Montag, 9. Mai 2011

Modern Classics in War and Warfare VII

Terrorism, Christopher Hitchens once famously said, is to demand the impossible and demand it at gunpoint. He has produced the most useful definition for modern-day terrorism and following that definition quite a number of organisations would inevitably qualify. In his new book, The Road to Fatima Gate, Michael J. Totten is describing how Hezbollah is holding Lebanon hostage, literally at gunpoint. Now The Road to Fatima Gate would not necessarily qualify as modern classic of war and warfare, since it does not deal at all with the theoretical approaches to war or pays any respect at all to the literature on asymmetric war. But what Michael Totten is presenting in his first book is nothing less than the perhaps most accurate and detailed analysis of the 2006 Lebanon War and it is against this background that the book is highly recommendable. Totten is up to something when he asserts that would it not be for Hezbollah, nobody would any longer fight Israel and would it not be for Israel nobody would be fighting Hezbollah. The thing being, of course, that Hezbollah is not only the major obstacle to peace in the Middle East, but also to peace in Lebanon itself. Indeed, without Hezbollah or the Syrian overlordship of Lebanon, Lebanon would have been among the first states to sign a peace treaty with Israel.

But the book does not only cover the 2006 war in Lebanon, it also gives some answers to equally pressing questions. It was the 2005 Beirut spring that looked as if it was the inevitable consequence of the liberation of Iraq and in many ways it was the necessary prerequisite for the Arab spring that commenced earlier this year. The question, however, is why did the Beirut spring not last? Why was it that the perhaps most promising revolution in the Middle East did not gain traction in 2005? And the answer, put simply, is that the forces of freedom in Lebanon were bullied, by Hezbollah as much as by Syria. Michael Totten puts it rather aptly: “I thought I had an idea what Lebanon would feel like if these guys ruled it. Lebanon in 2005 was a libertarian's paradise. Under Hezbollah, though, it would be a bigoted, authoritarian, gender-segregated, micromanaging bully state.”

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