Sunday, August 20, 2006

Robin Hood Politics

I wanted to give it a few days before I wrote anything real about the ceasefire in Southern Lebanon, and even now I'm knocking on wood hoping not to jinx anything. But it has been a week, and things are looking like they may hold, and regardless anyone's opinions about the UN, this is a good thing.

Now we have a chance for everyone to step back and address the situation with cooler heads. But we (the West) cannot afford more inaction - the kind of inaction that followed last year's Cedar Revolution - where now that everything has cooled off, we pretend everything's OK.

If we're not stepping up, others will. As we speak, Hezbollah activists are busy trying to win more hearts and minds to their cause by spearheading the rebuilding efforts.

This reminds me of several things. First of all, this is very much like the 'faith based organizations' doing things government can't or won't. When a government cannot provide essential services to the people, other organizations will step in, and then support for government erodes. (The converse: When a government can provide those services, those organizations loose support to the government.) This is a microcosm of a serious social issue that we face in the war on terror. When terrorist organizations are the ones rebuilding hospitals, schools and roads because their governments can't, we have a serious problem. Because then, when we attack terrorist organizations and infrastructure, we end up attacking people who are building roads, schools and hospitals.

The terrorists are kicking our ass when it comes to Robin Hood Politics.

Second of all, and this goes back to the WWIII thread, almost every tyrant has been able to rise to power by - at the onset - doing things better than the government they replaced. Hitler came to power by merging efficiency in government with hate. He replaced the anemic Wiemar Republic. Castro came to power by promising economic prosperity to a Cuban people oppressed by the Batista government. Khomeini came to power by hijacking a democratic revolution against the Shah. The Reds overthrew the Tsars because -really- who could imagine a government worse than the Tsars?

Simply put, we need to make sure our allies in the Middle East are also winning the 'competency in government' war to take some of the air out of this uprising we face. Because, in addition to hating us for our 'freedoms' and 'liberty,' there are more local pressures they are fighting against.


Buzzzbee said...

I don't think this truce needs a jinx to shake it. The Israelis made a big, big mistake going into Lebanon and I hope they take this lesson to heart. At this point, the best thing that could happen to the Israeli Leadership(as distinct from the Israeli People)is for the ceasefire to fall through.

This war has made Hezbollah stronger and weakened Israel. In this conflict, Israel has further weakened a fledgling middle-eastern democracy, alienated their allies, shown the entire Islamic world that they are not invincible, and most stupidly, caused the deaths of at least a hundred Israelis to unsuccessfully save 2.

Continuing on the Machiavellian tone I picked up from the original post (subjects love whomever's spending money on them). It would be far better politically for Israel's leadership to be bogged down in a war to protect the people of Israel, than be the masterminds of a defeat. Of course, if the end of the ceasefire is caused by Hezbollah, they wouldn't be bothered with that pesky public scorn from world leaders.

That scorn, by the way, is the only reason the fighting stopped. Israel was losing the PR war big time. Instead of being little, outnumbered Israel defending itself against all these Arab aggressors, it was big, bully Israel killing civilians and destroying democracy. If the ceasefire falls through due to Hezbollah, the leadership then gets to say, "I told you so" and go back into Lebanon. Then there would be no more Robin Hood politics. At that point, I think the Lebanese people are going to look at Hezbollah like a loud mouth girlfriend; ready to pick fights and let you fight them.

My prediction: Arab sneezes near border. UN pulls out. Israel begins new, LONG, war with Hezbollah and Lebanese civilians.

Patrick Armstrong said...

Right now, Israeli soldiers are demaning an inquiry of their government.

I don't know if that is a good thing or a bad thing for Israel, but as long as the ceasefire holds, the overall will be worth it.

Buzzzbee said...

I don't really know what to make of it either. I'm generally pro government-transparency. On the other hand, I also appreciate the importance of chain of command. So, I don't know. Ideally, it would be the job of the media to uncover these sort of things. I guess we should just watch and see how this turns out.

I particularly didn't like this part:

"'We don’t have a lot of time to talk about what happened. We have to talk about what will happen,' Olmert told reporters"


"He said he was willing to consider an investigation, but did not make clear what kind. He warned that too much second-guessing could harm the army’s morale."

Any time a gov't leader says don't ask questions, I generally assume there are a lot of questions that need asking. The really bad thing is that those words sound so familiar. "We're in a war on terror. We can't answer any questions."

I'm curious about your take on Olmert, Patrick. I guess I've made it clear that I don't think he has the best judgement, but I'd love to hear your thoughts.