Sunday, May 11, 2008

The 'Keep 'em Weak' Policy

In the great film Lawrence of Arabia there is a scene where the British discuss that while they are happy to have Arab allies against the Turks, they are not willing to give them modern weapons - specifically artillery - because they fear that if they have too much power, the British will not be able to control them. Fast forward to today and a similar situation is playing out in Lebanon. The pro-US regime there, at the request of Israel, is kept deliberately weak lest the weapons or army turn them on the IDF (aka The Israeli Offensive Force). However the fruits of that policy seem to be coming home to roost, the weak government can not defend itself from Israeli army incursions, but neither can it stop Hezbollah;

By briefly taking over Beirut, Hezbollah has shown a readiness to use force against the governing coalition and could bring more to bear in an attempt to end Lebanon's power struggle on its terms...But Hezbollah's takeover of Beirut showed there are few options for repelling the latest challenge to Prime Minister Fouad Siniora's government and the politicians who back it. Their armed followers were routed by Hezbollah in the capital.

This really is (as Robert Fisk said at a recent talk in Bristol) a client state conflict between the US and Iran. Helena Cobban has a good analysis of the situation;

It seems to me that in both Sadr City and West Beirut, the anti-US forces have been playing a carefully calibrated game in their relations with national governments that had, until now, been solidly pro-US. (Following Hamas's playbook there.) Their preferred strategy seems to be not to overthrow or directly confront the national government, unless the national government confronts them... But rather, to do a combination of whittling down the government's legitimacy while also holding out to it a potential life-raft of cooperation-- but on the basis of a nationalist and ever more strongly anti-US platform.

In both Lebanon and Sadr City, the anti-US forces seem to be doing rather well at this game, the ultimate "prize" of which is to win the loyalty of the national government (and therefore, also, all of its international legitimacy.) Given that this game requires smarts, subtlety, patience, and an intimate knowledge of the minutiae of local/national politics, is it any surprise that the US is doing very poorly at it?

Yet again the U$A is being out-thought by its opponents. And who will suffer? Civilians - where ever they live in the region seem to be those who die in droves each and every time until there can be a real peace & justice push for the region. On the subject.... coming soon is Bristol Indymedia Film Night: Bristol Goes To Palestine, Documentary Premiere!

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