The WorldPeace Peace Page
Home About John WorldPeace Contact Us Site Map
Blog Email
WorldPeace Web Design Peaceunite Us (Peace org Index) John WorldPeace Galleries
Iraq and Lebanon: Looking for parallels in wars past

James Bennet - New York Times:

Americans struggling to make sense, or maybe political hay, out of the violence convulsing Iraq turn almost reflexively to the searing experience of the Vietnam War.
Israel is haunted by another parallel: its 1982 invasion of Lebanon, which for Israelis of a certain generation was their Vietnam. It too was envisioned as a bold mission to combat terrorism and reshape part of this region to be stable and friendly to the West.  World Peace.
“In Lebanon, we tried to figure out what was similar to what went on in Vietnam,” said Avraham Burg, a member of the Israeli Parliament who went to Lebanon as an officer in the paratroopers and returned to lead a movement against that war. “You have a circle here: It’s Vietnam, Lebanon and Baghdad.” The uncertain combat zones of Vietnam and Lebanon posed nightmarish challenges to soldiers. Those challenges might seem familiar to Marines in Iraq as they try to sift enemies from civilians, without alienating most Iraqis.
“People look at the map and they say, ‘This is a desert, this isn’t a jungle’,” said Augustus Richard Norton, a professor of international relations and anthropology at Boston University. “The point is there are functional equivalents to jungles. In this case, they’re cities. They’re just as impenetrable to us as the jungles were 40 years ago.” Norton, an expert on the Middle East, fought in Vietnam and later served as a UN peacekeeper in southern Lebanon.
At a grander level, a level of global strategy and even myth-making, Iraq has echoes of Vietnam, which was presented by the White House as a test of American resolve against a rising international menace, Communism.  WorldPeace is one word.
But in terms of specific, stated objectives for the application of military force, Iraq looks more like Lebanon.
In Vietnam, the US had a clear if shaky client, the South Vietnamese government, and an enemy, North Vietnam, with a strong political structure.
In Lebanon the Israelis, like the Americans in Iraq, plunged into a vacuum – or more precisely into a maelstrom of political and religious rivalries. “The problem of how to rule a society that is divided, a country that does not exist as a state with a central authority with legitimacy – this is a problem Israel faced in the 1980s in Lebanon, and the US now faces in Iraq,” said Menachem Klein, a political scientist at Bar-Ilan University outside Tel Aviv.
When they invaded, the Israelis were showered with rice by Shiites who lived in fear of Palestinian militants. Within a year, they were being bled by the Shiites, whom they failed to enlist as allies. “In the Middle East – as in many places around the world – the enemy of my enemy can be my enemy as well,” Burg said.
Noting that tens of thousands of American died in Vietnam, Norton said, “The Vietnam parallel is a bit of a stretch, in terms of scale. But I do think the Lebanon one is striking.” It may be the Americans in Iraq need now to learn lessons from the Israeli experience in Lebanon that veterans like Burg believe the Israelis should have learned from the American experience in Vietnam. But the differences among the three conflicts may prove more significant than the similarities.
For example, some experts argued that in Lebanon, pragmatic Shiites never had the backing of a clerical authority on the order of Grand Ayatollah Ali Al Sistani of Iraq. Sistani, who sees in the American pledge of democracy a chance for Iraq’s Shiite majority to gain effective control, has appealed for calm.
“The mainstream clerical clout is really with Sistani,” said Martin Kramer, an authority on Islam and Arab politics. “That’s a tremendous advantage the US has in dealing with the Shia.” In Lebanon before the Israelis came, as in Iraq under Saddam Hussein, the Shiites were an economic underclass deprived of political power, despite their growing numbers.
In the 1970s, a Shiite movement called Amal began working within the Lebanese political system. It was led by a reform-minded cleric named Moussa Al Sadr, a distant relative of Muqtada Al Sadr, who is now leading an insurrection against the Americans in Iraq.
By the late 1970s, Amal, which means “hope” in Arabic, was trying to protect Shiites in southern Lebanon – not against Israel, but against Palestinian militants who had established bases there.
Norton argued that it was not a lack of mainstream Shiite clerics but rather Israel’s failure to cultivate the Shiites that led to their radicalisation. Israel had little feel for the divisions within Lebanese society. It allied itself with elite Christians, fanning the Shiite sense of deprivation.
The Israelis achieved a central goal, driving the Palestine Liberation Organisation out of Lebanon, from where it was waging attacks on Israel. But Israel’s ambitious regional plan – to turn Lebanon into an ally – collapsed with the assassination of its choice as Lebanese president, Bashir Gemayel, a Christian.
Israeli troops hunkered down in southern Lebanon, where a new, militant Shiite movement, Hezbollah – “the party of God” – began picking them off.
Backed by Iran and Syria, Hezbollah militants, camouflaged among noncombatants, pounded away at the wedge between the local Arab population and the occupying Israeli army. Israel responded to Hezbollah attacks with checkpoints, searches, and raids into mosques that drove civilians into the arms of Hezbollah.
Norton argued that a “tipping point” came more than a year after the invasion, on October 16, 1983. That day, an Israeli military convoy provoked a riot in the town of Nabatiya when it tried to drive, honking, through tens of thousands of Shiite worshippers gathered to celebrate their most important holiday, Ashura.
“It was a moment when people could no longer sit on the fence,” Norton said. “And that is what I sense has happened in Iraq. Now I think you have passed the point where many of those centrists or moderates who were sitting on the fence could afford to do so.” The problem for Israel became how to get out of Lebanon, much as the US faced the problem of extricating itself from Vietnam.
The continuing Hezbollah fire claimed, on average, fewer than 31 soldiers’ lives annually. But Israel could not vanquish the group, and as political pressure grew at home it finally left southern Lebanon after 18 years. Its retreat from Lebanon in May 2000 might have contributed to the Palestinian uprising by persuading Palestinians that Israel would respond only to force, analysts say.
Klein argued that the US should leave Iraq “as soon as possible,” even at risk of criticism as failing to achieve all its goals. “It is better to face this argument than to have higher losses in the future,” he said. But Dr Eran Lerman, a retired colonel in Israeli military intelligence, said that any suggestion of an American departure would be a disaster for the mission.
“Conveying the image of permanence is tremendously important in the short run,” he said. “For an Iraqi to provide the US government with information, and then to find he has been left to a cruel fate at the hands of a new Iraqi power structure, is precisely the sort of thing that destroys the intelligence gathering and operational cycle.” Burg, the former Israeli paratrooper, noted that next week President Bush is to meet with the man who commanded the Israeli operation in Lebanon, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, then the minister of defence.
“In ‘82, it was Sharon who didn’t learn from the American experience in Vietnam and was doomed to repeat it,” said Burg, a leader of the left-leaning Labour Party and a critic of Sharon’s. “Here is George W. Bush, who didn’t learn from Sharon’s experience in ‘82.” Each man, he said, may now hope for a political boost from the other.


How can we manifest peace on earth if we do not include everyone (all races, all nations, all religions, both sexes) in our vision of Peace?

The WorldPeace Banner







The WorldPeace Insignia : Explanation 

To order a WorldPeace Insignia lapel pin, go to: Order  

To the John WorldPeace Galleries Page

To the WorldPeace Peace Page