Israel’s Lebanese Trauma

It is essential to learn from history in aiding the suffering peoples of the Mideast to attain freedom and self-governance of themselves, for themselves and by themselves. In learning from military history must we engage in creative social innovation and precisely internalize that our humble purpose in life is to to help others help themselves.

Bachir Gemayel (1947-1982), assassinated president-elect of Lebanon. (Image by Georges Hayek)

Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in 1982 was done with the deliberate political intention of partitioning Grand Liban and recreate an independent state for the country’s indigenous Christians. However, after Syria’s assassination of Lebanese president Bachir Gemayel (1947-1982) who was Israeli Defense Minister Ariel Sharon’s (1928-2014) personal friend and intellectual partner in planning the war did it turn out that due to Syrian dictator Hafez Assad s (1930-2000) cunning ability to successfully practice divide and rule among Lebanese Christians did Israel no longer have a political partner for the intended political purpose of that war. It was not that Lebanese Christians did not profoundly desire independence (and still certainly do!) but rather that the Lebanese civil war was largely a regional power struggle between Israel and Syria in using multiple military and political proxies against each other.

Until this day is there a perception in the Israeli defense and intelligence establishment that while it is certainly possible and worthwhile to work with Lebanese Christians as individuals are Lebanese Christians not reliable as a collective political partner for Israel. While Israel won the war in military terms as the PLO was successfully expelled from Lebanon was the price heavy indeed as 657 Israeli soldiers fell in battle for the political cause of attaining independence for indigenous Lebanese Christians who form part of the Aramean people.

Middle-aged males in leading positions in the Israeli Ministry of Defense are typically veterans of the militarily successful endeavor to expel the PLO from Lebanon yet at the same time politically failed project to restore independence for Lebanon’s indigenous Christians. There is therefore a widespread weariness among professionals in the Israeli security establishment that Israel must not ever again get militarily tangled into such a quagmire.

Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon also had the unintended consequence of alienating the country’s ethnically Shia population which had previously been very pro-Israel, a tragic change which contributed to the meteoric rise of Hezbollah which has become a state within the state. Of course Israel should in purely military terms have swiftly withdrawn from Lebanon once the PLO was expelled from the country, however Israel remained in much of Lebanon for year after year out of loyalty with and profound sympathy for noble cause of the liberation of the Aramean people of our indigenous Christian Lebanese allies. When Israel finally militarily disengaged from Lebanon altogether in the year 2000 did we publicly offer to continue to support the South Lebanon Army (SLA) which subsequently collapsed as the SLA had long since sadly turned into a shell of its former self.

The commanding officers of the SLA were mostly Christian and Druze while ordinary soldiers were mostly involuntarily conscripted local ethnic Shias, a large proportion of whom also became recruited as agents by the religiously and ethnically Shia Hezbollah. Ethnically Shia soldiers of the SLA were thus in practice used as indeed precisely unreliable cannon fodder of Israel and its Christian and Druze allies in South Lebanon. The local economy of Israeli-allied South Lebanon was based on drug trafficking and it is unfortunately true that torture did systematically take place in the Khiam prison as tragically run by the SLA.

What was once a proud, brave, noble and dignified endeavor to help attain independence for a structurally oppressed indigenous people thus instead ended up as a moral depravity which in turn fed the far worse moral depravities of Jihadist Hezbollah as funded through international organized crime.

This is not to say that this noble political cause was wrong but rather that it was wrongly executed much like the US-led liberation of Iraq was a noble, worthy and indeed absolutely necessary endeavor which similarly ended up in moral depravity. Winning morally in maintaining moral clarity is thus an absolutely essential dimension of modern warfare.

Today’s regional geopolitical realities are however very different from those in 1982 as Israel and Syria are diplomatically on the same page and indeed becoming increasingly politically coordinated on matters of Lebanese politics.

The matter of dismantling Hezbollah is an important and interesting question and so advanced ethnically Christian special forces are needed in order to dismantle this menace which now increasingly is also losing political support among ethnic Shias in Lebanon. While Israeli military intelligence (Aman) and the Israeli Air Force (IAF) have vital roles indeed to play in collapsing that very nefarious criminal Jihadist terrorist organization is an Israeli major ground invasion not the answer to this problem. A large-scale presence of Israeli Jewish soldiers on the ground  would not only be problematic but precisely counterproductive indeed.

The lesson from Israel’s 1982 humanitarian invasion of Lebanon and America’s 2003 humanitarian liberation of Iraq is that liberal democracies need to act in a support role in helping others help themselves while limiting ground operations to covert operations by elite special forces. As in Free Kurdistan can we however also embed some of our military units into the military forces of our allies so as to enhance their own military performance.

Yet it must be clear that our national interests are best served by ethically helping others help themselves attain liberty rather than trying to do most of the military job for them on ground. The reason why doing most of the job for them really does not work is pervasive structural hostility (i.e. xenophobia) against Jews and Christians among cultural Muslims as largely derived from literalist readings of the Quran, something which in practice plays into the hands of our strategic adversaries in us losing the battle for hearts and minds of culturally Muslim populations and thus effectively undermining our own very noble endeavors in the service of the defense and proliferation of liberty.

The founding of independent Aram requires indeed dismantling the Hezbollah which is one of the most capable military forces in the world and so that cannot really be attained by mere reconstituting Christian Lebanese militias as the liquidation of Hezbollah needs to be carried out with utmost moral clarity in an intelligent and sophisticated fashion and importantly also in an efficient and effective manner. The Islamic State Caliphate is incrementally and highly effectively increasingly liquidated by the Israeli-sponsored Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) which is the army of the libertarian feminist state of Rojava in West Kurdistan and North Syria.

The liquidation of Hezbollah needs however be carried out in a much more swift manner through an updated and far more intelligent version of the traditional Blietzkrieg. Destroying Hezbollah requires advanced intelligence warfare without permanently entangling our troops in a military quagmire on the ground. Rather than we merely winning ourselves need we enable others to win by themselves by providing every necessary form of support for our partners in the noble pursuit of liberty.

Jihadist Hezbollah is a highly dangerous terrorist organization as partly funded through their international drug trafficking (including in the Western hemisphere) and although not nearly as overtly medievalist as the Islamic State Caliphate must it certainly too be liquidated in a calibrated and effective manner. This is the shared interest of America, Israel, Lebanon and indeed the wider international community at large.

America and Israel need to stand with the peoples of Lebanon in inspiring hope for an attainable political horizon by assisting them in every way necessary. As so extremely successful in Syria and Free Kurdistan need this be an Israeli-led operation with America acting in a multi-dimensional, yet extensive support role in aiding our allies in their noble quest to attain government of the people, by the people and for the people.

We need to move beyond the intellectual inertia of traditional military thinking in executing smart and sophisticated multi-layered largely covert warfare as not based on imposing ourselves on others but rather ethico-politically aiding others in liberating themselves from the menace of tyranny.

Moral clarity, military necessity and the national interest of defending and expanding freedom requires precisely supporting the attainment of Aramean independence. Just as America and Israel proudly and rightly stand with the people of Kurdistan in their brave and noble struggle need we similarly (although certainly not in an identical manner) stand with the indigenous Aramean people in Lebanon in their completely and fully justified quest to live as a free people in their own land.

The first Israeli attempt to create an independent Kurdistan collapsed in 1975 while the second and third attempts have been vastly successful and in fact increasingly so. We need to stand with the Aramean people in intelligently and in a highly sophisticated manner make sure that we intelligently support them in every way necessary so that they themselves succeed in Israel’s second assisted endeavor to aid them in attaining freedom and independence.

Moral clarity and social innovation are indeed precisely the way to prevail in the struggle between liberty and evil. In order to prevail in defending the shared inherent interests of open societies need we always make sure to scrutinize our own very behavior in indeed making sure that we ourselves will always remain on the right side in the struggle between liberty and evil. This is not just an outer struggle but as Sufism teaches an inner struggle as well. Not only must we defeat the forces of evil but we must always make sure to never reduce ourselves to the moral level of evildoers for then we precisely defeat ourselves in this very struggle. Freedom although never free is not a luxury but rather precisely indeed essential for all peoples everywhere.