Hizballah

I. In 2000, I was asked by the Israel Defense Forces to join a group of philosophers, lawyers, and generals for the purpose of drafting the army’s ethics code. Since then, I have been deeply involved in the analysis of the moral issues that Israel faces in its war on terrorism. I have spent many hours in discussions with soldiers and officers in order to better grasp the dilemmas that they tackle in the field, and in an attempt to help facilitate the internalization of the code of ethics in war.

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The Israeli reactions to the Goldstone report on the Gaza war of January 2009 have focused, understandably, on its outrageous omissions and distortions and one-sided judgments, as well as on the moral corruption of the report's sponsor, the UN's Human Rights Commission.

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Jeffrey Herf is one of the pre-eminent intellectual historians of totalitarianism. He is a frequent contributor to The New Republic. See, for example, his last few contributions here, here, and here. You can also find a TNR review of one of his books, Divided Memory: The Nazi Past in the Two Germanys, here. In the current issue of The American Interest, Herf makes a highly convincing argument that radical Islam today is in fact a totalitarian movement with totalitarian ideology and totalitarian methods. No, it is not Nazism or Communism.

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Roger Cohen has the Times beat in Iran. Well, not exactly. No one has the Times beat in Iran. I don't know how many Western newspapers have their own journalists in the country. I do know that the FT does but it is an Iranian who holds it. Anyway, the datelines from Iran are commonly from Arab capitals, mostly Beirut. But Cohen is a special case. He wrote several pieces from Iran early this year, and anybody reading them would be hard-put to call them other than suck-ups.

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It is three years since the second Lebanon war began and nearly three years since it was supposedly ended.  Formally, the finale came with the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701, which was the handicraft of Condi Rice in her panic to have some kind of achievement to her name. President Bush played along with the charade, maybe because Israeli politics itself had made continuing the conflict untenable. In any case, I warned time and again, during the war and long after, that 1701 was a fraud.

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Persian Puzzlement

About ten days after the start of Iran's insurrection, I asked a senior administration official what, if anything, the White House knew about the people behind the demonstrations. His reply: "I think it is fair to say senior administration officials are busily trying to understand how the opposition is generated and where it came from." In other words, there's a lot about the protesters we still don't know. True, Mir Hossein Mousavi and the people directly surrounding him are known quantities in the U.S. intelligence community.

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We can all agree that the failure of Hezbollah to win a majority in Lebanon's elections this weekend was a relief. It was also an outcome few people in the western media forecast. Before I visited the country in March, one US reporter said to me of the US- and Saudi-backed, Sunni-led coalition: "They're going to get their asses handed to them!" a statement delivered with a curiously satisfied tone, I thought. (I visited Beirut on a press trip sponsored by The New Opinion Group, an NGO aligned with the March 14 coalition, along with David Samuels and several other US journalists.

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Hezbollah And The Imf

A strange pairing indeed, but today's NYT suggests that European finance officials are talking to Lebanon's Party of God about continuing economic support to the country even if Hezbollah beats the relatively pro-Western Sunni-based coalition in next month's elections. As the Times notes, Joe Biden sang a different tune on his visit to Beirut last week, suggesting that the U.S. would curtail aid if the Hezbollah Shiites prevail, in what would be a clear victory for Iran. It's a dilemma. No one is eager to provide financial aid to a government dominated by an anti-Western militant group.

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“YES, SOMETIMES I GO into the room with my advisers and I start shouting. And then they say, ‘And then what?’” The question hangs in the perfectly cooled air in Sa’ad Hariri’s marble-floored sitting room, where Beirut appears as a sunlit abstraction visible at a distance through thick windows. Hariri’s father, the former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, martyr of the Cedar Revolution, arches his black eyebrows from a giant poster near the sofa, looking out at his son with a sidelong, mischievous glance. “It hasn’t been a joyful trip,” Sa’ad Hariri is saying.

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I warned many times that Security Council Resolution 1701 to which Israel was coerced by Condoleezza Rice into accepting was a peril to its defense.  The resolution, whittled down so that it had as little substance as possible, vested the maintenance of the peace and the prevention of Syrian (and Iranian) smuggling of arms to Hezbollah to the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon. This international "interim" force was first mustered in 1978. It has not performed well. In fact, Hezbollah has remilitarized southern Lebanon with more rockets and missiles than before.

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