What The Hell Is Going On In Beirut?

Some opinion from around the web. Yglesias:

Over the past year or so I've heard various voices try to propagate revisionist accounts of Israel's short-lived effort to crush Hezbollah in Lebanon where people tried to argue that the mission was only an apparent failure, but actually succeeded in some sense. I think we can see from events like this that that's total nonsense -- Hezbollah is very much not crushed.

Jeffrey Goldberg:

Hezbollah has been doing a bang-up job this week undermining Lebanon's future on behalf of its sponsors, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps and Syrian intelligence. It is simultaneously doing effective work undermining its apologists in the West. We've heard the arguments over and over again: Hezbollah is social service agency; Hezbollah wants to join the Lebanese political process; Hezbollah is not in fact dominated by murderous Jew-haters. And so on.

Walid Phares:

Within the beltway, lots of analyzing on both sides of the Potomac: What can the U.S do to respond to the Syro-Iranian offensive which is obliterating a young democracy so dear to the speech writers of the President and many congressional leaders from both parties?

A crushing defeat to democracy in Lebanon under the eyes of an American public eager to see advances in the War on terror will be devastating. U.S warships are patrolling the international waters along the Lebanese coasts. A ten thousand strong UNIFIL force is deployed inside southern Lebanon. But what can this deployment of force do to deter Hezbollah’s determination? Many had advised the U.S Government years ago to implement gradual steps to contain Hezbollah in Lebanon, before this drama would unfold.

Rational Grounds, a Beirut blog:

Hezbollah has played this very wisely. They've spent the last two years laying the groundwork for this - establishing communication networks, expanding into new areas, growing their forces. In December 2006 they began a sit-in around downtown, and from there they've been able to cut many of the major roads linking the East and West over the past couple days. Even in their recent moves, they've positioned themselves and then dared the government to move them. If the government sends in the army against them, they can then say they're defending themselves. Of course, that's a thin argument now, but it's becoming increasingly irrelevant.  So now, we see what the government will do. Does Hezbollah and its allies control Lebanon? Or do we have a civil war?

Abu Muqawama:

...the fact is, if civil war does break out, Hizbollah is going to get the blame from basically everyone but Syria, Iran, and other Shia worldwide. This is not 2006 and this is not Israel that Hizbollah is staring down. This is 2008 and these are other Lebanese -- Sunni and Druze and Christian. Hizbollah can't count on the support from anyone but a few pariah states, and though Abu Muqawama is not quick to start quoting U.S. government officials in times like these, what Zalmay Khalilzad said yesterday probably sums up what a lot of folks are feeling, that Hezbollah had "made progress in establishing a state within a state. They have not implemented agreements and resolutions with regard to disarming their militia. That in turn is encouraging other groups to rearm as well. There is a lack of progress because of their opposition in terms of the election of a president, although everyone has agreed on Mr. Suleiman."

Hizbollah will claim that's not a fair representation of the realities in Beirut. And Hizbollah -- and the Shia -- have legitimate political greivances within what passes for a political system in Lebanon. But if things continue to go to guns, they will get all the blame for the new civil war because following the last civil war, they were the only group that was allowed to keep their weapons. (Well, they and the Palestinian militants.) Is Hizbollah ready to take on the blame for this in the same way the PLO (unjustly) took all the blame for the last war?