mm379: Iraq = Lebanon. Finally it makes sense.

MUDGE’s Musings

Faithful reader (if s/he indeed is faithful) is probably disgusted with this nanocorner of the ‘Sphere© lately, as we’ve been rehashing good old stuff rather than creating good new stuff here.

As I reflect on my lethargic approach to blogging this past week, my analysis finds that it’s partly due to the demands of the bill paying occupation, and partly my failure to extricate from the zillions of new pages popping up every day in said ‘Sphere a nugget of insight upon which to build.

Didn’t really want to write about the Democrats’ Clinton/Obama soap opera. Although, I commend to your attention Eric Zorn of yr (justifiably) humble svt‘s hometown Chicago Tribune on why Sen. Clinton is the wrong running mate for Obama.

So that left me with — what? Reruns, and this during sweeps month, too! smile_nerd

Tonight though, finally, revelation. Christopher Dickey of Newsweek makes a thought connection regarding the cesspool that is our Iraq adventure that makes such great sense that one is tempted to slap oneself, saying “it’s so obvious — why didn’t I think of that?”

I didn’t. Dickey did. Read and learn.


Slaughterhouse Beirut

Lebanon’s chances for meaningful reconstruction are diminishing by the day. And despite Bush’s bravado, it’s going to be the same in Iraq. |Christopher Dickey | May 13, 2008 | Updated: May 13, 2008

If you want to know what Iraq will look like 25 years from now, look at Lebanon today. The similarities and differences—but mainly the similarities—raise a lot of painful memories and questions for

This fact hit me once again when I was talking to Mike Sheehan, who is one of the more clear-eyed analysts of terrorism and the way we react to it. The subject came up of Beirut as it is now, a bloody mess, and as it was when Mike and I first focused on it a quarter-century ago, when it was even bloodier.

Back then President Ronald Reagan waded into the Levantine quagmire, quickly understood that he had made a big miscalculation, and withdrew. “Some counterterrorism experts argue the Reagan pullout from Lebanon was a mistake and emboldened future terrorists,” says Sheehan. “I never bought this analysis, then or now. I think it was one of the smartest things Reagan did during his tenure—to get out of the Lebanese civil war. To stay in any war to ‘make a statement’ has never made sense to me. You have to have well-defined interests and achievable goals when you put American soldiers in harm’s way; both seemed to be missing in Lebanon. Reagan recognized it and withdrew.”

Aha! Lebanon. Filled with religious factions, armed to the teeth. Filled with proxies of foreign nations with mischief on their minds eager to fill the ever present power vacuum (read: Syria and Iran). And the scene of U.S. intervention, that failed in a bloody and ultimately ignominious fashion.

A dysfunctional “state” for many, many years, and, as Dickey observes, not likely to improve.

And yet, whether the United States stays in Iraq or goes, “Lebanonization” is the most likely result: a foundering half-failed state where neighbors fight proxy battles through sectarian militias and through the many factions in a government that is unable to govern at all. There will be times of war when life seems to go on almost as normal, and times of peace when it seems not to. There will be spurts of investment, maybe even tourism. There will be festivals of democratic excitement. And then sudden storms of savage violence will sweep through the streets of the capital, only to subside, then erupt in smaller cities, and subside. And erupt again. And so it goes, to borrow the old refrain from Kurt Vonnegut’s novel “Slaughterhouse Five.” If the world pays any attention at all, the span will be brief. The fighting and the failures to govern will have gone on so long that nothing seems new in that news.

We failed to fix Lebanon; perhaps it is permanently unfixable. Did we learn from that experience, strategically, politically, militarily?

On the day the last Marine combat unit pulled out of Lebanon in 1984, a television interviewer asked then-Secretary of State George Shultz if that meant a victory for the bad guys. He could not but equivocate: “This is a kind of warfare, really, that is something different for us … We have to improve our intelligence capability, and we have to think through how, within the concept of the rule of law, which we hold so dear, we can take a more aggressive posture toward what is a worldwide and very undesirable trend.” That was 24 years ago, and we’re still thinking it through.

Finally! Now it’s possible to understand Iraq.

Religious factions and militias, armed to the teeth, bent on senseless slaughter. Units on the ground that are proxies for mischief making states and anti-Western cells.

And the scene of U.S. intervention that, despite egregious losses of blood and treasure, shows no signs whatsoever that what ails Iraq will ever be permanently fixable.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Dickey: Why Iraq Will End Up Like Lebanon | Newsweek International |

To all those who say: “you can’t just up and leave!” I can now respond: your great hero Ronald Reagan up and left Lebanon all those years ago.

Lebanon didn’t get better when we arrived; it certainly has gotten worse since we left.

Okay: what have we learned tonight?

  1. Iraq is an ugly example of a political entity, artificially created by a European power with arbitrary borders disdainful of hundreds of years of tribal and religious sectionalism, whose creation thus contained the seeds of its own destruction, now playing on a CNN broadcast near you. Doubt this? Take a close look at Lebanon. Some dysfunctional states are unfixable.
  2. And, keep an eye out for what’s going on in Africa, filled with nations like Rwanda, Sudan and Zimbabwe, artificially created by a European power with arbitrary borders disdainful of hundreds of years of tribal and religious sectionalism, whose creation thus contained the seeds of its own destruction, now playing on a CNN broadcast near you. Let’s try not to intervene militarily too enthusiastically there, please.
  3. Come November, let’s send old 100-year war McCain slinking back to his comfortable Senate seat where his pointlessly dangerous testosterone can be contained.
  4. Let’s get our boots out of Iraq’s pointlessly dangerous dust and safely home, soonest.

It’s it for now. Thanks,


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One Response to mm379: Iraq = Lebanon. Finally it makes sense.

  1. Myrl Reel says:

    It is clear to me this I can simply try to embrace that entirely.

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