Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Should Hezbollah be marginalized as terrorists and Nazis?

What a week it has been on the "War on Terror!" front. First, we have three Canadians MPs calling for Hezbollah to be removed from the official list of terrorist groups. About bloody time. Minister of Public Safety Stockwell Day refuses, and is, really, a bit of a baby about it. But, then, we get this bit of insanity. In more ways than I can conveniently count. Mr. Jason Kenney, Conservative MP, has compared Hezbollah to the Nazis. Of course,comparing any current group to the Nazis requires a vast misunderstanding of (or deliberately ignoring) the depth of unquestionable evil and suffering inflicted by the Nazi regime. No one and no group currently active is that bad. Now, as far as I can tell, what Kenney is trying to say is that the Nazis ran in elections and provided social services, but were dedicated to eradicating Jews, and Hezbollah is no different in those respects: runs in elections, provides services, wants to eradicate Jews. Well... wants to eradicate Israel, or, at the very least, run Israel out of Lebanon. But let's overlook this conflation of Jews with Israelis. I'm also not sure if Kenney's aware that the Nazis actually succeeded, at least partially, in their goal of eradicating Jews, while Hezbollah has been pretty much a colossal failure. And the Nazis won control of the country, hence were not really terrorists, but a stupefyingly evil state.

All those points aside, here's the real problem: the Nazi comparison is being invoked in order to dodge the suggestion made by opposition members that visiting Lebanon and trying to negotiate with Hezbollah members might help defuse future violence. (I'm sure someone else has a Neville Chamberlain example all ready to go as well.) Which means it's really a massive ad hominem attack: anyone who claims that negotiating with a power in the region (and Hezbollah are a power) might help to undercut the anti-Israeli agenda and marginalize the violent extremists is an appeaser, no better than a Nazi-sympathizer, and not worthy of any further attention. Which ignores, of course, that the neocon solution -- bomb the crap out of people we don't like -- has created a civil war in Iraq. What I don't understand is what's wrong with trying it. Certainly, we shouldn't go so far as to allow the equivalent of Poland to fall before getting worried. The lead-up to WWII can teach us at least that much. But, Hezbollah are not the Nazis. (Neither is Hamas.) Their goals are pro-Arab, pro-Muslim and anti-Israeli. They have extremist, violent wings, but also political ambitions. They command thousands if not millions of loyal supporters, spread across many countries. They are, as with all mass movements, rife with internal divisions, which could be exploited to marginalize the violent and support/encourage the diplomatic and political. Note that there's really nothing wrong with a political party in an Arabic country that doesn't want to deal with Israel. The problem is with actively trying to destroy Israel.

When all's said and done, it should be obviously stupid to wade in swinging without trying the diplomatic option first. At the very least because wading into the Middle East swinging is an easy rationalization to support the September 11 attacks (and the allegedly planned Toronto attacks, and the London bombings, etc.). In short, while we need to accept that we are dealing with sub-groups of violent extremists within groups who hold some odious views, we also need to stop pretending that the Israelis parallel the innocent Jews slaughtered by the Nazis. We also need to stop pretending that calling people "terrorists" justifies sending off our military to bomb them into oblivion -- and that this will stop violent retribution coming back against us when the members of the next generation are old enough to handle guns.

Worth noting, incidentally, that Amnesty International has called Israel onto the carpet for war crimes in Lebanon. One wonders what it would take for a Western government to do the same.

(Extra-special bonus for Conservatives or conservatives who object to these views: you've been wrong so many times, you're just not worth listening to any more.)


Peace said...

Very well said.

If the end goal of branding terrorist organizations is eradication, then given Hezbollah's inextricable role and support among such a large segment of Lebanon, how is eradication possible short of genocide?

Dialog and negotiation certainly doesn't guarantee a peaceful resolution, but the labelling and isolation only ensures endless conflict and bloodshed.

ADHR said...

It's a really odd form of myopia, ultimately; insisting on seeing Hezbollah (and Hamas, etc.) as monolithic units, rather than collectives of groups with potentially divergent aims. If the pro-Lebanon, pro-Muslim, and political factions of Hezbollah can be convinced to split off and pursue their aims apart from those factions devoted to paramilitary goals, then that seems like it would succeed in marginalizing the genuine terrorists. Unfortunately, though, the Liberal MP who proposed taking Hezbollah off the terrorist list was forced to resign yesterday, and Conservative MP Jason Kenney continued to run his mouth and demonstrate his ignorance of the region's problems, and his unwillingness to consider alternate (and potentially actually successful!) strategies.