and cumbersome civil servant program that's really just a military in disguise are hardly the bastions of a political party concerned with efficient government.

Did "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich" recently become available in Arabic or something? Maybe they just finally got through the rather dry first couple of chapters. Good for them. Gain the trust of the people and build a political presence. Then when you have a majority of your parliament (or a plurailty and some upper-level executive backing), dissolve your Reichtag... I mean parliament... for four years but with a clause that grants you the ability to make or unmake laws on a whim. That last step is the tricky one but Hitler pulled it off while he wasn't even in a majority in the Reichtag. He couldn't have done it without some backing from two of the Socialists, the Catholics, and the Center. Lucky for him he got the support of all three.

Buzzzbee said...

Sadr is definitely, sort of, not on our side. His group was one of many fighting us when the insurgency first began. However, that ended when Sadr came to his senses and realized that if he waited, we would pretty much give power to him. He called off his guys and told them to vote. The Sunnis abstained and the Shia took the lion's share of power, which was expected anyway. Their new constitution has Islam written into it which sets the stage for him to become the "Ayatollah Khamenei of Iraq" once we finish defeating his enemies for him and leave. Once we leave, he turns the country toward a much more anti-America, anti-Israel path. I wouldn't even be surprised to see a Iraq-Iran anschluss in the future(to continue on the Third Reich theme). That would of course require one of the two leaders to cede power to the other. I'm not saying it's likely, I'm just saying I wouldn't be surprised.

So like I was saying, Sadr is definitely, sort of, not our friend.

Patrick Armstrong said...

To describe what the creation of a Shiite crescent would look like, any anschluss between Iran and Southern Iraq could be done democratically (just like the annexation of Austria).

As far as Sadr ceding power to Iran, remember that the President of Iran (the Beard) doesn't actually have the power: the Supreme Islamic Council of Ayatollahs and Mullahs does. All Sadr would need is membership within that council.