Thursday, 12 August 2010

The cost of guns and on whom to use them


Much has been made of the recent blocking of funding for the Lebanese Army by a group of US congressmen following the recent clash with Israel.

It’s a congressional election year at the moment and, as such, it’ll be difficult for anyone to lift the block, for fear of upsetting influential interest groups in the US. If / when it is lifted, it’ll happen early next year.

The money they’re talking about hasn’t yet been spent, but it has been allocated. So, it doesn’t appear that funding will dry up immediately. However, it’s cause for concern.

The gist of the argument is as follows: The Lebanese Army shot at the IDF. Israel is our ally. Therefore, we shouldn’t fund the LAF.

 It's all about the Benjamins

Now, that makes sense, on a very, very basic level.

However, it also gives the lie to US policy.

US funding revolves around giving the Lebanese a means by which to enhance the sovereignty of the state. At least that’s the view they’re pushing.

However … the one of the main uses of the armed forces of any country is to deter aggression and to defend their borders. Which is exactly what the LAF did. Ok, it seems as if the LAF made a mistake when it opened fire, but cutting off aid is the wrong approach. All it will do is weaken the LAF, making a mockery of past efforts to empower it.

But then the question of US motives comes into play.

Clearly, if the US doesn’t want the LAF to fight Israel (a state with whom Lebanon is at war), who do they want them to fight? … The obvious answer is internal actors, or Syria.

A clash with Syria is off the table and internal actors means Hizballah.

A clash between the LAF and Hizballah, though highly unlikely to occur, would be the first step toward civil war.

Further, given that the clash doesn’t occur, the potential absence of the US opens the door to others. Iran stepping in would merely result in the swapping of one patron for another. While large sectors of Lebanon would possibly applaud this, it surely would mark a significant downturn in Lebanon’s relations with the West.

Is Lebanon at a crossroads? Yes. However, I think it’s clear that the US will do all it can to resolve this. It’s most definitely in their interests to provide some form of internal balance to Hizballah. But then the niggling questions as to their true goals remain.

Lebanon is in the unfortunate position of having to be a client of one side of the great divide, the question is, who do they run with, and what will it mean?


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