Hizballah

Everybody, quite literally everybody is irked by Bibi Netanyahu's refusal to give the peace processors another two months of a ban on construction in the West Bank. As if such a prohibition would produce more than the last ten months when Israel unilaterally precluded construction in the territories and the Palestinians responded with squat. Well, I suppose I don't really mean everybody. But nearly everybody. And, my guess, dear reader, you too.

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Of course, it’s not only Obama’s debacle. The debacle started when the world’s self-appointed enforcers of what they imagined as peace put the squeeze on Israel as it fought Hezbollah in the summer of 2006. It is true that the fighting was not going as well as it might have for the Jewish state.

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Since the 1980s, the Shia terrorist group Hezbollah has not been given to blunt public moralizing about the need for women to wear the veil. It originally made no secret of its desire to convert Lebanon into a Shia Islamic state—the organization’s 1985 manifesto called for the establishment of “Islamic government” and the conversion of Christians to Islam—but these efforts proved exceedingly unpopular, given Lebanon’s plurality of Christian and Sunni Muslim citizens.

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It hasn't been much noticed in the American press--nor, for that matter, in the British press--that Bashar Assad has re-established his condominium over Lebanon. But the Middle Eastern papers have duly noted the development virtually without commenting on its importance. Still, the meaning of the arrival in Beirut of the Syrian president and the monarch of Saudi Arabia, King Abdullah, on one plane, Abdullah's jet, cannot be lost. The Custodian of the Holy Places, as he is almost universally called in the region, has placed his hands on the tyrant of Damascus.

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We were all dreamers then. When we overthrew the Shah, we thought a bright new age had dawned. Tyranny had been defeated and soon we would vanquish all the secularists, Westernizers, imperialists, and Zionists. Our glorious revolution would be the model for millions, not only in the Middle East but among Muslims everywhere. Islam would be restored to its rightful place at the center of people’s lives, and piety would replace politics. Some of us even imagined that all the prophecies of the Koran were about to come true. Such dreams.

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Many good people who have never fought in a war find something appealing in America’s willingness to take more casualties in order to spare innocent civilian lives. For those, like me, who have been in combat, the choices at hand look somewhat different. Consider the following likely scenario. A platoon of Marines is patrolling an area in Afghanistan. To avoid IEDs, the Marines stay off the roads and advance through a field. At the edge of the field is a row of huts. Suddenly, two Marines are hit. The Marines take cover, although there is little to protect them in the open field.

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Stay Forever

No soldier wants to be the last one to die in a war, goes the old saw. In Afghanistan, make that: No coalition member wants to be the last one to quit. And so, competitive withdrawal has practically begun. According to President Obama, the United States will start drawing down next year. Canada is preparing to exit in 2011. Poland is talking complete withdrawal by 2012. Britain wants to end it all by 2015. This is no way to win. It’s like a trainer announcing in round three that he will throw in the towel in round six.

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Somehow I missed this move by CNN. I hadn’t seen anything about it until I read Tom Friedman’s column in the Times and, then, Jack Shafer’s insistently simple-minded article in Slate. Here’s Octavia Nasr’s offending Tweet: Sad to hear of the passing of Sayyed Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah … One of Hezbollah’s giants I respect a lot. It is a stupid piece of journalism, and distorted besides.

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One of President Obama's weirdest causes is his defense of the hijab or the niqab. Not that I want to take the veil away from any Muslim women... anywhere. Still, he is president of the United States and might just want to limit his special pleadings to truly significant ones. Anyway, he didn't. He tried out the trope in Cairo last year and followed it up during the Ramadan fest at the White House. These turned out to be not very successful interventions. As we learn from this morning's newspaper, even Syria has turned its back (or Bashaar Assad, his) on Obama's pleadings.

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[Guest post by Michelle Cottle] First Helen Thomas shot herself in the foot with her ramblings about the Middle East. Then Dave Weigel was ousted from the WaPo when his ungenerous, off-the-record emails about right-wingers became public. Now CNN has canned 20-year veteran Octavia Nasr for a Hezbollah-themed tweet deemed overly generous. By the laws of USA Today, three cases make a trend (and I'm sure there are others I've missed). We could sit here all day and debate the relative gravity of each journalist's sins and/or stupidity.

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