Monday, December 04, 2006

The Death of Moderation!

What can be said about the current developments in Lebanon except that we might be seeing the prelude to a civil war? What could really be more telling than this?

But yes, I can praise the March 14 forces for showing so much restraint and from refraining to challenge the current show of force by Hezbollah and supporters, the pro-Syria demonstrators, by mounting an equally impressive show of their own. But this will be adding more fuel to the fire, and already several agents provocateurs, some of which reportedly Syrian, have been involved in trying to steer the crowds into doing something stupid such as storming the Serail. The restraint shown by the March 14 forces is indeed wise and commendable.

The challenge, however, lies in the ability to maintain it over the long hold.

Restraint may not prevent violence indefinitely, however, especially if the other side, or at least certain elements in it, is/are intent on provoking it. But restraint could serve to demonstrate clearly to the international community which side needs to be blamed for the violence and, therefore, contained, and which side merits to be supported. Admittedly, however, if civil war should break out, this may not account for much in the overall scheme of things.

Some in the region are begging for huge crisis that can allow them to avert being held accountable for their crimes, and retain their positions, no mater illegitimately gained. This is not about any legitimate demands or concerns; this is more about their abuse by capricious elements on the highest level of governance and society in several states in the region, but mainly, in Lebanon itself, as well as in Syria and Iran.

Yet, there are those who would suggest rewarding the evil-mongers, to ward off the greater evil, as they contend, as though this policy has not been tried for decades now, to no avail. Falling back on more of the same is a sign of weakness on all sides, and will only serve to embolden the worst among us. Let's not underestimate the mayhem that they could do, that they will be willing to do, if further emboldened. Isnt' it enough for us to see how willing they are to push things to the brink?

Indeed, in the age of asymmetric warfare, and pure unadulterated thugary, no power will remain unchallenged no matter how technologically superior. Why? I think Marlon Brando put it best in his monologue in Apocalypse Now:

"I remember when I was with Special Forces...Seems a thousand centuries ago...We went into a camp to inoculate the children. We left the camp after we had inoculated the children for Polio, and this old man came running after us and he was crying. He couldn't see. We went back there and they had come and hacked off every inoculated arm. There they were in a pile...A pile of little arms. And I remember...I...I...I cried... I wept like some grandmother. I wanted to tear my teeth out. I didn't know what I wanted to do. And I want to remember it. I never want to forget it. I never want to forget.

And then I I was shot...Like I was shot with a diamond...a diamond bullet right through my forehead...And I thought: My God...the genius of that. The genius. The will to do that. Perfect, genuine, complete, crystalline, pure.

And then I realized they were stronger than we. Because they could stand that these were not monsters...These were men...trained cadres...these men who fought with their hearts, who had families, who had children, who were filled with love...but they had the strength...the do that. If I had ten divisions of those men our troubles here would be over very quickly. You have to have men who are moral...and at the same time who are able to utilize their primordial instincts to kill without feeling...without passion...without judgment...without judgment. Because it's judgment that defeats us."

Of course Marlon Brando’s character “had” to be killed at the end, as the very idea of civility militates against amorality. Civility does condone at occasions recourse to barbarous behavior, but it will never accept it as a way of life. At one point or another, people have to feel guilty about their barbarism, otherwise they could never be civilized. The lot we are dealing with is not the kind that will feel guilty about anything, otherwise they would not be risking taking things this far. This is not a peaceful protest, this is an act of intimidation, one meant to draw violence in order to unleash greater violence, one that is designed to be Act One of something bigger, much bigger.

Of course, this is an argument in extremis, there is usually much grey involved in most situations. But these are extremist times when extremist agendas are unfolding. You can cut-and-run, or you can face the music. Peacemaking requires teeth, not prayers nor wishful thinking, nor even… realism. Take a bite now, or gnash your teeth later. Moderation has been killed.